I'm afraid of a lot of things. Mostly the same things everyone else is afraid of - spiders, rabid dogs, gypsy curses, cancer. I fear those things but I don't dwell on them. What I'm most afraid of, what terrifies me every night while I'm lying alone in the dark trying to go to sleep, is the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. And before you ask, no, I don't live with some monster who beats me, no abusive step-father or evil uncle, no drunken mother coming to wake me so she can blame me for all of her own failings. My father died long ago, before I was born, and my mother is a kind, loving, normal (almost to the point of dullness) woman. It's not who is on the stairs that I'm worried about. When I hear the footsteps, my mom is already in bed, asleep. I've heard the footsteps every night for almost two weeks now, and when I go into the hall to look, there is no one there.
I'm sure by now you are thinking that I'm hearing things, or that I've just been dreaming. That's what I told myself at first. It was better than thinking I was going crazy. Once I'd examined the steps, listened closely for outside noises, eliminated the possibility of house settling sounds or heaters kicking on, that seemed like the only other alternative. I guess most people would have told a friend, hoping for reassurance regarding their mental state, or talked to their parents about it. I did try talking to Mom, but she just tried to reassure me that there was no one else in the house. I already knew that! And I don't really have any close friends. It's not that I'm an outsider, or unpopular, or anything like that. There are kids at school I call friends, and there are few of us that hang out together after school or on weekends, but no one I feel close enough to that I can confide in them when my sanity is in question. That's why I emailed Emmy and asked her to come see me. My sister Emmy (actually Emily Ann) is 5 years older than me, and moved out 2 years ago. I miss having her at home, and even though we text all the time and she calls at least once a week, I don't get to see her as often as I'd like. She never laughs at my weird ideas. Even when I was little and convinced that there was a family of ghosts living in my closet, she at least acted like she believed me. I know she's old enough to be out on her own, but sometimes I really wish she was still here for me to talk to in person.
Let me go back a little though, to the beginning, to when this first started. The first night I heard the footsteps on the stairs was the Tuesday before last. I was lying in bed but still awake. It had been a lousy day, and I couldn't sleep because everything was running through my mind. I'd gotten stuck with the class bully, Sherilyn Thomas, as my project partner in chemistry. I really needed a good grade on this last project to bring my class grade up, but Sherilyn didn't know anything about chemistry, and didn't care. She was too busy threatening me with what she'd do if I didn't get her a good enough grade to pass the class to try to learn anything. Anyway, I was lying in bed trying to come up with a project that Mr. ChemistryTeacher would think was original enough to deserve an A when I heard the noise that first time. I thought maybe Mom was up again. She always has trouble sleeping, and sometimes she'll go downstairs and take some Valerian root or drink a cup of chamomile tea to help relax her. I got up and peeked out of my door but didn't see anyone, and all the lights were off, so i figured she was already back in bed and didn't worry about it. When I asked how she had slept the next morning, she said she'd had a great night for a change, and hadn't been up once. Of course by then it was morning, and easy to believe that I might have imagined the sound of someone on the stairs, so I just forgot about it. At least until that night.
Wednesday night I was up late, struggling with my calculus homework. I heard the creak of the stairs a little before midnight. Mom had gone to bed right after the 10 o'clock news. I went to the bedroom door where I could see out into the hall. There were no lights on downstairs. From my door, i can see the hallway and just the top two stairs. I walked the few steps down the hall to the top of the stairs, but there was no one there. My mom's door was closed, so I decided I was imagining things and turned to go back to my room. I took two steps, and froze. There it was again. I distinctly heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs! The second step from the top makes a creak whenever someone steps on it, and there is no mistaking that sound. I whirled around to see who had been hiding in the dark, and saw nothing. At the time, I was more annoyed than frightened, so I walked back to the top of the stairs and looked down at them. I don't know what I thought I was going to see, but i had to make sure there was nothing there that could explain the sound of the stair creaking. There wasn't. I stood there staring down the stairs into the darkness for 2 or 3 minutes when it happened again. Clear as day I heard the stair creak, and the faint sound of footsteps descending the stairs. This time I was so close to the stairs that I had no doubt at all about what I had heard. This time, I was scared to death. I ducked back into my room, closed the door, and locked it. Could ghosts really go through doors? I hoped not. I jumped into bed and buried my head under the blankets. I don't know how long I stayed that way, but nothing came in, and eventually I fell asleep, my calculus homework forgotten.
This has continued to happen every night since then. I'm pretty sure nothing is going to appear on the stairs, since nothing has up to this point, but I couldn't stand being the only one to know about the noises anymore. Emmy lives in the city, and by "the city", I mean Chicago proper, and mom and I are in the suburbs, just south-west of the city. It's not all that far, but Emmy says traffic can be crazy, and she only drives out to see us about once a month. She was here just a few days before the noises started, but I couldn't wait another 2 weeks. I sent her a note saying something was up and I really needed to see her. About 2 minutes after I hit send on the email, my phone rang. It was Emmy, worried about her little sis. She wanted me to tell her what was wrong over the phone, but I told her I couldn't, that I needed her to come see me. So she'll be here tomorrow, after school. Now I just have to figure out how to tell her that her "little sis" may be losing it.