Rocky

When my grandparents passed away, my parents let me live in their house—I was of moving out age, anyway. I only had to pay the taxes and day-to-day expenses, which I could easily handle on my part-time/college kid income. At the beginning, I really enjoyed living alone. The freedom was completely new to me, and I relished in the ability to invite anyone over at any time. To me, it was paradise.

However, as most young adults come to understand, living alone came with its own challenges. Bored of the freedom I had once cherished, I began to feel quite lonely. I worked to quickly bandage this superficial need, adopting a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Rocky—named for Rocky Balboa. He was a very calm German Shepherd, which I’ve been told is very unusual for the breed. I set up his bed in my bedroom, just beside my nightstand so I could go to sleep and wake up to his adorable little face.

German Shepherds are very active dogs; while I would sleep through the night, Rocky liked to get up and move around. To help him out, I left my bedroom door slightly ajar—he could roam through the house as he pleased, getting water, food, and toys.

One night, around three weeks after adopting Rocky, I woke up to his barking down the hall. Still half asleep, I got up to see if he was okay, stumbling to the other side of the house to check on him. When I fully opened my eyes, I saw Rocky clawing at the basement door, barking maniacally. I didn’t know what to do—when I lived with my parents, I would call my dad to deal with something like this. For the first time in my life, it was on me to deal with the problem at hand.

I quickly realized there was no chance of me entering the basement alone—Rocky had to come with me. As soon as I opened the door, he bolted into the blackness, continuing to bark as he descended the stairs. I flipped on the lights, following behind. Weirdly, Rocky had stopped barking.

When I got to the bottom of the staircase, I looked around for him—he had vanished from my line of vision. I finally found him, frozen with his tail between his legs, looking up at a corner of the room. He looked at me, and his tail raised slightly as I approached where he stood. I quickly realized that Rocky was standing in front of a closet door. All I could think was, What’s in there? Who is in there?

Instead of opening the closet door, I brought Rocky back upstairs, bringing him into the bedroom and shut the door behind me. I still don’t know if I made the right choice, but I went back to sleep.

Nothing like this ever happened again, but I think about it sometimes. Maybe someone had broken into the house, assuming it had been abandoned when the original residents died. Maybe there was nothing in the closet. I don’t live there anymore, but I’d be curious to ask the current residents.

Expiration Date

In 1986, my mom decided to move our small family into a new house. New to us, that is—we were moving from an ancient cabin on the outskirts of town to a home built just a decade prior. At that point, it was just me, my mom, and the dog—she hadn’t yet met Steve, and Mary hadn’t been born. At ten, I was happy it was just the two of us; she was my best friend.

The house was newer and bigger than the one in the woods. I had my own room for the first time, and I spent a lot of time reading and playing alone. From what I remember, I enjoyed the first few weeks of this newfound independence—I held court among my dolls, played hide-and-seek with the teddy bear, and raced myself in circles around the bedroom.

From the day we arrived, I knew I wasn’t alone in my room. Growing up in isolation, I knew what it felt like—the bedroom was different. Sometimes I would hear footsteps and knocking noises, but I shrugged them off. Doll court was more important.

Weird things started to happen about a month after we’d moved in. The banging got louder, and I’d shout, infuriated by the interruption, “Shut up! I’m trying to read!” Mom was moderately concerned, but assumed I was playing with an imaginary friend. I didn’t realize it, but she couldn’t hear the banging.

A few weeks later, I started to experience weird dreams—I relived foreign but commonplace memories in the house. I would remember, in vivid detail, walking between the laundry room and my mother’s office. I remembered sitting in the basement, amid construction (it was being finished), playing with toy cars. One morning, after waking up from a cellar dream, I asked Mom when it had been finished. She was surprised—the basement had, in fact, always been finished.

Another week later, I woke up, suddenly, standing in the center of the basement. But that’s all that happened. Really. I woke up confused and shuffled my way back to bed. Eventually, the dreams stopped, and the banging dulled and became sporadic, disappearing altogether around the time of my 12th birthday. I don’t know what it was, but I’m convinced there was some type of presence in the house. I know this isn’t how these stories generally end, but I guess it moved on, letting us live our lives.