When I was a boy, I shared a room with my brother. We lived in a small square house. I’m not kidding, the house was remarkably square from the outside. I’m pretty sure it was the exact same dimensions on each side, but that’s not important.
My room was across the hall from my parents’ room. They were the only two bedrooms in the house. The hall was tiny, about twice as long as it was wide, and had one of those old-timey floor heaters in it–the kind that’s basically just a huge grate in the floor. I still don’t know how those heaters worked, I just know that I used to stretch my legs across it in the morning to get warm in the winter. Our bedroom was at one end, my parents’ at the other, and in-between them was a bathroom. Imagine a small room about one and a half the width of a doorway, and twice as long. That was the hallway. The bedrooms were on the ends, the bathroom in the middle, and the other doorway opened into the living room. The bathroom was the only one in the house.
The house was old and had been placed there, not built, or so I’d been told. It was off the ground, sitting on a frame of those big concrete bricks, about three feet off the ground. There was a crawl-space beneath the entire house, that usually only my dad would go into whenever there was a problem with the plumbing or something. None of that is relevant to this story, though. Not really. But now you know what the house looked like I guess.
I had nightmares most of my childhood and would sneak into my parents’ room almost every single night. I was terrified of what I imagined in the dark. I always slept with a light on, as well, and that didn’t end until I was in my teens. But it wasn’t without reason.
The bathroom had a small window. The house set high above the ground, the window was high enough that it was above chest-level, and the neighbors were across a ditch that my dad had planted a row of trees along, and so there was never really any need to have a covering over the window. Oh how I wish there had been one, though.
One night after I woke up and was on the way to my parents’ room, I looked at the bathroom window as I walked by, and there was a fucking face staring straight at me. Excuse my language, but I’ll never forget it. I was maybe five or six at the time. It was plain and I couldn’t tell its gender. It didn’t move and I couldn’t see any hair on its head. In fact, I couldn’t make out a head, really, because it was so dark. I thought I might be imagining something, but then it blinked. It blinked slowly. I didn’t even get to finish seeing its eyes open all the way because I got the hell out of there and dove between my parents in their bed and cried the rest of the night.
That wasn’t the last time I would see the face. It wasn’t always there, and I didn’t always go to my parents’ room because I was too scared of the bathroom. When the fear overtook me enough that I had no choice but to go to my parents’ room, however, I always made sure to run by the open bathroom door. Sometimes the face was there, sometimes it wasn’t.
After that, I refused to go to the bathroom by myself. My brother was almost exactly ten months older than me, believe it or not, and we were still taking baths together. We still always peed together, too, though mostly because I made sure to go when he did. If I never had a chance to go with him, I’d just pee my pants. The same went for number two, which we couldn’t do together, for obvious reasons. As gross as it was, it was better than going into the bathroom alone, and so I would just wear it until somebody figured it out. I was young enough that they would help me clean myself up, and thus I wouldn’t have to be in the bathroom alone. I would also wet the bed no matter whether I was in my room or parents’ room. I’m sure my parents just loved being peed on. I’d try to keep it in my space, of course, but they’d always roll over into it eventually.
I never asked my parents to put a curtain or something over the window. We were poor and I had learned to never ask for anything. Plus I never wanted to inconvenience someone, especially my parents. I was pretty sure they hated me do to my overbearing shyness, my peeing and pooping problems, and my being scared all the time. I’m not even sure it ever occurred to me to put something over the window, until that one night.
On the very last night of my life that I went to my parents’ room, I woke up staring at the bathroom window. I don’t recall walking there. The face was not there, however, and instead, it looked like the sky was falling. Stars and other shapes streamed down from the sky, or across the sky, really, but away from me. I’m still not sure why, but that sight somehow gave me the courage to face the face.
The next night at bath time, as my brother again whined about not wanting to take a bath with me, anymore, I granted him his wish. I said I would take my bath alone. I was terrified, sure, but I had decided to face my fear.
Right after I shut the door to the bathroom, the light flicked off, and there was the face in the window, again. I panicked and tried to escape, but the door would not open. I banged on the door, but nobody came to open it. I screamed at the top of my lungs for help, but it was as if nobody heard me. I turned toward the window.
The face was saying something and I still don’t know what. I ran to the window, took the towel I still had in my hand and draped it over the window. The house was old, and there were small gaps between the window frame in the wall, and the towel caught there and stayed. The lights flicked on, and I found that I could open the door, again.
When I walked out, my parents wanted to know why I hadn’t taken my bath. I asked if they heard me screaming, and they told me to stop playing and go take my bath.
I never saw the face again, but I always made sure to cover the window with something before shutting the door. Eventually, it became habit, and I found myself unable to close the door without covering the window, first. Often, the towel I would hang there would just remain there for days until my mom would take it down to wash it. I always made sure to put a new one up before closing the door, though.
After I grew up and moved out of that house, I thought about the face less and less, and eventually figured it was just my overactive imagination. That is, until I was out drinking with my brother one night, and I casually mentioned the face in the bathroom window as a joke. He went white as a ghost and whispered, “You saw the face, too?”