By Rebecca Coyte
I used to be a non-believer. A doubter. A skeptic. However you want to phrase it, I was that girl. The pessimistic realist with the stoic visage, never revealing any fears. Laughing grimly at campfire stories of ghostly passengers in taxis and haunted forests, smirking at the other kids when they were chilled to the bone and afraid to go to the bathroom alone and look into the mirror at midnight for fear of what they might conjure. All the while I would sit, looking decidedly bored, staring at nothing in particular, yawning with complete indifference, frequently glancing at my watch, pretending I had somewhere better to be. But of course, I didn’t.
Yeah, I was that girl. The one scoffing at ghost stories. The one who wasn’t afraid to go to the cemetery in the middle of the night and use an ouija board, because that stuff just isn’t real. There was always an explanation, rooted in science, to dispel anything you could sling at me. Well, until that day that I went to babysit the neighbor’s kids.
The neighbors were quiet types. Hard-working parents with two typically adorable kids: a four-year-old blue-eyed doe named Artis, and her precocious little two-year-old brother named James. They were fairly well-behaved, and their parents had a great series of gates set up so I could easily corral them and turn on cartoons until their parents got home. I’m not saying I was a lazy babysitter; I mean, I’d read them books and feed them and even rock little James to sleep when he was cranky. I’m just saying that it was an easy gig that paid pretty well, and after three or four hours of hanging with those two little pixies, watching a movie or two and eating candy and popcorn, I’d walk home fifty or even sixty dollars richer. Not too shabby for a basically unemployable high school freshman.
This particular night, THE night, the night that would change me and completely turn my world and my belief system upside down, well that night started like many others. The sun was starting to set and the wind was picking up, whipping the leaves on their branches as I zipped up my sweatshirt and pulled the hood over my wavy mess of black hair. I walked next door to the neat white house with black shutters and a striking red door. I rang the doorbell and immediately heard a dog barking and children screaming with glee. Gwendolyn answered the door and invited me in. She was still in her business suit and was apparently off to another night meeting, which seemed ambitiously nuts to me. Her husband was on a business trip to Tokyo and wouldn’t be back for several days, so here I was to save the day.
Little James saw me first and shouted happily through the screen door, “Sarah! You’re here, Sarah! My most favoritest babysitter!” He was giggling and tripping over their large German Shepherd, Max. I smiled at the little guy and stepped inside, picking him up and throwing him into the air.
“Higher, higher, Sarah!” he yelled. He was so cute, it almost made me think about having kids someday. Almost. Then I remembered that I had lots of other goals to accomplish first. Study science and history. Become an Archaeologist. Travel the world and search for lost cities and immerse myself in other people’s stories, since I didn’t have much of a story of my own to tell.
A flash of rainbow streaked past the front door, and then returned a moment later, holding a small stuffed ghost toy. “Boo!” Artis yelled as she thrust the white felt creature at me.
I feigned fright, only for just a moment, before I spoke in my best teacher-like voice, “Now Artis, you know ghosts aren’t real, silly girl!”
“Boo! Boo! Boo!” She giggled impishly and ran away with “Ghostie”.
Poor Gwendolyn looked frayed, tired, and ready for a good night’s sleep, not another meeting. “Sarah, thank you so much for coming! Dinner’s in the fridge, pop it in the microwave, kids can watch cartoons until 8:30. Then bedtime. Make sure they use the potty. They can crash on the couch with you if they give you a hard time. I’ll hopefully be home around nine. You’re an angel.” She quickly kissed my right cheek as Artis crawled between my legs and James attempted to ride poor Max through the hallway.
“Giddyup, horsey!” James commanded and Max obliged. Gwendolyn was out the door in a flash and I locked it up as usual, the one lock on the exterior screen door, and the three locks on the interior door, including two deadbolts. I went around and checked all of the windows to make sure they were closed and locked, and set the alarm. There had been a rash of break-ins in our quiet neighborhood lately, and I wasn’t taking any chances. I might be brave when it comes to ghosts and spooky stories, but I’m not risking my luck with the real bad guys.
“Okay, guys! What should we play before dinner?” I asked, already knowing what they were going to say.
“Dinosaurs! I want to be an Argentinosaurus!” Artis exclaimed. She had a fascination with dinosaurs and knew most species by name, could tell you what era they existed in, whether they were herbivores or carnivores, and any special skills they might have had.
“Oh no! A big, furry, scary dinosaur!” I was testing Artis, like I always did.
“Oh, Sarah. That’s wrong. Dinosaurs didn’t have fur! But some had feathers!”
“You’re right, Artis.” I smiled and turned to James, who was already on all fours.
“I’m a scary Stegosaurus, grrrr!” He came at me and pretended to whip around his tail and try to knock me over. I went into complete T-Rex mode and started growling and baring my teeth, making sure to pull my arms up nice and snug to my body so I looked the part. We chased each other around like this for a while until I was out of breath and we were all lying on the ground giggling. Truth be told, I might seem serious or dark if you don’t know me, but I’m really a giant kid at heart and get along better with the little munchkins than kids my own age. Teenage girls were so…just…mean. Anyway, I had my whole entire future already planned out and having a ton of friends and being popular wasn’t a requirement for me to accomplish all I wanted to do.
I picked up James and threw him over my shoulder and Artis followed us into the kitchen. I popped their Mac ‘N Cheese into the microwave and voila! Dinner was served. Sippy cups filled, bibs placed on; I was a pro at this babysitting stuff. Artis began to describe her day at preschool and how a yucky boy had licked his finger and wiped it on her. “It was so gross! I told him, ‘You are being disgusting!’”
“What did the teacher say?” I asked.
“Well, Miss Alisha said that I should—”
The ringing of the doorbell momentarily startled me. It was already 6:30 P.M. Assuming Gwendolyn forgot something, I went to the door and started to open it, forgetting to turn off the alarm. The minute I undid all the locks and pulled on the handle, a deafening screeching sound went through the house.
DISARM SYSTEM NOW!
Oh crap, I thought. I quickly disarmed the alarm and then turned back to the door, realizing at this point that I didn’t even really know who was there. It could have been Gwendolyn, or someone else. Someone dangerous. Someone sinister who wanted to bust in, tie us up and rob the place. I suddenly panicked as I slowly pulled on the handle and peeked through a crack to see who the heck it was that disturbed our feast of macaroni with artificial cheese-flavored orange sauce.
And it was then that the strangest, eeriest, most sickening feeling entered my stomach as I gazed out the screen door into that brisk fall night and saw the tops of two little heads. There stood two towhead blonde little kids, staring at their shoes, acting rather oddly. They were dressed strangely; the boy wore a red wool turtleneck sweater and brown corduroy pants that looked like something out of a 1985 Sears catalog. The girl was wearing an old-fashioned looking plaid pinafore dress with a white, high-collared blouse beneath. They both wore square black, buckled shoes on their feet and had no jackets on, despite the chill in the autumn air. Their hair was strikingly white-blonde, the little boy’s in curly ringlets and the little girl’s parted down the middle and styled into two neat braids. They looked like they had just walked out of the 1950s, or the movie Children of the Corn. Yeah, it was that creepy.
Slowly, I took a breath and spoke, “Hello, can I help you?” The screen door was still closed and Max had run up and begun sniffing and whimpering underneath it.
The little boy, who seemed a few years older than the girl, whom I assumed was his sister, did not look up from his shoes as he spoke. “Hello, ma’am. Can we please come in and use your telephone? We need to speak with our mother.” His voice was monotone and his words spoken in a deliberate, painstakingly slow manner.
Oh, okay, just two kids that need to use the phone, I thought as I tried to shake off that irrational feeling of fear. Yet, I was not about to open the door. It could have been a ploy; they could have been a front for robbers. And why were they dressed like that? And why wouldn’t they look up? Something felt off. Max scratched at the door and began to whimper louder, then a deep growl began to rumble in his throat. I had never seen Max so distressed before, and this was a dog that had suffered a ton of abuse from two rowdy toddlers.
“I’m sorry, I really can’t open the door. The dog is…dangerous, he might bite you.” It was the first thing that popped into my head. Artis and James were screaming at each other from the kitchen, fighting over the last apple that was sitting on the table.
The little boy spoke again, this time louder and more forcefully. “I said, we need to come in and use your telephone. We need to speak with our mother. We’re lost. We’re hungry and cold and need her to come retrieve us.” He continued to stare at his feet and his sister did the same, unmoving, as if she were in a trance or somewhat sedated. It was starting to get really uncomfortable at this point. And who says their mother needs to retrieve them, anyway?
“Why don’t you just tell me your mom’s number? I can call her for you. I really am sorry, I can’t let you inside. The dog—”
“The dog is not dangerous to the other children inside the house. Why would he bother us? Can we come in and play with Artis and James?” The little boy continued to stare at his feet as he spoke.
At that moment, I’m pretty sure I got that Scooby-Doo look on my face, you know, the one when he gets confused and says, “Arruugg?” There was no way these two little freaks knew Artis and James. I knew most of the kids in the neighborhood, too, what with me being the ace babysitter on the scene and all. Unfortunately, Artis and James’ curiosity had gotten the better of them and they ran to the door to see what was going on.
“Our mommy said we can’t talk to strangers, even little kids. And she said that if you want to give us candy, we should say, ‘No!’ and if you want us to get in your car, we should run away and scream. And you don’t even know our secret password anyway, so we can’t talk to you.” Artis could be as stubborn as a mule but this was certainly an appropriate time for her to be cautious.
James piped in, “Yeah, we don’t want your candy, bad strangers!” Apparently, Gwendolyn had thoroughly schooled these little ones in the art of avoiding all interactions with the public.
The two blonde-haired weirdo children continued to stare at their toes. Then, the little girl began to tremble. She started sniffling loudly and asked in a saccharine sweet tone with the slightest squeak in her voice, “Oh, please! We are so scared. We want our mommy! Can we come in? It’s scary out here and we’re cold and hungry.” She continued to stare at her toes and tears began streaming down her milk-white cheeks.
“Artis, James…go to your room, now! Bring Max.” The children obeyed and Max reluctantly followed them. I looked out of the screen door and tried one more time to reason with these two odd children. “Look, you’re not getting inside. And frankly, you’ve both got a Damien Thorn, Malachi, Danny Torrence kind of vibe that’s starting to upset me. This is your last chance to give me the phone number. I’ll call your mom for you but you need to wait out there.” And I waited. I waited for what seemed like hours. Time was relatively standing still as they stood there motionless, like two statues. The girl was no longer crying. I noticed the boy began to open and close his small fists as if he were getting ready to rumble.
Then slowly, quietly, the boy lifted his head and finally revealed his full face to me, much to my horror. He had glowing white skin, a sickly pale pallor like something out of Flowers in the Attic (yes, by this point you see I make a fair amount of horror movie references). His small, round, red mouth was tightly shut, lips pursed in anger. His nostrils flared as he breathed in and out roughly. But the eyes. Those were the absolute deal-breaker for me ever letting these two into this house or any house. Those eyes were black. Not dark brown, not deep blue. Black, and not just the pupils. Their irises were black as night, just two endless black pools in a sea of black sclera. He stared at me, and I felt like those eyes were boring two deep holes into my heart, through my soul. It hurt to look at him. Genuine, unadulterated fright-filled my body and mind. So I froze.
The little girl then raised her head and revealed another set of those frightening, dead eyes. Then, the edges of her little pink mouth slowly began to turn up as she produced a sickeningly artificial smile. Her mouth was smiling, but the rest of her face remained rigid. And those eyes…
“Sarah, just let us in. Or we’re going to come in anyway,” she said to me in an authoritative voice. Not the voice of a five-year-old girl who is scared and lost and misses her mommy. Rather, this was a mature voice. An evil voice.
Then I was done. That was it. I slammed the door shut, did up all the locks and immediately punched in the alarm code. My heart was slamming against my rib cage, and I was finding it hard to breathe. I grabbed my cell phone and headed to the kids’ room in the back of the house. Throwing open the door, I yelled, “Artis, James? Where are you?”
There was a sound of hushed whispering coming from under the bunk beds; sure enough, the kids and Max had managed to squeeze themselves underneath. Relieved to see that they were okay, I then tried to calm them. “It’s okay, guys. They’re gone now. Just…maybe stay under there for a little while longer, okay?” Artis nodded, eyes-wide-open with fright. James grabbed the dog and buried his head into Max’s soft gray and black fur. Max licked James’ arm. Dogs were good like that.
Now I had a real problem. What should I do? Call Gwendolyn and tell her I’m scared of two little kids? They might have been the spawn of Satan, but they were still kids…I guess. They looked like kids, they were small enough to be kids. Yet…were they really children? What were they? Then the skeptical side of my brain took over and logic and reasoning quietly returned to my thought process. It’s a joke, an early Halloween gag or something, I silently mused and I almost laughed at how frightened I had become as I headed back out to check the front door.
I looked out the front window. No sign of the demon black-eyed mutant children. Well, that was a relief. Then I heard a rapping at the back door. “Oh crap,” I muttered and slowly headed to the back. On the way there, I turned off the lights. I didn’t want those little freaks to see how scared I was. Gingerly, I retreated to the very back of the house. The loud pounding had not ceased. BOOM BOOM BOOM. BOOM BOOM BOOM. BOOM BOOM BOOM. The sounds vibrated through my skull. The pattern continued in perfect time. These kids had mastered the art of being creepsters.
They were laughing. Maniacal, high-pitched giggling. This was all a big joke to them. And then the boy spoke as if he just knew that I had been standing there for some time listening to them. “Oh, Sarah? Is that you? Let us in, Sarah. We want to play! We want to play with you! Will you tell us a bedtime story? Sing us a lullaby? Rock us to sleep like you rock James to sleep? Please, Sarah. We miss our mommy!” He was screaming now. If this was a prank, then I was a sucker because I’ve never been more frightened in my entire life.
“Saaarrraaahhh! Danny Barnes says hi! He misses you. He wants to play!” the little girl called in a screeching, high-pitched, deafening voice.
That was not funny—Not cool. Danny Barnes had been dead for almost six months. Victim of a hit-and-run. Not a day went by that I didn’t miss him. We had known each other since Kindergarten. He was one of my only friends.
Shaking, I mustered up the courage to respond, “No! You’re not getting in here. I’ve got a gun…I’m calling the cops! Get out of here, you little black-eyed freaks of nature!” I was screaming now. Screaming and crying. My body convulsed with heaving sobs. I just wanted them to go, wanted it all to stop. Why wouldn’t they leave? Who would play such a joke on me? It wasn’t funny. It was awful, terrible. Why would anyone go to the trouble?
BOOM BOOM BOOM. I took my phone from my back pocket, my hand trembling so badly it slipped out of my grasp. BOOM BOOM BOOM. I reached down and grabbed it off the floor and dialed 9-1-1. BOOM BOOM BOOM.
“9-1-1 what’s your emergency?” BOOM BOOM BOOM.
“I…I’m at 21 Willow Court. There are two children that won’t leave. They’re banging on the doors. I won’t let them in. They don’t look right, their eyes…their eyes are—” BOOM BOOM BOOM.
“You’re calling to report that two children are at your door? Ma’am, do they have any weapons that you can see?” BOOM BOOM BOOM.
“Well…no, but I—” BOOM BOOM BOOM.
“So let me understand you; you’re calling to report that two children are at your door? Could they be selling Girl Scout Cookies? This line is for emergencies only. If you don’t want the cookies, just tell them to go away.”
I know I probably sounded deranged but Hell, it was her job to help people in crisis and I was definitely in full-on crisis mode. “Look lady, I need a police officer out here. I think I saw a weapon but I’m not sure. They said…they said they’re going to kill us.”
“Okay, ma’am we’re sending someone right out. Please stay on the line…”
Forget staying on the line. I went to the kids’ room and they were still dutifully lodged underneath the bunk bed. I huddled in there near them and hugged my knees. We didn’t speak. We just sat and waited for a few minutes. Then, James broke the silence. “Sarah, those are bad kids. Really bad kids. They want to hurt us.”
Poor James, I had probably frightened him half to death with my reaction. “It’s okay James, they’re just playing a joke. They’ll go away.”
James picked his head up and looked into my eyes, shaking his head definitively. “No, Sarah. They’ll come back. They always come back.”
DING DONG. I gave each kid a hug, told them to stay put, and carefully walked to the front door where I was greatly relieved to see the tops of two police officer hats when I peeked out the glass window. Remembering to turn off the alarm this time, I quickly opened the door. “Thank God you’re here! These kids, they wouldn’t leave us alone. There was something wrong with them. They had rabies or something. They were trying to force their way in.”
“Young lady, can you describe these two individuals and tell us where they might have gone?”
I looked outside anxiously, “You mean, they’re gone? But they were just at the back of the house a few minutes ago, banging on the door.”
One of the officers decided to walk the perimeter of the property as I tried to explain what had happened. It didn’t sound so scary now. I was actually rather embarrassed by how spooked I had become. It sounded stupid and I started to regret calling 9-1-1 in the first place. But as I spoke and the officer took notes in his little notepad, I glanced down the street. About 100 yards away, under the bright streetlamp flickering with fluttering white moths, those little jerks stood staring directly at me. From this distance, I couldn’t make out the blackness of their eyes. They almost looked like two normal kids out on an evening stroll, or two lost kids waiting for a ride from their mommy. They watched me for a few seconds as if to make sure I saw them there. Then they proceeded to hold each other’s hands and skip down the street.
“They’re right there!” I yelled and pointed in their direction.
The police officer glanced down the street but just shook his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t see anyone.”
And just like that, they had disappeared. Like two specters that had never really existed in the first place. Like, well…ghosts. But they weren’t ghosts. How could a ghost seem that corporeal, that solid? And those eyes. Those black, black dead eyes.
The night ended uneventfully. I went home and started doing research on the Internet. And that’s when I read about the “Black Eyed Kids” and how they come to people’s homes dressed strangely, and ask to come in and use the phones, and how you’re never, ever supposed to let them in because, well…because you might end up dead. And I was glad I didn’t open that door all the way, glad that Artis and James were okay. But after that night, I was never the same. The one time skeptic, cynic, doubter, non-believer is now a bit more open-minded, especially with stories of the paranormal, because it happened to me, and I lived to tell the tale.
About Rebecca Coyte
Rebecca Coyte has been fascinated with mysterious creatures and tales of the paranormal since she was a child. After teaching fifth grade for 11 years, she decided to write her first middle grades novel, The Bigfoot Paradox, which went on to win a 2015 eLit Award for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction, a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Juvenile Fiction, and Readers Favorite Honorable Mention for Children’s Fantasy/Sci-Fi. Her follow-up novel, The Bigfoot Rebellion, won a 2017 Reader’s Favorite Bronze medal for Children’s Fantasy/Sci-Fi. Coyte’s short stories have also been featured in Twist in Time’s Literary Magazine, the Chipper Press Anthology, The End of Dragons. She hopes that both young readers and the young at heart will enjoy her tales of otherworldly beings and intriguing urban legends. She invites you to follow her on Goodreads and on Twitter.