Author's note: This story appears alongside 11 others in my horror anthology, AVAILABLE NOW!The fan reactions to the Nightmares at 3 AM horror anthology were INCREDIBLE! Thank you to all of you who have been supporting and following my work, I am truly thankful for you. And now, for an important announcement: Nightmares at 3 AM: Volume II coming 2019...
I looked down at the old woman with her Einstein-like hair resting on the top half of the pillow, her wrinkled eyelids loosely closed in a deep and peaceful sleep, her frail body a cage that served only to trap her soul inside. A tube ran along her nostrils and snaked down the side of the bed to an oxygen tank on the floor. The only sound in the otherwise deathlike silence of the room was the steady ''beep''…''beep''…''beep'' of the EKG machine.
“And here she is,” said David Maynard, the 88-year-old woman’s son who seemed to have moved past all the turmoil, by now. His mother, Macy Maynard, had recently gone into a drug-induced coma. That was the most detail he had given me. She had been comatose for three months now, locked in the dungeon of her own anatomy.
“I hope she gets to see the sunshine, again,” David said. “I’m certain she will.”
The family moved her out of the hospital and back home to their estate, where they waited for her to reawaken. I was hired as her caretaker. My mother worked for David’s company, a big oil business.
I was in need of a summer job, and this was it. I was a nursing major, and so it was a fitting task. I supposed it beat bagging groceries or taking orders at a drive-thru. I would just have to get used to the smell of this room, which was an uncomfortably strong blend of lavender, soap, and a tinge of mothballs.
In addition to all the basic care—brushing her teeth, checking her vitals—David asked that I read to Macy and play music for her. He told me that the doctors said she could hear these things at the subconscious level.
What was bizarre, however, was David’s insistence that I play the record for her every single shift, without missing a night.
“I cannot stress it enough,” he said multiple times. “I need you to play the music at least once a night. I don’t want her to be upset.”
Macy’s favorite book was The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. A copy of it sat upon the nightstand by her bed. Her favorite record was a Jack Teagarden album from the 1920’s, her preferred song being the track titled Jeepers Creepers. And good god, did I hate that song, from the very moment I first played it for Macy on the first night I was to take care of her.
I wasn’t sure if it was the singing voices or just the fact that it was an oldies tune. Oldies songs had always given me the creeps. I didn’t know how or why Macy had picked this to be her favorite song, but because of it, here I was, stuck playing it for her all summer long. I’d never be able to listen to it again after the summer, which was fine by me, I would never have listened to it of my own volition.
And I read to her the tales of Rudyard Kipling, something that, by contrast with the music, I did not mind partaking in. I read her the stories of Mowgli and the white seal and Ricki-Tikki-Tavi.
During my shifts, David was very rarely home. I was alone with the old woman, who was more dead than alive, a notion that unsettled me because when I read to her, I felt like a madwoman speaking to a dead person. Though I hated the music I was required to play for her, I began to hate the reading part almost as much. It began to feel as though I was reading to her with the objective of eliciting a response. Every time I uttered the words the end and closed the book, I half-expected to hear her reply, something like “Beautifully read, Tammy. Will you read me another?”
It was a Saturday night. Most of my friends were out drinking, and here I was, once again talking to a dead person. I brushed what little teeth she had left. Wiped down her old leathery skin. Played that creepy old song for her. The lyrics—which I had now unfortunately learned by heart—ate away at my sanity, stuck in my head by day, ringing in my ears by night.
Jeepers Creepers…where’d ya get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers…where’d ya get those eyes?
Gosh all, git up…how’d they get so lit up?
Gosh all, git up…how’d they get that size?
Golly gee…when ya turn those heaters on.
Woe is me…got to get my cheaters on.
Jeepers Creepers, Jeepers Creepers, Jeepers C -
I had heard this song enough to know that it didn’t repeat the title that many times, and that was when I knew the record was skipping. I stood up and lifted the needle, causing that loud wiping sound. And I will tell you what I did not do. I did not begin playing that record, again. I couldn’t do it, not tonight. I couldn’t listen to that damned song anymore, the lyrics of which seemed to be taunting me by this point.
My stomach grumbled, and I realized that it was already ten o’clock and I had forgotten to eat. David wasn’t here, tonight, but he had once told me to help myself to anything in the refrigerator. I’d take him up on it, tonight. I went to the kitchen and opened the fridge, grabbing ingredients for a sub sandwich.
The house was a maze, more of a castle than a house. What sort of unsettled me is that you never quite knew if you were alone in the place. There were groundskeepers, there were butlers, and there were maids, people who came and went as their workday permitted. There had been nights that I could have sworn I was there alone, only to have some butler scare the bejeezus out of me after he rounded a corner.
With this in mind, I didn’t think much of it when I heard faint voices from somewhere in the manor as I made my sandwich. But after a moment, I began to listen more closely, and came to realize that the voices were singing voices.
I don’t care what the weatherman says, when the weatherman says it’s raining.
You’ll never hear me complainin’. I’m certain the sun will shine…
No, it couldn’t be, it couldn’t possibly be…but it was. It was Jeepers Creepers, echoing from down the corridor which led to Macy’s room. I dropped the kitchen knife I was holding, and thankfully it didn’t go into my foot.
I crept over to the front of the hallway, placing my hand on the corner and squeezing the wall tight as fear bolted through me. I aimed my ear down the hallway, and I confirmed what I already knew. It was the song, and it was emanating from Macy’s room.
Oh, those weepers, how they hypnotize!
Where’d ya get those eyes…ah la-dada, la-dada, la-da-da-da!
Them there eyes…
And as the trumpet solo part of the song ensued, I slowly backed away from the corridor, back into the kitchen. I clutched at the fabric of my shirt, clawing away at it as my mind zigzagged in every possible direction. I had to get out of this house.
It soon dawned on me just how ridiculous this story would sound. Yes, Mr. Maynard, I quit because I heard music playing. There had to have been an explanation for this. Maybe I had forgotten to move the needle to the side. That must be it, I thought. The needle must have simply fallen, dragged back down into the record by gravity.
Unnerved as I was, I began to creep down the hall to remove that record for good. It was one of the most difficult walks I’d ever had to endure. Every fiber of my being was telling me to turn away and get someplace that I could no longer hear that godforsaken song. But I bravely pressed on.
As I rounded a corner, however, I was chilled to the bone as I heard the sound of the needle sliding off of the record, that loud scratching noise clear as day. I stopped dead in my tracks as I peered down the hall at Macy’s room, which lied just ten feet in front of me. The door was wide open, as I had left it. I scrutinized the record player from afar, and saw that the needle was resting beside the record, which meant that it was impossible for the needle to have fallen onto the record.
Needless to say, I got the hell out of that house, dipping one foot into Macy’s room only to reach my bag. I snatched it and left the manor with haste.
Nevertheless, I was back the next evening. I had thought about the incident all day, and had considered telling David that I wanted to quit. But I realized the whole thing was irrational. I had spent so much time in that manor, in that one room, listening to that one song that I hated. Of course I thought I’d heard it. It made sense. Enough sense, anyway, to get me to go back that evening. The pay was too good.
I sat in a chair across from Macy’s bed, her copy of The Jungle Book in my lap. The Jeepers Creepers record was tucked away in its sleeve, and it would stay there I was sure of that. I would not be taking it out, not tonight, not ever. As long as I lived, I vowed never to allow that song’s melody to worm its way into my ears.
Macy laid there, her abdomen steadily rising and falling with each slow breath that she drew. I tried never to gaze upon her for too long, because sometimes when I did, my mind would play tricks, and Macy’s eyelids would appear to flutter, and her mouth would give the illusion of turning upward into a smile.
I opened the book and began to read from it. But after about five minutes passed, I found myself unwilling to continue. That feeling of talking to a dead person, I couldn’t handle it. I could not find it within me. Every time I finished reading the book, I had that same expectation that Macy would respond in her sleep, and I didn’t want that feeling again. I had a strong urge to leave the room, and so I did.
I entered one of the dozen living rooms in the manor, sitting down on the sofa and flipping on the television. This wasn’t what I was getting paid for, but I needed to get out of that room, I cannot stress it enough. I needed to.
From the living room, I could still hear the steady beep…beep…beep of the machine beside Macy’s bed. Even with the TV on, I could hear it. But what I heard next, I could hardly believe. Gone were the steady beeps, replaced by the sound of a flatline…beeeeeeeeeeep.
I shot up off of the couch and bolted down the hall to Macy’s room. I entered, the flatline beep drowning out any and all other noise that may have been in the house. I looked down on Macy, felt her pulse. Nothing.
I thought of unplugging the machine, but refrained, not wanting to tamper. Calling David would be my best option. Funny enough, I hadn’t thought of this occurring, probably because she had always just seemed dead to begin with.
There was something else I had never thought would occur: the notion that Macy’s eyes would ever open. But in this moment, as I looked down on the pulseless Macy, and as the flatline beep continued to echo through the house…Macy’s eyelids snapped open.
I thought it to be just another trick of the mind, at first. But that idea washed wholly away as Macy made direct eye contact with me and sat up with a jolt. Her electrocuted hair waved wildly as she sprung up from her resting place, her wide and wild eyes piercing me. I screamed out in terror, and my cry seemed to run parallel with the continuous flatline beep.
Still sitting atop the bed, Macy raised one of her ghastly hands and pointed a single bony finger directly at me. “You bitch,” she growled. “He told you to play the song!”
And just like that, all consciousness seemed to drain out of Macy’s body. Every one of her muscles became kaput, and she fell limply back into her original resting place. I did what was indivisibly rational and irrational; I called the police.
The police soon arrived, and so did David. By then, I had calmed down a bit, and I did not share my story, at least not the part where an undead Macy Maynard rose up and shouted obscenities at me, something that would have garnered me the status of a lunatic.
As I spoke to one of the police officers, David emerged from Macy’s room with a look of suspicion on his face, one that was eventually directed at me. He must have noticed the way she was laying there, the position her hands were in, the wild and mangled state of her hair, and the way the Jack Teagarden record was back in its sleeve. The look on his face suggested that maybe, just maybe, he knew what I knew.
With that death, I was out of a job, but it didn’t bother me much. I had spent enough time with Macy Maynard, that much was clear. And as it had turned out, she evidently didn’t care too much for me. But I tell you now, with the utmost dismay, I am frequently reminded of her. Because on certain nights, as I lie in bed and try to fall asleep, I can hear the faint sound of a familiar song just outside my window.
Written by Jake Wick