The idiom of having “skeletons in your closet” always stuck with me for two reasons. The first was when I first asked my grandmother what the phrase actually meant. I was twelve at the time.
It was a crisp October afternoon, with the autumn sunlight filtering its way through the trees, giving light to the swaying flames across the branches. Leaves fell and drifted like embers, but there was no warmth in the air - it was just the opposite. Except for my grandmother. Sitting on her lap, out on the porch as we waited, she kept me and my younger sister bundled up in her hand-knitted blanket. “Now why would you ask a thing like that?” She had responded.
I shrugged, picking at my fingers. “Nuthin’. It was just something I remember hearing Mom say once, before she left. I just never got it. Don’t the skeletons belong in the graveyard?”
Grandma chuckled and brushed the hair out of my face. “Well, that’s kind of the whole point. If someone has a skeleton in their closet, it means they’re keeping a very nasty secret.”
“Oh. I thought it meant they really did have skeletons in the closet.”
My elderly guardian laughed louder this time. “Oh ho ho… you kids..”
“But I hear them! They rattle around in my closet at night!”
“Oh deary… that’s just the wind knocking some ol’ tree branches against your window. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”
My sister was about to speak up, but before she could, she was cut off by a loud honk. A car pulled up in front of the house and came to a stop, only for our dad to step out from the driver’s seat. “Hey mum!” He waved to Grandma cheerfully, before turning to us. “Alright kids, let’s get going.”
My sister and I each gave our grandmother a kiss on the cheek, before collecting our things and making our way to the car. We slipped silently into the back seat while Dad asked Grandma how our stay went.
The second reason came later that night.
My sister and I had finished unpacking our clothes, but we just stayed quiet in our room. Dad was stomping around the house again, in one of his moods, and it was best to just not do anything that might set him off. I remember looking out the window, watching the last sliver of the fading sun disappear along the distant tree-line, the view clear of obstruction for at least 50 yards.
When the footsteps began slamming their way towards our room, my sister and I frantically scrambled into bed. I only just threw the blankets over my body as the door was flung open. Our father’s murderous gaze bounced back and forth between his offspring, a snarl just barely forming to match. “Go to sleep. Now.” The lights went out, and we dropped down, trying to hide our cowering behind the covers. Dad’s face was now hidden in shade, outlined in the orange glow of his bedroom lamp from across the hall.
My heart began thudding as my sister spoke up, trying to get his attention. But before she could make a request, he coldly responded: “I’m not your damn father.”
I turned to her and tried to comfort her with words, telling her he didn’t mean it and that he was just stressed out, but it was barely working. And when the rattling started, that didn’t help either of us.
We were both already on edge, but the sniffing and shivering from being sad and cold was halted instantly when we heard it. It was just a tik-tik-tak to start, like a child running their hand through a wooden wind chime for but a second. But then the pattern started to grow, the number of taps and tiks and taks increasing with every moment. Then they were overlapping, drowning out the whispers of many voices that began to rise amongst the chorus of snapping twigs.
THUD! went the closet door as something on the other side pounded to get out. The rattling grew louder, and I took my eyes off the door for but a moment to glance out the window. Just as my sister had tried to tell Grandmother; no tree nearby to even scratch our window.
THUD! THUD! The whispers were now matching the sound of the rattling, and they would continue to get louder, just as they had been for the last week. That’s why we had begged Dad to let us stay at our grandparents; to get away from whatever was making those noises. Secretly, it was also to escape him, but we’d never dare admit it.
I was completely paralyzed by what was transpiring, but my sister had reverted back to a sobbing mess. Her tears hit the bedsheet as she cried out for Mom to save her, pleading for her life, saying how she didn’t want the monsters to eat her.
The door swung open again. I was ready to take my chances with the closet.
“SHUT UP!” He screamed. “I already told you kids, there’s nothing in that closet! Now will you both please stop your crying, and just go to sleep?”
This time though, before he could make another grand exit, my sister managed to blubber something out. “Y-you… you forgot to let Mommy out, didn’t you?”
Dad stopped in his tracks, slowly turning towards her. “… what did you just say?”
“Shhh! Be quiet…” I whispered to my sister, begging her to shut up before he got violent again.
But she didn’t. “M-m-mommy is t-trying t-t-to get out.. of the closet… w-w-w-why won’t you let her out!?”
I didn’t need to see his face to know that he was absolutely outraged, and I was now terrified for me and my sister’s lives. She had just let out our little secret; that we had seen him put Mom in the closet last week, and how she never came out.
“Why, you little b-“ He started charging towards the bed, fist raised. My sister screamed, and I raised my hand, believing that I could stop the 200-pound man that was now determined to end us. But when no hit landed, even after bracing for it, I looked back at him.
The interruption in his sentence was punctuated by wood splintering and his scream of agony. As he fell, the bedroom door was knocked open fully, letting more of the orange light stream in to make out what was happening. I covered my sister’s eyes as best I could, but I made myself witness to my father’s judgment.
Something had pierced through his fist of rage, now with fingers sprung out and frozen. And that something was connected to the leg bone, and the leg bone was connected to the hip bone, and the hip was connected to the shoulder plate, and that to another leg bone, stretching all the way back into the darkness of the closet.
Then, slowly, orange tinted tips began to peek out of the pitch black, and an amalgamation of bones hobbled its way out partially, keeping more of itself hidden. Many skulls twisted and turned, jutting out from its torso, moving their jaws in strange motions to create the many dreadful whispers we were hearing. Every time it moved a limb, the rattling returned, sometimes accompanied with a snap! as a bone would split in two, yet remain attached to the whole, as if it were breaking itself apart just to move.
“Welllllll then, DaaAAAaannn… good thiinngg theey’re not YUR keeeddsss…”
The rusty, hushed copycat of my beloved mother’s voice pierced through the moans and murmurs- just as another limb pierced through my father’s other arm. He continued screaming, bleeding to death across the hard wood floor. The horrific corruption of both my parents sent vomit hurtling to my mouth, and I was unable to keep it from escaping.
My father tried to call our names, asking for forgiveness as the thing cracked another bone in two, creating a sharp edge for itself. “nnOOOOOOooo, dan… STAAHPP EEtt..!” The monstrosity continued to mock my mother’s memory as it sliced the bone edge down his forearm, exposing his own skeleton to the open air. A pair of hands then stretched out from over the main mass, gripping his ulna and radius, before forcefully yanking them from his body. I think the man on the floor was unconscious by then. A small part of me wished he wasn’t.
Soon, the creature had made several sharp implements for itself, and was tearing my father apart, removing his bones and sticking them onto the amalgamation. They fused and joined with the whole, and when it was done, all of the skulls turned to us. I shook my head furiously at the beast, but had no words to say.
“noooOooo… not the kids, DAN, you leeeave them OUT of thizzz….” It pointed one of its hands at us, then slowly, but surely, vanished back into the dark.
I didn’t sleep at all that night. My eyes stayed glued on that doorway, making absolutely sure that it wasn’t going to come back and take our bones in our sleep. But it never did. My best guess was that it was because my sister and I had no dirty secrets. We were innocent.
And I still am, to this day. I have a loving wife and three kids of my own, and we’re set to get a house within the year. I have a decent job with work that is, less than fulfilling, but not spirit-crushing. I’ve never cheated on my wife. I’ve never done any shady dealings to get to where I am.
You wanna know why? Because every night, I still hear the bones rattling in my closet, reminding me to never… ever… go astray.
Written by RedNovaTyrant