I can still hear them. In the stillness of the night as I wait for the grasp of sleep to take me, the sighs start flooding in from all directions. At first, they’re so low that I think I must be imagining them, but gradually, they get louder. Eventually, the only thing I can think about are those damn sighs. They echo in my ears; each one dry and riddled with years of pain and suffering. I’ll lie in bed in agony until sleep finally pulls me from the hell that has taken over my life. I’ve learned to cherish these few brief moments of rest. They’ve started to become even fewer and further in between.
The daytime is almost just as bad. Whether it be in the confines of my office or highly trafficked supermarket aisles, I hear them. They’re not nearly as loud as during the night, but still loud enough for me to barely notice them. It’s become more and more difficult to keep my sanity in check during these instances. I’m not sure what’s worse; being bombarded by them during the night or being driven mad by their faintness during the day. The past few days have been spent fearing the moment when whatever is making these horrid sighs finally drags me down to whatever hellish domain it resides in.
I supposed the best place to start off is how I got into this mess. When my grandmother passed away, she left me her house. Most people would consider this a blessing, but I thought of it as more of a curse. During the last few years of her life, she barely had enough money to pay her bills. Because of this, the house had fallen into a horrible state of disrepair. The roof had leaked and destroyed most of the ceiling and drywall in the two bedrooms upstairs. The first floor was even worse. The wallpaper had finally begun to peel after years of neglect and all the furniture had been bleached by the sun. After many days of persuasion, my fiancé finally agreed to helping me with the renovation. We figured that fixing the house ourselves compared to hiring a contractor would save us a considerably great amount of money.
The first day was absolutely misery. The air conditioner went out, and the blistering heat of the Louisiana summer turned the house into a sweltering inferno. Even with fans running in almost every window, our clothes were soaked with sweat by the end of the day. Since every shower head had long since been clogged with minerals from the water, we took turns outside holding the hose for each other. The nearest neighbor was nearly half a mile down the road, so we had no reason to worry about someone seeing us. That night, with just the bare studs of the downstairs walls remaining, we slept on a mattress in the living room. Although not the most ideal situation, neither of us felt like driving the forty-five minutes back to our apartment. The next morning, we woke up bright and early to finish the demolition upstairs.
There’s not a moment that goes by when I don’t regret opening up the walls in that bedroom. I can still remember that day with every painstaking detail. Up until that point, everything had been going perfectly according to plan. We were relieved to finally be rid of the drywall that still gave off the smell of cigarettes. As my fiancé took a drywall hatchet to the yellowed wall and tore it open, the room was flooded with an odor. The smell of decades of rot and decay filled the room and invaded my nostrils. At first, I thought a squirrel or some other vermin had gotten trapped in the cavity of the wall and died, but this wretched odor seemed too strong to be from a small mammal. With shirts pulled over our noses, we tore away the rest of the drywall to find the source of the stink. As he tore down a large section, something slumped from behind the wall and dangled in front of us through the opening. Hanging before our very eyes was the dried corpse of a little girl…
The eyes had long since rotted away, leaving two dark pits staring right at us. Her mouth hung open with yellowed teeth set in a crooked jaw. The clumps of hair still remaining on her head had dried out to the point where it looked like black straw. Her skin, however, is the detail burned into my memory the most. It had aged into a sickly grey color and stretched taught over the bones of her small frame. I stood motionless in stunned silence. My fiancé, however, reached into his pocket and immediately pulled out his phone to dial the police. While he yelled into his phone, I stood in horrified silence as the sunlight flooding into the room highlighted every nauseating detail of her body.
Within a matter of minutes, a swarm of police cars cluttered the yard in front of the house. The two of us were kept in the kitchen and asked questions while the girl’s body was removed from the wall. As my shaking hands struggled to grasp my cup of coffee, I watched two men slowly walk down our stairs with her body in a black canvas bag. Although we had long since left the upstairs bedroom, I swore at that moment that I could still smell the stench of rot.
That night, my fiancé and I discussed how to proceed with the situation at hand. We both knew that selling this house would be an impossibility. It would be spread all over the town by morning that the body of a little girl had been discovered in our walls. Selling this house would mean taking a huge loss on the resale value. We were already struggling to keep our heads above water financially, and that option would be like wearing cement shoes. In the end, we had no choice but to finish the remodel, have the local priest bless the house, and hope that, with time, this whole ordeal would eventually die down.
I got a call from the police station the following afternoon. I was informed that the girl was, in fact, a resident of this house over seventy years ago. After days of digging through old papers and records, it was discovered her name was Elizabeth Harper. She had been diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1942, leaving her bedridden. The last information the police managed to find on her was a missing person’s report dated on July 17, 1946. In the report, her father stated that Elizabeth had finally started to recover from the disease. Feeling it would be in her best interest, the family took a trip to a nearby park for fresh air. It was at this park the father claimed Elizabeth wandered off during their lunch. Despite days of searching, her body was never recovered.
Her body had been taken to the coroner’s office for an examination. According to the pathologist, he believed the girl had likely been poisoned. Typically, Tuberculosis causes death by the uncontrolled inflation of the individual’s cells, but he reported he could find no trace of this.
It was at this moment I realized what had happened to Elizabeth. As if guided by some unknown force, my mind pieced everything together.
Elizabeth never left this house that day. After years of caring for her and listening to her painful breathing, Elizabeth’s father finally snapped. He knew there was only one way to end the suffering that had engulfed his life. I don’t believe she was poisoned. I believe she was smothered. Every night and every day, I can hear Elizabeth just like her father once did. After this prolonged exposure to the hellish sounds, I finally realize what I’m hearing. I’m not just hearing her struggle to take in a breath. I’m hearing her gasping for air with what little strength she has as her father holds a pillow over her face. Even now, the image of a father killing his own daughter is still burning in my mind’s eye. I’ve tried becoming accustomed to it these past few days, but my efforts are fruitless. That’s why I’ve decided it’s finally time to end all of this.
I’m going to assume that whoever is reading these papers, you’re either a police officer, fire fighter or ambulance medic who found my body in the field adjacent to the property. Don’t bother staying here to investigate anything. I’ll save you the trouble and admit to setting the house on fire before taking my own life. My actions in no way guarantee that I have cleansed this world of the evil which has plagued my existence these past few weeks. As much as I hope and pray that it will be gone, there’s no certainty. My fiancé has gone into town to drink with some friends. Apparently, these ghastly sighs have not been affecting him. When I attempted to talk to him about my experiences, he simply denoted it to exhaustion. Why they have chosen me as their sole victim I may never know. I love you, Scott. I hope that, with time, you come to understand that what I am about to do is justified in its own demented way.
I have doused the rugs and carpet with gasoline and poured a considerable amount into the hole in the bedroom upstairs. As the putrid fumes filled the air, I could still smell the rot emitting from the wall. Currently, I am sitting at the kitchen table writing all this. A book of matches is sitting to one side of me and a candle to the other. Once I am done, I shall light this wretched dwelling ablaze and finally end my suffering. I want to shoot myself in the yard with these papers in hand so that whoever finds my body will have an explanation for all of this.
If there is a Heaven, I hope I go there. If I go to Hell, there’s no possibility it can be worse than the constant torture and agony these sighs have created for me. Soon, I shall finally have the blissful sound of silence. Wherever I end up, I just hope Elizabeth is not there with me.