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The Scratching



My wife had her accident last year. After getting harassed by the insurance company because they only want you to pay your premiums but don't want to actually pay on the policy when something happens, I finally got my money and I moved out. The house was just too big and empty without her.

So now I'm back in Texas. I never really got 'used to' living in Delaware. I bought a small house out here in the boondocks of east Texas. The closest city--I should say town, and it barely qualifies as that--is Woodville, which is aptly named, as it is in the middle of what is known as the Piney Woods.

I'm living back in my family home. I bought it from the family that got it after my mom died. Got a good price, too. I always strike a hard bargain and I always get what I want. I guess it doesn't hurt that I'm six foot two, two hundred fifty pounds, and I LOOK intimidating even if I don't have to say anything intimidating. Although that can come in handy at times as well.

Yes, the house is small and old and I'll have to get someone to do the major repairs, but I'm finally HOME. Living on Pamela's huge family estate was exceedingly luxurious and for a while I thought it was exactly what I wanted, but I was never comfortable there. Of course, it didn't help that Pamela constantly reminded me I was living in her house and she like to have things her way in her house and why do I throw my clothes on the floor and leave the bathroom wet after a shower and on and on and on. Still, I don't regret marrying her. How can I? Five hundred thousand dollars is still an awful lot of money. The policy was for one million, but the insurance company kept telling me they were 'investigating' and couldn't release the funds until they had completed it, but I put some pressure and lawyers on them and half a million was the settlement I got.

The only major change around here is that, in the woods behind the house, there's a swamp. No, not really a swamp, nothing like you might see in Louisiana or Florida. I guess the best word would be 'bog'. Once I found out about this miracle of nature, I got new screens for the doors and windows of my house. Damn mosquitoes have killed more people than all the wars in history. I hate those things. And these Texas mosquitoes can grow to ridiculous proportions.

My life would be perfect now except for one thing. And it seems like such a trivial thing, yet it's beginning to drive me crazy. Every night...EVERY. DAMN. NIGHT. after I go to sleep, and just when I go into a deep sleep, I hear it. A scratching sound. It's not a loud sound, just above what I would call a 'rustling' sound. Yet, no matter where I go in the house, the sound is exactly the same, and the rate of scratching is always the same. The sound must be coming from outdoors but that seems like it would be impossible, because if it's coming from outside, wouldn't the sound be less on one side of the house than the other? Besides, it sounds nothing like any animal I've ever hunted.

Impossible or not, I decided this morning after yet another near sleepless night that I would go outside tonight and find the source of that sound come hell or high water.

Hell AND High Water

Well, that was a bust. Last night I intentionally stayed up waiting for the sound but I never heard it. So tonight I'm going to go out, maybe get a little bit rowdy but hopefully not too drunk, come home to bed, maybe with some lovely, lucky lady, and not worry about the sound anymore. If it happens it happens, if it doesn't, GOOD.

I knew it was too good to be true. I came home alone a few minutes after midnight and zonked out immediately upon hitting my bed. Right on schedule, the scratching began about three hours later. This time I was prepared, though. I grabbed my hunting knife, my rifle, put on my boots (I slept in the clothes I went to the club in, so I was already dressed otherwise), did a quick search of the inside of the house again even though I knew it would be futile,

I stepped outside. It was still hot, and unusually quiet. No crickets, no cicadas, no bullfrogs. Just that constant, maddening, relentless scratching. I decided the best way to conduct the search would be to walk around the 'back forty'. Actually, it was only about fifteen acres, but any large field behind a house is called 'the back forty' around here.

Now I'm at the back of the lot, where the 'bog' is. The scratching sounds slightly louder here. I take a tentative step into the mud. Seems pretty stable, and the sound is so slightly louder. Another step. Just a little louder. Another three steps and I notice the mud is not so stable anymore and the scratching is MUCH louder. I continue forward in a desperate attempt to get away from the now horrendous noise and fall deeper into the mire. As I slowly sink into the muddy abyss, the scratching stops and I hear another noise. Laughter. Wild, loud, raucous laughter.

Pamela's laugh.


Woodland PD Incident Report

5:30 PM: During patrol, noticed house with damage from recent tornado. Premises were unlocked, so checked inside. Nobody occupying the residence, but muddy boot prints were all over the floor. Followed these prints out the back door. After extensive search, found body of unidentified adult male. Cause of death appears to be asphyxiation caused by drowning. Possible homicide, as there is no water source within five miles of where body was found.

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