Much to the displeasure of our parents, we liked hanging out in the old barn. The barn was situated toward the back of the house and was a dilapidated, crumbling building that we were forbidden to enter.
My brother and I usually went there at night and with our flashlights we would enter the barn through a side door that hung precariously on its last corroded hinge. It appeared ready to collapse at the tiniest provocation, so holding our breath and very careful to avoid touching anything, we would squeeze through the tiny opening to the inside.
Scattered randomly throughout the interior were rusting farming implements, rakes, a scythe and numerous long-forgotten other tools that no longer resembled anything useful. All of the items appeared dangerous and capable of serious damage if they were mishandled or if careless passage caused contact with fragile skin. We kept our distance and tried to remain clear of these things, finding our usual seats in the center of the room on the old hay bales left there.
The barn itself was pretty spooky and in the darkness, the outlines of the objects and decaying contents resembled the skeletons of the dead, but my brother and I liked it. We would go there and share spooky stories and get ourselves so frightened, we'd barely find our balance to get back out the decrepit barn door as we would literally be shaking in our boots.
But the loft was the most sinister part of the barn. It was dark as pitch and the ladder leading up to it had years ago crumbled into an unusable heap of kindling that lie uselessly on the barn floor. The few remaining steps appeared in tact at the top, but at ground level the decaying rungs appeared through the murkiness to be the gaping holes of a skeleton's dislodged teeth.
We never went up to the loft and could only imagine its contents: huge spiders covered with coarse hair and menacing fangs. Their enormous eyes watched and waited for anyone who dared to ascend the rotting ladder to the elevated platform. Other than our mental images of the spiders, we had no idea what was in the loft.
One night, we were in the barn sitting on the floor talking. During pauses in our conversation, we listened to the mournful groans of the old structure slowly yet very audibly decaying. Why this caused us such fascination is unknown to me, but we were thoroughly enjoying the spooky, musty ambience that was the old barn.
My brother was telling his favorite ghost story for the hundredth time in low, hushed tones. I was enthralled by the tale as my brother was very good at making any story sound terrifying beyond belief.
Just when the story hit its scariest point, a scraping noise began to emanate from the loft. At first we thought it was our over active imaginations. But the soft sound grew in intensity as we listened, almost as if the originator had waited to ensure it's audience was paying attention.
Scraaaaape. Screeeeeech. Scraaaaape.
Then for a second, the only sound we could hear was our heartbeats pounding wildly in our ears. We stared at each other with wild eyes, lids locked wide open, almost bulging.
A chill ran down my spine. I grabbed my brother's hand and held it to me. I couldn't imagine what could be causing the sound and in terror, I whispered loudly, "Michael!"
At that, my brother shifted position and leaped over to sit beside me. He shook loose my grip and wrapped his arms around me, covering my mouth with one of his hands. "Shhh," he whispered, very quietly.
It was a metallic sound, hollow and ominous.
Michael grabbed my hand and pulled me with him as he jumped up and ran for the door. We held our breaths as we squeezed through the passageway, careful to keep from touching the sides. We escape the barn and ran out into the night using all of our might to keep from screaming.
We made it to the backyard and stopped, bending over and holding our sides, chests heaving. We gained our composure before we stepped onto the porch and opened the screen door. Mom was there and said, "Time for dinner kids!"
"I'm glad you're here," she continued, "a man escaped from jail tonight and the police are on the lookout. You kids should stay inside. Guess the guy was a terrible, evil person. Murdered five people before he got caught."
We half listened as we pulled out our chairs to sit down.
"Shouldn't be hard to find, though. He had a metal hook for a hand. Gotta be pretty easy to find a fellow like that.
"Did you kids wash your hands?"