Tommy the Turtle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

All alone, in a big house, with a mysterious past, he had a job to do, but could only take so much.

 

 

 

This is freaking me out, just writing about it, because it brings everything back, as though I were back there again. It was the summer of 1988, I was twenty-two and our neighbors, Mr. And Mrs. Standish, who lived in the huge old house next door to us, were going on vacation for two weeks, out of state and being a nice (and a broke) guy, I agreed to feed their pets in their absence. In their back yard they had twelve chickens and three baby goats, but in the house, there were six cats, two parakeets and a turtle named Tommy, named after their beloved Australian shepherd dog that died a couple years before.

We lived in central Pennsylvania and I had grown up in our house most of my life, and our neighbors had always lived there and I am sure their house has been in Mr. Standishs' family for over 100 years, ya, that house is old. People gossip and I guess there were several rumors about their house and about their family, something about a tragic accident in which a gardener went missing on their property and there was never a court case or anything. With no bodies and no witnesses...there was essentially no case, but it seemed some neighbors knew different. I didn't know this until many years later, that many decades before my experience, another worker came up missing as well at that house. Being kids, we would always tell stories that supported the rumors we heard, it seemed like it was our job to keep the history going, I know, crazy. 

The day before our neighbors left for vacation, Mrs. Standish gave me a quick tour and laid out what was expected of me, luckily, she had everything written down, including the names of each animal, their food, amounts and time to feed them. It didn't hit me at that moment, but later it did, it seemed most of these 'pets' were spoiled as heck, with different needs, times and types of food, I was starting to regret this, but they offered $200 a week, so it should have been an easy $400, should have been. The next day, just before they left, she gave me a key to the house, on what seemed like some funky voodoo type key chain, lots of feathers and what looked like dried pig skin. Anyway, the chickens and goats were the easiest, first because they were out back, and only ate once a day around 8am and I didn't have to 'entertain' them, but the indoor pets were a completely different matter. Each cat had to be fed different food, at different times, in different parts of the house for some reason. I thought that was odd, but hey, they're not my stupid pets, well, just for two weeks that is. Tommy the turtle was straight forward, he only ate live gold fish which had to be fed at 10am and then again at 10pm, thank God the birds were easy 'just give them some food and check their water' as the paper said. 

What freaked me out the most was feeding the cats, in different areas of this huge house that I had never been in before the quick tour, which was also in the day time. Mr. Doodles, was the oldest cat, he was very anti-social and had to be fed last, at around ten at night, in a room on the third floor, in the back of the house. I don't know why people had such stupid schedules for their pets, I mean, who is the boss of whom? I kept telling myself, "It's just for two weeks." Well, the first day came and went without incident, which later I realized gave me a false sense of security, because I remember thinking, "this is gonna be easy money." The second day passes as well and I was getting the hang of things, all was easy, it was just those damn cats, I recall thinking, "why not just feed them all in one room, they won't know, they're not here," yet in my mind I thought they might have hidden cameras and I wouldn't get paid what they promised. It was on the third night that things began to get strange. While I was feeding Mr. Doodles, I heard what I knew to be a door creaking, either opening or closing, but brushed it off as another cat walking around. A second later I heard a door on the first-floor slam and I mean really hard, you can imagine my reaction. After jumping and scaring the cat, I was motionless for several seconds, thinking there might be another noise, yet nothing happened. 

As my evening chores were complete, I shot out of that house quickly and didn't want to think about what it could have been. As the fourth day came around, I was a bit hesitant to go in the house, but the thought of $400 kept chiming in, which helped me relax a bit. I fed the chickens and goats as usual, went inside and fed Tommy and the two birds. What was strange is that the first three days I saw many cats, who all came running in the room when I entered, except for Mr. Doodles, he stayed on the third floor "all day, every day," she told me. So, I started to feed the cats, in their respectful locations and times, but only saw two cats, which were making a lot of noise, meowing loudly, again, I didn't care enough to worry, that is until I got to the third floor. When I reached the top step, the air was thick with something, I can't explain it, but I will say that the hair on the back of my neck was standing straight up and it felt much colder than the previous nights. As I walked to the back room, cat food in hand, I started smelling a strange odor, kinda like rotten meat and as I walked into the room there were three cats, hanging from the rafters, skinned from their necks down to their tails, with a huge pool of blood on the floor below them. I don't remember if I started screaming first or running first, but I did both quickly and didn't stop either one until I reached my front porch. I must have made quite the commotion, cause my mom and dad came outside and said I was "pale as a sheet, as though I had seen a ghost." 

When I caught my breath, I told them everything and to my surprise, they didn't seem as shocked as I thought they would be. My dad said, "I'll call the Standishs' and let them know." I remember being really weirded out by his calmness, but my dad was always super chill anyway and never showed much emotion, so I figured par for the course kinda thing. I went inside, got a snack, watched a bit of T.V. and fell straight to sleep. The next morning, on the fifth day, I started outside as usual, again, very hesitant to go inside but I did. As I made my rounds everything seemed normal and I was starting to think, that I didn't see what I thought I saw, yet in a strange way I couldn't wait to get to the third floor. As I got upstairs, there was no smell, as I slowly entered that same room, there were no hangin cats, no blood, just Mr. Doodles looking at me as though I were late, I remember thinking, "I hate cats." Just then I heard another slamming door below me, then a second and a third, I didn't know if it was the same door, or three different ones cause each slam sounded about the same. As I slowly made my way downstairs, I peeked over to Tommy's tank and the turtle was gone, now there was a lid on the tank with no way to get out. That really struck me as odd and then for some stupid reason, I actually went looking for him, thinking maybe he did crawl out. Then I heard a cat scream and a huge kinda wet slamming noise, super loud from the kitchen. I creeped toward the door, seemingly forgetting about the cats the night before and when I walked into the kitchen, Tommy was smashed on the floor, not like some one stepped on him or even smacked him with say, a baseball bat, that turtle, which was almost 10 inches in diameter, now was about a 30-inch pile of flesh and shell in the middle of the kitchen floor! 

This time, there was no screaming, no running, I just backed away slowly, making my way toward the front door, when there was this super loud and violent shaking of what felt like the entire house, like what an earthquake might feel, which was followed by an older women's raspy voice, that screamed, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" I really didn't know I could move so fast, I bolted home, but this time, I had to wait for my parents to get back from a movie. When they did, I told them what happened and I could tell by my mother's expression, and by the way she looked at my dad, that they both knew about that houses history and she was not happy that my dad talked her into letting me go over there, alone and at night. My dad sorta sighed, again, with his kinda poker face and said he would 'handle it.' I still don't know what he meant by that, I don't know if he even did anything. All I know is that our neighbors came back a week early and I remember Mrs. Standish, as she got out of her car, stared at me with this huge look of disappointment, as though it were all my fault. 

Anyway, my dad gave me $200 and said that the neighbors gave that to him, to give to me, but I knew better. I never went back there, in fact I never saw those neighbors ever again. About six months later, I moved in with some friends about sixty miles away and went on with my life. I have never told anyone this story, even to my close friends, I mean it was all too weird, who would ever believe me anyway? Yet, the sight of Tommy the Turtle has never left my mind.

 

*Subject to copyright

 


Submitted: May 26, 2021

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