I woke up to my daughter crying at 4 AM.
That’s a horror story in itself, right?
Unfortunately, it gets worse.
Let me start from the beginning. My husband, Michael, and I live in a rural town in Michigan. We have a 5-week-old daughter named Riley. She’s doing well, but wakes up several times a night.
Every. Single. Night.
Thankfully, on weekend nights, Michael takes baby duty. He’s amazing – he gives her a bath, reads her a story, rocks her, and puts her to sleep. And he sleeps right in the nursery with her. The only thing he’s bad at? Singing lullabies to her – he’s completely tone-deaf. (I usually shut the door when he gets to that part.)
So, last night – when I heard her crying at the ungodly hour of 4 AM – I assumed Michael was on it. I rolled over, and tried to fall back asleep.
But she continued wailing.
I pulled the covers over my head.
I turned up my white noise to full blast.
Waaa – aaaaaa – aaaaahhhh!
I jolted up. Dammit, Michael, are you even trying to calm her down?! I heaved myself out of bed, threw on my robe, and opened the door.
I froze in the doorway.
The cries weren’t coming from her room.
They were coming from downstairs.
I peered down; dim, golden light shone across the floor, coming from the living room. “Michael?” I called.
No response, other than a shrill waaaaaaaaaaaaah.
“Is everything okay?” I shouted, louder this time. The shadows shifted across the floor, but no answer. I took a step down –
Footsteps, coming from her room.
The doorknob turned –
Michael walked out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes, his mouth wide with a yawn.
“You left Riley downstairs alone?! What’s wrong with you?!” I began running down the stairs, my robe flying behind me –
He grabbed my arm.
“That isn’t Riley.”
“What are you talking about?!”
“Sssssshhh.” He pushed his door open. I turned, and my heart began to pound. In the dim light, I could see a little pink bundle, rising and falling with each breath.
I held my breath. Slowly, I backed up the stairs – careful to not make even the quietest creak.
He pulled me into the bedroom. Click – he shut the door. Click – he locked it, dragged a chair in front.
“Maybe it’s just the baby next door,” I said, trying to calm myself.
“The Johnsons live a mile away.”
I looked at him, my eyes wild. “Well, maybe it’s –”
“It was coming from downstairs, Catie. You and I both heard it.” He began pushing the dresser; it didn’t budge. “There’s someone down there.”
“Ssshhh!” Michael held a finger to his lips.
The wailing continued.
“Hear that?” he whispered.
“Yes, I hear the screaming baby.”
“No. There’s a pattern. Two short cries, then a long cry, then a raspy cry.”
He turned to me, his eyes wide. “It’s a recording.”
I felt the breath catch in my throat.
“Someone’s down there, playing a recording of a baby crying?” I said, incredulously. “Why?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” With a grunt, he pushed the dresser; it wobbled, and shifted maybe half an inch across the carpet. “To lure us out there.”
I jumped. But it was only Riley crying, woken by our loud whispers. Michael swooped her up, singing a terribly off-key rendition of Brahm’s lullaby in her ear. “Lullaby, and good night… go to sleep now, little Riley…”
“Michael. We need to call 911.” I felt my pocket, but it was empty. “Wait, my phone. Where’s my phone?!” I glanced around at the dark bedroom – but the nightstand, the bed, were empty too.
“No, no, no. I must have left it in the other room.”
In the soft moonlight, Michael was pale as a ghost. “And mine’s out of battery.”
“Maybe we can get out the window,” I said. Shaking, I wrenched it open. The cold breeze blew into the room, fluttering the curtains; the surrounding forest was silent as ever. Our only neighbors – the Johnsons – were too far away, and the drop… just looking down made my stomach turn. The lawn bench looked like it belonged to dolls; the barren garden beds were like tiles on a checkerboard. “What do we do?”
“I’ll get your phone.”
“What? You just said yourself – someone is out there!”
“Your door is five feet across the hallway. I’ll make it across before they can get upstairs.”
“Michael – no –”
“The dresser’s too heavy to move across the door. The chair isn’t good enough. Sooner or later, they’re going to come upstairs, kick down the door, and – well – who knows what they’ll do then. I’m going.” He handed Riley to me. “Wish me luck.”
Before I could stop him, he threw open the door.
And as soon as he did –
The cries stopped.
I froze, clinging to the crib. They know you’re out there! I screamed, internally. Get back in here! Michael, please, run as fast as you can and get back –
A footstep, at the base of the stairs.
Slow, heavy footsteps, growing louder and faster.
The unmistakable sound of someone running up the stairs.
Thump! A crash, a yelp of pain –
Michael dashed back in, slamming the door shut. For a second, all was silent. I let out a shuddering breath, tears rolling down my cheeks. Michael held me close, and Riley watched us with her beautiful blue eyes.
But then it started again.
The door rattled.
The hinges groaned.
“Let me in!”
My eyes widened.
It was Michael’s voice.
“Hey! Leave us alone!” Michael shouted through the door.
“Catie! It’s me!” Thump, thump. “Let me in!”
I looked at Michael. “That sicko must’ve recorded my voice,” he whispered, handing me the phone. “Call the police.”
“Whoever that is in there – it’s not me!” The voice cracked with desperation.
“Get out of our house!”
“Catie – please – it’s me!”
Michael grabbed the dresser. Groaning, he dragged it across the door. The pounding grew louder, faster; the cries grew frenzied and shrill, becoming a blood-curdling scream –
And then silence.
By the time the police arrived, he seemed to be gone. “We’ll dust for fingerprints and run them through the database,” one of the officers told us. “But they’ll only show up if they’ve already committed a crime, and most people are smart enough to wear gloves these days, anyway.” After taking down notes and searching the house, they gave us their phone numbers and left.
After checking the locks for the hundredth time, we sat down on the bed. Riley, severely overtired like both of us, began to wail.
“Can you put Riley to sleep? I’m exhausted,” I said, rubbing my eyes.
“Of course.” He lay Riley across his chest, rocking her slowly.
I stumbled across the hallway to my bedroom. The sun was just rising over the pine trees; bright golden rays shone through the window, lighting up the room. Sighing in relief, I collapsed onto the bed, pulled the covers over me, and closed my eyes.
Across the hall, I could hear Michael’s soft voice singing.
“Lullaby, and good night… go to sleep now, little Riley…”
Perfectly on key.