I thought the scraping sound I'd been hearing inside the walls was just rats.
I didn't think much of it. My house was old and wooden, located by a small forest.
Bugs and vermin were a bit of a given when I bought the thing at a price so low it seemed almost a desperate plea for someone to take it off the realtors hands.
I put traps around the house, sprinkled rat poison in pods, even had pest control stop by.
It didn't help. The scratching continued weeks later. I ignored it the best I could; that slow scraping in the boards.
Every night, the sound of something raking it's claws along the insides of my home traveled in the air.
Almost similar to a knife sliding along a cutting board, the scratching would travel from room to room, taking its time to make sure nothing went untouched.
Finally, it would start directly behind the headboard of my bed, a dragging that made me grit my teeth.
Even still, I pretended nothing was wrong. Until one morning I awoke to a frenzied scratching in my living room, interspersed with loud thuds.
This was accompanied by a panicked wailing, unlike anything I've ever heard before. I skipped calling animal control. I phoned the police instead.
It didn't take long to find the issue. They pulled a small boy out of my wall as I stared in shock. He was covered in dirt with wild eyes that twitched with each shake of his body.
I explained to the officer I thought it was rats that had been pestering me for weeks. Luckily, he believed me.
I called to check on the boy later that day. There wasn't much to tell. He'd been delusional from hunger and panic.
I was amazed he hadn't been effected by my attempts to get rid of what I thought were rats. He was able to speak but it hadn't made much sense to anyone.
He was convinced there was a thing in the walls that had kept him there. He said it needed him because it had been hungry. Everyone thought he'd been hallucinating.
I felt sorry for him but glad I could finally rest.
That night I went to bed without a sense of dread. Things were okay. My phone rang out in the silence. I answered, alert when I heard the shouts of the officer over the line.
From what my brain could piece together, they'd found the boys relatives after calling around. He'd recently been reported missing. He'd only been gone for two days.
There was no possible way he could have been making those sounds for as long as I'd been hearing them. He wasn't the cause. But then neither were rats.
Fear seized my chest as the sound of scratching, slow and taunting, began in the wall beside my head.