The dark places

Image(c) Original Artist. All images remain the property of their creator.

Many years ago a friend and I were traveling, we were both students so trying to do everything as cheaply as possible and we mainly stayed in hostels. After doing this for a while my friend mentioned that he knew some people in a country we’d wanted to visit and they’d offered to give us somewhere to stay for a week or so. I was keen to embrace the opportunity to stay somewhere a bit nicer than we’d become accustomed to and so when we’d saved up enough money from bar jobs and the like, we bought tickets. The country we visited isn’t especially developed to this day, but my friend hadn’t mentioned that our hosts lived in the middle of nowhere. Once we got there I wasn’t too happy. I’d assumed we could use their home as a base to explore the area, but there was no public transport that far out and nowhere to hire a car. We were pretty much stuck at their house unless the father wanted to head into town, where there was one run down shop and not much else.

The family were quite weird too if I’m honest. I was a sceptic back then, but they very much believed in the supernatural and had lots of little habits and rituals they performed to honour the spirits. The mother in particular used to remind us not to offend the spirits or they might harm us. She’d tell us stories of people who had disrespected spirits and been found inside out in river beds or deep ditches. I thought it was all nonsense back then, but I just nodded and pretended that I was listening to her warnings.

Anyway, my friend and I were staying in a small building at the back of the house, near to it, but a separate structure entirely. I was quite glad of it really as it was the only place that had locks on the doors and I didn’t want a local deciding to swipe my stuff while I was off wandering. We’d been there a few days when I started to feel a bit odd, I was seeing things out of the corner of my eye that wouldn’t be there when I turned and so on. I figured it was probably psychology, I kept being fed stories about ghosts so no wonder I was imagining things.

We’d gone out for a walk late at night, against our hosts advice and wandered around fields without any particular idea of where we were. I distinctly remember standing in an area surrounded by a low stone wall, about ankle height. There were loads of stones scattered everywhere and being in a pretty bad mood, I kicked several of these formations over. We decided to head home.

All the way back I had a weird feeling, like someone was walking behind me. Again I figured I was imagining things until my friend stopped and asked if I could hear anything. We stopped in the middle of the road and a few seconds later both of us heard footsteps. We expected someone to pass us, even though we were in the middle of nowhere, but the footsteps kept coming forward until the person should have been in sight. It was pitch black out there, no street lights, but my friend had a torch and by shining it around we were pretty sure there was no one there. The footsteps had stopped by now, so we started walking again. A minute or so after that we both heard the footsteps behind us again, but we didn’t stop that time. Instead we picked up our pace and noticed that whatever it was following us did likewise. By now I was convinced someone was planning to rob us, or worse and so broke into a run. By the time we got within sight of the house we were both pretty winded, but figured we had lost whoever it was and were happy enough to go into the room we shared and lock the door behind us.

I probably should have been more concerned, but I fell asleep pretty easily. I woke up some time later in the pitch black feeling as though something was stabbing into my hand. It felt like someone was digging their nails deep into the skin of my palm. As I woke up more I realised that I had a hand wrapped around my own, holding it way too tightly. As I lay there the pressure increased until I cried out. I assumed it was my friend, he’d never sleepwalked before, but we had had a weird experience and perhaps it had triggered something. I asked him to let me go, but instead the grip tightened until it was agonisingly painful; it felt like some small bones in my hand were being crushed. I tried to pull away, but despite being fit and healthy back then, I just didn’t have the strength. After a moment I suddenly realised it couldn’t be my friend; whoever was holding me had long, jagged nails like a woman. I started yelling, assuming that my friend would wake up and light the candle, but received no reply.

I don’t know how long I lay there with someone or something squeezing my hand, but it felt like an eternity. I was too afraid to look and so just squeezed my eyes tightly shut and prayed; something I hadn’t done since childhood. Sometime after I heard the sound of a key in the lock and the door to our room opened and my friend appeared. I later found out that his relationship with the hosts oldest daughter was not exactly platonic and he’d been sneaking out to meet her every night since we’d been there. He lit the candle and I immediately felt the pressure on my hand release. There was no one there.

The room was completely empty except for me, my friend and our two beds. There was absolutely nowhere for anyone to hide and there would have been no time for anyone to do so in between my friend sparking a match and placing it to the wick. When I looked down I saw that my hand was covered in clumps of mud and I had several wounds where the nails had punctured my skin. My friend was so disturbed by my story that he woke the host mother, who seemed terrified. She kept asking what we had done that night and in the end I told her about kicking over the stones. She was certain that I had offended a spirit by disturbing the area and insisted on burning foul smelling herbs in my room to banish the spirit.

The next day the wounds in my hand smelt disgusting and I figured they were infected. The host mother wouldn’t let me go to a doctor, but instead insisted on taking me to a local holy person. There more foul smelling herbs were burned and prayers said over my wounds. The host mother then forced my friend and I to retrace our steps from the previous night and we left offerings of food in the rough area where I thought I’d kicked over the stones. The host mother said this should appease the spirit and demonstrate my respect for their culture. My hand was fine when I woke up the day after even though I hadn’t taken any antibiotics. 

To this day I can’t quite explain what happened. Perhaps my hand just healed itself, but I still don’t know who or what was holding my hand in the middle of the night in a locked room.

I once heard someone say that ghosts don’t like the bright, well lit modern world of the West, but stick to the dark desolate places around the world. I was glad to come back to the bright lights of the West. Even though I’m still not quite sure what I believe where spirits are concerned, I am more respectful to anything that might be out there. Probably not that scary a story, but it was my only supernatural experience and thought it was worth sharing.

Story credit: Anonymous.

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