The tap-tap-tapping woke Lars every night. It did not frighten him; he convinced himself it was all part of the old house’s charm. He told himself it was all right since the home inspector found nothing of structural concern.
Little by little, since moving into the old house, he had gotten used to every creak and moan. He had identified the cause of most noises, save for the tap-tap-tapping. He could not explain it away. As the days passed, it got louder and louder. For the past few nights, Lars had walked around the house, trying to find the cause of the tapping.
He went to the library and looked up the house in the town’s public records. It was two centuries old.
The records stated the grandson of the original owner disappeared. The police blamed the stepmother. She stood trial, but because no one discovered the body, the jury acquitted her on all charges. Her defense claimed the boy wandered off into the woods and got lost. The boy never reappeared.
Years later, a new family bought the house. A child from this new family also vanished, but in this case, no one suspected foul play. This child too must have gotten lost in the thick woods that engulfed the property. The townspeople thought evil beings haunted the woods; they still believed in old superstitions and whispered about witches, ghosts, ghouls, and changelings.
Lars frowned as he read further. Each time the house exchanged hands, a child disappeared. No one ever found the missing children. The woods swallowed them; the townspeople said.
Lars left the library, puzzled and somewhat concerned. The realtor had never mentioned these incidents, though—Lars reasoned—they had no direct connection to the house, only to the surrounding woods. He found no mention of strange taps in the records or the old microfilmed newspapers. Besides, Lars, a bachelor, had no children.
Lars glanced out the window at the darkened forest and resolved never to hike it without a compass or GPS. He turned off the light, rolled onto his side, and fell asleep.
The tap-tapping woke Lars soon afterwards.
It was loud and concentrated in one room of the house. Lars followed the sound to a small door in the smallest bedroom. He gulped. He had read Edgar Allan Poe in high school and hoped he would not find children’s skeletons encased in the wall.
Lars knocked on the tiny, child-sized door. To his surprise, the plaster on the wall beside it fell off, and a golden shaft of light seeped through a tiny pinhole.
“This isn’t an outer wall,” Lars whispered.
He shut one eye and peeped through the hole.
Two patrolmen knocked on the door. Lars had not been to work, nor phoned in for several days; after many failed attempts to reach him, his boss called the police.
The officers entered the house, but found it empty, though Lars’s furniture and belongings remained; nothing else seemed amiss.
“One more for the books,” Officer Jackson shrugged as they closed the front door, “it’s always this address. D’you think we oughta search the woods?”
“Shh…” Officer Maxwell replied, “listen…”
A faint tap-tap-tapping sounded through the house.
“Let’s check that out,” Jackson said, but Maxwell, placing his hand on his partner’s shoulder, stopped him.
“My old man always said to never investigate mysterious taps, and this house is chock-full of mystery.”