We were moving yet again, my husband, daughter, and I. It was such a normal prospect for us. New places, new faces, new experiences… all of which we would be used to and bored by within months. That's what we thought anyway. Far unbenounced to us, our home was much more interesting then we had expected. My daughter, Emily, about 6 at the time, didn't like the feeling of the house. None of us did, to be honest, but the large (big enough for a family of 5 or 6, I might add), two-story house was a steal, at $500 dollars rent each month. None of us objected as soon as learned this detail. We didn't even object when we learned a doctor had operated a makeshift hospital in the house. People had died there, and that was fine with us. After all, it was only for a few months, right?

We were all looking around from the front porch. Fields touched all that the sun did. And the house... All of us simply stood there, looking skyward at the seemingly towering structure. No one spoke, and everyone could tell that inside was not quite right. No one wanted to enter. No one wanted to leave. It was a standoff, the house and us. Trying to break the ice and my family's fears, I opened the rickety wooden door and went inside. They followed me reluctantly.

The first thing we noticed was the smothering heat. It was as if someone was standing over you, breathing n your face, and you couldn't get away from it. I shook off the feeling, passing it off as the ventilation in this old house was poor. I clear my throat, "Let the unpacking begin." Ever since we started moving regularly, we'd made unpacking into a game, to make it more fun for Emily to help out. We would race to unpack boxes, see who could carry the most, who could remember the most items in a box, who could put stuff away fastest, etc. It was mini-competition that ended with no clear winner, seeing as every one of us had our strengths. We all sat on the floor, tired and laughing, the original unsettling feelings gone from our thoughts.

Weeks passed with no events, Emily had made friends at school and was doing well, Jamie had gotten promoted, and I was enjoying my time working at the hospital. I was in the cafeteria one day, getting ready to sit down, when a group of surgeons and nurses crowded me. "You live in that old house on the edge of town?!" one exclaimed. "Yeah. So?" "That house is haunted!" says another. I scoff. "Ghosts don't exist." "You say that when you see Sallie," another says. Apparently they all know about this… "Sallie?" I ask. "Yeah, the little girl ghost that lives there," yet another in the flock says. "She carries a scalpel." "She hates doctors." "She has long hair." I put a hand up to silence them. "Local superstition," I said simply. "You won't say that when she destroys you're life," a particularly quiet and unassuming nurse whispered. This disturbed me greatly, but I tried to ignore them all. My food sat uneaten that day.

That night, I had a nightmare for the first time in 10 years. A girl, about 12 years old, in a long, flowing white nightgown stands at the end of a hallway in the house. Her head is downcast and her long hair obscures her face from view. I see a glint around her hand. I automatically assume it's a scalpel, but as she approaches, I realize there are several glints. They are her fingernails, long and slightly curved. They're at least four inches long. She moves in a way that terrifies me to the soul. When I am looking at her, she moves zombie-like, slowly and dully, rocking as her weight shifts from foot to foot, but after I blink, she's several more feet ahead from where she was, like she runs when my eyes are closed for that millisecond. She reaches me and begins to lift her face to mine. Her hair still masks it from my view. She begins to pull her hair out of the way… I awake screaming.

My husband woke up with my scream and asks me if I'm alright. I nod. This was nothing to freak out about. It was just the various things my co-workers had said manifesting in the form of a dream. Dreams come from what you experience that day, so there's nothing to it. I sleep uneasily for the rest of the night.

Things quiet down a bit. I felt myself relaxing into this small town. "It" seemed a distant memory. I got up one morning and began cooking breakfast as a special treat for Emily and Jamie. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dark female figure. "Emily, what do you want to eat?" I asked gently. No answer. A black blur passed through the corridor. I walk into the corridor. "Emily?" I see "it" there. She looks up at me, one eye exposed through her hair. Her visible eye roamed freely in the socket, back and forth quickly, like a man in asylum, before focusing on me and widening. A half-shown smile showed amusement in my fear and expression.

I blinked and she was gone. I passed it off as an overactive imagination and continued cooking. By the time I had finished, Jamie was awake. I finished my plate and went to get Emily. As I approached her door, I heard giggling and whispering. I opened the door a crack. She was definitely talking to something… I widened the door and entered to nothing unusual. Emily stopped her chatter immediately. "Who were you talking to?" I asked. "Sallie." The name sent chills down my spine for some reason, but in spite of this, I was relieved. Just an imaginary friend.  "Well, tell Sallie bye. You've got to eat breakfast and get to school."  "Sallie wants to come with me!" I laughed inwardly. So cute… "Well, I suppose Sallie can go with you."

We all ate together and sent Emily off to school. My husband and I started to clear the table. "It appears she has an imaginary friend." He laughed. "I had one when I was little. His name was Bob… He was an idiot." "I had one too, but I can't remember anything about her." We cleaned dishes for a few moments in silence. "Have you had any odd dreams lately?" he asked out of the blue. I recall that one nightmare, but decide to not worry him with it. "Not lately." He stared at the sink for a while. "I gotta go," he said upon finishing his half of the dishes. "Later."

It was a relatively normal day at the hospital; busy, but normal.  There were an awful lot of appendicitis patients, I noticed. Then the phone rang. "Is this-Oh God, not again!- Is this Emily's mom?!" "What's going on?" I almost yelled at the sound of panic in her voice. "Come get your daughter, NOW!" The phone clicked off. I rushed over to the school as quickly as I could and burst into the classroom. My daughter was crying in the corner, terrified. The desks in the classroom were moving, crashing into the walls, skidding across the floor. "SALLIE, STOP!" Emily yelled out desperately. The movement of the furniture stopped abruptly and I ran to my daughter, picking her up.  "Don't ever bring that freak back!" the teacher yelled behind us as we ran out of the door. I knew at that point, she really had brought 'Sallie" to school.

I sat her in the passenger seat of the car and patted her back until she stopped crying. "I'm sorry, Mommy, I didn't know Sallie would make so much trouble!" she cried into my shoulder. "It's okay," I whispered, trying desperately to calm her down, and myself. Inwardly, I was screaming. What had I just seen? A memory flashed through my mind. "That house is haunted!" "Ghosts don't exist." "You say that when you see Sallie." Sallie… A sudden realization hit me. Was that… Was "it"… Sallie?

I had another bad dream that night, but I wasn't in it, but nor was "it." It seemed to take place in the days before formal hospitals, in this house. A girl, young, about 10, was suffering from appendicitis. Her appendix needed to come out, and soon. The doctor pulled out a needle to numb her, but upon the sight of it, she screamed. A fear of needles…? Two nurses held her down, and the doctor tried again. She kicked herself free and tried to run. The doctor grabbed her and focused on simply getting the needle in. He picked a horrible spot. That wouldn't numb a kitten, but it's enough to immobilize her long enough to strap her down.

The first incision is made. The girl's screams could scare away anything. They were blood curdling screams, but the doctor continued. Just when the appendix was almost out, he nicks an artery. She bled out there, on that makeshift operating table, screaming for her mother who she would never see again. I awoke to tears in my eyes. The entire scene was simply too pitiful. That poor girl… Her fear of needles is something all too common in children. I'd seen many a child become violent and the doctor have to restrain them. Still, this doctor just jammed the needle in…  
I laid there on the bed until my alarm went off. Jamie was off at work then, but I wasn't. The day was surprisingly normal, despite the dream of the night before. However, that night, that thing appeared to me again. I was in my living room, just watching TV, when a felt a tugging on my pants. I look down to see a pile of clothes at me feet. My imagination produced the tug? I was content to believe so until I saw that the clothes were shivering, and long, black hair pooled around the cloth. "Sallie?" I muttered vaguely, almost as if this was a normal occurrence.

She contracted into a tighter ball before relaxing and turning her face up to see me. The girl… The girl from that horrid dream… That was Sallie? Her face was that of a normal child. Dirt smudged her cheeks a little, but she was a beautiful young girl. "Sallie…" I stated softly, pulling her body closer to mine. She looked like Emily… My maternal instinct would not bring me to abandon this child.

I heard my name being called, but I dared not get up. Sallie needed me. I felt my arm wrenched upwards and my face met with my husband's. A look of pure concern was on his face. "Why are you cradling a doll?" I looked to my arms, with much shock, to find a simple porcelain doll in my clutches. The rest of that day was humiliating. Jamie never stopped asking me if I was okay, and I passed the whole thing off as a bout of stress.

The days that passed were tortuous. I had horrid nightmares about Sallie killing my family. One nightmare… One nightmare stuck like no other… Images flashed through my mind. Sallie was at the end of a hallway, something shining in her hand. A second later she was next to me, looking up with soulless eyes, the object more pronounced, a scalpel. She took the scalpel and plunged it into me, slashing over and over.

I awoke in a cold sweat. I sat up, rubbed my eyes and prepared to go back to sleep. I began to lay my head down, when I saw something. Blood. Blood right where I was lying. I stood up and walked over to the mirror, pulling up my shirt. Nothing. I turned my back to the mirror and looked over my shoulder to see my back. Carved into my back were deep scratch marks that read, "Quack Doctor." That part was not a dream. Similar tortures followed, nightly. I was forced to cover more and more of my skin as I was brutalized. I refused to make love to my husband for fear of being sent away.

A funny thing began to happen. Perhaps it was some sort of Stockholm's Syndrome, but I began obsessing over Sallie. I wanted to know everything about her. I woke up many times in the middle of the night, standing in the centre of a field near my house. It was always the same spot. I began to wonder if Sallie had been buried there. Why else would she lead me there night after night? I had to find her body.

I took a shovel out to that spot and started digging. There was nothing there. I spread to the area around that area. I quit my job so I could spend more time looking for Sallie. After a few weeks, I had torn up the entire yard to no avail. I heard a laugh echo across the fields that day. The entire thing was a game to her. My life was a game to her. I returned indoors, defeated and mortified. My family was silent, concern constantly on their faces.

I sat at the table, dirt covering my body. I had never felt so forgone. The last few weeks caught up to me all at once: Emily, coming home from the other school, hugging me and asking me to play with her; Jamie, crying and asking me what was wrong. I had torn my life apart for this apparition who now only seemed to torment me. "Mommy?" Emily whispered that night after her father had gone to bed, "Is it Sallie?" I nod slowly, my first movement since sitting down that day. "Don't worry, I believe you."

The next day, my family was gone. Jamie had packed up his and Emily's things and left. There I was, all alone. Well, not all alone. Every so often I would find myself tormented by Sallie's incessant giggling. Despite the torture, the sadism, the loss of my family, I never could abandon Sallie. As they say, if you can't beat them, join them. A loaded handgun looks so very friendly when your only company is a spirit.

I remember my family of long past. I remember the makeshift hospital that haunted my dreams. I remember the fields that touched the horizon. But most of all, I remember that lonely, towering structure with the smothering heat.

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