Down the long narrow hall, the old closet door made of scrapped cherry wood and oak swayed gently back and forth, as it had not been installed very well. It hung in a crooked teetering position as though it may fall completely off, where the children opened it to retrieve linens each morning causing the hinges to break apart over time never fully correcting themselves.
It woke Mrs. Martin from her sleep as the sound of that old linen closet made a sad waning. The old manor had too many drafts as of late. It was as though someone was whispering loudly and caused the old home to shake its old bones right out of its foundation, and all would come crashing down around them all.
Mrs. Martin got out of her bed and walked towards the side of the bed where Mr. Martin was snoring. She peered over to look down at him.
“Figures,” she smirked to herself. His fat face beat red from the constant heat generating from his massive body.
Mrs. Martin put more wood into the old fireplace and watched the fire as it settled around the new log. Things had been strange for a while now, at least since they had decided to move here. Mr. Martin’s great aunt, Gertrude, died, leaving the Martin family of six children the old home. No more would they pay rent in one of the ancient city dwellings and worry if rent couldn’t be met. Now they lived rent-free for life. The only thing they had to do was feed and clothe themselves and keep the electricity and heat on. It was cheaper than tacking on a twelve-hundred dollar rent or mortgage.
While Mr. Martin’s aunt, Gertrude, had not been a pleasant person in life, going so far as to say she hated the fact her great-nephew had children as all children were disgusting little vampires. She had been generous enough to leave the property to them. The only condition was that they move in right away after her death.
In her will, it plainly stated the home was never allowed to be left alone even for one day or one hour. So at the reading of her will, they had Jenny Jenkins, the part-time nanny to the two youngest children, watch over the house until the Martin’s could move in.
It was a strange request, but she opted to stay that very night helping get the bedrooms ready for the children and decorating it to ensure it was child-friendly.
It was only for one night, but Mrs. Martin had received a phone call from Jenny sometime after three in the morning that someone had broken into the home.
Mr. Martin went over to see what the matter was and found Jenny quite scared and bleeding. She was so upset she could barely make out what had happened. One thing was clear; however, Jenny was missing a strip of her skin on her upper arm. Mr. Martin found a bandage and helped wrap her up, assuming she had scraped herself on something.
By the next morning, Jenny Jenkins was no longer working as the part-time nanny to the Martin’s. She never wanted anything to do with the Martin family again. Mrs. Martin felt awful about it, not sure what to think or what to do. Mrs. Martin assumed Jenny had something wrong with her, some affliction.
The family moved in that very day as if the feeling of necessity increased when entering the threshold of Martin Manor. Nerves were accounted for, and so they moved in, nearly leaving all of their other furniture behind.
Once they had moved in, all their sadness had lifted from them. At least for a while, replacing it with relief. All the children had their very own rooms, and Mrs. Martin even remarked to her husband that not hearing them banging around at night, as they had at their prior residence, had made everything seem grown up and a bit lonely.
“Tish Tosh,” Mr. Martin laughed at his wife. “Utter nonsense. The children can breathe now. They can achieve independence.
Things were pleasant for a while. Then some months later, it began.
Every night that same closet door creaked and woke Mrs. Martin. Every night she awoke and opened her door slowly not to wake Mr. Martin, crept out into the long, narrow hallway, and closed the crooked closet door.
There was something about that old door; perhaps it was the way it was made, all scraps and nothing like the rest of the old house which had been beautifully designed. It was an old Tudor home and sat at the end of a little lane where tulips bloomed every spring by the front gate. The right front of the home was so inviting it made Mrs. Martin hate the long winter as it loomed in the distance.
It was after spring that the heat of the summer came. That summer, a breeze blew politely into the old home, keeping it cool. Mrs. Martin couldn’t help but think it was odd how cold it still was in that house even with the summer heat just outside. Something dark had come with that breeze, although Mrs. Martin could not put her finger on it.
On one eventful evening, the children had spent the entire evening catching fireflies in a little net and putting them in glass jars with cheesecloth over them.
When it had become late, Mrs. Martin called her children inside and had each one of them bathe. They all waited their turn to go, and little Brett Martin was to go last. He remained on the bench in the hallway outside the bathroom. His older siblings had all went first, and he was the last to go.
He sat in the hall as his older brother, Michael, came out. “Your turn, squirt!” he laughed as he walked out, drying his hair.
Brett got up from the bench and sauntered towards the old linen closet. He opened the door to the closet, and as he did, the light in the hall began to flicker. He thought it was what his dad called “old wiring” and went about retrieving a towel.
The lights flickered off completely, and with it came a cold that felt like ice stinging his small rounded cheeks. The lights flickered again, and he saw one single black thing appear from the darkness within the old frame. As it came closer, he realized it was a very long black fingernail reaching slowly down towards his little face. It was long like a spider’s leg approaching with slow hypnotic movements. Each time the light in the hallway flickered, he caught a glimpse of the bright glare it possessed. It looked like a perfectly sharpened knife. As it came closer, Brett felt utterly frozen in his need to breathe. His mouth sucked in air as he tried to scream. His inability to blink at that exact moment burned his eyes as tears fell from them involuntarily. His tiny frame shook as yellow liquid fell down his thighs into a puddle on the old wooden floor.
Brett felt the cutting of his skin deep into his baby like flesh. It peeled away in tiny single pieces cutting at his cheek until he heard footsteps behind him.
“Brett! What on earth are you doing? Grab a towel, and it’s time to take your bath!”
Brett, having been frozen in place for far too long with no reprieve, let out an exasperated wail that sent chills down Mrs. Martin’s back. Running to her small child, she picked Brett up, and when she saw the slits upon his baby cheeks, she too screamed.
Brett was rushed to the hospital and put back together in the best way the doctor could. When Brett arrived home the next morning, he had stitches sewn up and down both of his cheeks.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin had an air of defeat about them that even the aloof Mr. Martin felt. There was something cold about the place when they walked in. The eldest of their children, Cherry, who was fifteen, babysat the rest of the children while Mr. and Mrs. Martin took Brett to see the doctor, ran to her little brother’s side.
“Oh, Brett, I’m sure those stitches will heal in no time.” she tried to cheer him up.
“He’s tired, dear.” Mrs. Martin said to her eldest daughter.
The Martin’s tried to remain calm, but there was something about what happened that night. They all knew it wasn’t an accident and that little Brett had not done that to himself.
They all knew, or at least all at one time, had run-ins with what the children called the Skinner Man.