's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Don't Tread on Me

Submitted by Jacob Roberts

I'm the kind of guy who takes the path of least resistance. If someone cuts me in line at the grocery store, I won't say a word. If my neighbor parks their car in front of my driveway, I'll park somewhere else. So when a deep, thundering growl reverberated through my stairs the other night as I was walking up to my bedroom, I seriously considered never using those stairs again. What did I need a second floor for anyway? I lived alone.

Logically speaking, abandoning the second floor wasn't an option if I wanted to sleep in my own bed or take a shower, so I tried to convince myself that what I heard was normal. The vibrations could have been caused by the house settling into its foundation, for example. I didn't know what a house settling into its foundation was supposed to sound like, but if it resembled a mountain lion operating a bulldozer, I was in the clear.

In any case, the stairs were normal when I descended them the following morning. I tried not to think about it throughout the day, but when it was time to go to bed I had to choose between sleeping on the tiny, uncomfortable couch in my living room, or facing the stairs. I chose the stairs.

I approached them slowly and placed one foot on the bottom step. Nothing happened. I gently brought my other foot up to the step above that. Still nothing. Gaining confidence, I jogged up the next few steps.

An ear-splitting screech brought me to my knees. It continued to get louder as I crawled up the remaining steps, and then stopped as soon as I pulled myself onto the landing. I spent the night and most of the next morning hiding under my covers, terrified to go back down the stairs.

When I became too hungry to wait any longer, I cautiously shambled down to the kitchen to make an omelete - only to remember that I had given my last few eggs to my neighbor and she had never paid me back. My hunger was quickly forgotten when I realized that the stairs didn't react to me walking on them.

It was clear that whatever was going on with my stairs was happening exclusively after dark. During the day I could run up and down them with reckless abandon, but as soon as the sun set they groaned and howled as if they were in pain.

I conducted more tests in the following days. Occasionally I could almost make out a voice or a word in between the wailing, but I dismissed it as another figment of my imagination. I could no longer tell what was real and what was in my head, and I certainly wasn't going to invite anyone over to see how crazy I had become. Besides, the last person I brought into my house ate all of my frozen pizza and clogged the toilet without telling me. It took over an hour just to mop everything up.

Eventually I started sleeping on the downstairs couch, because I couldn't stand listening to that horrible noise every night before bed. But within a week, I was fed up. My back hurt, I was hardly getting any rest, and goddammit, some creaky wooden stairs were not going to control my life. I grabbed my hockey stick, strapped on my bicycle helmet, and waited at the bottom of the stairs until nightfall. I was determined to confront the thing once and for all, even if it killed me.

When the last ray of sunlight faded from the windows, I poked the bottom step with my hockey stick. It groaned softly. Anger slowly welled up in my chest as I thought about the many people who had walked all over me throughout my life: My jerk of a boss who let everyone go home on Christmas, except for me. Mrs. Tanner who let her idiot dog poop on my lawn every week. The prick in the red Corvette who cut me off during a lane change, making me miss my exit. Well, now it was time to get figurative payback.

I tossed the hockey stick aside and violently stomped up and down the stairs until the groans turned into furious roars, but I didn't care. I imagined that I was walking on the faces of everyone who had ever wronged me.

"What do you want?" I yelled as I drove my heel into each step. "Let me go to bed in peace!"

The unintelligible roaring suddenly congealed into a single word:


I stopped. Throughout my frenzied stomping my helmet had gotten loose, and the sudden reversal in momentum caused it to slip off my head and bounce down the stairs. For every step it hit, another earth-shaking growl echoed through the house.


At that moment it was like a once-blurry photograph came into perfect focus before my eyes. The noises I had been hearing weren't screeches of pain or roars of anger; they were sounds of laughter. My stairs were laughing.


I carefully made my way back to the bottom of the steps, and the laughter subsided.

"Um, sorry about that," I said to the stairs. "It wasn't really about you."

There was no response.

The next day, I went to Home Depot and bought a long, thick carpet. I used adhesive strips to attach it to the steps and made sure every square inch of wood was covered. My stairs didn't make a peep when I walked on them that night, and they haven't complained any night since.

Now, when Mrs. Tanner's dog poops in my yard or my deadbeat dad calls asking for money, I just laugh. I laugh like I've never laughed before.