22 Dec Do Not Steal from this Woman – Creepypasta
Casey Miller was my foster sister. I’m writing this for her, so that the truth about her death won’t go unheard. She should be the one telling this story, the one who made it out alive. Not me. I was the one who suggested we rob Mrs. Birch.
I did it because I couldn’t find a job. I was nineteen then—a high school drop-out with a felony on my record for grand theft auto. Not an ideal candidate. I’d applied to every fast food chain, car wash and grocery store in town, but that felony followed me like a ghost. I couldn’t get a job, which meant I couldn’t afford to keep the room I had rented off Craigslist after getting out of jail. So, I did what I had done so many times before. I asked Casey for help.
She and I had survived the same shitty foster home when we were kids. We lived for six years with a couple named Dora and Fred Wilson, six years I’ve mostly blacked out. Except for the parts with Casey in them. She was only three years older than me, but she was the closest I ever had to a mother, shielding me from our foster parents and remembering my birthday each year. She called me Sunny even though my name was Seth and there was never anything to smile about.
I hadn’t seen her in a while when she opened the door, but she looked the same as always—tall and wiry with big, crinkly hair—although now she seemed skinnier, probably from running around after her son, Luke, who was three and a total monster. They shared a one-bedroom apartment with furniture from Goodwill and pictures of wild animals that Casey had cut out of magazines and tacked to the walls. She paid the bills working as an in-home caregiver. I remember thinking how respectable her life had become, how normal compared to the way we grew up.
I told her I wouldn’t be on her couch for more than a week, but that week quickly became two and then three.
I spent my days looking for work and helping Casey out with Luke. Turns out Luke really was a monster—he bit people and threw tantrums every five minutes. I honestly don’t know how Casey was doing it—changing bedpans all day, then coming home to the Tasmanian Devil at night. The longer I stayed with her, the less put-together her life seemed to me. Even with all the hours she put in at work, she could hardly pay rent and sometimes I would fantasize about stealing another car. A new one, something worth ten grand on the street. As much as I wanted to help Casey, I couldn’t afford to be caught so much as jaywalking. My parole officer reminded me of this once a week.
It was during my third week on Casey’s couch that she told me about Mrs. Birch. Mrs. Birch was one of her clients. She was ninety-two and lived alone in a big house that was so full of stuff that, according to Casey, there was nowhere to sit. All the furniture was covered with clothes, books, trinkets and other random junk. All of it covered in dust, because at ninety-two, Mrs. Birch couldn’t do any housekeeping. She couldn’t bathe herself, or cook, or walk up and down the stairs without help. Which is why Casey was called in. The in-home care agency she worked for hadn’t been giving her many hours, so she jumped at the chance for a new client.
Casey described Mrs. Birch as looking even older than her ninety-two years. Her wrinkled skin had the leathery feel of an apricot. She never spoke, and it wasn’t clear to Casey if Mrs. Birch could hear, but her eyes were, in Casey’s words “intense.” Casey suspected dementia, but there was no mention of it in the health records she was given, and Mrs. Birch didn’t seem to be on any medication. Casey was assigned to work with the old woman for three hours a day. The work was standard—preparing meals, doing laundry, bathing Mrs. Birch—but every step Casey took was hampered by all the clutter in the house.
It wasn’t until her second week there that Casey took a closer look at the some of that clutter. The first thing she noticed was an old teacup. Casey found the teacup at the back of a kitchen cupboard while searching for a bowl so she could serve Mrs. Birch some chicken noodle soup. Like the rest of the house, the cupboard was a disorganized jumble—dishes stacked alongside olive jars and cleaning supplies—but eventually Casey found a bowl, and behind it, the most exquisite teacup she had ever seen.
She rinsed the dust off the teacup, marveling at the figures painted in gold on its side: Angelic cherubs, seated in a carriage being pulled by lions. The entire inside of the cup was gold too, as if it had been filled with the same rich gold-leaf paint that decorated the outside. With her patient’s soup starting to boil on the stove, Casey quickly snapped a picture of the teacup on her phone before returning it to the messy cabinet.
She did a reverse image search on Google later that night, after putting Luke to bed, and learned that the teacup had been made in Germany in the early 1800s by a company called Meissen Porcelain. Famous for their bone china—which Casey was disgusted to learn was made out of actual animal bones—the company’s trademark, two crossed swords, is considered one of the oldest trademarks in the world. A cup just like it was selling on eBay for $1,950. Casey, of course, had no way of knowing if the teacup was real or a knock-off, but it was enough to make her curious about what else Mrs. Birch had lying around the house.
So the next day, while once again heating up the old woman’s lunch, Casey inspected more of her dishes. A lot of it was pretty standard, the kind of stuff you’d find at Target, but here and there were other cups and plates bearing the Meissen trademark, along with other antique-looking porcelain.
Casey told herself that the old woman wouldn’t mind, that she might even be flattered to know that someone, if only her lowly caregiver, was appreciating her fine China. On the other hand, if the condition of her home was any indication, Mrs. Birch herself wasn’t fully appreciating it. Priceless, museum quality pieces were wedged in next to tacky beer steins and Tupperware. Thousands of dollars’ worth of dishes and no one seemed to care that it was there.
Over the next few days, Casey began to explore the rest of the house, little by little, always while under the guise of preparing lunch. Lunch was usually canned soup or a frozen TV dinner, so Casey rarely had more than a few minutes to look around. Mrs. Birch never slept while she was there.
It didn’t take long for Casey to realize that the whole house was full of treasures. In the living room, draped over the back of a dusty fainting couch, she found a beautiful, heavy dress that looked like it was made of rusty fish scales. She took a picture of it and later found an exact match for sale at an online auction house. The dress was going for $2,750. It was from 1920’s France, and the rusty fish scales had once been beautiful seafoam-colored sequins.
“It really is such a shame,” I remember Casey saying about the dress’s neglected condition—Casey was really into fashion, even if she couldn’t afford to dress the way she wanted.
One of the strangest things Casey found at Mrs. Wood’s house was a music box. She found it on top of a dresser in one of the house’s three bedrooms, half-hidden in a tangle of Christmas lights. Like so much of the contents of Mrs. Birch’s house, the music box was beautiful but neglected. Its dark carved wood was inlaid with some kind of white stone in a floral pattern so intricate that Casey said it made her dizzy to look at. A thick vine wove through the flowers, forming an incomplete circle—but then, as she looked closer, Casey saw that it wasn’t actually a vine she was looking at, but a snake. Each scale was its own, impossibly small piece of emerald stone.
Casey didn’t realize at first that the box played music and so she was surprised, opening the lid, by the loud, rusty jingle that tinkled out. She slammed the box shut, afraid that Mrs. Birch would hear, but not before she caught a glimpse of what was inside. Something small and glittering. It caught the weak light falling in through the drapes, flashing for a moment before Casey closed the box. She considered opening it again, telling herself it was unlikely that Mrs. Birch would hear—or that she could hear, period—but then she heard the microwave beeping in the kitchen and went to serve the old woman her Shephard’s Pie.
Later that night, after Luke was asleep, Casey and I stayed up talking about what she had found. Who was this woman, we wanted to know, and why did she have all that stuff? All our internet searches revealed that Mrs. Birch was not on social media and had zero online presence. Plenty of people with her name, at least as printed on her file from the in-home care agency, but none appeared to be the Sara Birch we were looking for.
None of it made any sense. She lived in a not-so-great area, so probably wasn’t rich. What would happen, we wondered, when sooner or later—and probably sooner, if we were being honest—the old woman died? There was no emergency contact listed on her file, and Casey never saw any pictures of family members, or other signs that Mrs. Birch was anything but alone in the world. It was sad, we said. We told ourselves we felt sorry for her. But then–whatever strange and intriguing life she had led, it was clearly behind her now.
Wasn’t Mrs. Birch too far gone to care about what happened to her stuff? None of Casey’s attempts to talk to her resulted in more than a blank stare. Neither did she seem to notice when Casey read to her or pulled up old-timey songs for her on YouTube. Even eating seemed more like an automatic response for Mrs. Birch than a conscious choice. All of these things Casey and I discussed that night, as if excusing in advance the shameful plan forming inside each of us. It was Casey who said it first.
“Mrs. Birch probably wouldn’t miss that teacup,” she said.
I had been thinking the same thing, only bigger. It sounded to me like Mrs. Birch wouldn’t miss any of it—the cup, the dress, the music box and whatever glittering thing it held inside. When she died, the state would probably try to locate a living relative and if they couldn’t, some lucky cleaning crew would be sent in to haul out all her stuff. And who knows how many priceless relics those cleaners would throw away before noticing that the place wasn’t your average hoarder’s den?
The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that Casey (and myself) had been presented with an opportunity we would be stupid not to take. After all, it didn’t seem like I was ever going to get a job, no matter how hard I tried. So I convinced Casey to let me do it, let me be the one to go into Mrs. Birch’s house and take her things. Should anyone be caught, let it be me, the one whose record would never be clean anyway. That way Casey could say she had no idea I was going to rob the place.
All she had to do was leave the back door unlocked.
I told her I would let myself in while she was with Mrs. Birch. I wouldn’t be greedy, only taking things that obviously weren’t being used, like the teacup, the old French dress and maybe whatever was in the music box. I’ll admit that I had become very curious about the music box with the emerald snake.
Casey was reluctant at first, but then we started talking about all the things we could do with the money we’d make selling Mrs. Birch’s stuff. Casey and Luke had never been on vacation—now she’d be able to take him anywhere she wanted. They could go to Disneyland. And she could get a new car to replace the one that was always breaking down on her, and move into an apartment where she and Luke could have separate bedrooms.
As for me, I could enroll at the local community college. I had gotten my GED while I was locked up, but always assumed college was out of reach. Now I imagined the kind of jobs I would be able to get with a degree. Maybe I would be an English teacher.
The next day, just before noon, I rode shotgun as Casey drove us to Mrs. Birch’s house. We didn’t talk much on the drive, but I knew Casey was nervous by the way she kept pulling out her eyebrows—a tick of hers I remembered from our time living with the Wilsons.
We decided I would wait in the car for twenty minutes before going into the house, at which point Casey would be giving Mrs. Birch a shower. The running water would cover up the sound of the door when I entered and exited—just in case Mrs. Birch wasn’t as deaf as we thought. I would be in and out in ten minutes, just long enough to fill up the duffle bag I had brought. I wasn’t worried about it. I was about to tell Casey that she shouldn’t worry either, that everything would be fine when suddenly, as we approached Mrs. Birch’s house, I realized that she lived in the same neighborhood as our old foster parents, Dora and Fred Wilson. It surprised me that Casey hadn’t mentioned this. Just the reminder of Dora and Fred—of that time—was enough to plant dread in my gut. I tried not to think of them as we pulled up in front of Mrs. Birch’s house.
The house was grey on the outside and had bars on the windows, as did most of the homes in the neighborhood. A single, scraggly tree poked out of a dead lawn. All of the windows were dark. I set my watch for twenty minutes and watched Casey go inside, reminding myself of how confident I’d been just a few minutes ago, how sure I was that nothing could go wrong. But now I was fighting down panic. My instinct was to stay in the car until Casey finished work and then drive back with her to her apartment, but when I thought of what was waiting for me there—no money, zero prospects— I forced myself to get out of the car, walk around the house and enter through the back door.
Inside was even worse than Casey had described. I found myself waist deep in cardboard boxes overflowing with empty bottles and cans, rusted silverware, coat hangers, clocks, and God knows what else. Stacks of newspapers formed mazes on the floor. I found the teacup in the kitchen cupboard, just where Casey had said it would be, then began looking around for other valuables. I took a few plates and an ancient-looking bowl, wrapping them up in the newspaper I had brought for this purpose while, in the background, I could hear Casey giving Mrs. Birch her shower.
“Time to wash your hair,” I remember Casey chirping over the sound of water as I navigated a labyrinth of outdated TV sets and radios. I was in the living room now, looking for the old French dress but this was all taking longer than planned, so I gave up on the dress and headed for the room with the music box.
Along the way, though, I couldn’t help but peek inside a glass-fronted cabinet filled with dark glass jars. The cabinet’s door creaked lightly as I opened it. I took down a jar, unscrewed its lid and tried to figure out what I was looking at. It appeared to be a ball of hair—tangled strands of various colors, some curly, some straight. All too long to come from any animal I could think of.
The second jar I opened was full of teeth. One glimpse of their long, yellowing roots was enough to make me feel sick. I returned the jar to the shelf. Something was wrong here. I had known it the second I walked in the door. The house smelled like a cave and had the weird, charged feeling of a church. I had to get out of there.
And yet I had come all this way. I had a duffel bag full of stolen dishes. I decided I might as well find out what glittering thing my sister had almost seen inside the music box. Following the directions she had given me, I waded through the overstuffed living room and down a short hall. My chest burned with fear. Casey had told me that Mrs. Birch was basically immobile, that she needed a stair lift to go up to her bedroom, and yet I was afraid of her, and of her house.
I couldn’t make it more than a few feet inside the room with the music box—junk was stacked almost to the ceiling. Mattresses, trunks, coat racks, a piano. I made my way toward a dresser at the mess’s edge, and there, on top of the dresser, was the music box. I recognized it immediately, the delicate, white-stone flowers on its lid. The emerald snake.
But then, as I lifted the music box off the dresser, the lid popped open. A rusty jingle blared from the box. I slapped the lid shut. Had Mrs. Birch heard? Would she suspect someone was in her house? Jamming the music box into my duffle bag, I spun for the door, just about to leave, but something stopped me. Casey screamed. It sounded like she was dying.
I ran for her, pushing my way through the clutter. The house hadn’t looked especially big from the outside, but the inside was packed as tightly as intestines. I turned down one wrong hall and then another, following the patter of the still-running shower until I saw its steam seeping beneath a white door.
I forced myself to go inside.
The bathroom was empty. A grey shower chair stood in the tub, water pelting its plastic seat. I smelled strawberry shampoo and saw the open bottle on the back of the toilet. Casey must have been here just moments ago, bathing Mrs. Birch who would have been sitting in the shower chair, but now there was no sign of either of them.
I went looking for Casey. My legs shook as I crept out of the bathroom, then nearly gave out with relief as I caught sight of her at the end of the hall. She was walking slowly away from me, about to turn a corner. I wanted to call out to her but was afraid of whatever had made her scream, so I ran after her, reaching for her as I watched her curly hair disappear around the corner. Just as I turned, I heard a quick cascade of footsteps at my back and whipped around to catch the tail end of movement. At the time I thought my eyes were playing tricks. There’s no way that could have been Mrs. Birch I saw, naked and dripping, skin sagging, spine curled but movement still young and quick as she darted from behind one pile of junk to another.
I turned and ran after Casey now—not to save her, but for her to save me.
Rounding the corner, I slammed into a tower of crates and was nearly crushed as they came tumbling down.
“Casey,” I called again, but she kept walking away like she didn’t hear. I followed, slowed by the mess that somehow didn’t slow Casey. I watched her navigate the maze of crates, clothing racks, and dressers overflowing with glimmering jewelry. She turned into a room just ahead, and as she did, I caught sight of her face.
It was totally blank, her lips slightly parted, the same dazed expression she used to get as a kid whenever she watched TV.
“Casey,” I pleaded.
I followed her into the dark room, losing sight of her for a moment as my vision adjusted. The mess in this room was even denser and more broken down. I fought my way through it. The sharp coils of a broken mattress clawed my arms like the branches of a tree. I saw a gramophone on top of a microwave with Fabergé eggs spilling from its horn. By the time I spotted Casey, she was across the room, still with her back to me, walking away. She was about to walk out through a second door on the other side of the room.
She turned into the corridor I recognized from when I first entered the house. And yet the corridor seemed to stretch further than I remembered, reaching into the dark far end of the house, with the front door far down the other end. How big was this place? Casey moved down the corridor, leaving the door behind her.
“Wait,” I sobbed. “Casey, stop.” Where was she going?
Just then, another rush of footsteps approached at my back.
Maybe if I had I known who or what was behind me, I would have tried to fight. There was plenty in reach that I could use as a weapon—a lamp, a bottle, a vase—but I was too afraid to turn around. Afraid it was the old woman.
Mrs. Birch’s hoard of possessions grew denser the deeper I followed Casey into the house. I held out my arms like a sleepwalker. My fingertips brushed the cloudy edges of Casey’s hair, but I stumbled over a chest on the floor, and she drew ahead. “Listen to me,” I implored. “Please turn around.”
It occurred to me that this wasn’t the first time I had been chased by someone scary and unknowable—though when that person had been my foster mother, there had always been Casey to protect me. But now Casey was ignoring me, and I had never felt so lost. The house seemed endless, or maybe it was just how slow we had to move.
Eventually, the detritus grew so thick that the narrow corridor between it was like a tunnel. Ahead of me, Casey sunk to her knees and began to crawl. Several feet behind her, I did the same. Spears of light cut through the junk here and there, like a barrel used for target practice, illuminating Mrs. Birch’s overstuffed, broken down mess. I heard the sound of breaking glass before I felt the pain in my palms and knees. I felt blood, warm and wet, and lifting my knees, crouched ahead on hands and toes the way I only ever had in dreams. Like an animal. I pictured Mrs. Birch following my trail of blood. Wriggling beneath a broken desk, I thought I heard a flutter of wings, and soon after, the tunnel opened up into a cave-like space in what must have been the center of a room.
Here the light was so dim that all I could see were the shapes of junk that had fallen apart and melded back together into a room-sized nest arranged around a cleared spot of floor. It was here that Casey finally stopped. I watched her kneel on the floor. Still turned away from me, her head tilted forward, curtaining her face with her hair.
“Casey. Please. We have to get out of here.”
I grabbed her shoulder and tried shaking her out of her strange state.
But she didn’t look up. Just as I went to pull her to her feet, I heard the same light patter of steps swirling closer than ever before. They passed so close I felt the old woman’s hot breath and smelled a flowery rot. And I knew that she was in the room with me then—Mrs. Birch or whoever she was. But when I looked around the room, though, I saw no one but Casey, kneeling on the floor.
I wish I could say dragged her out of that house.
But the truth is that I saw something then that I couldn’t face. And I cowered on the floor, edging back from the room on all fours. Now I remember very little of the way back—a desperate clawing toward the light of a window, only to remain trapped by metal bars. I remember following the walls, eventually finding a door, screaming for help.
But before all that—before I left Casey kneeling on the floor—I looked up to see the one who had been following me through the house. The one I couldn’t face. She was an old woman, perched on bent legs atop a splintered wardrobe up near the ceiling. She was naked, her pale flesh spotted with age. Her blue eyes burning at me from deep sockets.
She opened her liver-colored lips then, and a voice that belonged to a much younger woman floated out of Mrs. Birch’s throat. Sharp but rhythmic. The language wasn’t one I’d heard before, full of unfamiliar sounds. As her strange words flooded the cramped den, weaving around Casey, the skin on her arms and neck brightened, reddening, as if she was sitting inches from a roaring fire. Blisters broke across her glowing flesh, her hair singed, and tears steamed down her cheeks as she burned.