MTO Ginny Thompson

2:47 AM. Ginny woke to her daughter’s vice-like grip on her shoulders and powerful shake. A jar of peanut butter slipped from her hand and dropped on Diane’s toe, yanking a howl from her.

“Mom, you’re sleepwalking again.” Diane stutter stepped to the nearest stool and rubbed her sore toe.

The next night Ginny got the shake-awake from her granddaughter, Marissa, who swore she’d have PTSD over the image of her Grammy in her nightgown zombie-dancing to Frank Sinatra.

It went like that for a while. Ginny would lay her head on the pillow and the next thing she knew, she’d wake to her shoulders being rattled. Matt, Bella, Marissa, Diane–everyone in the family worried about what would happen to Ginny in her sleep.

Ginny’s unease grew when she woke one night in her own bed with mud on her feet. Not wanting to worry the family, she kept it to herself. Several nights she’d been stopped and woken while trying to unlatch the door. One night Matt caught her in the backyard. Each night, her unconscious body learned to be quieter, stealthier. Marissa put a bell on the back door, and Bella borrowed a baby monitor, but sleepwalking Ginny learned to get by them.

One night she found herself deep in the woods behind the house. What she thought was a bony hand rousing her turned out to be a gnarled branch. Her legs were scratched bloody by the thickets and thorns she’d apparently roamed through. Worse, she clutched a tuft of hair. Or fur. Brown. Several inches long. Where did that come from? A sticky substance was smeared all over her face. She wiped it with her sleeve. In the dark, it looked black. Smelled like pipes. Tasted sharp and tinny. She gagged and spit.

The woods behind her house were less than an acre, but the moonless night made them feel vast and alien. Every tree towered and loomed; shadows grasped; limbs clawed. The cries of owls startled her. Wings beat overhead. Lithe-footed deer or foxes or…something broke sticks and stomped the forest floor, close but not seen.

She screamed when something furry crawled over her bare foot. Yelled. Hollered as loud as she could, not caring who found her, just wanting someone to.

She calmed at hearing a voice in the distance. It was Diane, her daughter. Thank God. But when Diane got close enough to see the state Ginny was in, her eyes glowed huge and horrified.

“Diane, I’m lost,” Ginny cried.

Reluctantly, Diane approached her mother. “Wake up.” She shook Ginny’s shoulders as she had the other times. “Mom…Mom, wake up!” Panic seeped into Diane’s voice. She shook her mom as brutally as she dared.

Ginny could feel her neck strain, her teeth rattle. Even her brain seemed to bang around inside her skull.


Matt came. He shook her, too. They brought her back to the house and called the paramedics. Each burly EMT took turns shaking Ginny and screaming themselves hoarse, but she would not wake up.


Ginny tramped the woods every night and dreamt she lived in a clean and quiet home where Sinatra played softly, where she and Diane baked cookies and arranged charcuterie boards, and Domino the cat purred at her feet. The dream never lasted though. She always woke shoeless and with a mouthful of blood and a handful of either fur or human hair–she could not tell which.

Credit: Forest Photography/Locke

True: Ginny did sleepwalk, and according to her daughter, Diane, once yelled out the window.

Also true: Ginny is a 78-year-old Taekwondo red belt who fought and beat breast cancer during the pandemic. Her optimistic attitude, strength, and unflinching faith inspire me.

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3 thoughts on “MTO Ginny Thompson

  1. Man this one’s a Kelly classic. Terrifying stuff. It’s really, really good. A lot of modern horror stories and movies with complex plots (interesting as they are) sometimes don’t really grip me. This did. It’s old school and so well written.

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