Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Things That Go Bump In The Night

As a child growing up, I think it was only natural to be afraid of the dark. It was what you couldn't see that made you afraid.

Your imagination could literally fill in all those holes for you of what you weren't seeing.

Noises that couldn't be explained.

Shadows that you don't recall being there before.

But did you ever feel as if there was something really there? Lurking about just beyond your ability to see them?

There were many times as I lay in bed in the wee hours of the night when I would find myself wide awake at something I heard.

"What was that?" I found myself saying in my head. I didn't want to say it out loud just in case there really was something there.

I waited.

Holding my breath, closing my eyes so I could focus on what was there just out of my eyesight, but yet something that could give itself away.

There it was again. Was it outside the house or inside? I think for sure it was outside, but how can you be sure. The hallway just outside my partially closed bedroom door could make things sound different than what they really were.

Stay still, I told myself. Close your eyes. Maybe it will simply go away.

You certainly don't want whoever is making the noise to know you have heard them. So you close your eyes, pull the covers up around your shoulders and ever so slightly open your eyelids so it would look to the casual observer that you were asleep, but in reality you were looking out the slightest crack in your eyelids. Even though your bedroom is dark, you have gotten so used to the low light, you can make out what is there.

On the corners of your bed are the rising sentinels of your canopy bedposts, lacking the overhead covering thanks in part to a little creative experimenting of you and your brother thinking you could swing from the rails that stretched out to support the canopy. I guess they really weren't meant to support the weight of a little human body after all. However the poles remained. Like soldiers standing at attention waiting and watching over your bed. It looked funny no matter how you tried to picture them.

To the left of your bed was your window to the front yard. Shadowed by the growing cypress trees outside. Concealing your window and what was inside but more, hiding whatever could be lying in wait just outside the window. Spaced about 3 feet apart and staggered across the front of the house, they had grown tall ever since moving into that house. They now reached up in a zig-zag pattern up to the roof line in a frozen dance pose. I always hated those cypress trees. They prevented one from seeing out the window to whatever was happening just outside on the isolated neighborhood street. No chance in knowing for sure if there was anything outside. Those trees could keep anyone well hidden until they found a way inside.

Just in front of my bed and closer to the door on the right was my 6-drawer dresser. White and something your dad would buy cheap from the local hardware store, paint and then pass off as a fine made piece of furniture, but I knew what it was. A way to provide for your daughter a place to put your clothes when you barely had any money to avoid good quality furniture. What did I know anyway as a kid of 11?

My door was still partially closed and just outside that door was a corner hallway. One way lead into our family room, kitchen and dining room beyond and the other way lead to the small bathroom just between my door and my brother's bedroom. My mom's room was the dead end at the end of the hallway. Her door was always shut, much like my brothers. I could see no light coming from anywhere in the house which further confirmed for me that the noise had to come from outside. The way I saw it was that I was on my own. None was coming. No one heard the noise but me.

A loud thump again.

A slight pause and then another thump.

I know this is definitely coming outside. The window rattles slightly with each thump. It seems as if a giant were walking outside slowly stomping his way down the street. Is that even possible?

Heck anything is possible in the mind of an 11-year-old girl in the middle of the night that hears a noise she's never heard before.

With each thumping sound there is a slight pause before another thump. I lay in my bed, swallowing hard and wishing harder than ever that someone else besides me has heard that noise. Do I have the courage to get up and look outside my bedroom window? It honestly sounds as if it is coming just outside, perhaps at the end of the street.

More vibrations rattle my window and more loud thumping. I'm almost in tears now. What if I try to get out of bed and it gets me? What will happen to me if I get taken in the middle of the night? Will my mom and brother even miss me?

I hold my breath and slowly peel my covers back on my bed. I can feel my heart racing with each thump and rattle of the glass in my window. I slowly slide my bare feet out and touch the carpet. I move slowly towards the window. I have to tip toe in case it hears me or perhaps if I need to leap back to the safety of my bed.  My curtains are drawn back but the window remains open to allow the cool night air in instead of running the air conditioning and raising the electricity bill.

I need to remind myself to breath because I am holding my breath longer than I believe is humanly possible.

What if I pull back my curtains, and there is someone staring back at me? Do I even want to see what's on the other side of the curtains? Do I scream, run or just stand there literally scared stiff?

Holding my breath and placing my back against the paneled bedroom wall, I reach out for the curtains slowly. The thumping is getting louder and I honestly feel like it's right outside my window now. Slowly I pull back the curtain and try in vain to look around the lone cypress tree that is twisted outside my window. The pale night sky is lit only from the moon that is passing over creating a blueish glow on everything. Nothing is moving outside. No branches from the trees, no alley cats out for a late night stroll, everything is still as if the world outside is holding its breath too.

Then I realize that the thumping has stopped.

Does it see me?

Am I missing something I should be seeing?

I look down the street to the left and just darkened houses fill both sides of the streets, only the house right across the street has its porch lights on, everything else is asleep. Even to the right I can see a few houses, but the cars parked in our driveway are blocking my view of what could be lurking just a couple houses down.

It knows I can hear it!

It knows I am looking for it.

It knows and it's waiting for me.

Waiting for me to go back to bed thinking its all a bad dream before it comes.

But I can't go back to sleep. If I do, something bad will happen.

So I wait.

I wait until my eyes grow so dry I can barely keep them open. I tell myself I will only blink them for a short while just to moisten them with my tears and then I'll keep watch.

Only that is my fatal mistake.

The moment I close my eyes it's all over.

Morning has come and when I awaken the thing that went bump in the night is gone.

I missed it! I tell myself that tonight I'll make plans to make sure I don't fall asleep. I will find out what walks in the darkened streets just outside my house in the middle of the night. Tonight I will make plans.

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