I love scary stories. Love, love, love them. Until they get the better of me.
The only time I ever got in trouble for reading anything I wasn’t supposed to was in the fifth grade. It was a loaned copy of The Amityville Horror I kept hidden under my pillow until I could finish it. The night I did, I woke up my parents around 2 am to tell them I couldn’t sleep.
They were astonishingly unsympathetic. And I still get creeped out by flies on the window.
I’ve always thought I could write a satisfyingly scary story, except that if it was any good I’d probably lose my marbles a little. The process is the problem. I get this little nugget of an idea, and then I mull it over for a long time before any writing happens. I’ll think about it while driving, or washing the dishes, …. taking a shower … or waking up at 3 am and its pitch black and I’m sure I’ve heard something ….
I have a fairly decent imagination, you guys. I don’t trust it not to freak me out. I won’t stare too long down a dark hallway. Is that the vague outline of a misshapen midget axe-murderer, or a coat on a chair? I can’t listen too intently to silence without wondering if I’m hearing a faint scream for help.
Most of the time, I can cope with this imagination. I’m no longer the 5th grade girl who suddenly realizes how far away her room is from everyone else’s in the house. Nope. I’m a grown-ass woman who doesn’t have time for ghosts and all that boloney.
Here’s the fortunate thing that kind of balances out my crazy imagination: While I fully and totally believe in a spirit world, and ghosts and spooky stuff, and I think there are probably people who can see them, too – or sense them, or whatever – I can’t. Not a bit.
This would be me in a séance:
Me: Dear spirit, please give us a sign if you’re here.
Spirit [tapping on my head]: Helloooo? Yooo Hooo? [tap, tap, tap] is this thing on?
Me: Just one, little sign, friendly spirit.
Spirit: HEY, HEEEEEY! [knocks over lamp, pushes ouija board off the table].
Me: [picks up stuff, looks around] Wow, that was weird … okay, spirit, just one, little sign …
Sometimes my active imagination slams up against my lack of sense of anything otherworldly, and I get to choose between grown-ass womanhood or 5th grade melodrama. It’s a toss up as to which side will prevail.
Like last week. I was working out of town. This client and I have a deal wherein she finds people to put me up in their homes and saves the expense of a hotel when I travel.
One couple regularly hosts me, if their spare room isn’t occupied. They do this for a number of the organizations they support. That room has hosted playwrights, musicians, politicians, and actors, as well as boring people like me. It’s a nice set up with a private bath and a guest can come and go, early or late, without disturbing the homeowners.
A few weeks ago, I was set to stay with them again, but they pulled out at the last minute because of some emergency. I found out later one of their houseguests, an opera singer, didn’t show up for a rehearsal one morning. She’d passed away the night before.
In that room.
So when my hosts felt the need to disclose the fact that some poor woman turned up dead in their spare room, I was able to blithely inform them that kind of thing doesn’t bother me at all. I mean, I’m sorry for the woman and her family, and all, but a room’s a room, and I’ve got zero sense of the metaphysical, so if her aura was somehow still around and wanted some company or something, I’d probably not be much of a spirit buddy.
Which is how I found myself staying there one night last week, while my hosts were out of town.
Mike asked if I was going to be freaked out – I mean, he said, someone DIED there – and I reminded him (maybe a little forcefully), that I am NOT the type to get freaked out by that sort of thing, thank you very much.
Besides, it’s a comfortable, newer home on the edge of town, very clean, with lots of light from about a dozen windows looking out into the beautiful forested landscape of Central Idaho. Not your typical, haunted Victorian manse. No place for a haunting. Nope.
And quiet. Oh, so quiet. Really. Freaking. Quiet. After the sun went down, I went from window to window drawing the blinds and I noticed that there was not a single neighbor within view. No light outside whatsoever. Not even a glow from the nearby town. Nothing to see. Nothing except dark shadows courtesy of the glow from a teensy sliver of moon just above the treetops. Shadows cast by lawn furniture, trees, and other …. things I hadn’t thought to catalogue in the daylight, not realizing I’d wonder about their respective outlines later.
I wondered what the house might look like from out there, what kind of pattern the light coming from all these windows made from the vantage of someone standing (lurking) watching from the woods, as I closed the shades. One by one. Were my eyes playing tricks or did I just now see something skitter by the bottom of the window? Just before the blind hit the sill? I’m sure there are critters out there. Of course there are. Fox and skunks, maybe, but that looked white. A cat perhaps?
The day had been warm, and I must have left a door open earlier, because houseflies had made their way inside and now bumped off the light fixture in the dining room. Tik, tik, tik. It was too early for sleep, but I was way too tired for work. I tried and failed to figure out the television remote, and so decided to read, propped up in bed.
I did pretty well with ignoring the sounds of the house settling around me, but the flies bounding off the fixture were annoying. The furnace kicked in and about gave me a heart attack.
She’d been here, the opera singer. She’d been laying here in this bed, where I was right now, not three weeks prior. Had she known her end was near? Was she afraid? Did someone or something appear to her beforehand? Something gauzy and translucent, that even now might be skittering outside, around the foundation, just below the windows, wondering where the light from the house had gone? Wanting to come in, to get away from the one who watched from the woods?
When I went, someday, would I go in my sleep? My breath becoming shallower and shallower until it stopped altogether? Or would I wake with a start, realizing I wasn’t getting enough air, opening my eyes to see something gauzy, floating just above me, just out of focus? Would we, both of us, then be flitting around the house at night, looking for a crack in the blinds through which to enter, fleeing from the one who watched from the woods? From the shadows of trees? …
…. Anyway, I didn’t finish my book that night. It’s not that it wasn’t good, I just couldn’t get into it.