Check Under the Bed

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006, 11:12 am

I’ve been living alone for a little over seven months now, and I’m quite pleased that I haven’t lost my mind yet. Oh, it’s not that I get lonely–I like being by myself, I need lots of quiet, quality “me” time, and I get out fairly often and mix with the unwashed masses outside my door. Nor do I have trouble taking care of myself–I cook, I clean, I do my own ironing, I even fold my own sheets. And because the house has been up for sale I can’t leave half-chewed chicken bones strewed over the hardwood floors. It’s puts some people off.

No, the problem is that when you live alone you’re totally at the mercy of the Monsters. The Monsters who live under the bed. In the closet. Behind closed doors. I know what you’re thinking–there are no Monsters. And, hey, I know that too. Monsters…they aren’t real. But when it’s 2:30 in the morning and you suddenly hear a loud “CLUMMFF!” in the kitchen, well, what else could it be? But a Monster?

My house in nestled in the gentle arms of suburbia. Deer, squirrels and bunny rabbits frolic in my back yard. The potential for crime is pretty low, though it happens–a few years ago someone broke into my car (can I say they broke in when the door was unlocked?) and stole my digital recorder. Probably one of the jackass kids who live around here. But I’m not too worried about someone tweaking on crystal meth smashing in my door to rip off my TV set.

Unfortunately I have an active imagination, and lately it’s been getting a workout. This is really the first extended time I’ve ever lived by myself. In college I subletted a friend’s apartment and stayed at Penn State for the summer to edit the school paper. I had a month by myself during Intersession before my friend Adam came up for the rest of the summer. The first night I move in, get situated, get comfortable. I lived on the top floor of a seven story apartment building, and so far as I knew I was the only person living on the entire floor. Didn’t see or hear anyone else.

The bedroom was postioned at the corner of the buiding. About ten feet beyond the wall was the door leading to the stairwell. I’d used the elevator when I moved in, as humping seven flights didn’t sound like too much fun. So I didn’t know that the hinge that kept the heavy, steel door from swinging shut was broken. I found out around 2AM, when my next door neighbor came home from the bars, pushed open the door, and let it swing free.

It was like God dropped a serving platter on His celestial kitchen floor. “BA-BOOOOOM!” It sounded like somone had driven a battering ram right through my bedroom wall. And the sound echoed through the hallway and down the stairwell, so that the vibrations extended like the last crescendo of A Day in the Life. Scared me shitless. And I stayed scared for about a month. Couldn’t sleep. Especially as once a week or so someone would come up the stairs, forget to ease the door back, and wake me from an uneasy slumber in the worst way possible. That didn’t involve a gun in my face, at least.

Fast-forward to the summer I graduated. I stayed in State College for an extra week because friends were getting married in Philly and I figured I’d save myself some back-and-forth across the state. We’d already subletted our apartment, so I moved next door to my friends’ place. I sorta knew the girl living in our place, she was in the same business frat as two of my friends.

Oh, the hijinks kids will get into. We lived on the fourth floor of a six-story complex. One night there was a party on the top floor, it was loud but it didn’t bother me none, and a few of the scamps upstairs came up with a funny idea around 1AM. At some point they’d acquired the torso of a mannequin, and being funny guys they put a shirt on it, wrapped it in a blanket to hide the legs, and threw it off the balcony.

It passed right by the balcony shared by my current and old apartments. When I saw the “body” sail past it wasn’t that big of a shock. I heard the hooting and laughing from above, so I had an inkling that something had just happened. What I didn’t count on, or expect, was the blood-curdling SCREAM that came from next door. Poor Melinda saw the “body” hurtle past, thought someone had jumped, and did what came naturally.

I still hear that scream some nights when I wake up in a cold sweat. She ran out onto her balcony, I did the same. She was babbling that someone jumped, and we both looked down and saw it was just a broken-up mannequin. To my dismay, she got a grip almost immediately and went inside like nothing had happened. Meanwhile I’m still haunted by that scream.

Even though that little squeal doesn’t compare to what happened a few years ago. You know how some nights are perfect for sleeping? It’s cold outside, but under the covers it’s just right? Your pillow cradles your head and all around you is softness and warmth? That’s how it was for me one chilly October night. It was a Friday, so I could sleep in. I probably had a smile on my face as I navigated through Dreamland.

I woke to what could only be described as a terrified shriek, high-pitched, loud, and it went on forever. I jerked out of bed, and what I saw scared the hell out of me. My wife was standing in the door, looking down the hallway. The light was on, and I could see that she was so terrified she was in tears. I leapt out of bed, not knowing what she was looking at. What could she have seen that would make her scream like that, and look that horrified?

“What!?” I said, and stuck my head out of the bedroom door. I expected to see a knife-wielding intruder, or a maniac in a hockey mask, or at least a Monster. Nope. I didn’t see anything.

And then I saw two of my cats with their heads on swivels, looking for something. And Jody screamed again and leapt about eight feet horizontally.

“A mouse!” she screamed. “There’s a mouse!”

A mouse. A god-dammed mouse. I nearly had a Category-5 stroke over a mouse. The cats were very interested in finding where it was–well, Izzy wasn’t. The screams scared the curiousity out of him and he was hiding under the couch. As for me, I had to find the mouse before the cats ate him up. Because Jody didn’t want mouse scraps all over the house.

How to rid yourself of a mouse? My recommendation is a plastic trash bin and a tennis racquet. Took me seven seconds to bag me a mouse, take him outside, and let him free in the woods. He took off like the happiest mouse you’ve ever seen. I went back inside, accepted all the thank yous and I’m sorrys, advised the cats that the mouse was gone and they should stop looking for it, and went back to bed. I think I fell asleep five minutes after dawn.

But since I’ve been living alone I’ve done pretty well. I’m used to the unique creaks and groans the house makes. But there have been a few moments in the last week or so that have me throwing open closets and checking under the bed.

About a month ago I thought I heard someone walking out in my backyard. At midnight. Now, there are kids in the neighborhood, maybe it was done of them, but the kids next door at little, they shouldn’t be out at midnight. I looked out my window and saw three deer sauntering past. Ah, deer. There are more of them about the neighborhood this year. No big deal.

Then for the last few nights I’ve heard something pinging at my windows. Just a light “tap tap tap”. I got up, turned on the outside lights, looked around. Nothing. But it’s loud enough that it isn’t the wind. I don’t know what’s making that sound.

On top of that came the “CLUMMFF!” sound I mentioned before. That scared the crap out of me. A sound like that doesn’t come about spontaneously. I listened for more noise, and after hearing none went to the kitchen to investigate. I looked around, looked around, didn’t see anything…and then I saw that the plastic cutting board I’d rested against the counter had slipped and fallen flat. Clummff.

So I felt pretty stupid. Just as I feel pretty stupid when I do my laundry and see if anyone is hiding in the bathroom down there. Maybe it’s just paranoia born from having troops of strangers marching through my house, but when I know someone has been there I like to make a quick reconnassaince of the place. Just to make sure no one stayed behind.

I have nightmares where I open a door to see if anyone is hiding in there…and someone IS hiding in there. Sometimes the intruder tries to stay hidden, and I stumble away trying to escape. Sometimes the intruder leaps up an attacks me. Sometimes it’s a person hiding there, sometimes it’s one of the more gruesome monsters from Quake. Not sure what I’d do if I opened the door in real life and there was someone hiding. Ask them to leave? Ask them to stay for dinner? Or would we skip the chit-chat and just fight to the death?

We had our home inpsection Friday, and I did some heavy-duty cleaning to put our best foot forward. When I came home the shower curtain in the hall bathroom was pulled all the way to the side. I pulled it back across. It makes the bathroom look better, and I like the color. I came home Sunday night and the curtain was pulled halfway open. Did I do that? I didn’t remember doing that…especially since I don’t use that bathroom. I pulled it all the way across again.

I went to a friends’ house for a 4th of July picnic. Ate well, drank well. Got home, turned on the TV, waddled to the bedroom to change into a T-shirt and shorts. Walked back to the kitchen, passed the hall bathroom…

And the shower curtain was pulled all the way back.

I can’t deny that I was freaked. I’ve been slightly freaked for a few days anyway. But this got the corner of my lip twitching. I don’t think I pulled the curtain back. No way did I pull the curtain back. I didn’t do it.

But then…who did, if not me? Why the hell would someone enter my home, pull back the shower curtain…and then leave? My realtor has a key, but, come on, that’s crazy. The people who bought the house? Maybe they tried the front door, maybe I didn’t lock it, maybe they wandered around and fiddled with the curtain and forgot about it and left? That’s pretty friggin’ implausible.

So what could it be? The only answer that makes any sense at all, the only one that stands up to logic and cold, careful reasoning, is this–it was the Monsters. They did it. Has to be.

Glad I’m going away for a few days. I could use a good night’s sleep.

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2 Responses to “Check Under the Bed”

  1. Bobby Bracelet Says:

    I always check my cupboards around 800 times a day just in case any food elves have decided to randomly insert Twinkies and Easy Cheese. Never happens though. I wonder if they stay away because of the monsters. And on the subject of monsters, is it possible that there are different types of household monsters? Like, the monsters that steal your socks and underwear over time are freaks, while the curtain moving or door opening monsters are cooler than a football player in high school, and they all know it?

  2. Chane Steiner Says:

    I also live alone and I love it. However, I don’t watch horror films because of my active imagination and the illogical thoughts they plant in my head. I find myself checking the closet and stuff like that.

    Well, plus, they give me nightmares.

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