Bump in the Night

Friday, August 7th, 2009, 11:26 am

I have an active imagination. Not an over-active imagination, mind you. People who describe themselves as having overactive imaginations tend to be either weird (and not often in a fascinating-weird kinda way, more a queasy-weird way) or really, really scary. Or they’re these pretentious “I’m so interesting, let’s sit down for an hour and talk about my twisted mind!” jackasses. My imagination keeps me entertained and occupied during the day, so we get along fine.

There are times, though, when that part of my brain presses down on the gas pedal a bit too hard. That usually happens at night, when I’m alone. And especially when I’m alone and about to go to sleep in a strange place. My brother is on vacation this week and I’ve been staying at his house so as to keep an eye on their dog. Sunny is a golden retriever but she’s approximately the size of an adult brown bear. My brother’s house has exposed hardwood floors, and when Sunny barks the reverbs are enough to make your lungs bleed. But she’s been a good dog, she’s been no problem, the week has moved along without incident.

Except two nights ago. My brother’s house groans and creaks like any other, except that I’m not used to this particular symphony. The stairs are especially vocal, and moreso when some fatass, (me, for example) walks on them. So I’m dozing off and from the bed I’m looking through the door to the top of the staircase. I left the light on above the steps in case I needed to go down to look in on Sunny and so, heh heh, I didn’t take a wrong turn in the dark and go a-plunging.

I’m lying in bed, looking at the stairs. The bannister. And in my mind I visualize someone walking to the top of the staircase. He’s dressed in black, he’s walking slowly. And he’s coming for me. The figure in black doesn’t look especially menacing, he isn’t carrying a scythe or some other weapon, he isn’t foaming at the mouth or weeping blood. Just a figure in black, walking up the stairs. Coming for me.

Mind you, I’m wide awake as I think this. I wasn’t dreaming. My brain decided that the best way to ease into Dreamland was to give me this potential nightmare to chew on. I’ve had nightmares like this before–dread figure dressed in black coming for me, I can’t move, hilarity ensues. Chances are we all have, it’s a pretty common theme. But, come on, let me go to sleep first! Making me think about this crap when I’m just settling in isn’t fair.

Eventually I fell asleep. And my dream was actually pretty awesome (it involved race cars). But I was torn from that dream at 4:30AM by a loud CRACK that came from downstairs. I looked through the doorway and heard the stairs creaking, groaning, straining to support the tremendous weight trundling up them. Creaking and groaning and this other sound, this HUUFFF, HUUFFF, HUFFFFFF. Heavy, labored breathing. Panting, even.

Being super-geniuses you’ve already figured out that it was Sunny the Dog walking up the stairs. And I figured it out almost instantly too. I mean, who do I know that pants like that? Sunny. Who’s in the house with me? Sunny. Who would start with the batshit barking if an intruder (even the Grim Reaper) got within five feet of the front door? Sunny. So, logically, this was Sunny coming up the stairs.

But for about a second, a whole second, the logical part of my brain was still powering up. And I was scared shitless. Didn’t quite know where I was, what was going on, if the Monster was coming to get me. The second quickly passed and that’s when Sunny’s head poked around the corner and she waddled into the room, tail a-wag. I swallowed my heart and reached over to pat her head. “You bad dog,” I cooed, “you dirty, vicious, bastard of a dog. ” She licked her chops and tilted her head so I could scratch her neck.

I let her out to do her business. The kitchen has a door at one end leading to the back yard and another door at the other end leading down to the basement. That door is hard to close, like I said it’s an older house and as the years pass the pieces don’t always fit together properly. I let Sunny outside and closed the door; when I did that, the door to the basement popped open. As if someone in the basement twisted the knob and gave a gentle push…

There’s no way to get into the basement, except through that door. Which ruled out an intruder…unless it was a Monster, in which case all bets are off. It was another of those squirmy little moments but I got a grip, no malevolent force made flesh and coming to eat my soul emerged. I shut the door, leaned my shoulder against it till I heard the click, and let Sunny back in.

Around noon I headed back to my flat, to take care of Ernie the Cat. Hard to believe that I’ve been living there for three years now, still feels like I just moved in. It felt like home from the get-go, I’ve never had an uneasy night sleeping there, never felt spooked even once. I’m surrounded by law-abiding neighbors, it’s a quiet area, no worries. I fed Ernie and decided to take a much-needed shower. I was scraping off the grime when I heard a loud THUD from the other side of the wall. Followed by the sound of little cat feet running down the hallway. “Uh, WTF was that?” I wondered, as there’s nothing in my bedroom that would make a THUD sound. A CRASH, yes. A FLUMP, sure. But a THUD? That would send Ernie scampering?

I stuck my head out the door…nothing. No marauding intruder, no corpse on the floor. I looked around the room to see what might’ve caused the noise…and saw my small yet heavy fan lying on the floor. OK, Ernie knocked it over, but how? It was atop my dresser, which was stacked with laundry. Ernie couldn’t get up there, unless…

He came bounding into the room, chasing something. Something fluttering through the air. A moth. A moth got into my apartment and his hunter’s instincts took over. He must’ve jumped up on my dresser, bumped the fan before he also fell off, then chased the moth down the hall.

So, to sum up, in about an eight-hour period I was spooked by:

  • A golden retriever who had to pee
  • A sticky door
  • A moth

Not my proudest moments. But it’s not like I spent the rest of the day cowering under the bed or feverishly fanning myself while sipping laudanum. Hey, it’s been kinda quiet in the three (three? already?) weeks since I got back from the endless stiumlation of Las Vegas. An unexpected jigger of adrenaline was a welcome change of pace. I did sleep with the hall light on last night. I check the basement door every time I walk past it. Bought a fly-swatter, too. A guy can only take so much excitement.

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