It was a dark and stormy Halloween night…
Well, actually, no. It was actually a week to Christmas, and clear as a bell. It was night, though.
It woulda been around 1982. I was home from college. It was kind of comforting – I hadn’t been home since the previous May, and I’d never been away that long before. Anyway, it was a week to Christmas, and I was back in my little tiny hometown out in the middle of nowhere without a thing to do. My sister was out cattin’ around somewhere with her boyfriend, my parents had gone to a Christmas party at his job… and I was alone in the house. Bored. I dug around in my bedroom until I came up with something to do… a copy of The Shining, by Stephen King. I’d read it before, but I was bored…
So I sat down in the back sitting room and began to read. I skipped a lot of stuff, got to the good parts in the middle where Jack Torrance meets the bartender and little Danny is almost killed by the bathtub monster…
…and I heard a noise outside.
I heard a noise outside. Specifically, I heard someone walking up to the back door.
My first thought was “What’s Dad doing home so early, and what’s he coming in through the back door for?”
He did not come in.
He did not come in.
I shrugged and went back to my book. The dead fat lady crawled out of the tub and moved toward little Danny…
I heard a couple more footsteps.
I stopped reading. I waited.
I got up and walked to the back door and looked out the little window. “Dad?”
There didn’t seem to be anyone there. I went and sat back down.
I’d barely gotten my butt on the cushion before I heard the footsteps again. This time, they were walking away from the back door… towards the outdoor laundry room. Following my movement on the other side of the wall, almost.
I stood up again in a hurry. The footsteps stopped.
I looked at my own feet. I was barefoot, like I usually am indoors. The footsteps were not mine, or echoes of mine; they sounded like my father’s, or some big man wearing leather-soled shoes, shuffling his feet a bit, like he didn’t want to pick up his feet when he walked… a sort of *shhht, shhht, shhht * sound.
I walked over to the back door again, and this time, I flicked on the porch light. I glanced around out the window without opening the door. I especially looked hard to my right… toward the laundry room. There didn’t seem to be anyone there… but couldn’t he have run behind the laundry room? Maybe. Wouldn’t I have heard him, running across the grass? Maybe…
A digression: the wall wasn’t much of a wall. The wall of the back sitting room had originally been a screened-in porch. When my old man bought the place, we’d converted it into an extra room, just by putting up wood siding on the outside, and cheap paneling on the inside. This had the side effect of making the wall acoustically transparent… you could clearly hear what was happening in the back yard…
I sat down again to read my book. The dead fat lady’s hands closed around Danny’s throat…
shht, shht, shht… shht, shht, shht, shht…
I jumped upright, threw the book down, and ran to my room. I got my old baseball bat, ran to the back door, and threw it open. Flicked on the porch light. Looked around.
There was no one in sight.
Yeah, well, peachy. I stormed out the back door, and stormed around behind the laundry room. No one there. No sign that anyone had been.
On the way back, I glanced at the laundry room door. Could he be in there? Not likely – the sliding door tended to stick, required some muscle to open properly, and was noisy. Surely I’d have heard the racket if my phantom stranger were trying to hide in there.
I walked back in, and closed the door. Turned out the porch light… and this time, I locked the door.
*…shhht, shhht, shht…shht-shht-sht-sht-sht-sht… *
I leaped to my feet, grabbed the bat, ran to the door, unlocked it, yanked it open, hit the porch light, and ran into the back yard. I was sick of this. If one of my old buddies was screwing around, he was going to get hurt. I hoped he thought the lumps were funny.
There was no one in the back yard.
I checked behind the laundry room, behind and inside the hot tub. No one.
I faced the laundry room.
“If anyone’s in there, show yourself,” I said. “I’m coming in there in a minute, and if you surprise me, swelp me, I’m gonna bash your head in.”
No one answered. I kept the bat in my right hand… approached the door… and, lefthanded, yanked it open. It made a hell of a racket, but opened. I leaped into the laundry room, ready to kill anything that moved.
The washing machine looked stupidly at me. The dryer agreed with it. *Nobody in here but us appliances, boss… *
I didn’t get it. I KNEW I was hearing footsteps. Where the hell were they coming from? The roof? Why would anyone be on the friggin’ roof?
…about then, it occurred to me I’d left the back door standing wide open.
I rushed back out of the laundry room, leaving the door open, and back into the house. No one was there. I closed the door, locked it… and left the porch light on, this time. I searched the entire house, top to bottom, closets, under beds, cabinets… everything. Nobody here but us college students, boss.
I went into the kitchen and made a cuba libre and drank it. After a minute, I made another one, but this time I left out the lemon and Coke, and I drank it, too.
…and then I went and sat down in my chair, ball bat at my side. I did not pick up the book. I waited. After a moment, I got up and got Dad’s 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun off the rack, and loaded it, and put it near the chair. Yes, I know, alcohol and shotguns aren’t a good combination, but I was eighteen, okay? They aren’t known for their judgement.
…and I waited.
(to be continued)