Thursday, May 21, 2009

Personal Ghost Story: Preteen Edition

Sorry it's been so quiet around here lately-- I'm trying to keep a decent pace going, especially whilst that FLAKE Cins is at May War! How DARE SHE HAVE A LIFE?

Punish her viciously via email.

I keed, of course, and she knows it and probably won't poison me this summer, so I shall shower you with awkward segues and a story. I am also (AGAIN) sick, so hopefully this will help keep me from clawing my eyes outs and scratching them vigorously.

This tale happened to me at a friend's birthday party when we were all in 8th grade. It was myself, Jay (it was her birthday), and Tessa. Tessa and I were spending the night, and since Jay's parents were concerned and involved in their daughter's life, they promptly left us at their home, alone, and went drinking at the VFW. Ah, the late '80's. So there we have three adolescent girls. It had been a huge party with big chunks of Jay's family there, some other friends who lived in her neighborhood (including my first boyfriend, Jason. He was a dangerous older man! He was.. A HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN!), and over time a very hot day became a very hot night, and after a big party and bbq everyone eventually drifted back to whence they came. So it was just the three of us, alone, on a very hot Southern night.

As I was the transplanted Yankee and this was pre-Internet, they decided to regale me with local horror stories and some folk lore. Started out with le loup garou, Louisiana's own unique werewolf story, carried over by French settlers back in the day, and finding the bayous a fertile place to thrive, became its own entity over time. It's pretty cool, and I did a lot of reading up on it when I lived down south. Then it moved on; I told them about Ted Bundy (I used to live in Tacoma, where he was from), and they told me about the Garden District Killer, a mad rapist who fr some reason only crawled, one who would attack you, rape you (predictably with a title like that), and if he bit you, you would become a foaming lunatic and die. When I showed skepticism at this, my friend told me it was rabies and AIDS all mixed together. We were 12 and 13; it goes without saying that we were dumb.

The night wore on, and we spent several hours freebasing ice cream, cake, pop, and chocolate milk. We also found that USA Up All Night was showing the two same movies, over and over again. Why just these two? I have no fucking clue. The movies in question were Black Christmas, and (I think?) The Unnamable. Now, I'm going to break this down for some of our readers, because I know we have a few guys. Teenaged girls, especially preteens, are excitable. Reeeeeeally excitable, and the number of girls in a pack (and yes, teen girls ARE pack animals-- predators, usually) is proportionate to the hyperactivity they produce. If one gets worked up, eventually they all do, and fast. That's why they're so loud. On the plus side, as hormones calm, this ebbs.

Now imagine what I just told you, and apply it to a pack of three, inexperienced with horror movies. Now imagine how hard this ratchets up the tension in the house-- with no hyperbole at all I'm frankly stunned shit didn't start going all poltergeist on us because of all of the energy going wild in that little house. I have no idea how many calories we consumed or how many times we watched those movies, but we were getting WOUND UP.

Then it happened.

It was probably about 3 am; we'd long passed punchy and were coming around to it again, trying to fight off sleep. I was getting my fourteenth glass of Coke that hour, and Jay was trying to get Tessa to scream (something ridiculously easy to do). At first I thought it was just part of it, and didn't pay attention initially when Jay asked it. She asked it again.

"Did you hear that?"

Four cliched words in a horror movie, of course, but I was too young to know that. At first I was mad at her, thinking she was deliberately trying to scare us. As I have a slew of older cousins in all ages, I'd been wound up like this before and had the shit scared out of me for their efforts. I tended to shut behavior like this down and fast at that time in my life. But Jay's eyes were suddenly huge, and her dog, a young black lab named Jewel, was going ape in the backyard. So we all got very quiet, freezing up and not moving, listening. I don't think we even breathed; I know I didn't.

At first I had no idea what Jay was referencing; all I could hear was the click of the air conditioner, a broken rhythm I was suddenly aware I had been hearing for some time. "The A/C doesn't make that sound," she suddenly whispered.

I had never had the experience of all of my muscles suddenly going on lock down, independently of my wishes; this was the first time. I think we were all like that, no one moved. We just listened.

It was a patient sound, like it knew that eventually we would have to notice it, and comment on it. All I had noticed was the tapping. When we all suddenly shut up we heard the rest of it. Tap tap Tap. Then scratch scratch scratch. Tap tap tap. Scratch scratch scratch. Over and over. "What is that?" Tessa whispered. All I could do was whimper.

It's hard to focus when you're scared. It's hard to think of anything other than being scared. Finally, someone suggested letting Jewel in. We were all for it, except that she was in her pen, and we were too scared to cross the back lawn to let her out-- the backyard was totally consumed in shadow and we were too afraid to let whatever this was know we were aware of it. "Call your parents!" I blurted out. Surely if we made someone else aware of this then it would just turn out to be something silly, right? Right?

Well, I have no idea if you've ever tried to find someone at a bar on a Friday night, but it's much more difficult than it sounds, namely because none of the bar tenders seem to give a fuck about your problems. The guy at the VFW certainly did not, and eventually he hung up on us, then did it again when we called back. We then tried to call Jason, but knew that his mother turned off their phone's ringer after 9 pm. We tried anyway, just in case, but knew we were all alone. It was a strange feeling; had I simply had the courage to walk across the living room and look out their picture window, I'd have seen Jason's house. It's weird to be literally surrounded and feel like you are all alone, to see help and not be able to access it. All the while the patient sound continued, tap.. tap.. tap.. scratch.. scratch.. scratch..

We finally realized where the sound was coming from-- the front door, recessed off of their car port. Jay tried to turn on the front porch light to no avail-- when I suggested hopefully that the light had burned out, Jay told me that her mother had her replace the bulb that day, and it had been tested successfully. We had no idea what was going on, but it suddenly took on a sinister and deliberate feel, like we had been thwarted at every turn. All I could think about was that stupid story of the crawling mad man who would rape you and bite you and you would die. I did not want to die. I did not want my friends to die. We decided we would have to open that door.

Not let me take a moment to explain why we didn't call the police-- namely it was because of our age. We were afraid that if we called the police it would turn out to be nothing, and we would get into trouble. Now I would call the police in a heart beat, but we were simply too inexperienced to know what to do.

Each of us grabbed a flimsy weapon-- I had the ice cream scoop, Tessa the phone, and Jay a plastic ruler. We inched toward the front door, slowly, trying to move at the same time so that no one went ahead and no one lagged behind. Jay undid the deadbolt as quietly as she could, but it had a tendency to stick, and the tumblers turned noisily. She decided that speed was to our benefit now, and threw the door open, hard, so hard it slammed into the wall and bounced off the door stop.

For a moment there was nothing, just a doorway that opened to a black so deep it was completely featureless, static. It wasn't things in the dark, it just was The Dark.

Then a shape jumped out at us, and we all screamed.

It wasn't a ghost. It wasn't a drooling, crawling lunatic. It was Jason, my soon to be boyfriend. That son of a bitch had apparently been laying out there for an hour, after carefully unscrewing the bulb to the porch light. He'd gotten a stick, pressed himself against the wall, and then tapped and scratched at us until we broke and took that bait. As soon as it registered, we all attacked him. He ended up wearing cake, ice cream, and my scrappy, preteen form on his back until he managed to shake me loose. Eventually, after some seriously hysterical laughter from us all, getting yelled at by (rightfully so) pissed off neighbors, we went back in, and watched those movies, again, over and over, until I fell asleep.

Obviously, this is not a true ghost story; there were no supernatural elements. But it was a terrifying moment while it lasted.

The truly scary part of this story is that a month later I was dating that, folks!

No comments: