THINGS THAT GO BUMP
Four writers remember the creepiest thing that’s ever happened to them.
I’ve had scary things happen to me, but reading the news puts my ‘scary things’ into perspective. The creepiest things I’ve experienced have only resulted in heightened anxiety, a few calls to the police, and sleepless nights spent clutching baseball bats. I’m grateful for that – it hasn’t made me any less of a wuss, though.
I was never brave when it came to intruders or the supernatural. After my sister terrified me with ghost stories in year 6 (from her recollection, they were “ghost jokes”), I slept in her bed every night until I graduated. I’d fall asleep in my own bed, then wake in fear and creep into her room. Anxiety was my hometown.
In my final years of school, we lived in a big, empty house with our dad; two useless, lovable dogs; and a cat with scabby, fly-bitten ears. The cat would scratch his scabs off and shake his head, leaving knee-high blood splatters on the white walls at the very height I imagined blood would spray if one were to, say, stab a person on the ground. Our blood-splattered house was in the middle of suburbia, but isolated enough from neighbours to be the site of a horror film – at least, in the imagination of a real wuss.
By the time I reached my senior years, my sister was at university and Dad worked long hours. This often left just me, the bloodied cat and lazy dogs at home. If Dad was home, he’d work upstairs while I studied downstairs. Whether I was alone or just separated by rooms and stairs, the house scared me. I was convinced every creak was a ghost or the footsteps of an intruder intent on slaughtering me and stealing my maths textbook.
My fear peaked while I prepared for my exams. I was stressed, on edge and overtired. I sat at my desk in the empty house, hearing the tip-tapping of a killer working their way down the hallway. I did what any sane kid would do: grabbed a baseball bat and the decorative sword-and-dagger set my parents had smuggled back from Madrid. Then, I waited. Crouched in the gap behind the study door, I unsheathed the sword. I’m not sure what I intended to do – stab them? Conk them on the head with the bat? Wield sword and dagger for a double-pronged attack? My heart was pounding in every limb; my throat closed over and my mouth pooled with spit. I stayed in that spot for over an hour, convinced the killer was crouched on the other side, waiting for me to make a move. I could hear his breath, feel his presence. I considered running through the house, weapons drawn, and straight out the front door, but each time I prepared to launch, my knees locked, keeping me in that painful position.
Finally, I heard the cheery call of my dad arriving home. The intruder’s breathing vanished. My heart stopped pounding and my knees unlocked. I sheathed the sword and returned the weapons to the shelf, before skipping out to greet Dad, acting as if nothing had happened. I knew I couldn’t tell him about my panic because, even in my heightened state, I was aware there was something wrong with my behaviour. This wasn’t the first time I’d been paralysed by the fear of an intruder in our house. It was becoming regular. Too regular.
Like big feet, I’ve grown into my anxiety – it fits me better now, but I’m still the same scaredy-cat at heart. I don’t keep decorative weaponry in my house, but that’s entirely an aesthetic choice. I do still have a baseball bat handy, though. Some things you just don’t outgrow.