THINGS THAT GO BUMP

Four writ­ers re­mem­ber the creepi­est thing that’s ever hap­pened to them.

Frankie - - WRITERS’ PIECE - By Caro Cooper -

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.

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