Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pondering the Reality of Night and Day

It's funny what can prompt a memory. I just read something on Facebook by author 
Jeff Bennington, and a memory from thirty years ago washed over me.

Here's Jeff's post.
Interesting night: I heard a tapping noise on my bench every few minutes last 
night. It came and went, sometimes every few minutes, sometimes every ten. It 
sounded like someone was tapping the eraser end of a pencil on my desk. When I 
put my hand on the desk where the sound was coming from, my hair stood on 
end--everytime. I could not find a reasonable explanation.

I'd been with my employer for about three years, flying helicopters in the Gulf 
of Mexico, when they asked me if I'd like to transfer to the new base in Santa 
Barbara, California. I grew up in Oxnard, less than an hour away. I didn't have 
to think long about my answer.

When I first moved from Austin, Texas back to Southern California, I stayed with 
my parents. I was back in my old bedroom in my old bed, and one night I started 
thinking about my little kid years, when I was just sure that a monster lived 
under the box spring. My mom and dad were patient about looking under the bed 
for a year or so, but exasperation eventually took root, and they finally 
delivered the big boy law: "You're a big boy now. Quit imagining things and go 
to sleep."

The first night after my parents saddled me with the big boy law, I tried 
talking with the thing under the bed.
"Can you talk?"
"Can you make a sound?"
A faint brushing sound, like someone sweeping the floor a few rooms away. Gulp.
"If you can hear me, poke the bed beneath me."

Immediately, I wanted my words back. My heart hammered, and my mouth went to the 
desert. What the hell was I doing? It felt like an hour passed, but it was 
probably minutes. My heart rate had slowed to something near normal, and I'd 
nearly convinced myself that I was acting like a baby.

Then, I felt a gentle poke through the mattress. My heart raced back from idle 
to fight-or-flight speed.

"Are you going to hurt me? Poke once for yes, twice for no."
One. Two.
My heart began to slow. I started breathing easier. I believed him. It.
"If I shine my flashlight under there, would I see you?"
A pause. Then one. No.
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Are you glad I know you're there?"
One. Two.
"Do you want me to talk to you every night?"
"Do you want me to talk to you sometimes?"
One. Two.

So, once a month or so, from the age of six until I turned ten, I talked to him, 
or it. Perhaps four or five times in those years did those subtle pokes come 
through the mattress. Once a year or so, it would let me know it was still 
there, but only after I'd fallen asleep and woken later, and only after 
midnight, as I recall.

In the wee hours, it seemed all so real. But after being awake for a few hours, 
a hard veneer wrapped itself around the memory, and I'd feel just sure that my 
imagination was running away with me. It was a strange dichotomy of perception, 
but it felt comfortable, and just maybe like it was part of some unwritten rule. 
I thought of it as The Daylight Rule: what is real in the night is not real in 
the day.

Fast forward to thirty years ago. I was back in my old bed. I'd moved away after 
going into the Army at the age of eighteen. At the age of twenty-six, I'd all 
but forgotten about it.

Until my third night back in my parents' house, that is. That was when I felt a 
gentle poke through the mattress. It was three in the morning. I chuckled. I 
guess I still have an imagination.  Another poke, but I felt even more sure it 
was my imagination, because it was barely perceptible.

But then, two knocks on my bedroom door. Muffled knocks. Not the kind of knocks 
a person would make. Not the kind of knocks my sister's cat would make when 
she's hungry. I chuckled at myself, amused at how realistic my dream about 
something knocking on my bedroom door seemed. But then, another knock. And 

I was scared, and I laughed at myself for being scared. I was grown man, a 
former soldier, and a big guy. Another knock.

I got up. I walked to my bedroom door. I paused, took a deep breath, and opened 
the door. Nothing.

Nothing, until I looked down the hall toward the living room. There was a shape 
at the entry into the living room. It was about a foot tall, and furry. My 
sister's cat was white. It was not white. It was dark. It moved farther from me. 
I took a couple of steps closer to it, and I sensed that it was about to run.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. There wasn't much light in the living room, but I 
could see its shape, and I detected movement, but not in retreat. It felt as 
much as looked like a wave of a  . . .

What? Hand? Paw?

It moved to the side, out of my field of view. I walked down the hallway and 
into the living room. I heard a soft brushing sound. I turned on the lamp. 
Nothing. Nothing but a feeling, a feeling that something had left, and was not 
coming back.

"Goodbye," I whispered. I went back to my old bedroom, got in bed, and strangely, I felt sad. I felt a little like when my mom told me Santa Claus wasn't real. Somehow, I knew that I wouldn't see or hear from the thing
under the bed again.

Thirty years later, I think back to those nights, and I feel certain that it was 
all part of an elaborate, realistic string of dreams.

At least, I'm certain in the daylight.


Kelly said...

Wow. Goosebumps. Great story.

Kelly said...

Ooooo...good story for Halloween!

Debby said...

When I was working third shift, my coworker liked to watch those 'true' ghost stories. They scare the pucky doo out of me, but I try very hard to rationalize them. In one case, a woman lived in an old house, and she kept hearing noises. She discovered that a woman had died in the house, and to her, that was proof that the odd noises she heard were due to a ghost. I related the story to Tim while pooh-poohing it. "Imagine, I said, "we've had four people that we know of die in this house. Based on HER logic, our house is haunted..." and I headed for the bathroom. Tim was sitting in the livingroom. There was a thud that shook the whole house. Truly. I said, "What did you do?" at the same time he was saying, "I thought that was you. I headed upstairs as he said, "Where are YOU came from the basement." Long story short, we found nothing at all. I felt like the Cowardly Lion clasping his tail and squinching his eyes closed and repeated, "I DO believe in spooks, I do, I do..."

Bob said...

Just be glad it didn't follow to your current residence. Great story.

Annie Bakaleinikoff said...

Such a great story. Mine didn't live under the bed, but in my closet, and the linen closet down the hall. I would check to make sure they doors were shut completely.

quid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
quid said...

Scary stuff!


Christina Fifield-Winn said...

This was great. I'm thinking we need to compile your "visitor" stories into one big book for the rest of the world's reading pleasure...think about it.