A scary thing


In a a week, Halloween will be upon us. Witches, ghosts, and monsters of all kinds will roam the nighttime hunting for someone to scare, but if they come around our house, they will not succeed.

For you see there’s something out there that’s scarier than they are, and it’s not just on Halloween when it comes around. It’s always there – waiting for you to be alone.
I had my first encounter with it at age 5. Mom heard the screaming and ran into the bedroom I shared with Twin Brother Mark. With the lights on, her gaze searched the room and finally found me sobbing under my twin bed.

Mom was too late; it had already found me there. Mark was sleeping over at neighbor Thomas’s house and I was left alone, too sick to join in the Halloween fun, but not sick enough to keep from being scared to death.

Mom placed a cool washcloth on my forehead and the fever finally broke. She said it was my imagination, that there was nothing there, and that I should back to sleep and not worry. She was right, but sleep never came to me that night, and the intruder never left.

When I was 8, Big Brother James was rushed to the hospital for a kidney infection. Mom and Dad stayed with him for seven days until he was able to come home. His bedroom was next to Mark’s and mine, and every night he was gone, I heard it in his room. Mark’s snoring kept it at bay, but I still felt it waiting, ready to enfold me.

It found me again two years later, this time in a 300-foot drainage pipe that wove its way under Flamingo Street. No one had ever attempted to crawl that distance before. Neither had I until they double-dog-dared me, that is.

On my back, face inches away from the concrete enclosure, I inched my way through the pipe using my shoulders and pushing off with my heels. Halfway through the pipe, covered with spider webs, dizzy from stale air, and after 30 minutes of exertion, I knew why no one had attempted it before.

It was there – waiting. It wrapped its clamminess around me that day, and I almost died. No one ever told Mom and Dad what happened that cool afternoon in October. They never found out — and I never forgot.

Since then, it has found me many times, but each visit I’m able to chase it away. Unfortunately, it seems the older I get, the harder that task becomes.

Unlike nightmares that invade my slumber, this intruder knows no nocturnal boundaries. It’s the one thing that scares me worst than all the others. Just the thought of it makes me want to run and hide, but that will do no good.

You can’t hide from it. I know; when I was younger I tried in many different ways, but it stalks you wherever you go, especially if you go alone.

They say be fearful of the things that go bump in the night. I disagree – the noise is welcome — it’s the silence that needs to be feared.

The Wife has now been gone on business for over a week. Tonight she finally returns, and the silence will once again be chased away.

Silence is what I fear the most — a house full of nothing but deafening silence. Although some cultures embrace it, I do not. For you see, in that silence there is nothing to distract me from the thoughts I run from.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is saferick@bellsouth.net.]