The Night I Woke Up (Part 3)

[They say (correctly) that writing is rewriting. The current exercise is reinforcing that precept in a most humbling manner as I dash off this stream-of-consciousness true story from my youth. I’m already inclined to change much of it, including the title, were I given the chance. But I don’t have the chance. That’s part of the excitement of this challenge. What I write is what you and I get, for better or worse. So now we continue into the unknown and unchanged…

When last we saw our intrepid prepubescent protagonist (me), he was standing alone, “shaking the dew off the lily” (as Donald Miller so colorfully put it)  in a bright white box in the middle of the dark, unfriendly world of Florida swampland. As we left him, he was hearing the sound of footsteps coming from outside the bathroom window.]

Without question, what I was hearing were footsteps. There was no mistaking the rhythmic sounds of the crunching of yard debris underfoot. Worse, those sounds were most assuredly coming from outside. The house itself was completely devoid of movement and sound. As exposed as I was, I didn’t want to so much as twitch. But I had to. Those steps were getting louder and, by an inference even my underdeveloped mind could make, closer.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

To minimize movement and draw less attention to myself, I dropped straight to the soiled tile floor in front of the toilet. The footsteps, seemingly drawn inexorably to the only light within a quarter mile or so – the bathroom window through which I was on display for all to see – continued without changing stride. Only the volume changed, increasing as the footfalls drew nearer.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

My only hope was that I hadn’t been seen yet. Crouching on the floor in plain sight of the window above the bathtub on the opposite side of the room, I wouldn’t be out of view for long. The footsteps not only continued, they were without question following a beeline path to the little aquarium of light in which I dwelt. I’d soon be on display once more.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

I pondered my next move. I could simply reach up, open the door, and sneak back to the relative safety of my guest bed. In retrospect, that might very well have been the prudent choice. Instead, pursuing a strategy that is best filed under the heading of, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I slunk across the floor and into the bathtub. By cowering there, I would be out of the line of sight of anyone or anything looking in that window, which was now directly above me.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

There I sat trying to merge with the cast iron of the tub. The footsteps continued relentlessly and mercilessly toward that window, as if whatever was making them sensed my presence there. They grew louder and louder and closer and closer until at last …crunch… they ceased. They could go no further. They had reached the exterior side of the wall at which I crouched.

I was separated by a few inches of flimsy shingles and sheathing from something that for unknown reasons had emerged from the murky blackness behind my aunt’s house and pounded a path dead straight toward the room in which I was exposed. Shivering with fear, I listened. The living sounds of night were gone, the insects possibly as frightened as I was.

I heard nothing… except the labored breathing coming through the open window a couple of feet above my head.

To be continued…

bathroom1

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