The Night I Woke Up (part 5)

[I’m going into this post on the assumption that it will be the final installment of TNIWU. That could be the reason this entry is a day late: to increase the tension and keep you on the edge of your collective seats. Would that it were true. The fact is that I was swept up in the details of yesterday like a leaf in a dust devil. Further, although ready to continue the story in the morning, I decided to wait until the mists of evening fell. Far more conducive to conjuring the mood of this tale, wouldn’t you agree?]

It was true. The person, beast, or thing on the other side of the wall was moving once more. To my overwhelming relief, the steps I heard now were receding. They followed the same direct path they’d taken to reach the window, but in reverse. It was moving back to its lair or den or craft or bog hidden in the swampy woodlands bordering my aunt’s back lawn.

As each impression sounded on the debris-strewn grass, it felt as if one after another leaden blanket were lifted off my prone body. I lay there just the same, still as stone. There was no chance I was going to make any kind of movement as long as there was even a slight chance I could be seen in that glaring chamber.

The steps continued toward the woods until I could hear them no more. Gradually, the silence faded, once more yielding to the sounds of nature: croaking frogs, screeching insects, and the wind disturbing the fronds of the palm trees scattered around the yard.

Surely, it was gone. Surely, I was safe.

Other than the possibility of a cramp in my stiffened legs, there was no reason to rush my escape. What were a few more minutes when I’d spent… How long? I’ll never know. It mattered little. The adage, “better safe than sorry” was never more applicable nor more real. So I waited, until…

With all the courage available to an admittedly wimpy pre-teen, I didn’t so much get out of the tub as I did slither. As I made my way over the edge, no part of my body left the surface. I was nearly one with the fixture. I continued my low profile slide to the floor and across the grimy tile.

When I hit the door across the room, decision time was upon me. Getting through that door would unquestionably require my hand to rise up to the knob, putting that part of me in an exposed position. The alternative would be to lie on the floor until dawn. The choice was not as easily made as it would seem. In what to my mind was possibly the most courageous exploit of my brief existence, I reached up to the door knob.

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As excruciatingly slow as the entire experience had passed, that much quicker were my next set of actions. In order to limit my vulnerability, the time it took me to grab the knob, turn it, open the door, close it, turn off the light (no more advertising my presence to the world of the unknown), scurry down the hall, jump in bed, and cover myself with a blanket, was probably less than two or three seconds. Fear is a powerful accelerator. It isn’t, however, conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Thus the active portion of my adventure ended. And thus began a night of wakefulness followed by years of disturbing thoughts, hidden fears, and self-inflicted silence. It was at least a decade before I could dredge up the courage to recount this nightmare to others. By that point, in my 20’s, there was nothing to fear about reliving the experience. I was an adult, after all, and the events of that infernal night were far off in both time and distance. No residual effects of a night of terror could interfere with my more mature life.

At least, that’s the theory.

~ the end ~

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