Wednesday, 09 October 2013 13:13

Talking about things that go bump in the night

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It’s our worst nightmare.

Late in the night, when the doors are locked and windows closed and all should be quiet, there’s a noise.
It starts as an almost unheard shift in a shelter of protection that’s as thin, as fragile as an onion, as breakable as a twig smashing through a spider’s web.
It’s as though something menacing and large has begun to break free of its daytime restraints, and is now free to wreak havoc on the sleeping and the sleepless.
It’s the monster. The intruder. The bump in the night.
From our bed in the basement in the house, we’re sleeping in, I hear it. I’m the insomniac, never sleeping and always listening. So when that quick percussion of snap-snap-snap rips through the quieted fabric of deep night, I sit up and hold my breath.
“Is there a spider?” Chefhusband asks, from the place where he’s still dreaming. “Need me to kill it?”
With the turn in the weather, the spiders and the beetles and the centipedes have been scuttling and creeping over door jambs whenever an opportunity opens. They’ve been finding cracks in the fortress of caulking and rubber seals meant to keep them out.
A wolf spider in the shower. A black widow with her hourglass belly in the shadow beneath the window.
Tonight’s noise is no spider. Not unless she’s Shelob.
“You shouldn’t snack at night, it gives you nightmares,” says Chefhusband, not knowing the danger he’s suddenly in.
And then C-r-r-a-a-ck! goes a sound that is definitely not in the house yet, but is in the yard, is gathering momentum, and has chosen its point of entry.
I think of the people upstairs and wonder how to warn them, but too late.
Because suddenly, even the unwary are up and feet are searching for their slippers.
“Do you think we need the police?” I say, my whisper a loud rasp in my own ears.
After all, I think, trying to shrink the terror down to a different size, it could be a racoon. It could be a skunk or a dog or a hobgoblin.
It could be a sleepwalker or a jail breaker or an evildoer or an orc.
“Just let me look first,” says Chefhusband, whose never been bothered by things that go bump. Or even the things that don’t.
“Just look out the window,” I say, all the little hairs on my arm and behind my neck standing in rigid rows. “Don’t go out.”
But before he can do one or the other, there is a great and calamitous BUMP.
A bump and a crash that breaks through siding and studs and drywall, leaving a hole where an outside wall used to be, before it continues on its terrible way.
Seconds pass and then minutes. And in the quiet that follows, the whole neighbourhood makes its way outside, us along with them, standing in our night clothes, wearing stunned expressions as we all look at the swath of destruction that began at the top of a terraced garden, tore through a flowerbed, a lawn, the side of the house we were sleeping in, through the fence, across the street, before finally stopping, dead and smashed to bits, against an immovable tree.
No one calls the police.
Instead, in soups and stew and pies and muffins and custards, we feast upon the monster’s remains.

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