In the fall of 1978, I was in eighth grade. At 14, my parents decided I was probably mature enough for them to accept the invitation to go out of town with my aunt and uncle for a weekend trip. They asked how I would feel about staying home alone for the weekend for the first time ever, and were reassured by my confident response that everything would be fine. The truth was I did feel capable of taking care of myself for a few days. I was a little nervous about it, but I would never admit it. In the days beforehand, I was filled with excitement, imagining how I might spend my days of unsupervised freedom. Anything seemed possible… I mean I was being recognized as mature enough by my parents and, after all… I was going to be in high school next year. Life was good for us grown up folk.
On Wednesday before the big weekend, I got home from school late in the afternoon before my parents got home. A slight chill was in the air and the leaves were just getting a hint of the fall color that would soon set the hills ablaze. I reached the back door and retrieved the key from underneath the mat. It was one of those “old fashioned” keys made to fit old doors. As I turned the old key in the latch, I remembered how all of the neighborhood kids had told me our newly renovated house was haunted. It was just a quick thought as I hung the old key on the hook by the door.
I had been home about an hour watching The Big Show on television and decided to take advantage of a commercial and go to the bathroom. Hopefully, I could finish my business and get back before the commercial ended. As I sat there doing my business, I suddenly heard a noise that chilled me to the bone. My eyes drifted upward to the ceiling as I heard footsteps creaking through from the upstairs room directly overhead. As often happens in times of great fear, time seemed to stretch in that terrible way, much like the time during an automobile accident just before impact. In an instant I was aware of many things, too many things. Simultaneously, I knew that nobody but me was supposed to be in the house, whoever or whatever was upstairs was up there even though the door had been locked from the outside when I got home, that the upstairs had been left largely unfinished, closed off from the heavily used downstairs portion of the house and, perhaps most terrifying of all, these weren’t the sounds of footsteps walking, these were the sounds of footsteps creeping. Somebody was sneaking across the upstairs floor, perhaps knowing I was home alone, bent on reaching me unaware to do whatever hellish deed it had in mind before my parents got home. I was filled with instant regret when I heard my own voice scream “Who’s up there?”!
I may have set the world record in finishing up bathroom necessities. I ran for the freedom of the great outdoors. I stood at the end of the driveway watching the house, paying particular attention to the curtained upstairs windows, which I fully expected to see crack open as something peered out to gloat at its terrified prey. I was still watching an hour later when my parents arrived home. Their presence completely exorcised my fear; however, my pride wouldn’t allow me share my experience. After all, they had just practically pronounced my adulthood by trusting me to stay home alone for the upcoming weekend.
Friday came quickly, the day they would be leaving for their trip and I would be expected to ride the school bus home and launch my solitary weekend. Arriving home that afternoon, I grabbed a coke and reclined into Dad’s easy chair to watch The Big Show. When I awoke, it had to have been 2-3 hours later because the evening news was about to come on. I was reluctant to get up, dug in warm and comfortable in the chair, but get up I did, and headed down the hallway toward my bedroom. Nearing my room, I noticed the telephone was off the hook and the receiver had been laid beside the phone. Why would they have left the phone off the hook? Putting the phone to my ear and hearing nothing, I said “Hello?” expecting no reply. My friend, Scott, replied “Darryl?” as time, again, warped in that oh-so-terrible way. I spun quickly around so my back was against the wall, expecting the intruder, who somehow knew my parents were away for the weekend, to be standing there with butcher knife raised for the kill. “Scott, nobody’s supposed to be here but me and I didn’t answer the phone”! “Oh, man!” was his reply. Gathering my wits, I told him to wait on the phone and if I wasn’t back in five minutes he should send help. I ran to my bedroom and retrieved my .357 magnum, sure there was somebody or some thing in the house! After looking around the house, including the upstairs, I discovered nobody. I checked the back door and it was still locked from the inside. What the hell?
Perhaps, I could be forgiven for deciding to spend the weekend at Scott’s house? I tended my wounded ego with the placation that I had grabbed the gun and searched the house, hadn’t I? I thought the obvious “I must have ‘slept walked’ and took the phone off the hook when it rang”, but I have never slept walked before or after this strange event. Besides, I was sleeping hard and still fully reclined when I woke up, still snuggled deeply and warmly into the heavy cushion of the chair. No, deep down I know, something visited me that cool autumn. I will never forget it.
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