For today's flashback, I tried to think of something spooky that had happened to me, it being Halloween and all, but I just couldn't think of anything. So I was all prepared to write about the time a classmate called me a socialist, which I thought might give a scare to all the republicans out there.
But then I read Bridget's blog and my memory was jogged, so I'll spare you the socialist story this week.
Instead I'll tell you about one of the scariest nights in my life, which is actually two nights, the second of which was a whole lot scarier than the first.
I don't remember what year it was, quite, but I was old enough to babysit and we still lived in High River so I was no younger than 12 and no older than 15. My friend Jocelyn had invited me to sleepover. She lived out by the river on an acreage. Her family had their own swimming hole that we frequented, a hot tub, a tree house, and many other cool commodities we in-towners just had to do without.
It must have been summertime because this particular night we decided to sleep out on the back deck. We built a fort out of sheets and blankets and put sleeping bags down. It was going to be fun, and just a little bit scary.
Maybe I'm a wimp, but I've always been a little nervous about sleeping outdoors under the stars. Tents make me feel safer, although I'm not sure why. That thin layer of nylon isn't going to do much against a cougar or bear.
So I was already a little nervous about sleeping outside when Carlee, Jocelyn's older sister, started telling us a ghost story. It was more of an urban legend, which for me is worse than a ghost story because it could actually be true. Although I don't believe in ghosts, I do believe in people.
In a nutshell, the owners of an old house had hired a babysitter and went out for the evening. The babysitter put the children to bed and turned on the television. She heard the pipes rattling around in the basement, blamed it on "house noises" and turned the television up a little louder. The banging pipes got louder, so she turned the television up again. And on it went. The banging on the pipes got louder and louder, and she'd turn the television up louder and louder.
Finally she couldn't handle it anymore, went and got the kids out of bed and ran over to the neighbour's house. They called the police, who came and looked in the basement and found an escaped serial killer banging on the pipes with a wrench, trying to lure the babysitter downstairs.
Just typing that sends shivers down my spine. I was so scared after hearing that story, but I somehow managed to make it through the night, outside, without getting eaten alive by a cougar or attacked by a serial killer. Two of my greatest fears, if you couldn't tell.
A few nights later...maybe even a week or two later...the Blocks asked me to babysit for them. I babysat for them a lot and always had a lot of fun. (As a side note, Camille, the older of the two kids I babysat, is apparently engaged. That also kind of freaks me out, but has nothing to do with this post.) She was like 10 at the time, and her brother was probably like 5. I really have no idea and it isn't really all that important. I was babysitting them.
Sister Block had made dinner before going out and the dishwasher was almost completely loaded. My instructions were to feed the kids, finish loading and start the dishwasher, play until bedtime, put kids to bed. Simple enough.
So we had already eaten and started the dishwasher and were on step three: playing until bedtime.
Most of the toys were in the basement, so that's where we were playing. The basement was mostly unfinished, so that meant there was a lot of room to run around uninhibited by walls and things. The only finished parts were the furnace room and an office, both behind closed doors.
We were having a great time. And then the noises started. Bang! Bang! Bang!
At first I was able to ignore them, passing them off as "house noises" and wishing them away. As seconds ticked by, though, I became increasingly panicked.
Bang! Bang! Bang! I heard again.
My heart stopped, but I tried to keep my thoughts logical.
"The dishwasher!" I thought. I ran upstairs and threw it open to see if anything was rattling around inside but the wash cycle had already finished and the dishwasher was silently drying the dishes.
I ran back downstairs and heard the noise again. A distinct banging noise. Bang! Bang! Bang!
All I could think about was a serial killer lurking somewhere in the basement.
"Let's go upstairs," I suggested to Camille and Hayden.
They insisted that upstairs was boring and that they still wanted to play. Could they not hear the banging noise? I didn't want to frighten them, so I didn't mention it.
"I think we should go upstairs," I suggested again.
They countered that it wasn't quite bedtime yet.
"Get upstairs now," I said, on the verge of screaming.
They hightailed it upstairs, brushed their teeth, and went to bed without even being told to.
The banging noise continued. Still trying to be rational, I checked the doors. The front door was locked, but the back door was unlocked. Not exactly an uncommon thing in the small town I lived in, but even there I was an obsessive compulsive door-locker and could not imagine that I would leave the door unlocked. But there it was, unlocked.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Now I was completely on the verge of hysterics. I picked up the phone and dialed home. 652-5555. I'm dead serious. That was our home phone number. When my dad went in to set up our phone he asked for something easy. That's what he got. Another benefit of living in a small town, I guess.
My mom picked up and I'm sure she could hear all the emotion in my voice. I've never been very good at hiding my emotions.
"Can you come over?" I wailed, "I'm hearing noises and I'm scared."
"Where are the kids?"
"They're in bed." *sniff, sniff*
"What's wrong, exactly?"
"Well, the backdoor is unlocked and I keep hearing banging noises in the basement and..."
I was going to say that I didn't know what I was going to do but just then the phone went dead. I hung up and checked for a dial tone. Nothing. Someone had cut the line. I was doomed. I started sobbing like only someone who knows they're about to be attacked by a serial killer sobs.
Three minutes later I was startled out of my crying fit by heavy steps on the front porch and a fist pounding on the door.
This is it, I thought, It's over.
I ran to the door and peeked outside. It wasn't a serial killer. It was my mom. Yes, she loves me.
Another benefit of living in a small town is that your mom can come running to your rescue anywhere in town in under five minutes. She brought along our friend Joe Hirsche who was staying at our house for the week while his parents were in Hawaii. I don't know why she brought Joe and not my dad or my brother. I can only assume it's because Joe...well, he's big and slightly intimidating.
So my mom and Joe checked the whole house with me and we found nothing. No serial killers anywhere. Go figure.
But they did hear the banging noise and agreed that it did sound at least a little scary. My mom suggested that I just calm down and read my book and that if anything did happen to just run next door to where Constible Carpenter lived. Why hadn't I thought of that?
So that's just what I did. I'm not sure if I ever managed to calm down completely, and I didn't end up having to run over to the Carpenters, but I did sit on the couch with my paperback novel and pretended to read.
The Blocks returned shortly before midnight and escorted me home.
My mom met me at the door and asked me how things went. I told her things went fine. She asked if I had told the Blocks about the noise. I said I hadn't. How could I? It was far too embarrassing since it turned out that there was no serial killer.
So my mom talked to Sister Block about it at church the next day. The noise was their cat playing in the rafters in the basement. She gets up in the ceiling and walks on the sheet metal heating pipes (whatever they're called--they're called "heating ducts," by the way. Thank you, dad!), making an awful racket. So there really was nothing to be worried about all along. The telephone going dead was just a strange coincidence, I guess.
Ever since that night, though, I always made sure to take a voluminous hardback whenever I went babysitting. A flimsy paperback novel is of no use against an assailant!
If you're up for more scary stories staring me thinking I'm about to be murdered by a serial killer, read about the near-homicide in our old apartment, again a memory triggered by one of Bridget's posts. Obviously Bridget is somewhat of an inspiration to me. Without her I would have died of writer's block long ago.