My husband took one too many jabs to the ribs from me, and decided he’d rest easier sleeping and snoring down on the couch one night not long after Christmas.
The bedroom fell silent, and aside from the occasional soft sigh from the dog readjusting himself on his bed, there were no noises to be heard. The seasonal window candles cast a soft glow, and nestled warm in my bed, still worn from the hectic days leading up to the holiday, I easily drifted back to sleep.
In a dream I sat on an old wooden porch belonging to an aged farmhouse that overlooked several forgotten fields now tall with grasses and wild flowers. My bare feet dangled off a crooked swing, and I just sat in silence watching dandelions dance and tall reeds bow to the wind that bore movement to the open landscape.
I didn’t seem to notice that the entire picturesque scene was playing out without a sound until the scratching sound cut through the silence like a knife. Startled from my muted seat, I leapt to my feet expecting to face the claws of some wild beast, but instead I was left standing on the almost empty porch accompanied only by the crooked swing and tattered, dry leaves that swirled and danced in the persistent winds around me.
I jumped a second time when the sound of claw meeting wood filled the silence yet again. Bravely, I moved forward. Although I could feel the creaking of the old boards beneath the weight of my feet, and the crunch of the leaves as I slowly made my way around the wrap-around porch to the front of the house, still there was no sound except for that of the distinct fingernails scraping against wood.
Rounding the bend, the sound not only grew louder, but also increased in intensity. What was at first only a few scraping sounds were now the sounds of a furious attempt at freedom – something was trapped and wasn’t going to stop until it was free.
I moved faster now, and without warning I felt the boards lift slightly from the desperate clawing which was now just beneath me. I wondered if it was an animal that became trapped under the porch, and without warning my fear stepped aside as I fell to my knees, and tried to call out to whatever lay pinned beneath the planks below. I wanted to speak words of comfort- that I was here and I would help – but I found that my voice was muted too.
The clawing continued beneath my legs and was becoming even more desperate. I looked around for someone to help me, but found only the same long-forgotten abandoned fields that surrounded the decaying house.
The feeling that time was almost up suddenly swallowed me, and I began a furious picking and clawing at the dilapidated wood from above. Most of the planks were cemented together by a variety of dirt and debris, but when I slammed my fists against the wood in frustration, I dislodged a chunk that fell apart and disappeared into the darkness below.
I pressed my face to the floor, and peered into the darkness. I couldn’t see what was trapped beneath me, but I felt the vibrations of the claw to wood against my cheek. Quickly I returned to my hands moving madly against the wood, scratching old paint and splintered pieces, until my fingers bled and tears stained my face. Then unexpectedly, I was able to slide both hands between two pieces of a picked-away plank. I began rocking back and forth I until felt the wood give way.
With one final mighty pull the wood split with a loud crack that sent me backwards and broke through the silent scene.
For the first time, I heard the wind howl wildly, and listened as the leaves crackled and swirled around the porch, but oddly the clawing sounds has ceased.
I sat up, still holding the plank which I tossed aside. Exhausted, I leaned forward placing both hands on either side of the now open slat of the porch and peered into the darkness.
There was nothing.
I bent down to look closer, my face just above the opening, when it came at me from the depths of the dark. I opened my mouth to scream, but it was too late…
I sprang up in my bed, perspiring and momentarily unaware that I had been dreaming. It was then I heard the faint scratching sounds, only this time they seemed to be coming from just on the other side of my closet door.
I knew I was awake now – the pounding of my heart let me know that was certain. I quickly scanned the room for the dog, who I had hoped was somehow stuck in the closet. Much to my dismay, he was sitting just beside me on the floor with his attention on the wooden door as well.
The scratching sound echoed in the silent bedroom, and I considered that maybe I should call out to my husband whom I could hear snoring from the room below me.
I thought better of it though, nothing could be as bad as accidentally waking one of my three sleeping kids in the middle of the night, so I summoned the strength to get out of bed and walk over to the closet door.
I stood there a moment, my faithful pooch beside me, listening for the beast that I imagined was waiting for me to make my move. I heard nothing, so without further hesitation, I went for it.
The door flung open and I peered into the darkness. As if I hadn’t learned any lessons from the nightmare that had just awoken me moments ago, I took a step into the abyss, but this time flung on a light casting away most of the darkness.
My eyes carefully went over every corner, and suddenly feeling more confident, I began karate chopping sections of the hanging clothes just in case there was still an intruder hiding out. Aside from the sounds of the hangers and clothes being jostled by my sweet ninja moves, there were no other noises. Before shutting off the light, I looked up at the attic door, which was shut securely, and thought perhaps there was a squirrel or bird seeking shelter from the bitter cold.
Still tired from the holiday madness, and now exhausted from battling invisible monsters in my dreams as well as my closet, I crawled back into bed and again easily drifted back to sleep.
The next day came early, as it always does with young kids in the house, and as I prepared breakfast and drank my coffee, the night’s dramatic events faded from my mind. I went about my usual daily activities, and when I finally got around to showering, it of course was later in the afternoon. By then, I had all but forgotten my scare during the dead of night before.
With a towel fastened around my body, and another one atop my wet head, I opened the closet door after my shower and walked in as if I had nothing to be afraid of…
I found a warm sweater, removed it from it’s hanger, and tossed it onto the bed while I scanned the stacks of pants up on the shelf. I spied my favorite pair of jeans on top of a neatly folded pile, and without pause reach up and pulled the jeans down.
It was then that the crazed creature took a flying leap from its hiding spot on top of my pants, and hit me in the face.
For a moment time slowed down.
I frantically screamed and tried to back away from the animal, but not matter where I moved my arms, all I felt was fur.
The towel dropped from around my body, and I found myself fighting a foe I had not yet identified while chilly, damp, and now also naked in my closet.
All I saw were bits of brown fur and cold, dead eyes.
Was there more than one of them?
Were they rabid?
Was this the end?
So many questions raced through my mind while I fought for my life.
In what was most likely a matter of seconds, I found myself sitting on the floor with the still, lifeless beast from the top of my closet now on the floor in front of me.
My husband was outside with the kids taking down the Christmas lights, and the only one who had heard my cries was my dog, who once he observed the scene, bowed his front legs down and kept his rear wagging end in the air to signal play.
Clearly he was not sensing my terror that I felt still permeated the air.
Having regained some of my wits, and seeing the creature still laying on the floor motionless, I quickly grabbed my towel and exited the small space. Once on the other side of the closet door, and armed with a brush and bottle of hairspray (which I supposed I planned on either blinding and beating the animal or styling his fur into something fierce and fabulous), I went in for a closer look.
Through calmer eyes I knew right away what it was, and that perhaps for the first time in my life, a joke had really come back around to almost bite me…were it not already dead.
You know how we do that “Bad Santa” gift exchange in my family? Well, this year even though I was not the recipient of the worst gift (maybe ever, but definitely the worst for this year), it ended up staying here thanks to my little brother and his girlfriend who was the gift’s true owner. Not wanting to bring it home they stuffed it in the top of my closet, you see.
So what was it that attacked me? Here’s my brother’s girlfriend, Avalon, being a great sport and modeling the monsters that she received as a gift at her first Christmas with my family:
This vintage mink stole, which my dear, sweet Aunt Peg brought to the gift exchange, was something she received from a friend. I hope to God it was a gag gift when it was given to her, but I do know it apparently once belonged that friend’s mother.
Now don’t go calling PETA, because I’m not advocating wearing dead minks with heads and paws still attached to them; for those who don’t know, this was apparently considered fashionable from the 1940’s-1960’s.
Although I have no proof, I swear those scratching noises I heard that night were the sounds of the minks coming back to from the furry great beyond…looking for their revenge.
Here’s a reenactment :
And then this:
I haven’t heard those noises before that frightful night, nor have I heard them since I remove them from the closet. Even though I haven’t been able to give their restless spirits a proper burial due to the frozen ground, they are securely placed somewhere they can’t hurt my family or I hopefully ever again.
For all those “bad gifts” that I’ve given, and trust me I gave some really, really horrible presents, I think it finally came back around and I got mine…
I mean, who’s laughing now? (Aside from my family, that is)
Speaking of Bad Gifts, check out this year’s Valentine’s Day post with 30 terrible presents, and all the other Bad Gift Lists here.
Dedicated to Aunt Peg who normally is one of the only people that brings a good gift to the exchange every year and whom we never would have suspected would gift a haunted, dead string of animals carcases as a Christmas present – way to get in the spirit this year! Also to my little brother Michael, who I plan on repaying one day for stuffing dead animals in my closet, and his girlfriend Avalon who was such a good sport when she opened them Christmas Day – welcome to the family!