Texas, Somewhere between Anahuac and Baytown, 2009
Dark, swampy, heavily forested areas were my home since I was a young child. My family had a history with spirituality. My Nana, whom I have lived with most of my life, became a big believer in the supernatural after losing her son (my uncle) in a shootout.
She bought herself a plot of land down somewhere between Winnie and Baytown and with it came an old unused church building from the early 19th century. She converted it into a home. No central AC or heating. Just a set of wooden rooms boxed in together. No carpet, no stucco. Just the bare unfinished floor boards haphazardly covered by rugs and bare walls.
My room used to be the children’s quarter. The walls were painted white, decorated with the small hand prints of children who had probably all died decades ago. A big, dead mirror on the wall looked up at you from the foot of the bed.
It’s an old house. It’s creeks and moans were more noticeable because the house stands on stilts to protect against being washed away by all of the flooding and hurricanes.
I stayed there alone often. My Nana never had a career and had never been married and thus resorted to working two or more jobs to pay the bills. She was often 2 or 3 hours drive away. We had no neighbors for a dozen miles or so and the nearest police station was a 45 minute drive away.
Out there in the bayou it gets dark at night. An all-consuming darkness where things like wild boar and black panthers stalk in the night.
Down the crooked road about a mile or two stood a cemetery with everything from modern to civil war era graves. During hurricane season the caskets get washed up and float down the street. During Katrina – corpses were wrapped around our trees.
I don’t know why but the location of that cemetery was always in the back of my mind. I would dream of the walking corpses coming down the street to take me away. When I woke up in a start, cold sweat dripping down my body I’d look for my reflection in that cold, dead mirror at the end of my bed – but all I would see was an abyss.
I got off of the school bus like normal. It was sweltering, humid and it was hard on that particular day to make my 1 mile trek from the bus stop down the road to my house. My eyes scanned the trees as I walked onto the property. 4 acres of land and you could only see the drive way and the house because of the thick vegetation that surrounded it.
I opened the front door and immediately my white furred chihuahua named Cotton jumped up to greet me. I ran through the house to disable the ADT system before the alarm went off.
It was hot in the house and quiet – dark. Never before had I known a house could be so eerie in the middle of a hot Texas day. Every time you walked in there felt like the first time – like you were being watched.
I settled down in the living room with my homework and a snack. A text from my Nana on my flip phone – she’ll be late tonight. Probably won’t be home until 2. Ok.
I finish my homework. It’s about 5 now. The sun is becoming hazy outside. I’ve forgotten to turn on all the lights in the house. The long hallway to the back of the house is now dark.
I pick up Cotton, the worlds best guard dog, and sprint through the house slamming open the century-old doors and clicking the lights on.
Nothing, nothing, nothing.
We go into the kitchen together and I make a sandwich for dinner. I eat in the living room while watching my favorite show. My show finishes. It is about 8 now.
I better start retiring, I think, as I look through the blinds at the creeping darkness of the forest. It’s quiet. The flood lights on the porch and the driveway are on. I hear the clicking of the clock in the kitchen.
I clean my dishes, lock the front door with the deadbolt, and turn off the light in the kitchen. I grab my stuff from the living room and shut off that light. I set the ADT in the hallway to “on; secure”. I shut off the hallway light and the light in my room. I go into my Nana’s room.
It was secluded. If somebody got into the house they’d have to walk through the whole house and the long hallway leading from the living room to the back of the house to get to me. That’s also where we kept the pistol, rifles, and hunting bow.
I shut the bedroom door and lock it. The lights are on and the shades are drawn. I change into pajamas and get into bed.
I can hear nothing but the swinging of the ceiling fan and the gentle humming of the cicada’s outside. Cotton snuggled next to my legs and I flip on the TV. M*A*S*H is on. I watch it with the volume on low while I delve into a book.
The pistol is in its case on the bedside table. My eyes linger on it.
A couple of hours go by. It’s late and my eyes are heavy. I flip the TV off and get ready to go to sleep.
As I reach for the light switch Cotton perks her head up, her ears alert. Then she bolts to the end of the bed and starts growling at the closed bedroom door.
I freeze, petrified. She never does that unknowingly even to my Nana when she comes home late at night.
I know something is wrong.
A few moments go by. All of a sudden, the silence of the night is cut;
beep beep beep
The ADT alert notification goes off to indicate a door has been opened – but I do not hear the countdown beeps indicating the alarm will go off in 60 seconds like it is supposed too nor does the alarm go off. It was acting as if it was never set.
I listen closely, my breath catching in my throat…
I do not hear a door close. I do not hear my Nana typing the access code into the keypad to re-arm the security system.
Bang bang bang
I hear it on the old wooden floor boards. Footsteps. It sounds like a man in heavy work boots. The sound reverberated through my limbs.
It starts in the kitchen then moves into the living room. Cotton’s growls get worse.
I place one hand on the hilt of the pistol.
After a brief pause the footsteps start walking down the long hallway – the hallway that leads to the back of the house.
I grab my flip phone and dial 911. The pistol is in my hands. I aim it at the door. My heart is racing.
The footsteps get heavier and faster. My dog breaks out into an all out frenzy, barking and snarling at the closed door from the corner of the bed.
This is surreal, I thought. I had no idea what or who was going to come through that door but I sure wasn’t going to wait around to ask any questions.
The footsteps become hesitant, shuffling as if it was thinking… and then they stop right outside of the bedroom door.
I hear the door knob jingle as if someone is lightly touching it.
Cotton is furious, barking and jumping up and down and my heart is frozen in my chest.
I wait. And I wait.
But nothing comes through the door.
After a few minutes I shout,
“I’ve called the police and they are almost here!”
Cotton’s barks punctuate my shaky words. After another silent minute I shush her and place my hand on her head, the pistol clutched in the other. I strain my ears to listen for the slightest sound.
beep beep beep
I’m sweating. I call my Nana and tell her what had just happened. She rushes home and calls the sheriff on her way. I finally muster the courage to bolt out of the house when I hear the police sirens coming down the road…
The ADT system immediately goes off when I open the front door. It had been set the whole time – the deadbolt still locked in place.
After searching the property and all the doors and windows – they find nothing. No foot prints or tire tracks in the mud. The locks were all secured.
Nothing to indicate a physical being had been in that house.
I am unable to sleep for the rest of the night and never successfully find peaceful rest in that house again.