This past weekend, as I noted in my monthly roundup, I performed at the lovely Jane Edith Wilson’s Lit.Up!, a monthly event where writers and actors craft short, mostly humorous pieces (if this past one was any indication) and then perform them in front of a very lovely crowd to raise money for various charities.
For this month’s theme, “Scary Monsters,” I decided to write a story about a very scary experience I had here at The BF’s house. Careful readers (or listeners) will note that there is a marked reduction in my use of the “F” word. The theater-esque space is part of Jane’s “super-crunchy” do-gooder church, so while we were not banned from using a judiciously placed curse word, we were, in the words of one of the older church ladies, asked to refrain from making it “wall-to-wall ‘motherfucker’.”
How could you refeuse an invitation to perform at such an event? (P.S. The wall-to-wall-motherfucker lady approved of my little piece, below.)
The audio should play by clicking the big arrow in the embedded Flash player. If it doesn’t, click here to listen on the podcast page.
For those of you who prefer to read your scary stories, or who want to compare how something “reads” to how I read it, which might be interesting or instructive, the text is pasted below.
I’d love your feedback, whether you read or listen!
THE STORY, AUDIO-STYLE:
From the time I was 6 or 7, when I first learned about druuugs, I’ve had nightmares about being spirited away against my will.
The one I had all through childhood was set in Chicago, right across from the apartment I grew up in. Only this is a dream, so it’s an abandoned, post-apocalyptic, Chicago-from-hell, with more Mies van der Rohe buildings.
In this dream I’m walking alone, trying to get somewhere safe, when out of nowhere two shadowy figures sidle up to me, one on my right and one on my left. Before I can scream, they stick me with a hypodermic needle to knock me out, but not before I realize, “Oh, my god! They’re sticking me with a hypodermic needle full of druuugs and are going to kidnap me and do god knows what” (dot dot dot)…
In this other version of the dream, I’m walking in another urban landscape, some street in the San Fernando Valley, only again, with no people (just like a suburban street in the Valley).
I walk kind of fast in my dreams, just like I do in real life because I have these really, really short legs, so I’m gaining on the only other pedestrian, this 1950s-era hipster dude, plaid fedora, narrow pants, dusty green suit coat, who smells just a little like bum.
I know he’s not a bum, but I also know something’s off. In the dream I think, “I should cross the street,” but I’m afraid that’ll be too obvious because we’re the only two people. Plus he’s African-American, and I don’t want him to think I’m crossing because he’s black, because I’m not, I’m just someone who’s 5’2″ with really, really short legs and no ability to defend myself.
And just I’m passing him and thinking, â€œOh, it’s all in my head,â€ he swoops me up in his arms and heaves me sideways, like I’m a stack of human firewood, and starts crossing the street toward an old Impala I somehow know is right there, just out of my vision, the way you do in dreams. And as I open my mouth to scream, he wedges his arm in there to muffle me and all I can taste is wool and fear and this certainty that god-knows-what is going to happen to me (dot dot dot).
That’s the thing that always scares me the most: the “god knows what” (dot dot dot). Because you never know what they want from you, these scary monsters that jump you in stairways or stalk you in parking garages or troll the streets of quiet neighborhoods at night, looking for houses with the most cash and the least security.
The BF, whom I call that both because he is my b.f. and those are his initials, lives in one of those houses. It’s a beautiful, rambling old place in a quiet, undisclosed location, by day.
By night, at least when I’m alone there, it turns into a creaky, gothic house of horrors straight out of a Stephen King novel. Which I learned for myself, by myself, the first time I slept there all alone.
The BF had gone out of town, on business or to visit his kids, so I did the logical thing and offered up his place to my ladies for our semi-regular get-together. It may be a little creepy, but it has a bitchin’ deck that’s perfect for drinking cheap wine from Trader Joe’s while solving world problems. Plus, who ever hosts doesn’t have to drive, which allows for more drinking of cheap wine.
When your ladies leave though, and it occurs to you that you’re going to be alone in this beautiful, rambling old house with its creaky-ass floors and overly ample egress, well, by then it’s too late. You’re too full of cheap Cabernet to drive yourself home to your safe, snug, 1-bedroom rental with your nosy, across-the-courtyard neighbor who has the police on speed-dial, so you lock things up and go to bed. Naked. Because you are me, and I am stupid.
I have no idea what time it was when I awoke, suddenly and with my heart pounding, both because I don’t sleep with my glasses on and because the clock is on the other side of the bed, which I can’t roll over to because the reason I have awoken is there is someone in the hall just outside the bedroom, standing there, staring at me quietly.
I can’t make out her face exactly, except to see that it’s narrow and pale, and framed by long straight hair, parted down the middle. I lift my head slowly, carefully, almost imperceptibly (I hope) to get a better look. A woman in loose-fitting clothing, one hand lightly touching the wall, is watching me, dead still, like a hippie Modigliani.
And then, though I can barely hear it over the pounding of the blood in my head, I faintly make out whispering further off down the hall. She jerks her head away as I drop mine back on the pillow.
First? This is not a dream. In a dream, when things get scary, you wake yourself up, which BELIEVE ME, I tried to do here. Repeatedly.
Soâ€¦this is bad. This is really bad. I’m lying in bed, still slightly buzzed, with no phone in arms’ reach. Plus I’m naked, because I’m stupid, and my robe is at the foot of the bed. If I sit up to get it, she’ll see me move and call to whoever is down the hall. If I reach for anything, she’ll see me and maybe call to whoever is down the hall.
I’m totally, utterly fucked.
I decide to at least try for my glasses so I can assess the situation. I lift my head slowly, slowly. As the hall comes into my field of vision, she’s there again, staring back at me. They must have made her the lookout. She leans in a little closer, maybe seeing me move, and, omigod omigod omigod, our eyes lock. We’re staring right at each other. You could hear a pin drop, only not if you’re me because now the blood is pounding so hard in my head I can hear nothing but my imminent death, galloping down the road to meet me.
So I did the thing I could think of: I went to sleep.
Now, I didn’t actually go to sleep; what I actually did was lie back down and play possum. Let her fucking watch me. Let them steal everything in the whole fucking house that’s not nailed down. I heard something go “thud” toward the front of the house, fine. Let it. Let them set the house on fire and leave me. I would not move until they were gone.
Only I guess all the worry and stress and whatnot finally wore me out because the next thing I knew, I was waking up and it was light out. I lay there for a minute, getting my bearings. I was alive; that was good. Still naked. Okay. The house was standing. It even looked like there was still stuff in it.
I put on my glasses and sat up to reach for my robe and as I did, I saw her again, in the hall! Only it wasn’t her; it was me, my own stupid reflection in my own stupid mirror that I had stupidly leaned up against a wall in the hallway the day before. I leaned in; “she” leaned in. I leaned back, she leaned back. I don’t know what the hell all the creaks and the thuds were. The usual old house groans and moans, I guess.
Since then, I’ve done a few things. The first is a lot of thinking. I’m pretty sure the dreams represent a fear of change in general and the unknown, in particular, but it’s definitely me, afraid (especially after the sun goes down) of things over which I have no control. I’m working on it with my shrink, and with luck, I might vanquish some of these fears before the lights actually do get turned out on me for good.
But the other things I did? Were moving that damned mirror and getting a dog that sleeps in the room with me. Scary monsters may be imaginary, but it doesn’t mean you don’t fight them with everything that’s real.