Sunday, May 23, 2010

Scared of the Dark

My name is Sally, I’m 47 years old, and I’m scared of the dark.

Those of you who know me know that I do read horror stories – Stephen King has the best grip on my fear, but I’ve read lots of Poe, Lovecraft, Dean Koontz, Robert McGammon, and many others. I enjoy a good scare. But that’s make-believe, right?

I remember once, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, going out to the compost heap. Our chores rotated and it was my week to take out the compost after dinner. It must have been winter because it was dark. The heap is in back of Dad’s garden, some 150 feet from the house; the back porch light doesn’t reach nearly so far. I went out there, bowl in hand, and approached the compost pile to toss in the scraps and shovel them under (Dad keeps a little shovel there for this purpose, to discourage scavengers). I glanced up as I was about to toss in the scraps, and a pair of ... EYES ... was glowing at me. I tossed the bowl right in the air and ran. I had to admit to my folks that I left the bowl tossed on the lawn, there was a critter in the compost and, by inference, that I was still scared of the dark. I was abashed but I wasn’t about to go get the bowl back!

Fast-forward to today: here I am, a middle-aged woman in my own home, with years of experience soothing children’s fears of darkness and beasties. By happenstance I had two whole evenings all by myself in the house this weekend. It was wonderful: I got lots of things accomplished and was refreshed and relaxed. As I went about my close-the-house-for-the-night tasks, I leaned down next to the front window of my kitchen to stash a catalog in the little bookcase there, and a strangled scream pierced the night. I shot bolt upright and froze, eyes wide, listening; it repeated. I thought of the worst beasties: the chupacabra, the wolverine, all of those supposedly-genuine photos of mutant corpses and Fiji mermen found on deserted beachfronts. "GOH-een! GOH-een! Goi-Goi-Goi-GOHHHHHH-eeeennnn!" It sounded like it was right under the window – not three feet away! I actually cried aloud, "What IS it?!?"
I turned on the front porch light, which is wimpy at best; the noise ceased. Whew! I figured I’d best go out back and turn that one on too. The cries resumed. I turned on the back porch light, a much more serious light, and cowered behind the closed door until the cries stopped again. My cat was on the back stoop, tail fluffed to the size of her head, staring fearfully into the darkness. I scooped her up and brought her inside. I didn’t hear those awful cries again.

Just as I was about to fall asleep (I read NONfiction last night, thank you very much), I realized it was probably a fisher cat. I Googled it up, and that may well have been it. I found several .wav files of short cries, but nothing like what I heard; I presume the creature was either on the attack, really frightened, or wanted to mate in the worst possible way. There seems to be some confusion over some cries as to whether they belong to the fisher cat or a red fox, but I’m telling you that there’s no way any variety of DOG made that sound. I thought a Canada Goose was getting its wings torn off, that’s how unholy this sound was.  Put it this way: I hurt my throat trying to replicate it for my family today.

So if you awaken in the night to hear the sounds of ...something? ... someONE? ... getting torn limb from limb, it’s probably a fisher cat. Keep your distance because they’re mean.

photo courtesy of Daniel Keefe

My name is Sally, I’m 47 years old, and I’m scared of the dark.


  1. you are the best story teller ever!
    does it help that your house is old and you live on a large property? ;-)
    I'm scared of the dark big time.

  2. Andrea is right. You are a great story teller. I really was with you! I am not afraid of the dark but I am afraid of animals roaming around, stepping on them, that sort of thing.

  3. LOL! You had my stomach in knots!! It's ok... I'm scared of the dark too.

    Jennifer :)

  4. ... but did it make you CRY?! ... You are a great story teller!

  5. Hi, I'm June, and I'm scared of the dark, too! I popped in to catch up with your activities. When my husband travels for work, I keep lots of lights on in the house and won't go out the door after dark. Just wanted to share so you know you're not alone.