It was a dark and stormy night.
(Or, it could have been. It was dark anyways.)
Okay. So... it was a dark and not-stormy night. Last night. I sat alone in Freeman House, decked-out in rubber-duck flannel pajamas. I sat in the dining room, contemplating my yearly Christian Halloween dilemma. Should I participate in the church's fall carnival? Watch The Birds and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, until I fall asleep? Sit at the organ, light only one candle, and scare children to death by playing the creeeepiest music ever when they knocked upon my door?
(And I must say... last year, at Halloween, I had several parents come to the door. Their little ghosts and Disney princesses stood huddled together under the street light in front of the house, too terrified to come close. I think one passed out and another choked on his candy when "the lady in the scary house" came to the door. Priceless.)
Anyway, it was a dark and not-yet-stormy night, and I sat clad in rubber-duck pajamas pondering my 2006 Halloween situation... when....
Just like that. Two little thumps, back-to-back. I straightened up in my chair. The thumping came from the library. I would go check, but two things stopped me: one, there's no electricity in the library; and two, it was a dark and not-stormy night. No way was I opening that creaky door off the hall and venturing into that big, dark room. No way.
...thump... thump... CRAAAASH!
I jumped from the chair. The cat ran under the chair. The old house echoed with the noise.
...clang... swish swish....
I would have called the cops, but last time I heard screaming under the house and called the police, it turned out that a real, live donkey was trapped underneath. (Yeah. I couldn't make this stuff up.) I've never seen uniformed cops laugh so hard. In fact, I avoid making eye contact with any of them when I go to City Hall now to pay the water bill. They know. They all know.
The silence was more terrifying than the thumping, crashing, clanging, and swishing. The thing... whatever or whoever it was... was still, too. Listening. Waiting. It was a stand off. In my house.
I lowered my duck butt back into the chair. I waited. And waited. And waited....
About 3 o'clock this morning, I awoke. Silence. I figured the fact I was still alive was reason enough to attempt to reach my bed. I tiptoed to the hall and stared across at the closed library door. It was dark. Silent. I looked down the long, empty hall. It was dark. Silent.
When I awoke some three hours later, the house was still silent, but the dark was starting to crack a little. I crept to the library door and listened.
I placed my shaking hand on the knob and flung it as hard as I could.
There was no one there. I smiled. Chuckled, even. I went in and sat down on a stack of sheetrock and felt almost giddy. No one was there. An evil hobo was not living in my library. An escaped murderer was not sleeping in the library. Why had I worried? I'd probably imagined it all anyway.
But then, I noticed. I noticed this trail of ... prints... in the sheetrock dust. They outlined a path out of - and back into - the library closet. Animal prints. Little buggers. Raccoon? Squirrel? Giant Halloween Eve rat? Maybe you can tell.
All I know is that it was a dark and almost-stormy night last night. And I in my duck pajamas, and my trusty old cat, were just settling down for Halloween Eve nap, when out in the library there arose such a clatter...
And apparently the creatures were stirring... maybe even, a giant mouse.