I don’t really know how to tell this story, God knows I’ve gone over it in my head enough, but I’ve never tried to put it into decent words before. I’m not a superstitious man (my father was a Baptist minister and he raised me better than that), but I’ve been around long enough to know some things. At night, past all the lights and blacktop that cut the countryside into manageable chunks, there are still affairs beyond our control. So I’ll tell y’all the story tonight, but listen close, because I don’t want to talk about it more than I have to.
It was seven years ago come November, back when I still lived and worked in Ohio. At the time I was an EMT for a township along the river–nothing fancy, I’ll admit. I mostly just loaded up old hillbillies and drove them to dialysis, but it was a day’s work and honest pay, so I did all right. This particular night I was off duty, so I decided to live it up a little. I went downtown with a few friends from work and got loaded, took in a concert and generally enjoyed myself. It was a good time all things considered. Remind me sometime to tell you how much a firemen can drink, ‘cause it’s more than I’d ever care to do I tell ya’.
So I got back to the firehouse about two that morning, drank coffee ‘til my hands stopped shaking, and saddled up to go home. You gotta understand, at that time there was really nothing out there. Once you got outside of town it was just tobacco fields and forest, old growth forest at that, the kind of woods that the Shawnee used to run around and raise hell in. The house I was renting at the time, a nice little two story, was quite literally hacked out of the wilderness. It was surrounded by woods and undergrowth on all sides, and at night you could lie on the grass and not hear another Christian soul. It was just you, the stars, and the crickets. Of course, it’s all subdivisions now, but back then it was damn near the frontier.
One of the first things I did when I moved out there was buy a dog, for two reasons. One, because I was lonely as all get out, and second for security. If somebody ever drove down that long drive there wouldn’t be a thing to stop them from murdering, raping, and robbing my scrawny ass. Not necessarily in that order of course. So I invested in this big ol’ mutt, a German Shepard mix that stood four foot high. I kept the name they had for him at the rescue, Reggie, and pretty soon he had the run of the place. Ol’ Reg was a big dog, make no mistake about that, over a hundred pounds of teeth and muscle. He used to have a bad habit of killing cows that sometimes wandered our way from a farm up the road. Take my word on it, he wasn’t scared of whooping ass.
So anyhows, I drove down the driveway that night like normal, and parked in front of the house like I had a thousand times before. But the minute I stepped out and took a deep draught of the cool fall air, I knew something was wrong. The first thing that set me off was the lack of noise–it was almost completely quiet. There were always frogs or crickets or owls or any number of critters making noise. Even in the dead of winter there was always something moving around. But that night it was as dead and empty as a nun’s drawers. The second thing that got my attention, and the one that bothered me deeply, was that Reggie hadn’t come out to meet me. It didn’t matter where he was, inside the house or not, he always came haulin’ ass out to greet me. One night he had somehow locked himself in the bathroom, but tore right through the door to get to me. So when he didn’t show up, that set me off.
I took a few steps around and found him, whimpering and curled up, under the front porch. That scared me to the bottom of my soul, friends. Reg was bigger than most people, but what the hell happened that scared him so bad he wouldn’t move. I couldn’t coax him out of there for the life of me, whenever I’d say something or reach my hand out he’d shirk farther back and whine like his heart was about to break. After a few minutes of getting absolutely nowhere, I decided it’d take food to lure him out. Reggie always had a soft spot for raw bacon, and I had a whole pack in the freezer for him. I unlocked the front door and stepped into my dark kitchen.
I heard it first–a low gurgle that sounded like a busted faucet. I stood still in the kitchen, head cocked stupidly at an angle, trying to find it. Eventually I realized it was outside. About that time there was a noise on the roof. I can’t explain it really, but at the time it sounded like something had shifted. It reminded me of when you’ve been standing for a long while and lift your foot up, then put it back down. Those two noises, combined with a sudden and overwhelming sense of dread, made me forget all about the bacon in the fridge. Slowly, with the utmost of care for the quiet, I plodded into the living room. Underneath my stained old couch was a Mossberg shotgun. Now I didn’t know what was out there, but I sure as hell knew what I had in here to deal with it.
It took me a moment to get my hands to stop shaking, but when they did I charged a round. Now, any cop worth his salt will tell ya’ there’s no way to quietly cock a shotgun, and I was no exception. When I racked that load in, whatever that was on the roofmoved, boy. It wasn’t the noise a man would make running, or an animal for that matter. It was…it was like a kind of scamper, a kind of noise that five or six legs would make. When that shit started I busted ass through the house screaming words I wouldn’t care to repeat in company, and came out ready to start shooting. But it was faster than me, and I came out of the house just in time for the chimney topper to come tumbling down right into my lap. When I got up, all I could see was rustling foliage and quiet sky. But something tore off the top of my chimney. Something scared my horse of a dog. Something watched me from the trees that night. And son, if a man with a gun is scared, he must have a pretty good reason to be.
I didn’t stay there long after that. I couldn’t sleep soundly and Reggie was constantly on edge. At night, he’d lay on the edge of the bed and just stare out the window, all night long. Honestly, that scared me more than that night did. It told me that whatever had been all over the roof was still out there, still watching us. Until the day we moved I carried that shotgun with me all over the house. I had to call myself paranoid on more than one occasion doing that. But you haven’t truly know fear until you’ve stood on the porch of your house and hoped, hoped so bad your heart hurt, that the sun would stay up for a few minutes more.
It’s been many years since that night, but I can still feel it. Whenever a wind blows out of the south and rustles my hair, whenever Reggie looks up at something only he can see, whenever I get chills in bed and have to palm the gun next to my mattress, I can feel that night coming back. I can’t say for sure what it was, I don’t believe I’ll ever can, but I do know one thing fellas. What goes on when we have our backs turned is crazier than we’ll ever know. Alright, I’ve talked long enough, let’s all get to bed. Ol’ Reg looks as tired as I feel.
Adam Curtis is a writer, historian and citizen of Ohio.