Last night was not the first night that I have appeared in my own personal horror movie. No no – that night happened several months back, on one of my very first nights alone in this house without the kids.
I had installed a very fancy security system that had alerts on virtually every door and window and crack in the wall, and so when I awoke in the middle of the night to what sounded like a moan in my backyard, screamed at the top of my lungs, and then heard my very fancy security system announce “GLASS SHATTER…MASTER BEDROOM WINDOW” you better believe I was up and out and hiding behind the china cabinet in my dining room in .02 seconds. Did I grab a butcher knife on my streak through the kitchen? Yes, yes I did.
The next thing that happened was that a very nice lady’s voice came over the very fancy alarm system’s very fancy control panel, and told me that she’d alerted the police. She asked me how I was; whether I had a weapon; whether I still heard any noises. Half an hour later, police still decidedly MIA, she and I had become old friends. I knew where she’d grown up, and how many kids she had. I was by then sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the china cabinet with the knife in my lap, explaining to her that I was a newly single mother and that I was alone in my house, not to mention the fact that I was blonde and wearing nothing but underwear, which means that if this had been a horror movie and someone had actually broken into my house, I would be oh my god, so extremely dead. Like, many times over.
Anyway, that whole situation resolved with the police finally arriving, telling me that the noise was probably an animal and that my scream was what set off the glass shatter alert (which is, TBH, kind of amazing), and charging me $400 for a “false alarm visit” (which was much less amazing).
Which brings me to last night: My second horror movie appearance (in this house, anyway).
So. Imagine you’re in bed, alone. It’s four o’clock in the morning. Your children are with your ex, your dog (who had never been much of a watchdog, but still) has recently died, and you’re in the middle of a dream in which you are fighting in the zombie apocalypse (no more watching Walking Dead reruns before bed, roger that). And then imagine that you are woken by a sound that you can describe only as “chittering.”
That was clearly a dream, you tell yourself in your half-awakened state. Real-life things do not chitter. And so you decide to go back to sleep, because the alternative is to engage and that is not on the menu, thanks.
Except then you hear it again. Chittering. And this time it’s closer.
…Is that more chittering you hear coming from other parts of the backyard? ‘Tis.
You are clearly still dreaming, so you flip over and continue trying to ignore it, but then it keeps going and you realize that you are most decidedly not asleep, and most decidedly all by yourself, and that the extremely unfortunate reality is that the chittering must be investigated, and the person who must do the investigating is you.
So now I ask you to imagine the last thing you’d want to see when you peer out your window to commence said investigating.
What’s that? The last thing you’d want to see is a completely unidentifiable black animal the approximate size and shape of a largish dog or a smallish bear creeping alongside your pool, and moving in the direction of your bedroom sliding door? With a few other similarly large, black and unidentifiable animals skittering around behind it in various postures that bring to mind nothing more than a pack of villainous Looney Toons characters?
Alright, so this was obviously all rather distressing and quite confusing, made more so by the fact that I literally could not tell what these fucking things were, because none of the animal options that I rotated through in my mind (bobcat? puma? MOUNTAIN LION?) made any kind of sense with the way that the creatures were moving. And no matter how loudly I banged on my window, they would. not. go. away.
Had one of my cats apparently escaped last night? Of course he had. And of course I realized this because I saw, over there by the palm tree, an orange streak running through the bushes, with one of the devil-beasts in hot pursuit. (Spoiler: My cat arrived on my doorstep this morning most decidedly alive, so this may have been my Walking Dead-infused brain at work, but still.)
The window-banging wasn’t working, so I ran out to the living room – in my underwear, obviously, because that’s apparently how I roll in these kinds of situations – and flicked the lights off and on a few times. That seemed to do the trick: The creatures slunk into the shadows behind my house, in any case, leaving a trail of the pool water that they’d apparently been enjoying behind them. And that’s when one of them turned in my direction, and I saw his face, and I recognized him immediately as a foe from days of yore.
I would know those TAKE MY BANANA AND I KILL YOU EYES anywhere.
So I googled “what does a pack of raccoons sound like,” and yep. They chitter. And they also apparently are capable of growing to the approximate size of a pony.
You learn something new every day. What I have learned: To never, ever be in a horror movie, because I am blonde and sleep in my underwear and scream at a pitch high enough to set off glass shatter alerts, which means that I am virtually always the character that dies first.
Also never run up the stairs or say “I’ll be right back.” Like, ever.