Until the Rain Came
by Samantha Craft, April 6, 2012 (Based on True Events)
I was an only child. But I wasn’t a lonely child. I always had some type of friend; whether a cousin, a daughter of mother’s friend, a neighborhood kid, or an imaginary spirit friend, I always found company. Making friends was never an issue, before I hit puberty. I had a natural cheeriness and good nature, and downright quirky humor that kept people about. I was clever, too, creating skits and recitals on a whim, and performing for whomever would listen. I still appreciate the young couple, our landlords, we had for one year, when I was about nine, who painstakingly listened to me sing You Light Up My Life, whenever I saw them. I couldn’t hit the high notes of the lyrics without a terrible screech—still can’t for that matter.
Though I had friends, I was often alone in the afternoons after my three-mile hike home from middle school. I remember there was a pointy-teethed German Shepard that lived at the top of First Street. He growled at me whenever I walked by, and then darted out clanging his lengthy metal rope with him. It took a lot of courage for me to walk home. Not because of the ferocious barking dog but because of home itself.
Things had a way of following me from house-to-house, and I do me things, as I never did figure out what else to call them. These things kept happening to me.
The things came to the upstairs duplex I occupied in Palo Alto. There was an afternoon when my babysitter and I were sitting on the living room couch and heard a circular sawing sound directly above our heads. Only when we ran outside onto the balcony to see what the noise was, nothing was there. Confused, we walked back inside, but as soon as we sat back down the sawing sound began again. We spent the next several minutes playing a game of running outside to find the noise and then running back inside to hear the noise. No explanation was ever found. Soon, we lost interest, and as children do, turned our attention to afterschool television specials.
That same house is where I discovered my imaginary spirit friend whom I named Buddy One. To this day, I’m not sure if he existed or not. I do recall one time reaching up for a bottle of wine vinegar and losing my grip. The bottle came rushing toward my head, and then, somehow, the bottle moved in the shape of an L and landed gently on the kitchen counter. I remember televisions and phones going wacky and all fuzzy on occasion; and I remember how the faucet in my bathroom would turn on when no one was about. There were knocks at the front door at night with no one behind the door. After a couple of years of living on the property, between the occurrences and my continual nightmares and premonitions of our pets dying, Mother was spooked enough to have a priest visit with holy water in hand.
Later, in my teenage years, when I belonged to a local Catholic youth group, I’d attend meetings in an old yellow Victorian building that used to be a nunnery. That house always spooked me. I couldn’t use the bathroom there. And twice, when I entered the empty kitchen, the faucets turned on.
One of the creepiest happenings took place at my father’s in the Central Valley in California, when I was in college. Dad worked nights, so I was typically home alone. One late night, after I’d watched the Silence of The Lambs at a local movie theater, I entered the house spooked by the whole movie. I flicked on the television for comfort, and right after I turned the television on the stations started flicking from channel to channel, one after the other, nonstop. I couldn’t get the television to stop, even when I used the remote.
But of all the places I lived, the duplex at the bottom of First Street on the Monterey Peninsula was the scariest. The house had a way of calling things to it. It was during this time, during my middle school years, I had horrible nightmares of being speared with a stick and roasted over an open flame by demons. This was the time I’d wake in the middle of the night feeling as if something was pulling me down the bed. A time when I didn’t change my clothes at night because I was afraid of the darkness that came when I lifted my shirt over my head. A time I slept with the light on, the television on, and my nana’s rosary around my neck.
One day at the duplex, I remember a tall stranger came whom had claimed to be a painter. My friend Renny and I were sitting on the back deck, when he sauntered through the yard with a wide and even gait. I can still hear the gate squeaking, the iceplant crunching beneath his boots and his deep voice clearing.
Stopping at the bottom step of the deck, the stranger had glanced across at us two girls with a cool smile and said, “Hello.” It was a simple calling, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. As if the backyard belonged to him. It was Renny who moved first, sitting upright and giggling, blushing like the word Hello had been a compliment.
Inside of me, I felt a need to run, to escape.
“I was asked by the owner to paint the house,” he said.
Wanting to leave and go inside, I had tried to catch Renny’s eye, but she was too busy looking at the blonde stranger.
The man tapped his boot on the step and shifted his weight. He was silent for the brief time he took to scratch his head and sink his hands into his overall pockets. Then he looked out with a rather empty stare. “You two ladies go to church?”
“No,” Renny answered.
I was inches away from the doorknob. “Sometimes,” I said.
The stranger leveled his eyes on Renny. “That’s interesting.”
“Not really.” Renny retorted.
“Don’t you think it’s time you made a decision to commit yourself to something other than yourself? Now you two, let me guess. It’s probably all about boys for you. Am I right? No time for God. But plenty of time to do things you ought not to be doing.”
Renny’s red ears were poking through her hair. She shrugged her shoulders at the man. I remained frozen.
The stranger continued: “God isn’t something to take lightly. Do you want to burn in hell?”
My toes felt numb. There was something terribly wrong with his tone, like he was trying to inch his way inside me with his words. Watching Renny begin to tremble, I remembered back to my friend Jane, when we’d been beaten with the board.
I shouted, “We’re leaving!” and grabbed Renny’s hand. Renny didn’t hesitate to follow. We were through the backdoor quicker than the man could utter one more word. And we left him there, good and lonely, not wanting a single thing to do with him. About an hour later, after Renny and I had escaped inside my bedroom, I gathered enough nerve to look out the kitchen window. The backyard was deserted.
Most days at the duplex, I got the sense I was being watched. It was a terrible frightening feeling. I can’t think of anything worse than the fear I had of entering that duplex. Nothing worse than fearing home: the one place that was supposed to be safe.
I spent most of my afternoons when school let out outside on the back deck, on our flat roof with the ocean view, or on the small front patio. There was easy access to the roof. I only had to climb through our upstairs bathroom window. Out on the patio, a space no larger than two pizza boxes set side-to-side, I’d watch television through the open front door or pull out our extra-long orange cord and talk on the phone.
One cloudy day I ventured inside the duplex to grab a snack. I immediately did what I always did—I opened all the draperies, the front and back door, and clicked on the television.
While I was in the kitchen, rushing about to find something in a hurry, I heard a strange and unfamiliar sound. At first I thought the sound was coming from the television. Some haunted house event on Sesame Street. But the sound didn’t stop. It was a loud throaty breathing, a very scary sound, I will never forget, and can still imitate with a chill-rising tone. The sound was comparable to Darth Vader’s breathing, only more pressing. I’ve only heard the breathing replicated once accurately, and that was when I was watching a ghost hunting show.
On hearing the breathing, I ran to the living room to turn of the television off. I couldn’t stand the noise. I wanted to jet out of the house. However, when the television was off, the noise remained.
I recall turning around frantically to find the source. Not believing the sound could still exist with the television off. It was then, as I began to panic, I heard the sound again. This time right before me. Suddenly, in front of my eyes, a gigantic wall of static formed from ceiling to floor. The static hissed something terrible.
Trapped and cornered, I clamped my eyes shut. When I opened them, the static was surrounding me. The deep throaty breath pulsating through my entire being
As I trembled, I heard words, words that sounded as if they were filtered through a thick mask and felt tube-fed into me: “Get out! Get out! Get OUT!”
As if on cue, at the same time as the words Get Out were voiced, outside the thunder rumbled and the rain poured down. Fearing for my life, I burst forward through the static and dodged around the corner, sprinting out the backdoor at full speed.
Terrified, I screamed at the top of my lungs, and ran and ran up the hill. Finding myself a block up from the house, on the top of an unfamiliar flight of stairs, I leaned against an apartment door and wept. Then without thought, I pounded on the door, still screaming. A young man opened the door and brought me inside.
Ten minutes later, Mother arrived. Taking me by the hand, she led me through the rain down the street and back inside the duplex. Mother listened to my story but blamed the event on my over-active imagination. As twilight approached, she wouldn’t give into my screaming demands.
“Just go to bed and stop letting your imagination get the best of you. If I let you sleep with me, what’s that going to teach you? I’m doing this for your own good.”
My black-beaded rosary, a gift from Nana, was swinging around my neck. I held firmly to Mother’s doorknob. “Please let me in. I’ll be quiet. I promise.”
“Let go of this door and go to bed!” she insisted.
“But the ghost, the ghost is in the house. Please!” I begged.
Mother pulled harder.
“Mother you don’t understand. It was real. I don’t want to be out here alone. Please let me in. Please help me!”
Mother shook her head and glared at me.
My hand slipped from the knob and Mother’s door slammed shut.
I ran downstairs, grabbed the phone, pulled on the cord, and ran outside to the small front patio.
I dialed my father. Before I had spoken more than a few sentences, Dad suggested I stay at Nana’s house.
“Did Nana teach you the Lord’s Prayer?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Use it,” Father said.
Father cleared his throat. “You have to know something. Today I was staring at a photograph of you for over an hour. I don’t know how, and this has never happened before, but I had this sense some evil force was attacking you. Your nana’s mother used to have dreams and sometimes she saw spirits. Last week a psychic told me to destroy a painting I’d made. One with a gray house set up on a high hill. She said to paint candles all around it because she believed it was a portal to another world. Anyhow, I painted the candles, and threw the painting away. Right before you called. I can’t believe this. It’s very strange.”
Dad went on, for several minutes, explaining about how a spiritual group had recently tried to recruit him claiming they believed he had spiritual gifts. Dad, never one to talk on the phone for more than a few minutes, quickly ended the conversation with some more nervous laughter and some pleasantries. Then, after wishing me luck, he hung up.
I sat on the patio listening to the dial tone for a long while, still wiping my tears, and twisting the rosary in my hands. I thought back to all the times before—the nightmares, the stranger, the unexplainable happenings.
I ran into the house, quickly grabbed the old afghan off the couch, and ran out to the backyard wooden deck. I could sleep there, I thought, at least until the rain came.
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