Friday, April 12, 2013

Alone but Not So Very

One night when I was 21 and still living with my parents (college was in the same town), I had a big argument with them over going out too much with friends and it ended with me blowing up and saying I was going to spend the night at a friend's house and look for apartments the next day (I always used that threat). 

By the time I got out of my driveway, it was already close to 11pm and I didn't want to bother calling everyone I knew and asking for a place to crash, so I just decided to drive 30 minutes down the highway to a bay house my grandparents owned. This was sometime in the winter, so I knew they wouldn't be there. They kept a spare key on a hook inside the shed where you turned the electricity on, so I drove out there and got the key, turned the electricity on, and went inside to crash. There are several other bay houses in the area, all spread out about 50 years apart from one another, most owned by old people who utilize them during the summer like my grandparents. 

That night, mine was the only car in the area so I assumed that I was the only one staying out there. The other bay houses were dark and had no vehicles parked outside. 

I settled in, took a shower, and settled down for bed when the land line began to ring. Cell phone reception in the area was crap to nonexistent so everyone still had land lines. I didn't answer it because I was afraid it was my parents calling to see if I'd gone there. Eventually it rang again and I ignored it. Then it rang a third time and I finally realized I was going to either have to unplug it or pick up, so I picked up. No one on the line said anything, it was just completely silent, so I hung up. Before I made it back to my bed, it rang again. I walked over and picked it back up and again there was nothing. I said "hello" several times before finally putting it down. Another ten minutes passed with me laying on the bed thinking about our argument when it rang again. I went over to it and answered as usual, and again no one said anything but I could tell that the line was open because it was dead air in the background, as if someone was just standing there with the receiver to their mouth not saying anything. It wasn't an "electronic" silence if that makes sense. I listened for like five minutes and hung up and by that time I was pretty scared. 

I turned out all the lights in the house and sat there on my bed in the middle of the open studio floor plan (I could see every part of the house the way it was built because the beds were in the back with no dividing wall) listening for anything out of the ordinary. A good time passed where nothing happened and then I heard running water coming from somewhere. I discovered it was coming from outside and I looked out every window until I saw that the outside shower at the neighboring house was on. People who owned bay houses around there had these outdoor showers that were basically just wooden stalls with curtains and you'd step inside one, close the curtain, and turn on the water which came from a pipe above your head. It was like one of those things people used to shower themselves off of sand and stuff before getting back into their cars or houses. The one next door was on because I could see the water coming out of the shower head which protruded a bit above the height of the stall and I could hear the sound of the water hitting the cement below it. Like I said, it was winter and freezing out, so there was no reason for that to be on and the windows of the house were dark, so who TURNED it on? I couldn't tell if anyone was in the shower stall or not. 

But by this point, it didn't matter. I was freaked enough, so I quickly ran out to my car and took off out of there. Once I drove far enough to reach cell phone service, I called a friend and asked him if I could stay with him for the night and that was that. 

The next day, I realized I forgot to put the key back on the hook, so I asked my friend to accompany me out to the bay house so I could put it back and not have my grandparents show up and realize I'd been there. When we got to the bay house, I went upstairs to straighten out the bed sheets (which I'd also forgotten to do) and when we walked inside I was horrified. The furniture had been moved around and rearranged. The recliner, sofa, kitchen table...everything had been moved to another area or faced in a different direction. Then I noticed that the paintings on the walls were turned upside down. Finally, there was a puddle of urine on the kitchen floor. 

Knowing I'd have to confess my story of staying there, I reported a break in to the cops and they came out and looked at it. I told them about the phone calls and the shower and everything. My grandparents came out and confirmed that nothing had been stolen. Then they told the police something interesting: they said that they'd thought I was sneaking into the bay house several times a year without telling anyone because they noticed bills from the electric company that had electricity charges for days they hadn't been out there. They assumed it was me looking for some privacy and decided to discreetly pay them anyway and not mention it to me or my parents so as to not get me in trouble. But when I told them it wasn't me, they were worried. They called some of their friends who also owned houses in the area to inform them of the break in and a few of them drove out there that day to make sure everything was alright in their own. The most chilling part of the story comes next: the people who owned the bay house next door had been friends of my grandparents for years, apparently, and when they drove out there to check on it, they went inside and found that their bed had recently been slept in and there were empty beer bottles in the trash. On the kitchen table was their land line telephone and next to it was a notebook they kept by the phone on the counter that had the phone numbers of all the other bay houses in the area, including the one to my grandparents'. We concluded that whoever was calling me must have gotten the number from the notepad and been sitting right there in the neighbor's kitchen calling me the night before. Then, sometime during the night, he/she went over and got in through a window and did the switcheroo on the furniture and paintings and then peed on the floor. It also had to be the same person who turned the outside shower on. 

After that, most people in the area got alarm systems for their bay houses and didn't keep keys in any outdoor hiding spots any more. 

I have come to the conclusion over the last few years that it was probably a homeless man making use of untended bay houses in the winter and he was probably used to the area being deserted. The fact my grandparents had their electricity used before when they weren't there told me this was not an isolated incident. I think that night when I went out there, I provoked or scared him into thinking he was going to be discovered, so he used scare tactics to get me to leave. I don't think he liked the idea of me being out there capable of discovering him. That's my theory anyway. But I still can't explain the rearranging of the furniture and paintings and leaving the urine. Maybe it was his way of going the extra mile to make sure I never went out there by myself in the night again. 

Regardless, the incident scared me so much that I never go stay anywhere away from the city alone at night any more and I definitely never went back to that bay house.

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