Abed in the night-time I heard or thought I heard a strange noise. It was creaking, a moaning, like hinges or the rusty limbs of trees moving against each other. It might have come from anywhere; it came from outside the window, I thought.
Sometimes in bed I hear the jingling of a bell in the darkness beyond and then my heart freezes a little. I do not want to hear his paws scraping against the glass, making it shake.
This night it was and it wasn’t the cat. Not the noise a cat makes at all, yet too scared and yet not quite scared exactly, but tense, alert, abruptly awakened; I could not bring myself to move or turn around for fear of the face in the window.
Night terrors crouch on your chest or stand by your bedside, behind you, out of sight. It was not of this kind (‘if I could just lift my little finger’ – if I could just, it will be all alright. But I couldn’t, all the same).
Once in childhood I convinced myself that E.T. was inside the cupboard in my sister’s bedroom. It started out as a joke and a fancy*, and it only could have been just that. So why did it grow so quickly terrifying; why could I just not bring myself to open the cupboard and prove what I knew? Why of all the bumbling aliens was E.T. so bloody threatening this time, when I have categorically never been scared of him before or since? Disturbed, I quickly left.
This uncanny night which rattles at the window, makes ghouls out of what is unalarming and makes mockery of the clarity of what we call reality. At times even now I have difficulty separating the reality from the fantasy; especially when I am ‘in the cups’, but even when quite sober.
We all have to move eventually (only the dead are still). Walk away, turn around, lift the little finger or the pencil to write. And this is true: when I turned on the reddish light to see, the noise was altogether and absolutely gone.
*Thinking about it, I was probably rehearsing for a later attempt to convince my sister that E.T. was in the cupboard, in which case it served me right. (I bet it would have worked, though)