2004 Anne HortonWriting Award
Honorable Mention Narration/Description
In the summer of 1974 I graduated from high school. No longer bound to my mother's house, 1 anxiously waited for the perfect opportunity to find a place of my own. My best friend, Vickie, and her oldest sister, Diane, had recently rented an old farm house and asked, "Hey! How about moving in with us?"
Without hesitation the answer was, "Yes!"
With my car full of life-long possessions and my trusted collie, Chester, by my side, I traveled down the highway feeling a sense of freedom and independence. Passing through one small town after another, seeing the beautiful countryside in between, I turned onto a narrow gravel road. After driving about a half mile, a farm appeared. "Was this it?" I thought. As I passed the farm and went about another mile, our farm was in sight surrounded by the presence of cornfields. As I pulled into the lane, I viewed a two-story stucco house with a large front porch and swing. A big red barn and small unoccupied sheds encircled it. The yard was filled with old oak trees- and the grass was soft and green.
The summer was great, but we soon realized that we were the local "free" bed and breakfast. The phone rang continually from so-called friends wanting a place to party or "crash" for the weekend, eating our food and drinking every beverage available. It was soon decided to have the phone disconnected. Finally, we possessed the peace and quiet that we so desired--no phone, no nosey neighbors, no sudden drop-ins. Many an evening I enjoyed walks with my dog on the country road, watching sunsets. feeling the summer breezes blowing through my hair, and feeling that nothing could spoil the pleasantness of this ideal setting. The sense of security within my home and life was finally present; Iwas nave of just how suddenly it all could change.
Summer passed, also fall and winter. Spring arrived and then again the warmth of summer was present. In mid-July, Vickie and Diane planned a two-week vacation in California. I was unable to go due to my recent change in jobs, and being alone was never a problem for me, or so I thought. Plus they each had a dog, and I would be the perfect dog sitter. What a great scenario for all parties involved!
The morning came. The car was packed, and Vickie and Diane were all ready to go. We exchanged hugs, and with my usual statement of, "Send me a postcard." off they went. As they drove away until out of sight, the thought of, "Alone at last," ran through my brain, although I never contemplated the ramifications of what lay ahead. A few days passed, and working my usual shift of eleven p.m. to seven a.m.. I anxiously waited for the weekend to come. That Friday getting off work and being so tired, I quickly fell asleep, knowing that the next two days I could do whatever I pleased. I woke up about noon. It was a very hot day, and the humidity was high, not a breeze to be found. Too tired, I decided not to dress and just wear a nightgown and slumber most of the day.
Evening began to fall. Sitting in the swing, sipping on a cold drink, and listeningto mellow music, I noticed that the darkness was setting in. It was time for a new moon; only the stars twinkled in the sky. As the hours passed. I did small tasks about the house, but eventually found myself back in the swing trying to catch a breeze. watching the lightening bugs dancing in the yard and cornfields. What a serene feeling I was having!
It was way past midnight, and while watching the lightening bugs, I focused on a pair of headlights in the distance. Traveling very slowly the vehicle passed the first farm.
The vehicle was about three blocks shy of my farm when it rolled to a stop. Hearing the motor shut off and then seeing the head lights turn off was the beginning of the end of my perfect home and life. The minute before I had tranquil thoughts, no cares or worries, and then frantic questions began to run through my head. Why did that car stop? Who was it? Did they know I was alone? My sense of security vanished, and a fear of insecurity overwhelmed me.
The dogs began to stir and ran to the end of the lane barking. I immediately went into the house. As I looked at the disconnected phone, a feeling of panic rushed through me. Even if I screamed, no one could hear me. Calling my dog in the house and leaving the other two outside to be my guards, I ran to the undraped windows. I realized that it was as if I was looking into an empty pit unable to see out, but someone could easily see in. I ran to the doors locking them, then to the kitchen grabbing two knives. No other means of defense for myself, I could no longer think. I was trapped.
The dogs outside barked aggressively. Feeling faint, I ran into the living room making sure I turned off every light on the way. I made it to the couch and suddenly there was silence.. Feverishly listening and watching, I sat on the couch in the still of the darkness afraid even to turn my head. "What happened to the dogs outside? Was everything OK?" I thought. My ears instantly picked up an eerie sound. only to realize it was fingernails slowly screeching across a window. `Oh my God, someone is out there!" My heart began to skip beats; taking half breaths, I slid to the floor and inch by inch crawled into my bedroom as my dog ran from window to window barking frantically. I made my way inside my closet and stood waiting for my impending doom, at times holding the knives so tightly my hands turned cold and numb.
Becoming blind with tears, I felt honor to the point of being unbearable. The heat was so intense my nightgown became drenched with sweat. Finally it was quiet. My dog came to the closet and with a few sniffs curled up and lay in front of the door as if he was my guardian angel. I stayed in the closet until I saw the sunlight appearing at my feet. My legs could barely move from standing and being in one place all night. Slowly opening the closet, peeking out, seeing the daylight, and looking at my dog with his tail wagging were the best gifts God had given me. I packed a few things and left within a matter of minutes. In one evening my whole life had been changed.
Within five days I moved out of the country and back into town. 1 rented an apartment on the second floor, with good outdoor lighting. I made sure a phone was handy and there were plenty of nosey neighbors. Being leery of every stranger I had my dog, my guardian angel, at my side ninety percent of the time.
A few weeks passed. I was in a local pub socializing and trying to enjoy the evening. Suddenly there was a loud shout behind me, "Boo!" I turned and two male friends in hysterics stated. "Boy, did we get you a couple of weeks ago." Suddenly distinct feelings shot through my soul. First, I felt the relief and happiness that it was a prank and not a true stalker. My second thoughts were of disgust and hostility towards these two men that had terrorized me and had forced severe trauma into my life. There was no laughter from me. Their practical joke robbed me of the feeling of contentment and security I had so enjoyed. Speechless at that time, I turned and walked away. I never felt the closeness of their friendship ever again.
Thirty years have gone by, and I am well aware of the fact of what a life changing event this was and still is. To this day I never watch horror movies because I lived one, and I never put myself in a precarious position in which I feel helpless. There will always be man's best friend at my side; my guardian angel. My outlook on life totally changed. 1 have been told that even though I was a victim of a sick joke, it may have saved my life. Instead of being naive about life, I am now well aware of what could happen from one minute to another, from one day to the next. To this day I hope and pray that 1 will never ever again have that horrifying feeling of being terrified.