When I was a kid I grew up in a place called Somerset West in South Africa. It was beautiful and I have amazing memories living there with all of the beautifully changing landscapes and incredible wildlife. I used to go to school with a chameleon or a tobacco roller snake curled up in my pocket. I lived, breathed and ate horses (I always hated that saying – I would die before I ate a horse)…maybe…anyway, I was a happy-go-lucky kid. My parents were wonderfully social butterflies, having many dinners and do’s that were amazing. I would sneak downstairs and take a look at all the beautiful people and listen to their laughter and tinkling cutlery. My mother would let me have dessert upstairs while I watched TV way later than what I was supposed to. I had the dogs and cat crowded up in the den and kept hoping that I would be forgotten and could stay here, just like this, always.
Well that didn’t happen and life trundled on – I must have been about 14 or 15 years old and had my first boyfriend. My parents were out one night and so my boyfriend Mike, and I were over at my friends’ house across the road. Before we left we made sure the dogs were not able to get into the lounge, a light on the front porch was left on for when we came back and everything was locked up.
So we had a fun night with our friends’ and decided it was time to head back – my parents would be home soon and Mike had to go home too. We walked hand in hand down the long dark driveway and headed across the road. My house was lit up like a birthday cake. Every light in the house was on. Mike and I stopped dead in our tracks with our mouths open. I went to hurry forward and Mike held me back. We approached with more caution. The front door was also open…and all of the windows. We were terrified but for some reason instead of going back to my friends’ house we kept going towards mine. Mike pushed the front door open and we slowly went in – I was hanging on to Mike for dear life! Everything was super bright with every single light turned on, the guest toilet lights, the reading lamps beside the beds and the main lights…what the hell was going on? What was really weird is that the dogs were bailed into a corner in the kitchen. Not even where their beds were but squashed under the breakfast table. Now we had a Great Dane (Cleo), a Labrador (Lottie) and a Bouvier des Flanders crossed with an English Sheepdog, (Charlie). These were not little dogs or scaredy-cat dogs for that matter, yet they were cowering and terrified of coming out when Mike and I went in. Usually they were delighted to see us and went crazy even if we had only been gone for twenty minutes. The cat, Fluffy-bum, was nowhere to be seen either.
Mike and I scoured the house and turned off the lights and closed the windows – man, we were creeped out. Mike had to go so I reluctantly saw him off and kept the dogs close. I made sure I locked the front door behind me and checked the downstairs windows with a trail of pets behind me. While I wandered around the house trying to feel safe, yet believing I may be locking something in with me rather than keeping something out.
Suddenly I could smell something burning. I poked my nose outside to find out if there was a bush fire somewhere but I could only smell the delicately cloying Wisteria and Jasmine that threaded the hedge. I hurriedly retraced my steps, the dogs got in the way of course and I stumbled over them several times in my hurry. I couldn’t find anything that was turned on now – I had turned it all off! I checked the power outlets all around and unplugged anything that wasn’t being used but nothing was melted or smelt as if it was burning. I checked the oven, the laundry where the iron was – nothing, not a heated thing. I went into the den and turned on the TV. Lottie, Cleo and Charlie followed me in and clambered onto the sofa with me. Fluffy-bum had turned up and wiggled her way in amongst all of the dogginess. I wondered when Mum and Dad would be home, I hoped soon…
Next to the sofa was an old cane rocking chair and foot stool that would now and again crack due to the change in temperature so that was nothing new. But y’know how cats suddenly stop doing what they are doing and just stare at something you know is not human and may be a ghost or something like that. But you don’t want to believe it when it’s in your own lounge. So Fluffy-bum is washing herself, and the dogs’ faces in between their fluttering lip snores and does this petrified statue thing, looking at the old cane rocking chair. It cracks and I think nothing of it. Something has changed, the snoring has stopped and all three dogs are awake, lying there with their eyes open but they had not picked up their heads. That was really strange – they leapt up at anything in a race to meet it, greet it or eat it.
The cane chair cracked some more and then became regular as the chair started tipping back and forth, rocking… I shot straight off the sofa – cat and dogs flying. Something had changed in me – I was fed up with this torturous unknowing. I stormed over to the lounge door – ripped it open and yelled over my shoulder, “GET OUT! YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE – GET OUT!” and carried on like a tornado to the front door – ripped that one open, after I fumbled around unlocking it and yelled the same thing behind me. I stopped in my tracks as I felt something move and shift in the atmosphere.
“I’m sorry…” I whispered, “I’m scared of you, I don’t know who you are but I don’t want you here. You need to go to the light, just go…” and I closed the front door. I walked back into the lounge, I felt shattered but hugely relieved. I looked towards the welcoming sofa where Lottie, Charlie, Cleo and Fluffy-bum sat waiting. They looked relaxed and content. I plonked myself down and Fluffy-bum came over, she looked up at me and closed her beautiful green eyes in a smile of thanks and curled up on my lap after a couple of raspy kisses on my hand. Somebody released some of their dogginess and we were almost back to normal. I heard Mum and Dad’s purring car and saw the headlights sweep over the windows in a comforting light – wondering if whomever I had chased out of our house felt as comforted as I did right now, I really hoped so.