Last night at bedtime, my seven-year-old daughter complained that she heard noises in the hallway that were keeping her awake. I didn’t think much of it. I tucked her in, and a little while later she drifted off into that deep rock-like sleep that only children seem to achieve.
Once the house was quiet and still, I started hearing noises. I suspected it might be the cat and dog playing, so I put them in my room. Then I noticed that all the driveway and porch lights were off. We live on a heavily wooded lot, so when the outdoor lights are off, it’s pitch black outside. My husband was on a trip, so it was up to me to find a flashlight, go down to the cavernous unfinished basement, and play around with the fuse box. I found the one that triggered the outside lights. Sure enough, it was flipped, but when I put it back in place, it just made a loud buzzing sound and flipped back off. After playing around with it a bit more, I gave up and went back up the two flights of stairs to my bedroom.
I laid in bed listening to every little sound that went bump in the night, but I finally, against all odds, drifted off to sleep around midnight, only to be awakened a short while later by a loud crash inside the house. I wasn’t sure where it had come from. I thought maybe downstairs. I, perhaps stupidly but somewhat bravely, went downstairs armed with a phone ready to dial 911 and a flashlight. I couldn’t find anything, so I peeked outside to see if there were any critters on the deck. We get a menagerie of wild animals in our yard from raccoons and squirrels to deer, chipmunks, coyotes, neighbors’ dogs, and even the occasional fox. There were no animals outside though, on the deck or otherwise. Of course, it was dark because we had no outside lights, and my little flashlight didn’t shine far.
As I made my way back upstairs in fear and confusion, I heard another loud crash coming from somewhere upstairs. I froze at the top of the stairs and beckoned to my dog. She was hesitant to follow, but didn’t seem too concerned about anything other than me disturbing her sleep, which somewhat reassured me. The cat peeked out of my room and into the hallway, curious to see what all the fuss was about. Suddenly, there was another loud crash from down the hall, and the cat darted under my bed. Whatever was causing the racket wasn’t making any attempts at being quiet, so that at least reassured me that it wasn’t a burglar.
I formed a hypothesis that maybe bats or a raccoon had gotten into the house. I ran into my bedroom closet and put on boots. I would have put on gardening gloves and a catcher’s mask too if I’d had any handy, but a girl’s got to make due with the accessories at her disposal. Now wearing my pajamas and boots and carrying the flashlight, I turned on all the hall lights. I peeked into the laundry room but didn’t see anything. I shined the flashlight towards the girls’ bathroom at the other end of the hall and saw a disarray of junk on the floor. Did my kids throw stuff on the floor before bed? I didn’t think so. Another crash from the bathroom. I was literally quaking in fear, waiting for a wild, possibly rabid critter to leap out at me. Why was my dog laying back down in the hallway calmly ready to go back to sleep? Shouldn’t she be growling and defending her territory?
I crept into the bathroom and quickly shoved the door open all the way. What did I find? My 10-year-old daughter’s pet snake, Cheetos, slithering around the tub toys. I had totally forgotten that he had gotten out of his terrarium a couple of weeks ago. The bathroom was a disaster! The shower caddy was knocked over, bath products everywhere. The stack of bath toys was scattered around the floor. The laundry hamper and trash cans were knocked over. Even the Kleenex box and the toilet brush were strewn across the floor.
I picked up Cheetos, returned him to his cage, turned on his heating lamp, and refilled his water. Meanwhile, both of my daughters were still soundly asleep. Other than me nearly having a heart attack and feeling nauseous from coming down off the adrenaline-induced state of terror, it turned out to be a happy ending. Cheetos was back safe and sound. No intruders, human or otherwise. No electrical malfunctions burning down the house. No scared kids in my bed. Just scared me losing another night’s sleep, but nothing new there.