When I was ten years old, my family moved back to the house on the cattle ranch near Bushnell, Florida. A lot had happened to my family in the '60's. My Daddy was diagnosed with a spinal cord disease that took his ability to provide for his family, we lost a house we were buying after we'd lived at the ranch house the first time.
The owners of the ranch liked my Daddy and wanted to help however they could. Although Daddy couldn't walk or stand very well, he could still work on small engines and do jobs that didn't involve having to be on your feet. But, even with this, we were very poor and my parents decided to move back to their original community in Northwest Alabama to be close to family and old friends. My Daddy was receiving a settlement for his disability that enabled us to move and put a down payment on a new house.
I remember the night before the day we were scheduled to leave the ranch for the last time. My little brother and I were sleeping in the same bed. The curtains had been removed from the window of our room so only the beds and a few pieces of furniture remained. Everything else had been packed into the moving truck for our trip to Alabama.
I was sleeping fitfully, being both excited about the trip and saddened by our leaving the only community I had known as home. Finally, giving up sleep, I rolled onto my side to stare out the window at the moonlit pasture. Staring out the window at night had been something I did quite a bit all my young life. I was too excited about life to let much of it pass me by and even in the stillness of the night I found things to wonder about, and wonders to see.
The window was open and a screen protected us from the bugs so prevalent in Florida. I could hear a mosquito buzzing around the screen and the ever present chirp of tree frogs. A cool breeze blew in on the night air, still full of warmth from the summer.
I was just beginning to get sleepy when I heard scratching on the screen, like someone running their fingernail over the screen. I looked out the window, expecting maybe to see my uncle who was always playing pranks on us. The scratching continued so I got up to look more closely. I could see the ground underneath the window if I pushed my forehead against the screen. There was no one there. I returned to bed, thinking maybe a moth had brushed against the screen.
But, as soon as I pulled the cover over my shoulder and settled into my pillow, the scratching began again. This time it was louder and the scratches longer like someone running their fingernails the entire length of the screen. The noise woke my brother up.
"What's that?" He whispered.
"I don't know..."
As soon as I got the words out, it sounded as if someone was taking the screen off the window, lifting and scooting the wooden screen frame away from the window casing. I rolled away from my brother, my eyes fixed on the moonlit window- the screen was still there, just as it had always been.
Cold filled the room; my brother hugged me tight from behind and whimpered a little. His fear infected me and I slid back into him, distancing myself from the window.
We heard distinctly the sound of someone coming through the window, climbing onto the casing and then heavy boots landing on the floor. The sound reminded me of when my Daddy used to take his work boots off and drop them on the floor with a sigh of relief. The thought of my protective Daddy made me want to scream for help but when I opened my mouth, no sound came out. I soon realized my brother was screaming as silently as I.
We heard the invisible intruder walk around the foot of the bed, then felt the bed jar as if someone had run into it in the dark. The bed began to slowly be pulled out away from the wall at the foot of the bed frame. I covered my head with the blanket and turned to my brother in a fierce hug. He was shaking as if he was chilled to the bone. My heart felt like it would pound out of my chest.
The invisible being sounded as if it was wedging itself between the bed and the wall, lying down in that small space. A few more bumps, as if it was getting comfortable, and then stillness.
My brother and I finally found sleep as we held on to each other until the thin light of dawn came through the window. My Mama was up preparing the family's last breakfast in Florida, juice and oatmeal. My brother and I seemed to wake up at the same time and we both peered cautiously into the space between the bed and the wall, there was nothing there although the bed had been moved away from the wall at the foot of the bed several inches.
We got up and dressed in silence, both tired from a restless night. Before we went into the kitchen, my brother touched my arm and looked at me with plaintive eyes, "It's still here. Can't you feel it watching?"
I nodded my head and thought a second before I spoke, "Maybe we'll leave it here when we move, think so?"
A glimmer of hope came to his eyes and he nodded. We tried to tell Mama and Daddy about it but they were too wrapped up in moving to pay much attention to us.
We made it to Alabama without much of a fuss and stayed with my grandmother for a couple of weeks before my Mama and Daddy found a house that would suit us. Mama and Daddy along with a bevy of uncles and aunts moved what possessions we'd brought with us into our new house and then called the utility company to connect the electricity and what not. Mama and Daddy bought new living room furniture, a dining table and chairs, stove and refrigerator but we'd brought our beds with us.
I believe that the invisible intruder who visited my brother and I stowed away in our bed and we brought this ghost with us from Florida because of the happenings in our new home before we even moved into it properly. Why this ghostly intruder attached itself to us, I don't know and can only guess.
I'll save those stories for another time.