Please bear with me, this story is a little long, as are the rest of my stories.
When I was a little girl, I occasionally spent the night at my grandparents' house near the southern coastline of California. They have a beautiful house on the top of a hill that overlooks the ocean, though the actual shoreline is several miles away. On a clear day, you can see Catalina Island from the kitchen window. In the mornings, it gets a little foggy. At night, because of how the houses are so widely separated from each other, and how few street lights there are, it's almost pitch black. You can see stars for miles if there are no clouds. Most of the homes are owned by elderly families, so overall it's a very quiet neighborhood. To give you a clear picture of this story through my eyes, I will explain the basic layout of the house.
You can always recognize the house by its steep driveway. There are a lot of small species of birds that like to hang around because of the bird feeders and birdhouses on nearly every porch. It's usually relatively cold because of how close it is to the ocean. When you walk in the front door, there's a big room immediately to the right filled with boxes of keepsakes and exercise equipment draped in clear plastic. The storage area is wide open and there are several windows so it is very bright during the daytime. To the left of the entryway is a long hallway that leads to the bedrooms, bathrooms and the garage. Straight ahead from the front door is a short L-shaped wall that takes you in a 90-degree left turn to the living room. There's a sliding glass door overlooking the small grassy backyard and a big kitchen with, as I mentioned, a view of the ocean. The most notable feature of the house is a very large atrium built in the center of the house. This beautiful estate was built sometime in the sixties, and my grandparents have lived there for at least thirty years. If there were no curtains on any of the windows, you can see straight through the living room and into the two guest bedrooms. That is an important part of my story.
For those of you who don't know what an atrium is, basically think of a big round room in the middle of the house with a completely open ceiling for birds to fly into. The ground is just dirt and it's covered in rocks and gravel. There's a birdbath, which closely resembles a wide fountain, and a bird feeder to accommodate the avian guests. It's surrounded by glass windows and sliding glass doors on each side of the house.
I was an only child, so I would stay there with my grandparents with no one else in the house. My grandparents were very nice people, but they didn't tend to bring guests over much. Instead, they would go out with their friends to lunch or visit the local attractions with them. I don't really recall ever seeing anyone come over. In spite of how amazingly beautiful and homey the house felt with all of the pictures of our family lining the shelves and the hallway wall, there was a sort of eerie feeling that I always got when I stayed there. Pictures aside, I always felt like I was being watched. I was very sensitive to energies, though I'll admit, I didn't understand what that meant at the time. I was never allowed to watch horror movies so my idea of ghosts were cartoon characters like Casper, and my parents were always careful to assure me that they were only cartoons and make believe. Nevertheless, the feeling I got from that house was so powerful that I would cry and call my parents, even as I got older, begging them to take me home. I loved my grandparents and I was elated when they visited MY house, but their house just freaked me out.
One night in particular, which I remember very clearly, I was up late. I always had a hard time sleeping, especially when I had gotten too old to sleep between my grandparents in their bed. It was long past dark, and I lay there staring at the line of hand-made dolls my grandmother kept on the dresser in the room where I slept. They weren't scary at all, though there was a lot of them. There was one stuffed animal that she had made that I always slept with when I was really little. As I had gotten older, I wanted to prove that I was a big girl and stopped sleeping with it. It was a stuffed coyote, and it sat on top of the dresser with all of her dolls. In spite of the usual stigma surrounding dolls, I wasn't afraid of them in the least. The coyote freaked me out more than anything, with its lolling tongue and big white eyes. I sat there staring at the dolls for hours, unable to relax.
On this particular night, my grandma had forgotten to close the curtains between the atrium and the guest room where I was staying. I could see straight into the atrium, though it was very dark. The curtains on the other side were open too, and I could see the blue digital numbers on the VCR clock in the living room.
A sharp tingle ran through my body, similar to the one you get when a limb falls asleep, but it went through all of me. It was abnormally cold, so I snuggled into the blankets a little more. I found myself unconcerned with the creepy coyote now. I was more disturbed by the darkness in the atrium. I wanted to get up and close the curtains but I was too scared. The sky looked black and starless through the open ceiling in the atrium. I didn't want to look at all that darkness anymore, so I closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep, but I felt so restless. I finally decided that I would get up, turn on the TV with no sound (my grandparents really liked their quiet at night) and close the curtains so I could try and get some sleep.
I looked up, and through the glass, I saw the distinct image of a ghostly woman in a long white dress combing her hair with her fingers as she sat on the edge of the birdbath. She looked beautiful, like a model. Her white dress was very plain, though it seemed to be dramatically longer on the right side. Her slender feet were bare. She had shoulder length, honey-colored hair that was thick and wavy with perfectly curled bangs on her forehead. She was staring off almost wistfully toward the big storage room while she ran her fingers through her hair again and again. Somehow, in spite of the chilly fear that I felt (because I could see the stone edges of the birdbath through her), I felt a little sad for her. She seemed like she was waiting for someone or something that would never come. She never turned her head or acknowledged me.
I sat there for a few minutes watching her, my heart pounding and my palms sweating. I don't even know if I was breathing or not. It just seemed to go on for ages until suddenly, I saw two bright red pinpoints of light on the other side of the glass, in the living room. I looked past the woman and saw a huge black wolf with an angry snarl curling its upper lip behind jagged black teeth. The two red lights that had caught my attention were its eyes. The strange thing was that it didn't seem to be looking at me. It was looking at the ghost woman, and its fur stood on end.
The woman stood up and turned to face the wolf. I don't know if there was any kind of exchange between them, but she just vanished after that. The wolf looked up at me, but it didn't look menacing anymore, just very large, and then it, too, disappeared.
I wasn't able to sleep at all that night as you can imagine, and as soon as daybreak came, I was happy when my dad came to pick me up. I never told anyone what I had seen and I feel a bit bad to admit that I didn't return to that house again until I was 16. I spent the night again one more time, but I made sure to keep my curtains closed. And I still didn't sleep until it was light outside. My grandparents wondered if it was really healthy for me to sleep until after noon.
When I think about it now, I wonder if that wolf was protecting me somehow. I saw the wolf again one more time, when I was hiking in the low mountains of San Dimas. I had fallen behind the other two girls I was with and it was very hot. I had an asthma attack and I didn't have my inhaler with me. As I was gasping for breath, I saw the wolf step out of thin air between two trees and stare at me. It's eyes were chocolate brown instead of red, and as I stared back at it, I could feel myself taking deeper, slower breaths. I felt as though it was urging me to calm down and that it was watching me to make sure I was going to be alright. I was still having a hard time breathing but I was able to concentrate on keeping calm until the attack passed and I could breathe again. It then stepped back into the trees and disappeared.
Thank you for reading my story. I would like to hear your thoughts on the atrium woman and the wolf.