It was the first summer we moved into a new house. I was 16 and had just gotten my driver’s license. My parents had always been city people, but as they aged they opted to raise me, and my 13 year old brother in a house in a quieter area of town, right on the edge. The highway leading west shot about half a mile behind our new house. The area was quiet, the nearest neighbor half a block away, the only sound the hum of the cars traveling on the highway in the distance.
I was sure to put my claim on the bedroom in the basement, leaving my brother and parents with the upstairs bedrooms. I was a bratty, demanding teenager, and I wanted the most spacious room. My dad had dragged my twin bed down the stairs. I spent a lot of my free time (after school) decorating my new room–hanging posters, organizing my desk, placing every piece of memorabilia I owned in the perfect spot. About a month or 2 had passed and I had already felt quite content in our new house.
When we moved, we had a motion light installed in the back of our house. Our backyard was quite large, and not fenced in. Because it was so dark in our part of town, my dad thought the light would be a good feature in general. I’m not sure how much of this reasoning was based on safety, but rather a convenience in case anyone in our family needed to venture outside after dark.
Everything was going fine for a week or two until one Wednesday night. Since it was summer break, and I didn’t have to work at the local coffee shop (part-time job) the next day, I was down in my room watching T.V. and doing my nails. Finally, at about 2 am, after a fresh coat of pink I shut the T.V. off, followed by the lights and layed down staring at the ceiling. Then it happened.
The motion light flicked on. My blinds were closed, but the brightness of the light shot through the edges of the window, illuminating my room somewhat, and sending me into a paralyzing fear. I laid there for a good 2 minutes, which doesn’t seem like much but felt incredibly long, contemplating what I should do. Should I run upstairs and wake up my parents? Should I venture over to the window and investigate? Should I do nothing?
Although I didn’t hear any wind, it had been a particularly blustery day. I told myself a swift breeze could have hit the light, causing it to go on randomly. A few minutes later, the light flicked off, startling me yet again, before I fell into a light sleep.
I don’t usually scare easily, but I mentioned it to my dad the next day. He called every day mid-morning to check on my brother and I during summer vacation. When I was at work, I was usually messing around on the computer or watching something stupid on T.V. Dad dismissed it as the wind or “an animal or something”.
I forgot all about the stupid motion light until later that night. It was Friday so I met up with Lindsay, one of my good friends to eat dinner and see a movie. After Lindsay dropped me off, it was almost 10:00, but I wasn’t tired. I brushed my teeth, changed my clothes, and went down to my bedroom to watch some T.V. before passing out.
I had the T.V. on and the lights off. It was a little after midnight when I saw the bright light illuminate my room yet again. I felt the same anxious fear run through my body as I laid there, thinking about what to do. Despite it being the second night in a row this was happening, I couldn’t bring myself to get up and walk over to the window. I opted to lay there and wait for it to go off like it had the night before. But it didn’t. Instead, something much more startling happened. I heard something hit the side of the house. Right near the window, but not directly in front of it. It sounded like someone had thrown some sort of blunt object at the house.
By that point, I was done laying there silently. I freaked out, bolted up the stairs, passed my brothers room and went straight for my parents.
“Dad,” I said, urgency in my voice. It took 2 more times to rous him out of a deep sleep.
“Lauren?” He said, groggy.
“The motion light is on again and I heard something outside.”
Dad got up and I followed him to our kitchen, directly above my bedroom. Sure enough, the light was still on. He surveyed the backyard through the sliding glass kitchen door. I peeked around him. Neither of us could see anything. There was no one or nothing out there and nothing seemed out of order.
“I heard something hit the house,” I insisted. My heart was still racing.
After a few minutes of begging my dad not to, he went outside, venturing down the stairs in the back yard to investigate. Two minutes later he came back inside and locked the door.
“Nothing out there, sweety,” he clicked flipped the light to the motion sensor off. The backyard was dark once again.
“I heard something hit the house,” I repeated.
“Well there’s nothing there. Could have been the wind, a creek?”
“In a new house?”
After Dad went back to his room, I decided to spend the night in the living room, curtains closed, doors and windows locked.
The next day my Dad checked the sensor on the motion light. He thought perhaps the sensitivity was too high. So, he reset it and tested it. It still worked, but he assured me it shouldn’t be going off again for a breeze or anything like that.
A couple weeks went by with no incident and I forgot all about the motion light until another Friday night when the thing came on again. I had been out with my friends again and didn’t get home til almost midnight. Mom and Dad and Tim had already gone to bed. I crept in quietly, as to not wake anyone up, and crept down in my room. Now, this night I was pretty tired. I had worked at the coffee shop earlier and went straight to hang out at a friend’s house, so I hadn’t had a ton of time to sit and relax. So, when I crawled under the covers and my head hit the pillow, I was relieved.
I kid you not, I must have been laying in the bed ffor less than a minute when that motion light came on again. I felt the dread rush back into my body. By now, I was almost as pissed off as I was afraid. I mustered up the courage to get up and creep over to the window. Without disturbing the blinds, I peeked out the side of the window. That’s when I saw him.
There was a man standing at the foot of the stairs to our deck. Just standing. He was tall and lanky. Six feet, blue jeans, brown jacket, and light brown hair that stuck to sweat on his face right above his glasses-covered eyes. And he was staring straight at my window.
I couldn’t bring myself to scream but my mouth dropped open and I let out a gasp. He must have noticed me then, because the creep SMILED at me, before turning around and walking away slowly. Just walking.
I ran up the stairs as fast as I could, tears running down my face, bursting into my parents room. This dad shot straight up, my mom soon to follow. Between sobs, I explained what I had seen. My brother heard the commotion and peeked out of his room. My mom told him it was nothing, that I had a bad dream and to go back to sleep.
I wouldn’t let my dad go back in his room that night. I slept on the couch in the living room while he slept on the other couch, perpendicular to me. The light didn’t come back on and there was no further incident the rest of the night.
The next day, my dad went to the police. He came back with the news that several people had issues across the town with strange noises and a creepy man, matching the description of the guy outside my window. The police said they were working on setting up extra patrol cars around the city, as they did not know the identity of this man. In the meantime, he suggested, we should get a security system.
My dad wasted no time. Not only did he install an alarm system for our front door, he installed a camera on our deck, pointing directly at my bedroom window. Signs went up in the yard warning trespassers that they were under surveillance and breaking the law. For that first week after I saw the creep outside my window, I slept in the living room, but as time went on, I was eventually able to calm down and slowly I was able to migrate back down to my bedroom.
It was a week before school was supposed to start when it happened again. This time, I watched (after the light came on again), the sillhouette of the man directly in front of my window. He had crouched down at the basement level, and all I could see was his shadow and he moved slowly around. Then, all of the sudden, he started POUNDING on the window with both fists. The glass vibrated, the walls shook, and I let out the loudest, most horrifying, blood-curdling scream I ever had in my life. I regretted this in a few minutes, after seeing the horrified look on my father’s face as he ran down and bolted in my room. He was wielding his baseball bat and yelled, “I’m going to kill that son of a bitch!” A crazy look I’d never seen before filled his eyes.
Well, the guy got away again. My dad went to the police again. I sat with my mom at our kitchen table, nibbling on some french toast, after not getting a wink of sleep the night before, when my Dad came into the house. Mom and I immediately noticed the look on his face. It wasn’t the crazy, angry expression he held onto the night before as he bolted out the door looking for that man, but it was a face disturbed, shocked, almost twisted in grief.
“What is it?” My mom asked. He looked at me, then looked at her.
“Ms. Norberry, your teacher, right?” My dad asked.
Ms. Norberry was my English teacher in high school. I had her class for the first time the past year and was excited when I found out I would have her as a teacher again in English 11. She was in her 60’s, never married. She was a lot of the student’s favorite teacher mostly because of her humor and wit.
“Yes,” I said, anxiously awaiting what he was about say next.
“She was murdered last night. Someone broke into her house and stabbed her 16 times.”
My mom and I looked at each other completely horrified. I went to the bathroom and threw up my breakfast.
By that point, we were all horrified. My parents decided it would be best if we all stayed with my grandmother, my mom’s mom, closer to the center of town. So, we locked up our place, set the alarm, and left for Grandma’s. Just to be extra safe, we parked a block away and walked over to her house.
Spending the night at Grandma’s was very peaceful and nostalgic. It gave me much needed rest since school was to start in a few days. It gave my parents a bit of peace and allowed us all to do our best, however little, to mourn the death of Ms. Norberry. Since they hadn’t caught the sicko at my window or Ms. Norberry’s killer (we didn’t know at the time if they were the same person, although that’s what police thought). Her funeral was one of the saddest times I’ve ever exprienced, and everyone was a little sad to start of the school year without her.
I remember sitting in my English class on that first day while our principal talked to us.
“I know this is an extrememly difficult time for everyone,” he said. He rubbed his mustache with his thumb and forefinger and adjusted his glassed. “Ms. Norberry wasn’t just my colleague, she was also my friend.”
The room was silent as we listened intently to the principal.
“While we look for a new English teacher, I’m grateful to introduce everyone to Mr. Harold Wendt. He’ll be filling in while we go about finding someone. Ah, here he is now,” My mouth dropped the same way it had that first night when the motion light flicked on, as our new substitute, Mr. Harold Wendt entered the classroom.
The same man who stood outside my window.