Murdering killers who might also be witches

When you live out in the country, isolated from neighbors, you take extra measures to keep your family and property safe.  My grandfather (“Baw” to me) was very vigilant. There was a gun behind every door, he had a pistol, and we had dogs that alerted us to any newcomer.  As an added layer of protection, it was Baw’s  habit to lock the door separating the bedrooms from the rest of the house once everyone had gone to bed. He performed this ritual every night, with a long, skeleton key and a lock that screeched and moaned in protest.

When Daddy was serving in the Navy,  Mama and I lived with Baw and Granny, her parents. We shared a bedroom at the back of the house where the other bedrooms were. Every night I would lie in my bed, waiting for the sound of Baw’s footsteps coming down the hall to lock us in. He would roll back the hall rug, pull the door to, and coax the bolt into place.

Screeeee scraaaawww clunk.

We were safe.

But from what?

As a small child, I never gave the guns much thought. They were there. I was told not to touch them. I left them alone.

Periodically, unexpected headlights would creep up the driveway, and I’d see Baw get one of the guns and look out the front window. Invariably, the headlights would ease back off into the darkness. Probably teenagers looking for love in all the wrong places and not realizing they were approaching someone’s house. No threat there.

What did worry me was being locked into the back of the house. What was out there that was so bad, so scary, so threatening that we had to be locked away from it? The answer was quite obvious to my 4-year-old self — murderers.


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I knew they were just on the other side of the door, waiting to burst through at any minute and kill us all to death. How did I know? I could hear their footsteps.

Every night.

I would lie in my bed, in the darkness, listening to Mama’s breathing and the footsteps.

Tch Tch Tch Tch Tch

Getting ever closer to the door. When would they get there? Why haven’t they reached the door yet? Is one of them dragging a foot? Will tonight be the night, my last night?

Tch Tch Tch Tch Tch

I would ultimately fall asleep, and wake up the next morning glad to have not been killed in my sleep and wondering where these murderous hoards spent the day. Behind the barn? In the tool shed? The woods?

When Daddy came home, we went back to living in our own house. There was no locked hall door. There were no murderers. No footsteps.

No footsteps until a few years ago.

I was home alone. It was dark and cold. As was my habit, I locked the house and then locked myself into my bedroom. After reading a while, I turned out the light and rolled over on my side to go to sleep.

That’s when I heard it.

Tch Tch Tch Tch Tch


Immediately I was 4 again. It had to be murderers!


Murdering killers who might also be witches!

I waited for them to come. To burst through the door and kill me to death. Who would find my body, I wondered.

Then it dawned on me. I was the murdering killer who might also be a witch. For you see the sound that I heard, that ominous Tch Tch Tch Tch Tch, was the sound of my own heart beating in my ear that was pressed into the pillow.

A flood of relief washed over me. I wasn’t going to be killed to death — at least not on this night. And I laughed.

Laughed at my paranoia. Laughed at how irrational I had been. Laughed at the little girl with an overactive imagination. And laughed at the murdering killer who might also be a witch that was afraid of her own heartbeat.

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