Ah, Christmas Day… I’m sure, by now, everyone’s had enough of all that festive cheer and ‘good will to all men’, tripe. So let me tell you the tale of that time I found myself starring in my very own horror movie.

Not that the events in question happened on Christmas Day. Nor, indeed, was this post actually written on Christmas Day. The date of publishing will, however, forever say, ‘December 25, 2020, 6:33 pm’, which is when I intended to publish it, before events got away from me.

So, let me take you back to a dark and stormy night in the Spring of 2020…

Okay, ‘stormy’ might be pushing it a bit; but it was definitely drizzling like it meant it. And it was certainly at night…!

Anyway, I was in the kitchen, tidying up, when I heard what sounded like a couple of cats fighting outside. Now, I knew that Phoenix was in the house but I hadn’t seen Jack for a while. As such, I was worried that Jack was getting his little, furry butt handed to him by some neighbour’s cat, half his size. Jack is a Maine Coon, and Maine Coons are a big breed of cat. Unfortunately, they’re also very timid.

Seriously, I’ve seen Jack chased off by a shrew before. Admittedly, it was a very angry shrew. Probably because Jack had caught it and brought it into the garden… I can only assume that Jack stumbled across the shrew while it was sleeping. It might even have slept the whole journey to the garden… Either way, it definitely got angry when it woke up.

My point is, that Jack is always going to take a beating if another cat notices him. But what really concerned me was that we’d only moved into this house about six months ago. If Jack bolted into the fields, there was no guarantee he’d find his way back. Alternatively, he could end up stuck somewhere that was due to have something agricultural done to it. Maybe something involving a combine harvester…

There is, after all, working farmland all around our gardens.

Anyhow, I worry about him.

I mean, look at the dopey muppet!

So, wearing my slippers and armed only with the my mobile phone, I ventured out into the drizzle. Almost immediately, my hair became slightly damp…

But then, and despite being off-dry, my hair just about stood on end, because a horrifying shriek emanated from just the other side of the low wall. The one that separates the garden from the field beyond. The one that has about a four foot drop from the top of the wall, to the ground beyond. An almost perfect height for someone, or something, to lurk beyond, ready to pounce!

Already, my subconscious was telling me that looking over the wall would be a rookie mistake. Falling for a classic horror movie trope, whereby the bumbling idiot peers over the wall and: SHUNK!

Ax in the skull. Or, Xenomorph to the face. You know: something bad, and easily avoidable by not looking over the damn wall.

I explained to my subconscious that the external lights were fully operational, and the area was quite well lit, thank you very much… So my subconscious reluctantly shut up and let me look over the wall. To see… nothing!

I called for Jack, and was answered by another scream, over by the barns…

Wonderful!

Now, it was perfectly plausible that, by approaching the wall, I’d disturbed his attacker and given Jack the opportunity to make a break for it. Also depressingly likely was that, having been given a way out, Jack had run away from help. Maine Coons aren’t too bright either…

So the scream could very well have been Jack, who could have, again, been caught by his attacker, over by the barns. I decided that I had to check it out, and turned on my phone’s ‘flashlight’. Thusly armed, with the awesome power of 50 whole lumens (about the same as four candles!), I walked away from the external lights, into the darkness.

My subconscious was stunned into silence by my sheer stupidity!

I walked round to the barns, which form a hollow square around a central grassed area. The barns on two of the sides are open fronted, and quite deep. There is no lighting around the barns and, as it turned out, darkness can have character. In the depths of the big barn, for example, the darkness actually managed to loom. It certainly swallowed the light from my phone with no discernable difficulty.

I still couldn’t see Jack anywhere, so I called for him again. Nothing. I waited a little longer, and decided that I was on a fool’s errand. But, as I turned to head back in, the ‘cat-fight’ noise broke out again. This time from the gate that leads into the top field…

I know it doesn’t look worrying in the daylight, so you’ll have to imagine not being able to see anything…

My subconscious tried reasoning with me. It pointed out that I was clearly living in a horror movie and I was obviously being lured away from safety by some monster. For my subconscious, the only question that remained was, how much of me would be left by the time the monster was finished.

In case it isn’t already clear, I’m scared of the dark. And, sadly, I mean that literally. Despite being 49 years old, over six feet (186cm) tall, and reasonably fit and strong, I’m still scared of the dark. It turns out that this fear is called Nyctophobia. Not that I really experience nyctophobia in any serious manner, it’s just nice that it has a name.

And it isn’t the thought of other people that scares me, it’s the supernatural… Despite the fact that, in daylight, I don’t believe in any of that supernatural stuff. I also don’t believe in it, if I’m with someone else, no matter how dark and ‘spooky’ it might be. If I have company, I’m fine.

But on my own, in the dark, my mind runs away with me. Basically, it’s because I have an overactive imagination. Really helpful when it comes to dreaming up ideas for novels. But really unhelpful when it comes to trying to rescue your cat at nighttime.

So, while I completely agreed with my subconscious, I had a problem. This latest noise had come from the hedge, just the other side of the gate… The hedge that separated my top field from the farmland to the right. Exactly where I didn’t want Jack to be.

I had to keep going!

The route I took was mathematically perfect… I remained exactly equidistant from the hedges on each side of the gate, as I passed through. When I got to the part of the hedge where I heard the ‘fighting’, I peered over. I even started trying to see if there was a way I could straddle the fence without losing my testicles to the barbed wire, when the noise came again…

Further into the field, over by the fire pit.

By now, I was 90% sure that it wasn’t Jack. It was almost certainly a fox, looking for a mate. The noise these foxes make, to attract a prospective mate, can sound like a lot of things. A child being attacked, is a popular description. As is, cats fighting… So you know it’s a fox. I know it’s a fox. We all know it’s a fox.

Unless it isn’t…

And, seeing as my slippers were already soaked. And assuming that if I was in a horror movie, I could just as well be attacked on the way back; I pressed on.

Let’s face it, this is the perfect setting for a beastie to set an ambush…

Needless to say, when I got to the fire pit, there was nothing there. No Jack. No fox. Nothing!

I called for Jack, anyway, because what else was I going to do?

Still nothing.

This time, I’d actually started walking back before I heard the screech. Directly behind me!

Not close behind me, thankfully, otherwise the horror movie would have ended. And, whatever had been luring me, would have set around arranging my disemboweled organs in alphabetical order. At least, I hope it would. I’d hate to leave a disorganised corpse!

My subconscious did it’s best to throttle some sense into me. Quite an achievement for a figment of my imagination. Anyway, the point my subconscious was making was: if I’d been watching this happening in a horror movie, I’d have been yelling at the screen about how unrealistic is was that anyone would be so stupid. Which is entirely true.

So, I was in complete agreement with my subconscious. It was clearly not Jack, so it was time to head in.

Which is when the part of brain that hates me, chimed in with: what about if it’s something that’s hurt? All that screaming could be something in pain. Are you really going to leave it out here to suffer?!

And it’s that type of thought process that has kept me away from hallucinogenic drugs. I think it would be fascinating to try something like magic mushrooms. Okay, sure, they’re wildly illegal, but the places my mind could take me…

Here!

Here is where my mind would take me. To the worst, most horror movie scenario that I could dream up. And, let me tell you, I could dream up some horrifying things.

Which is why I’ll never take a hallucinogen.

But, back to the field, and my unresolved dilemma. What if it really was an animal that was hurt? What then?

My conscious and subconscious minds glanced at each other and shrugged. There was no real choice: I’d be pressing on. And the place I was pressing on to, was another hedge. A six foot high, six foot deep Hawthorn hedge, made entirely of prickles and shadows. Yaaaaay!

If I was dragged into the middle of that, would anyone even find my remains?!

The Horror!
Photo by Sabina Music Rich on Unsplash

The hedge itself is situated three-quarters of the way across the top field and runs almost top to bottom. I’m not entirely sure why it’s there, I think the far quarter was historically used to keep pigs. It certainly can’t be used for that any more. Not now that I’ve dug holes out of it for the woodland we’ve planted. But, at the time of my horror movie, it was intact.

When I got to the hedge, the animal was crying out from its far side…

The narrow strip of land, 100 meters long, that runs between the ‘pig barrier’ hedge, and the edge of our land. A place that was distant enough from the house, that no one would hear my screams… Let alone the sounds of something gnawing on my long bones to get at the marrow.

At this stage, though, sheer bloody-mindedness had kicked in. Horror movie, or no horror movie, I was going to find that animal. And rescue it if it was injured. And, presumably, die horribly if it wasn’t…

But, I reminded myself, I’m a large 49 year old man, and I don’t believe in any of that crap. No matter how dark it was. And, no matter how much the drizzle was getting in my eyes. Or, how little I could hear, over the sound of the wind rustling the trees.

So, round the bottom of the hedge I went. And up that corridor of overgrown hedges, I walked. Then, after about 30 meters, I saw the eyes!

Two pale yellow eyes, low to the ground, at the base of the hedge to the next field. They were reflecting the light from my phone back to me.

I was less than thrilled, I can assure you!

They stared at me for about five seconds, then they were gone.

I might have cast the light around the surrounding hedges, to check if there were any other eyes. But if I did do such a thing, it was clearly by accident. Especially any checks that might have happened above head height, in the trees. That must have been an accident, because there are no animals in the UK that you’d expect to see at that height. Unless there are some nocturnal squirrels that I’m unaware of… So, blatantly an accident, and certainly not checking for ghosts and monsters.

After all that, it had been a fox.

Because of course it was a fox!

Come on; just look at these savages!
By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters – Red fox kits, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69678994

I’ll admit that I did feel some element of relief. And, after a brief, internal battle with the various voices in my head, I pressed on and walked all the way to the top of the field. A full 175 meters from the house, as the crow flies.

I’m not going to pretend that the walk back to the house was without trepidation, because that would be lying. After all, everyone knows that as soon as you relax in a horror movie, you’re done. I prevented this from becoming an issue by remaining tense and uncomfortable, all the way home.

And, as I walked back through the barns, I did get a slight jump when I noticed an animal over in a corner. It was Phoenix, sat in the drizzle, looking at me like I was an idiot. Maybe Maine Coons are smarter than I’m giving them credit for…?!

By the time I got back, the cumulative effects of the drizzle had actually managed to leave me soaked. Much to my wife’s amusement, as I recounted my tale. She doesn’t believe in the supernatural, no matter how dark it is, or whether or not she’s on her own. No, all she worries about are trivial things like muggers and burglars. Women, eh!?

So, there it is: the time I found myself in my very own horror movie. A time when I managed to do all the things you’re not supposed to, and lived to tell the tale…

And, the funny thing is, this house we’ve moved in to is supposed to have been the old monastery. If ghosts are really a thing, you’d think that a former monastery would be where they’d call home. But, no ghosts here, not even in the dark.

Unless, of course, they’re in the other barn. The one I’ve used as the cover photo. I’ve got no intention of going in there, if the lights aren’t working. That place feels… uncomfortable… after nightfall.