I sat bolt upright, no longer in a deep sleep. Some kind of noise outside had awakened me, and I sat waiting and listening, heart pounding. Just a few months before we had experienced a break-in, and little things still had the power to trigger anxiety—-things not being where I expected them to be, movement (real or imagined) just glimpsed out of the corner of my eye, sounds. I knew I had heard something, but couldn’t place where or what.
I crept from the bed and worked on psyching myself up to peek outside. I planned to disturb only the very edge of the bedroom curtain so, in theory, any “bad guy” wouldn’t see me looking out. I didn’t have any lights on in the room to shine out. I decided I would have one hand on the curtain, one hand on the phone. I would dial 9-1-1 with lightning speed! (If I had to. If I needed to.) I stood, squared my shoulders, and reached out my hand for the curtain...
And there was a tremendous thump just outside the window! By the sound of it, someone (or something?) had landed (somehow) on the ledge outside my bedroom window, and it certainly wasn’t a squirrel—-this was something BIG—heavy. Without even realizing it, I had clapped both of my hands over my mouth and stifled a scream. As my eyes bugged out, I listened--helplessly, motionlessly, stupidly—-to the sounds of...what? Something was going on immediately outside my window, but it really didn’t sound like I would imagine a cat burglar might sound—-stealthy sounds of someone trying to move quietly, slowly, carefully. This was bumping and thumping and scraping--lots of careless movement.
The brave, curious side of my brain was trying to order me around: “Well, look out the window, you ninny! You can’t know if you should call the police or run or hide or wish you had a baseball bat handy until you know what it is! Pull the curtain back! Look, look, look!”
The practical side won with this stunning, middle-of-the-night bit of logic: “If it doesn’t know I’m here, maybe it’ll go away!”
And away it went. The sound and movement abruptly stopped. Silence reigned, except for my heartbeat. As suddenly as the unknown visit had begun, it ended. I stood listening, breathing, waiting, and wondering. My thoughts changed from “What is it?” to “What was it?” I waited five minutes, nothing more occurred, and I declared it over and went back to bed, sleeping eventually.
In the morning, when I pulled the curtain back for the day (my plants need light!), I really wasn’t remembering the night’s special event at all, I was just thinking about the day ahead. Until I saw the tracks! In the snow, I saw two distinctly different animal tracks. I showed my roommate the tracks, and she positively identified one of them as a deer track. (Her father and brothers hunt for deer every year, so she has a familiarity with what a deer track would look like.) When I described the other to the maintenance man at our complex (and told him of the incident), he said he was pretty sure that the other track, the non-deer track, was that of a mountain lion. A lion! I know this sounds crazy, but a man had been walking his dog on a leash when a mountain lion had suddenly appeared and mauled the dog just a mile from where I live about two weeks before my “bump in the night.”
Did I mention that the landing outside my bedroom window is on the second floor, 8-10 feet off the ground? Also, there’s a tree right beside the ledge...(and, yes, if you’ve been reading my Christmas newsletter for long, we’re talking about the same landing where I locked myself out of the house trying to wash the windows some years back, ha, ha...)
We conjectured that the mountain lion was in hot pursuit of the deer [in some way creating the original sound that had woken me up]; the deer, in fear for its life, then made a great leap onto my landing [the big, heavy thump]; the lion scrambled up the tree onto the landing, too (possibly onto the deer’s back) [the scuffle sounds I heard]; then the deer leapt (or fell) down, and the chase resumed.
Or the lion dined.
But it was just a guess, though, as only the two animal tracks in the snow remained as evidence of what I’d heard. (So, if the lion did, um, win the confrontation, he politely cleaned up after himself completely.) I didn’t think to photograph the tracks, and they were gone by afternoon...but my roommate did see them, too, so I’m not nutty!
Overall, I’m glad I didn’t peek! Imagine with me...if a deer on the landing, with a lion on its back, had seen the large window, it might have crashed through the glass! Into my bedroom, thrashing around! With me there! And a lion! And no baseball bat!
Maybe we should all listen to our inner coward just a little more often...or sleep with earplugs.