The summer I was 8 years old my parents bought a large house in rural Oklahoma. We lived on a few acres of land on an orchard, and before I met any friends, I would spend hours riding my bike around the countryside and wandering the orchard. Looking back, I don’t really remember a happier time in my childhood. Even though I was lonely, I had my imagination (which was admittedly vast) and my nearest neighbor’s dog to keep me company until I made friends. Unfortunately, towards the end of this magical summer I began developing a phobia of undressing in my room or in my bathroom at night. I always, and I mean always, felt like someone was watching me. I was a precocious child, and knew in my heart it was not reasonable to be afraid, and tried my best to continue on and ignore my terror, but eventually I went to my parents and confessed my deepest fear: that someone was indeed watching this vulnerable, chubby, lonely girl undress at night.
They laughed at me. My parents had dubbed me “The Great Exaggerator” some years past, and to be fair, given my immense imagination - they were spot on. However, sometimes they ignored very important things that I was very much telling the truth about, like the time I got severe blood poisoning in my foot and could barely walk, and they dismissed me as being dramatic. That’s another story.
So my parents chose to ignore my pleas that someone, some “thing” was peering at me through darkened windows at night. I was not about to roll over on this one. My pragmatic mind worked furiously to prove that I was right.
One day I decided to screw up all my courage and peer back through the darkened glass. If there was a serial killer or werewolf surely I would see it’s face, maybe even frighten it myself! Without my parents to rely on, I only had me.
That evening I dreaded the night, which came a wee bit earlier this time of year. It came regardless, and with it the pounding of my heart in my terrified chest. I went to my bedroom to put on my pajamas before bed, knowing it was now or never. But before I began to undress, I decided to pretend to search for something near the base of the large picture window, the one where I felt most vulnerable. I was “absentmindedly” chatting to myself (to appear nonchalant, lest the watcher know I had a plan) and I bent down in front of the window to “pick up” whatever I was pretending to look for, and then I shot up like a light and threw open the thin curtains and stared out the window…
To see movement and hear rustling.
I was RIGHT! I was even MORE TERRIFIED! I didn’t want to be right, not this time!
I screamed and ran to my parents, convinced this was the proof, the proof they needed to protect me!
They could see I was visibly shaken. An obvious ruse to convince them of my story.
They didn’t believe me. I had to go back to my room and try to sleep - this time in my clothes, because I sure wasn’t getting naked in my room again. I didn’t sleep, instead deciding that I was going to bust this watcher.
As soon as the sun was up I went outside to peer into my own window. Whatever, whoever was watching me, I wanted to be able to see what they saw. As I glanced over the waist-high (on me) shrubbery, there were clear footprints in the moist dirt under my window. A grown man’s footprints. There were also signs that there had been traffic there before; broken twigs, small rocks cleared from the area. I marched into the house and grabbed my mother from the kitchen, and brought her outside to see. You could see the understanding settle over her face, then the terror, then the guilt. Once again, they had neglected to believe The Great Exaggerator and been very, very wrong. Mama called Daddy, daddy came home to look himself and shook his head in disbelief. Then Daddy came home with real curtains for the bedroom and the bathroom, and didn’t speak of it again, until…
Two weeks later. School had started and I had made a friend, “S”. S lived a short bike ride from where I lived and we were both in third grade. S had an older brother in the 10th grade who was friends with our neighbor’s son. Our neighbor’s son, “K” was 21 years old, and had severe brain damage. K had been found peering into S’s windows while she dressed and undressed.
So what happened?
My parents had a talk with K’s parents. I never, ever felt safe undressing or dressing in that house again. And as far as K goes?
I had to see him almost every single day until we moved when I was 15. Sometimes he would just stand with his hands in his pockets and stare at me, unmoving.