by Ginny Wiehardt
[Editors' note: Ginny Wiehardt is a NYC-based writer who spent last summer writing in a shack off-the-grid in Lawai Valley. This piece was originally published on her blog of the experience at http://islehop.blogspot.com.]
Last night in the middle of the night I was awakened by a lot of noise. I sleepily assumed it was the rat, which often knocks things over in the night -- she's a rather clumsy rat -- but the noise was loud and seemed to be coming from all around the house. I looked over to see if Dasher was up, but she was on her pillow, as groggy-headed as I was. I decided that we definitely had more than one rat. Then I thought to myself, "What could they be doing?" And then, after listening another moment, "They must be really big." I waited for Dasher to start up in a rat-hunting frenzy, but Dasher, smart dog that she is, only looked at me as though to say, "Well, are you going to take care of this or what?"
Meanwhile, the banging around the house intensified.
It sounded as though something was rubbing itself against the walls. The shack practically groaned. I could hear things being knocked around, though I couldn't tell exactly what things or where they were; the sound seemed to be everywhere. I picked up the flashlight and sat up in bed. I aimed it at the kitchen, giving the rats a heads up so I wouldn't actually have to see them, and then got out of bed.
Out of bed I finally started to wake up, and I realized that the sound was outside, not in the kitchen or upstairs as I had thought. My situation was made worse by the fact that I had gone to bed listening to AM radio. On Friday nights the New Zealand station and Radio Australia both broadcast rugby, so I'm left either with Japanese stations, which sometimes have programs in English, or AM talk radio. The last program I listened to before falling asleep was on the mainland, where it would have been the middle of the night. It consisted of men calling in to describe their paranormal experiences. Some of the stories were pretty entertaining, but the last one was a guy talking about the "shadow man" who had visited him at the foot of the bed. This one was actually pretty creepy, so I switched it off before hearing the end, afraid that it was going to keep me up at night.
So there I was, in the middle of the night, visions of shadow men in my head. I bravely went to my window, nonetheless, as the noise was at this point really too loud to ignore. I immediately saw something big and solid move down the hill beside the house. My first thought was that it was a man, because it did sort of look like a man sliding down a hill. I ducked down so that he wouldn't see me. As I squatted under the window in the dark, I realized that if the thing I'd seen was a man, then that meant that there were many men, all around the house -- that the shack was being invaded for some reason, which was highly unlikely. It also struck me that the thing I'd seen was too big to be a man, and then that whatever I was hearing had more than two feet.
After listening for a few seconds to confirm the fact that it was a four-footed creature, I got up and shone my flashlight out the window. Unfortunately this mostly illuminated the screen over the window and ruined my night vision. I switched the flashlight off and peered into the darkness. There I now discerned four or five giant black shapes, negative fields against the white moonlight on the yard. "My God," I thought, "that guy had a shadow man, but I've got shadow cows."
Realizing that the idea of shadow cows was crazy, I turned the flashlight back on. In the beam of the flashlight, now that I knew where to aim it, emerged cow after cow, all peering back at me, russet- and white-faced, as normal as milk carton cows, except that these had extremely guilty looks on their faces. (One of them had been busy pushing everything off the porch of my bathroom/storage shed with his head; I'm not sure what the others were up to). Their expressions, the fact that they were there at all, and the crazy things I had imagined, struck me as hilarious and I started laughing. The sound startled the guilt-ridden cows, who all began to move away, practically running at first, back to wherever they'd come from.
I regretted scaring them, and stopped laughing, to watch instead. Without the flashlight they were again made strange -- great moonsilver creatures, moving together like pilgrims toward a shared destination.
The only sound was the sound of their hooves through the grass; they moved around the house, up the hill, and through the hole in the fence that must exist, but which I haven't yet been able to find.