I was seven years old. It will be 20 years this Fall since it happened.
It was a cool Sunday evening in September. The trees were orange and yellow in color, and their leaves fell from the branches as the Autumn wind whisked through. I grew up in a small town in the North Carolina mountains. It was a quiet town, nothing ever happened there.
Every Sunday my family would drive nearly an hour outside of town to have Sunday dinner at my Aunts’ home. She was the best cook. Even now, as I write this, I can almost taste her butter biscuits drizzled in honey. She lived up a holler in the Blue Ridge’s, there were all of six houses on her street. Her house was a simple country home, immaculate and very well cared for. It always smelled of fresh cut grass. Her wind chime would sing through the yard and the porch swing would rock back and forth, as if someone was always sitting there. She loved hummingbirds and had a large iron-ornate hummingbird feeder hanging from the butternut tree in the front yard. When we would arrive at her house I would quickly run inside to change out of my church clothes and into something to play in- something I could get dirty. I would play outside from the time we arrived up until the porch light would flicker on. That was my Uncle’s one rule:
“When you see the porch light come on it is time to come inside. You don’t want Raw-headed Bloody-bones to getcha!” he would laugh and smile after saying that. I was sure he was joking.
That evening in particular, I remember seeing the glow from the porch light switch on. I was collecting pine cones down the hill from the house, it was time to go inside. I ran up the hill, across the drive and into the garage, the side screened-door was always left open for me. By now I was usually covered in red clay and I was not allowed to go in the front door. Come to think of it, no one ever went in through the front door. Guests maybe, but family and friends used the screened-side door. It was always unlocked, for anyone to just walk right in. Just like I did every other Sunday, I ran up to that side door of the house through the garage, I was dusting off my sweatshirt and wiping my dirty hands against my jeans, completely unaware of my surroundings. I knew my way from the drive to the side door by heart, I didn’t need to watch where I was going. I remember reaching up for the door handle and pulling, and to my surprise it was locked. It should be mentioned, again, that this door was never locked. Actually, the screened-door didn’t have a lock on it at all. I pulled and I pulled, and it wouldn’t budge, like it was jammed. I became flustered and let go of the handle, when I dropped my arm a bit, I noticed something out of the side of my eye…something in the corner of the garage that I had not noticed when I walked in…there in the corner was a human-like figure…
It stood at least 9 feet tall and was completely black. Almost like a large shadow, but different, I couldn’t see through the mass at all. It was completely solid and broad, so very broad...
To me as a small girl, it seemed un-humanly huge. It was dark-hellish black in color, but I could see eyes. I know it at least had eyes.
I turned around slowly, my back to the screened door now to face the shadow. Now I was staring straight at him and he was staring at me.
It was strangely quiet, I couldn’t even hear my Aunts wind chime, all I could hear was my breathing. Short but heavy breaths, I was crying, and I did not even know it. My heart began to pound so hard that I could feel it in my mouth and my teeth began to chatter.
The shadow man’s eyes followed my movements as I began to slowly back up and make my way out of the garage to the drive, watching me the entire time. It moved but it never came towards me, instead it just mimicked my movements as if to let me know, "I see you too."
Once I was completely out of the garage, my eyes still on the figure I turned and ran for the front door. I remember banging on the door begging for my Aunt to open, I heard her voice from the other side say
“Honeybee, you are filthy, you know to come to the side door,”
I replied with “Please, oh please, there is someone in the garage, I am scared.”
I guess she could hear my tears through my cracked voice, and she opened the door, my mom and grandfather ran right over to me, they saw how shaken up I was. My cheeks red from crying and cold from the cool night air. My mom pulled me closely to her and began to console me, drying my tears and whispering,
“You are safe now my sweet girl, you are safe with me.”
My Aunt got me a warm blanket and covered me up, she sat next to me and held my cold, small hand. My grandfather and Uncle ran to check the garage and to see who was there. When they returned my grandfather said to us all,
“No one there. No sign of anybody. Honeybee, can you show us where he was?”
At first I refused I did not want to go back in there…ever again.
“You are safe with us,” my Uncle said, “we won’t let anyone get you.”
We all walked around the side of the house and into the garage. I pointed to the corner where the shadow man was. My Uncle walked over to stand in the corner where I had pointed and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as he grimly said,
“What is it Rollin,” I remember my Aunt saying.
At this time my Uncle bent down and when he stood back up in the palms of his hands laid three dead hummingbirds…my Aunts favorite.
“Poor things must’ve gotten stuck in the garage. Broke their necks trying to get out of here,”
my Uncle said. I couldn’t breathe and began to sob again at the site of the three lifeless birds.
“Come on ya’ll it’s getting colder out, let’s all go back inside where it is warm,”
my Aunt replied. There was no sign of the black-grim shadow man, but in the exact place where he stood were three, dead hummingbirds…was it a coincidence? I decided to believe it was just that and nothing more.
The drive down out of the mountain that night was different, moonlight shining through the forests pine trees never unsettled me before, but that night it was eerie. The dark seemed familiar now, like the hellish dark of the shadow man’s eyes. For the next two nights I slept in between my mom and my dad, I was too scared and shaken to sleep alone.
It had been three days since I saw the shadow man. I awoke from my parents’ bed alone, the sun peering in through the window. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and walked down the hardwood hall, like I did every morning. When I entered the living room, I was surprised to find my mom, dad, grandfather and grandmother. My grandfather was looking out the front window with his hands in his pockets, he was jingling his change, something he did when he was nervous. My mom and grandmother were holding one another on the couch and crying, and my dad’s head was hung as he sat alone by the fireplace…
“What’s a matter?”
I said and all four sets of eyes turned to look at me, they were full, and tears seemed to well up in them all.
“Come here Honeybee, I want to tell you something,” said my mom.
I walked over to her and she pulled me up on her lap.
“Your Uncle Rollin called us…you see your umm…your Aunt Terri went out to fill the hummingbird feeder this morning and…”
big tears overtook her eyes and her voice cracked
“what mommy…what is it,” I said nervously, knowing something was wrong as my mom never cries
“…and well-baby…her heart just stopped…she’s gone...”
The school bus driver found her near the hummingbird feeder earlier that morning…she was collapsed on the outside corner of the house…the same corner that on the inside, just three days earlier I saw the shadow man. She was 47 years old and healthy. The doctor said her heart just burst, and it killed her instantly. He said that sometimes that can be caused by sudden shock or trauma. Was it him? Was it the hellish shadow man…was he warning me with the three dead hummingbirds…was he telling us only three more days…Who did I see, what did I see?
Was I visited by the Angel of Death?