Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Unexplainable Engineer

When my wife was eight years old, she had a frightening brush with the unexplained.

She was lying in bed one night in a dark bedroom. Her bedroom was in the front of the house, off the living room, while her brother's was in the attic and her parents slept in the addition -- down the hall, around the corner, through the family room, and down a longer hall -- completely out of earshot.

Shortly after everyone else had gone to bed, my wife looked up from her pillow to see the head of a man peering around the corner from the hallway. Frightened as an eight-year-old would be, she closed her eyes.

If you've ever had children, you know that they go through a stage where they believe that you can't see them if they can't see you. So they close their eyes when they play hide-n-seek and hide right out in the open, thinking you can't see them because their eyes are closed. It was similar reasoning that caused my then-young future wife to think the man would go away -- if she couldn't see him he couldn't harm her.

Upon opening her eyes a few moments later she discovered something more frightening: the man was standing fully in the doorway looking into the room. He was not a tall man, but not particularly short, either. She couldn't make out his age for his hair was covered by a hat -- the hat of a railroad engineer -- matching the rest of his clothing.

She closed her eyes again and thrust the covers over her head, hoping once again that this intruder-engineer would disappear. Why children don't scream or call out for help in such situations, I'll never understand. I guess sometimes you can just be too frightened to think the situation through that rationally.

Several minutes later she opened her eyes with the covers still over her head and listened: silence. Hoping for the safety of an empty room, she slowly pulled the covers down from her face and peered around. He was no longer in the doorway. Relieved, she slowly began to sit up and look around the room. Where she saw him again. At the corner of the foot of her bed. With a muffled whimper, she dove back beneath the covers, where she cried herself to sleep.

A week later, my wife found herself and her family at the home of her maternal great-grandmother. She had said nothing about the railroad engineer to anyone. In fact, she wasn't sure if it had actually happened or been a dream.

Until after lunch, while the women of the family were gathered in the dining room and the men in the family room, she overheard a conversation. Her great-grandmother was relaying a dream she had to the other women. A dream that involved a railroad engineer sneaking into her room in the middle of the night.


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