Rocco’s mother goes walking outside in the night. Not with a swirly black cloak and fangs – though this wouldn’t surprise anybody – but she makes sure she turns her iPod up loud enough that she can’t hear the footsteps coming up behind. Footsteps of whom, you may well ask? Who knows. There are things out there. You just have to make sure they don’t know you’re there.
The first time Rocco’s mother remembers having seen something for sure was a few weeks after she’d married the Hunter Gatherer and they’d moved into a little old rented fibro house with two bedrooms and no mod cons at all. There were so few mod cons that washing was done in a tub – and there wasn’t any television. There wasn’t a bed, either – so Rocco’s mother and the HG had a mattress on the floor in a bedroom which led from the little living room. The bedroom had a rickety old wardrobe and an ancient dressing table with a large mirror. If you were sitting on mattress in bed, you could look in the mirror and see the reflection of the creepy little corner fireplace in the living room. This was what Rocco’s mother was doing one evening – while the HG was out at a football presentation – when she looked up from her book and saw Sailor Lad.
Sailor Lad was standing in front of the fireplace. He was looking through the bedroom door and straight into the mirror. He saw Rocco’s mother – and Rocco’s mother saw him. It is hard to determine which of them was more aghast. Rocco’s mother remembers making some kind of noise. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She got an impression of Sailor Lad’s white trousers and loose, white tunic. She wondered how he had broken into her home. It took only seconds for her to leap (as she was fitter in those days), from mattress to floor and into the living room – which was inexplicably empty. The front door was locked. The back door was also locked. There was nobody in the house, and not a sound except the tock-tock-tock of Rocco’s mother’s Black Forest cuckoo clock, which had been a birthday present from her parents and which, apart from a few tons of books and a bright blue potato peeler, was practically the only thing she had brought to the marriage. It hit Rocco’s mother that perhaps she and Sailor Lad were not existing in the same time frame. Much later, she wondered whether Sailor Lad had told his nearest and dearest he’d seen a wild-haired, 70s housewife crap herself in horror at the sight of him.
The Hunter Gatherer was/is not the type of person to indulge in flights of fancy, so Rocco’s mother wondered at his likely reaction when she told him what had occurred. If he’d laughed, that would have been fine. Had he mocked and jeered, there would have been a sense of relief, and the incident might have been tucked behind the mirror, so to speak, and discounted as some kind of weird, non-alcoholic hallucination. To Rocco’s mother’s dismay, the HG frowned and told her he’d had the feeling they ‘weren’t alone in the house’. Naturellement, this was exactly what Rocco’s mother wanted to hear. Not. It’s bad enough having a new husband seeing what you look like first thing in the morning – far worse to be scrutinised by someone who may or may not exist. And Rocco’s mother lived in fear of bumping into Sailor Lad in the middle of the night whilst making a lavatorial visit – which meant trekking through two rooms in the dark, around three, all-concealing corners.
The house Rocco’s mother and the HG moved into a few months later – and indeed, in which they still live – was new at the time, and thankfully, Sailor Lad didn’t follow Rocco’s mother there. Indeed, he didn’t make another appearance at the other house, either. There have been different phenomena over the years – a strange indent which appears in the middle of the bed, often several times a day – even though Rocco’s mother smooths the covers each time she walks past. Some days, it doesn’t happen at all. Some days, the sound of footsteps coming down the hall can be heard when Rocco’s mother is in the back garden – but when she goes up the back stairs to see who’s come home, there’s nobody there. And the most frightening thing happened one night when she was coming out of the ensuite bathroom in the early hours. Rocco’s mother walked slap-bang into a dense, black mass in the doorway – which she assumed was the HG coming in. Then, with mounting horror, she saw him – still fast asleep and oblivious – lying in bed two metres away.
It’s impossible to believe there’s nothing out there. Naturally, Rocco’s mother still likes to have the sheet over her face in the darkness. Maybe then, nothing will know that she’s there …