Have you felt someone watching you?
Have you heard a noise in the house and have been convinced someone is there?
Have searched for an intruder with a baseball bat/butcher knife/gun in hand?
Have you walked around the outside of your home at two in the morning, certain that someone is hiding in the bushes?
Fear captivates us all.
When I was a child, we lived near a convicted rapist. This is no joke, but this is before the time of sex offender websites. (Have you explored those and found the creeps in your neighborhood? It’s frightening.)
But our rapist did not keep to himself. He enjoyed the attention. He had a large tree in his front yard, a trunk as wide as a car, leaves like a cloud that hid his window.
He knew the neighbors knew about him. He knew the neighbors were terrified of him.
My grandmother was convinced he was out for her. In her 60s at that time, she cried at night, “He’s gonna get me! I just know it!” I laughed and replied, “Grandma, I doubt he wants those 60 year old chicken legs.” She frowned at me and locked her door.
Then the most interesting thing happened in our neighborhood. He used large, white adhesive tape and wrote a letter on the car-sized trunk of his tree each day. The first letter was “I.”
“What does it mean?” the neighbors asked.
The next day he wrote the letter “A.”
We held our breath and waited for the next day. The new letter was “M.”
“I am… I am what?” the neighbors wondered.
Then he followed a 14 year old girl home from the park. My friends and I spent an evening planning a battle.
“What should we do?” I asked my older, wiser neighbor friend. He was 16.
“Eggs,” he said with confidence. “Eggs.”
The next day, with that obnoxiously large white tape, he put up the letter “W.” We responded by tossing eggs at his front door and windows, laughing at these adult fears with a childlike naivety.
His message continued, one letter each day. After “W” came “A.” Then “T.” Then “C.” And then “H.” Next was “I.” Then “N.” And “G.” And then “Y and O and U.”
“I AM WATCHING YOU,” my grandmother read, wrapping her arms tightly around her waist. But he wasn’t done.
On the next day after the message was complete, he used the white tape to construct a smiley face. That was the last thing he wrote on his tree.
“I AM WATCHING YOU :)”
The older boys in the neighborhood had more than enough. They moved from eggs to baseball bats, and in one crazy night, they took the bats to his door, to his car, and to his windows. They bashed in the door, shattered the glass windows all along the front and sides of his house, and turned his cheap car into a nothing more than an incredibly dented piece of metal.
He called the cops on those kids, as I watched from the sidelines. I don’t know what happened to those brave and obnoxious teens. I was forced to go inside by my parents.
Later that summer, we read an article in the local paper about this man. He was arrested, thankfully, once again. He was caught by a police officer masturbating in a park while watching children. I had never been so disgusted in my young life.
This is one of the creepiest memories from my childhood at home, and I think he’d make a great villain in one of my stories. It took place in the early 90s, before the time of cell phones and internet. It was one of the last years before we could search online for predators. We lived in fear and ignorance. We had to read the paper each day for updates, as nothing was instant. And no one could post photos of the letters he put up on his tree each day to publicly condemn his behavior.
My grandmother really did think she would be attacked. This pervert really did stalk a 14 year old girl. We really did egg his house, and several older boys really did violently destroy much of his property. And they were punished while he smiled with his letters on his tree, that is until he was caught doing a disgusting public act near children.
He will be a villain in one my stories. He will do terrible things. And he will be punished for it.