The Wabbits Are Coming

       I was with my first ex-wife Terri on the night that her mother died. We had been seeing each other for about two or three months at the time. I was 18 and Terri was 16. The relationship had already become quite intense, both sexually and emotionally, and the events of that night would further bond us in a way that only something like riding through the tunnel of death together can.
       The day began at Terri's parents' house. We were on our way out the door, headed for an afternoon of teenage hedonism which would most likely include sex, drugs and rock and roll, when Terri's mother called us back into the kitchen. We found her rattling around in the cupboard over the sink. Her eyes were glassy and distant, and her speech was slightly slurred.
       "Where are you kids going?" she said.
       I thought that maybe she'd had a few late morning nips from the hooch bottle and gave it no further thought, since I was eager to get started on the fun.
       "We're going to the park. Mom, are you okay?"
       "Oh sure... sure sure sure... I'm fine... just fiiiine..."
       She's toasted, I thought to myself.
       "Mom, are you taking your pills?" said Terri.
       "Well, I'm trying to find them," said her mother, as she continued to rummage through the huge variety of pill bottles crowding the cupboard shelf. Terri's mother suffered from severe clinical depression and required frequent hospitalization. In fact, Terri's entire family was riddled with emotional and psychological dysfunction. Nowadays, I would give such a potential powder keg a very wide berth, but back then I was young and dumb and in love and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
       "Mom, we're leaving now. Are you going to be okay?" said Terri.
       "I don't know what your father did with those napkin holders, and I have to address the cards... look at that squirrel... that little girl always feeds the squirrel... it's going to bite her and give her rabies..."
       She was rambling now, her voice becoming cottony and disjointed, like a junkie on the nod.
       "David, I'm worried about my mother," said Terri as we left the house.
       "I'm sure she'll be fine," I said. A pretty insensitive response on my part, but I was, after all, only 18.
       We spent the day in a typical fashion for late 70s teenagers, wandering around, smoking pot, making out, and along the way, we collected a few of our friends and partners in debauchery. As evening fell, we found ourselves at Terri's older sister's apartment, which was three or four blocks from her parents' house. The apartment had recently become one of our hangouts due to the fact that Terri's sister was married to a very immature man who bought us beer and liquor and partied with us like he was a teenager himself, rather than a grown man of almost 30. Terri's anxiety over her mother had diminished in the bright saturday sunshine, but now had returned and was escalating with each passing moment.
       "David, there's something wrong with my mother! I just know it!"
       I didn't know what to say to this; none of us did.
       "My mother is dying!" Terri yelped, "I have to go!"
       And she jumped up and bolted from the apartment. The rest of us remained seated, dumbfounded and speechless, and before anyone could even think about speaking, the telephone rang. It was Terri's uncle, calling from her parents' house to say that Terri's mother had taken an overdose of pills and would Terri please come home immediately. He was informed that Terri was already on her way. Everyone was confused and staring blankly in disbelief. Didn't phones only ring to move a stalled plot forward as a cheesy device in old B movies? Before that question could be answered, the phone rang again. It was Terri.
       "David, my mother is dead!" she wailed.
       "Ummm... what should I do?" I said in a feeble, unsteady voice.
       "Get over here! I need you!"
       When I arrived at Terri's house, various family members were already on the scene and frenetically rushing about. The atmosphere, as one might expect, was tense and emotionally charged. No one seemed to care that I, a non-family member whom they barely knew, was present. Terri sat sobbing, with her face in her hands, on the living room couch in the midst of all the frantic activity. I sat next to her and put my arms around her and she melted into me. We stayed like that for a long time; holding each other without speaking, Terri sniffling and crying quietly, me handing her tissues or dabbing at her face with them, the way a mother dries the eyes of her crying child. Eventually, the family members departed, and Terri and I and her father were the only ones left.
       "I guess you'll be needing some time alone," I said.
"Are you kidding?" Terri said, "I need you more than ever now! You have to stay with me tonight. Please?"
       "Alright," I said, and we settled in on the couch. The room was dim, lit only by the thick, hazy light from the lamp on the end table. As we sat in silence, there was a perceptible shift in the psychic environment. It was hard to put one's finger on how or why, but the room felt different. There was a lowering, an aura of heaviness that descended over us like a shroud, along with a sense of foreboding and formless anxiety. If it had been a movie, that moment of turning mood would have been accompanied by ominous music indicating looming and unseen supernatural menace.
       I looked at Terri and saw on her face an expression of utter despair. I tried to reassure her that everything would be alright. Not knowing what else to do, I looked around and noticed a bowl full of rabbit-shaped lollipops on the lamp table. I took one of the bunny pops and bounced it up and down on Terri's body in a line from her feet to her face in an imitation of hopping, the way one would with a small child, and as the rabbit hopped, I sang "The wabbits are coming, hooway, hooway..." in the voice of Elmer Fudd.
       To this day, one of the things I am most proud of is that I made my ex-wife laugh on the night her mother died. And one of the things that still embarrasses me the most is that my ex-wife gave me a blow-job on the night her mother died. But to be fair, we were in love, and Terri was feeling very close to me emotionally, and my libido was apparently undaunted by the tragedy and gloom, and so it didn't seem unusual or inappropriate at the time.
       The physical intimacy was a quick affair and when it was over, we fell into a stressful slumber that never went deeper than skimming the surface between wakefulness and sleep. Only an hour or two had passed when I was jarred awake by an indefinable sense of something being very wrong.
       The room was pitch black, although I couldn't remember turning out the light. From an upstairs bedroom came the gut-wrenchingly mournful sound of Terri's father weeping and moaning and saying "Oh god... this hurts... this hurts..." The family's german shepherd was somewhere in the room with us, whining and panting loudly and making strange noises that sounded like souls crying out in purgatory. The atmosphere of grief and black despair had become intense, oppressive, almost palpable. And in addition to of all of this, my body was stiff and uncomfortable from Terri lying on top of me. The whole scenario was very surreal and extremely disturbing. It was all I could do to contain myself. I had the strong urge to jump up and throw on all the lights, but I remained lying still, immobilized under Terri's sleep-heavy body, with my skin crawling from the creepiness of it all.
       I don't remember how I got back to sleep or what happened the next day, but from that point onward, Terri and I were joined at the hip, or should I say joined at the groin. Terri slept over my house with increasing frequency, spending night after night in bed with me. Her father, in his grief and distraction, didn't seem to care what his teenage daughter was up to, and my parents, being liberals, had no problem with Terri sharing my bed. It was as if Terri and I were trying to defy the reality of death by having as much sex as possible, our warm bodies pressed together crying out for life.
       Terri's mother had committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, and just like the troubled spirit who takes their own life in a classic ghost story, her soul, as we were soon to find out, was not at rest.
       It began with the nightmares. In the weeks following the suicide, Terri dreamt of her mother constantly, and the dreams were always horrific in nature. Terri would find herself in a crypt, her dead mother laid out on a stone slab. Her mother's corpse would get up off the slab and walk towards Terri with outstretched arms and Terri would run from her in terror. This basic plot, Terri's dead mother re-animated and chasing Terri, wanting to touch or hug her, was played out over and over again with variations in props, setting and supporting characters.
       Then there was the dog. The family german shepherd had to be given away to another family because it got into the habit of standing in the doorways of empty rooms, it's hair standing on end, insanely barking at some invisible intruder. And then there was the overwhelming sense of an unseen presence in the house; an unsettling feeling of being constantly watched wherever you went. Strange things began to happen. A strong scent of roses, the mother's favorite flower, was detected in rooms where no roses were to be found. The family came home from a weekend at the shore to find the front and back door, which they had left locked, wide open and all the burners on the stove turned on.
       One evening, Terri and I were sitting in her living room playing a board game. Her father had gone to bed and there was no one else in the house. Needing to use the bathroom, I flicked the upstairs hallway light switch which was situated right next to the front door. Just then, there was an enormous thump at the door, up near the top, as if a very tall gorilla had banged it's fist against the door with all it's might. I hesitated for no more than five seconds before throwing the door open to reveal absolutely nothing there. The door opened onto a large, creaky, wooden porch and if a living human being had made the noise and then ran, I would have seen or heard them as they fled, but all was still and silent.
       Gradually, it dawned on us that we were being haunted. And as if haunting us in the place where she killed herself wasn't enough, Terri's mother then followed us over to my house.
       Terri and I were having sex in my bedroom one afternoon when there came a knocking from inside my closet. It was a rhythmic, insistent rapping, definitely the sound of knuckles on wood; the kind of knocking one would engage in in order to get someone's attention. Since we were in the heat of the moment, so to speak, we stopped momentarily but then decided to ignore it and go back to what we were doing. The knocking came again, even louder and more urgent, and once again we chose to ignore it. It was only later, when we were able to really think about what had happened, that the creepiness and supernatural dimensions of the situation were fully realized. Someone was trying to get our attention from INSIDE MY CLOSET!
       The haunting came to a climax on an evening when Terri was sleeping in my bed. We were just beginning to drift off when Terri said "Hey... leave my hand alone."
       "What?" I mumbled, half asleep.
       "I mean it... stop touching my hand... I'm trying to sleep..."
       It took a moment to register the implications of what she was saying, but when the realization set in, it snapped me instantly awake. The thing was, my hands were up above my head, clutching my pillow, and Terri's hands were down at her sides.
       "Uh, Terri?" I said slowly, "Now, don't freak out, but... my hands are up here..."
       Asking her not to freak out in that moment was like asking Niagara Falls to stop falling. She screamed and screamed and screamed.
       "What's the matter?! What's the matter?!"
       "A hand... the hand... someone's hand was holding my hand! I thought it was you! It was warm! Oh my god! Oh my god!"
       My parents came rushing into the room.
       "What's going on?!"
       "Terri says she felt someone holding her hand and she thought it was me, but it wasn't me..."
       "What? Are you serious? Who was it then?"
       My parents sat huddled in their bathrobes as all the stories about Terri's mother and the ghostly activities since her death came pouring out of us. We sat up half the night talking, and even after my parents had gone back to bed, Terri and I were too scared to sleep, and were only able to doze off when the sun's first rays began peeking through the venetian blinds.
       The next day, my mother told us about a friend of a friend, a local ghost hunter who had written some books about hauntings in the Delaware Valley, and suggested we go to that person for help. We seriously considered contacting the ghost hunter, but that night had been the pinnacle, and afterwards, the ghostly happenings subsided. Perhaps Terri's mother, hearing the threat of a ghost hunter, decided to start moving towards the light.
       In the years since then, Terri has seen her mother's apparition on many occasions, and strangely enough, it seems her mother was also keeping en eye on me. For several years after our divorce, I frequently had the sensation that Terri's mother was present and watching me. This seemed to occur only when I was taking a shower. I have no idea why she would choose to spy on me in the shower, but regardless of why she was there, she seemed more at peace, as if she had made amends and forgiven herself for deserting her children through suicide. Maybe she just wanted to thank me for seeing her daughter through that dark and traumatic time when she was unable to do so herself.

David Aronson
October 2006