It was 6:40 in the morning. I was drinking coffee in the kitchen, trying to drag myself to full consciousness on the first work day of the new year. I pulled the belt of my terry robe tighter around my waist as I peered out the window at the tail-lights of the early commuters heading into Ottawa. The house was quiet, only the subdued whoosh of the furnace kept me company as I sipped.
All at once there was a commotion in the basement, and both cats came tearing up the stairs as if all the devils in hell were on their tails. They rushed past me and disappeared down the hall. I could now hear the noise that scared them. An eerie, robotic noise -- a staccato barking -- was drifting up the stairs from the basement.
I have a very nice basement, actually, since the reno after the flood. But, if horror movies have taught me anything, they've taught me DON'T GO IN THE BASEMENT TO CHECK OUT THE MYSTERIOUS NOISE. Granted, it wasn't midnight during power outage in a thunderstorm, and the house isn't built near an Indian burial ground/abandoned murder-plagued summer camp/sinister mental hospital -- but nonetheless, 'Don't go in the basement' is probably Horror Movie Rule #1 (or #2 right after 'Don't have sex in an abandoned, murder-plagued summer camp').
But someone had to check it out. It could be
Grabbing the nearest approximation to a weapon at hand, a hefty three-hole punch, and scattering little punched-out paper circles in my wake, I descended the stairs. The otherworldly barking continued, emanating from the shadowy recesses of the basement. I inched past the door to the furnace room, three-hole punch at the ready. The sound wasn't coming from the furnace room.
It was coming from the television. The old television that we have down there that the Wii is connected to. It was the old television that was emitting the strange noises, EVEN THOUGH THE POWER BAR THAT IT WAS PLUGGED INTO WAS TURNED OFF. A chill went up my spine and goosebumps erupted along my arms. The eerie, eerie barking noise was issuing from an electronic device with NO POWER. Aliens? Could aliens be transmitting some signal through an unpowered television set? Poltergeists? Demons? Souls from beyond the veil?
I crept closer. The noise got louder. "Bark bark" pause "Bark bark". I reached out a trembling hand and turned on the overhead light. It slowly flickered to life. An iPod touch, its screen black and almost invisible, lay on the tv. I picked it up, and the screen opened, showing a cartoon barking dog, and the message, "Alice, you should be up for school by now".
Not aliens. Not escaped homicidal maniacs. Not demons.
Just a weekday morning alarm on an iPod Touch left behind after Alice, my daughter's New Year's Eve sleepover guest, left on New Year's Day.
I grabbed the device and hurried up the stairs as fast as I could, because everybody knows that Horror Movie Rule #3 is: 'When everything appears to be OK, and the scary noise turns out to be just a cat or an iPod, and the heroine is smiling in relief, that's when the monster/homicidal maniac/vampire springs out of the furnace room and attacks'.
I'm not stupid, you know.