Note: The following is a true story as told to the author. The subject of the story wished to remain anonymous.
By Ken Korczak
The eerie noise outside caused Ben to wake up in the middle of the night again. It was like a tapping sound, or maybe a soft, metallic clanging.
What the hell was it?
He had heard it the previous night, too. In fact, the ghostly sound had caused him to have a bizarre dream last night, most of which he could not remember now, except that it had caused him to wake up screaming and covered with cold sweat.
But now he was awake for sure, and he was hearing the ghostly tapping as plain as day.
He tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. The sound stopped for a few minutes, but soon started up again: “Tap, tap, clang, clung, tap, tap, clung, clink … “
Ben lived alone a ways out in the country in an old white farm house. Just across his yard was the edge of an 80 of thick woods. He got up and looked out the window and felt the warm summer air flow in from outside. A thin slice of moon and bright stars graced the night sky.
Ben had no yard light. In the meager moonlight, the woods across the yard looked like a rough black curtain hiding secrets behind it. Ben strained his ears. “Tap, tap, clung, clink, tap, rattle…” the spooky sound was definitely coming from those woods.
Again, Ben thought he should just go back to bed, but there’s something about the human mind and soul that cannot ignore a mystery. Ben remembered how his cautious mother always used to warn him: “Curiosity killed the cat!” But then his dad would quickly add: “Satisfaction brought it back!”
Standing there in the dark and thinking of his long dead parents, Ben knew that his dad was going to win this one tonight. His curiosity was just too great — he needed satisfaction and that meant finding out what was in the woods making that noise.
Ben laced on his tennis shoes, but didn’t bother to change out of the sweat pants he used for pajamas. He went into the kitchen and opened the drawer in which he kept an ancient .22 caliber pistol.
He couldn’t recall the last time he fired the old black revolver. He remembered that the damn thing was notoriously inaccurate. It pulled its shots radically to the left. You practically had to be right on top of something to hit it.
Ben even felt a bit foolish for thinking he needed a gun, but he thought: “What the hell; better be safe than sorry.” Even so, and in a way, the pistol made him feel more jittery, not less. The tricky old revolver was a dangerous weapon, and it added a certain element of peril to the whole situation.
With gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, Ben stepped out into the fragrant night air and took a few steps out onto the grass, wet with dew. He stopped for an instant to listen. Sure enough, from the woods came the sound: “tap, tappity, clank, clunk, clunk…” It was soft and intermittent, but persistent.
Clenching his jaw in resolve, Ben walked up to the edge of the woods. He hoped that he could see whatever was making the sound without actually entering, but all he could see was leafy gloom. Now at the edge of the woods, the ghostly sound was more distinct, and even more tantalizing. Ben said to himself: “What in the Sam hell is that!”
Powered by curiosity, he stepped into the woods, shining forward with the flashlight, moving slowly through thick brush and clawing branches. He moved toward the sound, gripping the revolver tightly in his right hand.
The sound grew more distinct, and the closer he got, the more metallic it became. For a fraction of a second, an image of grotesque little green men tinkering with a grounded flying saucer entered his mind, but Ben quickly chastised himself for such ridiculous ideas.
It’s amazing how many fears come out and take center stage in the deep dark of night, and how foolish and powerless those same fears become during the light of day.
And if the dark of night can magnify fear, being in the woods at night doubles that magnification. A pitch-black wilderness has the power to awaken, primitive, ancestral fears lurking deep within the psyche of human beings, even in modern times.
But Ben was far from such a philosophical analysis of fear right now — he was too busy feeling it. As he stepped ever deeper into the woods, his heart pounded, and it was all he could do to keep himself from simply turning around and running back to the house — which he would have done if he wasn’t so close!
The tapping-clanging noise seemed just a few feet in front of him … and sure enough, his dim, yellow flashlight beam suddenly found something up ahead that was definitely big and metallic!
Ben held his breath and felt his heart exploding in his chest. As he moved closer, he could see some strange black marking on the metal … it was letters! Ben squinted through the gloom and made out: L-I-N-D-S-A-Y.
Lindsay! It was an old grain bin!
Ben walked up to the old bin, and in the next instant, felt something tap him directly on the top of the head. At the same time, he heard a “clunk” and a “clank” and a “rattle, rattle, rattle.”
Acorns falling from an oak tree which had spread its mighty branches out over the tin top of an old grain bin!
“Tap, clink, clank, clunk, rattle, rattle, rattle.”
“Tap, tappity tap, tap, clink, clank, rattle, rattle.”
In an instant, the fear vanished in Ben’s mind and was replaced by rush of foolish laughter. He said to himself: “Jeez! I am SUCH and idiot!”
He loosened his grip on the pistol, and realized he had been squeezing it hard enough to cause pain across the top of his hand and knuckles.
As he walked back out of the woods, feeling light and relieved, Ben again chided himself about getting so worked up over something so simple.
But as he thought about it further, something nagged at him. He thought: “I’ve lived out here for more than nine years. How come I’ve never heard that sound before?”
He thought: “Maybe I just didn’t notice it before. Sometimes oak trees skip a year and don’t produce any acorns, but they don’t skip nine years in a row. Hmmmmm. And how come I never noticed there was a grain bin in those woods before? It doesn’t seem that far in.”
Musing thusly, Ben went back to bed, but now listened with pleasure to the faint sounds coming from the woods: “Tap, tappity, tap, rattle, rattle, clunk.”
Once again, the sound induced a dream in Ben’s mind as he fell asleep. This is what he dreamed:
Four little halflings with pointy ears and sharp, bright eyes were walking around a metallic, bell-shaped object that looked like a dull silver bell sitting on the ground. The halflings wielded odd tiny metal tools, which they applied to the metallic object, as if conducting repairs. As they worked, they made a gentle sound: “Tap, tap, clunk, clank, rattle, rattle, clank.”
Once again, Ben was walking into the woods to investigate, but he was doing it in his dream this time. His foot came down on a dry branch making a loud “snap!” The halflings were startled, and looked toward the source of the noise.
One of the halflings transformed the tool in its hand into a hollow silver tube, a bit larger than a common drinking straw. The halfling pointed the tube toward Ben, who still could not see the halflings. Out of the tube streamed a blue liquid, which traveled about 6 feet and then flattened out in mid air, as if hitting an invisible wall.
The liquid spread out until it formed a wide screen, as big as an outdoor drive-inn movie screen. The halfling manipulated the tube again, and suddenly, an image began to form on the screen. It was the image of a grain bin standing under a large oak tree, filled with acorns.
A moment later, Ben stepped up close to the screen, saw the image projected onto it, which caused him to start laughing. The halflings behind the screen seemed smug and satisfied that their little deception worked. The dream ended there.
When Ben woke up the next morning, his memory of the dream was vivid. He wondered at the creativity of his dreaming mind, and how it couldn’t let go of the idea of the sound, and how it insisted on manufacturing a more sensational explanation for it.
After breakfast that morning, Ben walked again into the woods so that he could see what the grain bin looked like in the daylight, and to see if anything else was out there.
He entered the woods right where he thought he had last night, but even after an entire hour of tromping around in the woods, he could not find the old bin. He doubled back and reentered the woods, and looked around for another hour.
But he never found that grain bin again.