POUNDED IN PTOWN

The pile-up outside Toni's open door. Notice how the snow blew the drifts and left pieces of itself in the opening. Kind of cool.

Snow! While Ptown has had more than I’m used to (granted, I only have last winter to compare it to, so for all I know, this could really be normal), I’ve been spared Western Connecticut’s major pummeling that’s thrown many of my friends back home into states of depression and frustration. I’m going back there in a few days, so I know I’m due for my share, and I’m not looking forward to it.

Ptown’s portion of Wednesday’s whopper manifested itself as nothing short of a Nor’easter. The town had been buzzing about its severity for a couple of days, but it didn’t concern me much other than I knew to expect a very noisy, wind-crazy-inducing night. Toni, my neighbor, and I, had bought a few groceries, and had gone so far as to devise a loose plan: if the power went out, I was to come up to her apartment to sleep or hang out or whatever. There was no point, we figured, in a couple of suburban girls being separated in the pitch dark in a place so far from home.

A close-up of the snow lining Toni's door frame.

The storm moved in while I was on the phone with friends, and it was average wind and some rain—nothing I hadn’t really seen before in Ptown. At 10:20, I was getting ready to call it a night when I heard a thump against my bedroom door, a thump so hard the wall shook a little bit. I stopped brushing my teeth, and, heart pounding, went to go check it out.

An unmoving bird lay on the boards.

Now, you know me, I love to photograph dead birds. But for some reason this one spooked me to the point that any thought of taking a photo went completely out of my head (the next morning, I went to go find it, and it was gone). When I finally did go to bed, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I got very little sleep as the storm intensified. Pieces of things—sticks or God knows what else—kept hitting the bedroom window and waking me up; something someplace in the house was slamming so that the walls vibrated, the wind went from moaning to shrieking, and at 2:30, the lights dimmed and then popped back on.

I got up and rummaged in my pocketbook for the mini-Maglite Nathan had given me and told me never to be without. I put it and the phone by my bed.

At 2:45, the lights dimmed, popped on, dimmed again, popped back on. Outside, the wind screamed.

I heard a pop and crack, and then everything went dark, and the apartment heater whined to a stop.

I looked at my cell phone. 3:03 a.m.

Having been in one situation in Ptown in which the heat went out, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the place got really cold. I got up and changed into flannel PJs (most of mine are cotton, but I do own one flannel pair for just such an occasion), heavy socks, and called Toni, who didn’t pick up. I left her a message, told her the power was out, I was down in my apartment, and if she needed me call.

I’ve been camping, so I’m used to pitch dark. But there was something creepy about this dark, and I almost got the sense that something was outside at the door, trying to get in. The bedroom door creaked and groaned with every sweep of wind.

My cell phone rang and it scared the hell out of me.

“Kristi? Are you there?” It was Toni. “Oh my God it is so scary up here!” She’s on the third floor, but her apartment is all glass on the side that faces the ocean; she was getting the brunt of the wind.

I agreed with her, gathered some candles, a sweater, the cell phone, the camera and few other things—which despite my flashlight were really hard finding in the dark—and braved the storm.

Trying to the get my front door open to make the short trek from my place to hers was not easy—the wind practically slammed it against the wall and blew snow into my foyer. Making it up the stairs without literally being blown off them wasn’t easy either, and ice crystals kept stinging my eyes. When I did make it to her door, there was a large snow drift in front of it (which we found out the next morning wasn’t a snow drift at all—it was the screen and shorn off wood and metal from her screen door, which had flown open and broken in half). When I stepped inside, we both had to force her front door closed against the wind.

My front door. You can tell from the way it's covered with snow there was a whole lotta blowin' goin' on!

Toni's door at 3 a.m. And miles to go before I sleep...

We could not see outside Toni's door.

So, inside and warm, we decided to wait the outage. We took care of some necessary stuff first—running the cold water in her kitchen and bathroom sinks just to keep them from freezing, since I had no idea how exposed the pipes were and how long they could go without a consistent heat source; lighting candles, bringing pillows and blankets into the living room, since her bedroom had, shockingly quickly, become too cold to stay in. We talked about how terrified we both are of the pitch dark, and how all the screaming wind and things hitting the house made it worse, and how the staircase in her bedroom that lead only to a bolted door and nowhere else was a serious scare factor.

Video: There’s something slamming in the house and Toni’s windows are completely iced over.

Video: Stairs to Nowhere and Screaming Dead Things

Video: Hitting Windows and The Donner Party

Video: Avoiding frozen pipes.

But it wasn’t long before the air of terror dissipated. There was a certain magic that took over—like we were nine again and at a pajama party. We told spooky stories and shared girl talk, ate some crackers, and had a Tarot fest. At 4:30 a.m., the lights came back on…and, not ready to go back to bed, we turned them all off again and kept the party going.

We had some fun taking "ghost-like" pictures. Here's Toni.

Girl party! Candles and tarot cards...

What the hell is this creepy thing hanging from the ceiling? Toni said someone told her it was a good luck guardian for men who go to sea, but we both decided that it's just creepy. Period.

Spooky Kristi.

This is a night light in Toni's kitchen. It changes colors. But that's how we knew the power was coming back on--I spotted the red light. For me, it was creepy. I used to have a red night light in my room growing up--my parents had run out of clear bulbs and put in a Christmas bulb in a pinch--but it had terrified me. All I could think of was being thrown into a volcano and I couldn't sleep.

This may be one thing I’ll have to keep in mind. That amidst all the backbreaking work and hassle and everything else that accompanies repeated snowstorms, there may still be an opportunity for a little flashback fun here and there. A pajama party by the fire, a couple of snowball fights, ghost stories by candlelight, hot chocolate and cookies—these are winter’s small pleasures that we’ve forgotten. Taking time out to enjoy these things once a snowstorm just might get us New Englanders through the rest of the toughest winter we’ve had in a long time.

And now, to go call property management about that screen door.

The garden and parking lot, the next morning.

My bedroom window, the morning after.

My bedroom windows, iced over.

My kitchen window at 6 a.m.

Tony's digs the next morning.

I love how the snow piles up on the houses here. This is the Inn next door to us.

A close-up of the window at the Inn.

TONI’S BROKEN SCREEN DOOR

Video: Screen Door Damage.

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on January 28, 2011, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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