School was done for the day. Homework was done. I remember it well.
I was twelve. I was sitting in my room, reading a book – probably an Asterix book. That was back in 1977 when kids could identify books and even put a name to a favourite. I was in the process at the time of growing up in England – which was another thing in favour of books, since there were only four television channels to choose from in the entire country, and other than It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Are You Being Served, there wasn’t much on the goggle box for a 12 year old to be interested in. That’s how I remember it, anyway.
So I was reading. The room was quiet – as was the house. I think my sister was in her room, but our Mom was out.
I really got into the Asterix books. The names, especially, were captivating. Asterix and Obelix the warriors, Getafix the druid (read pharmacist), Vitalstatistix, the chief – unless my memory is flawed. It was hard to read the longer names. I used to sound them out when I was very young and I took pride in myself when I got them right. It was a touchstone of learning.
As I read quietly I was suddenly startled by a loud noise in my room: a loud RAP RAP RAP that sounded like a screwdriver tapping hard on the glass of my bedroom window.
My heart raced. I was alone in my room. I was on the second floor, a good fifteen feet up from the ground – there was no way for that noise to happen. It had never happened before – why should it happen now? My first thought was that someone wanted in, but on the second floor?
I got up from my bed and made my way slowly toward the window. The warm summer evening beckoned from the other side of the half-open jalousies, but the air was calm – there was no wind. I thought of birds, but they couldn’t sit in the turret above my window because of plastic coils to keep them away. There was nothing I could think of that would cause such a noise as three distinct, rhythmic raps on the glass so as I moved closer to the window I became more and more certain that when I got there, there would be nothing to find.
The sound did not repeat itself – that night – and after peering briefly out through the window I settled back into my book once more. My concentration wasn’t the same, though, as I thought about what had happened, and eventually I put down my book and turned out the light.
I wasn’t scared at all – just curious about what it was. As a twelve year old I was already curious about the boundaries of my universe, and I had the very real sense that I had, for the first time, bumped up very briefly against a boundary that I couldn’t see.