Every night, at 4 AM, I hear a woman crying in my backyard
Every night, without fail, I hear a woman crying in our backyard.
The first time it happened, my wife woke me up. "Harry, do you hear that?" she asked, in a terrified whisper.
Those are four words you don't want to hear in the middle of the night. Images of a home invasion raced through my mind--shots fired, our children and my pregnant wife dead in their beds. But when I strained to listen, all I heard was the sound of someone crying.
Man or woman, child or adult, I couldn't be sure.
Only one thing I knew: it was coming from right under our window.
"Is there someone out there?" Emily called from the bed.
"I don't know."
Despite the sound, when I squinted into the gray shadows, I couldn't see anyone. "I'm going to check," I said, heading for the door.
"No. Stay here, we'll call the police. Some people use recordings of babies crying to lure people out--"
I laughed. "Where'd you hear that? Forensic Files?" I swung the door open. "First of all, it's not a baby. Second of all, I won’t actually go outside. I’ll just take a look. I can’t see jack from the window.”
I went downstairs, armed with nothing more than a cell phone. But when I shined the light around through the windows, I didn’t find anyone.
The crying, however, continued.
Now it sounded like it was coming from the forest surrounding our backyard. Just past the treeline. And to me, it sounded like a woman’s cries; too restrained to be a child’s (from experience with my kids, I know crying usually proceeds to full-out bawling in ten seconds,) and too soft and high-pitched to be a man’s.
I pulled open a window, cupped my hands, and called out: "Hey! Do you need help?"
The crying sound stopped immediately.
But she didn’t reply. No other sounds came from the forest, save for the wind rustling through the trees.
“Hello?” I yelled. “Anyone out there?”
A beat of silence.
Then she started screaming.
Blood-curdling shrieks. Over and over. No words, no cries for help. Just screaming.
That pushed me into action. I pulled out my phone and dialed 9-1-1. "There's a woman screaming in my backyard. I think she's hurt, or in danger. She won't respond to me. My address is XX Petunia Ave."
The stairs creaked as my wife rushed down. “Did you call the police?” I nodded. “Oh my God, what the hell is going on out there?” She kept her hand protectively over her belly, as if to shield our unborn child from whatever horrors lay outside.
My hand reached for the glass door. What if someone is killing her? Right now? Or what if she’s being abducted, and they’ll both be gone by the time the police are here?
Emily yanked me back. “No. You are not going out there.”
She pulled the door shut and locked it. “You could get killed!
Thankfully, the police arrived a minute or two later. As they walked into the backyard, the screaming cut off suddenly. Their flashlights scanned through the trees as they searched, lighting the leaves in white.
Twenty minutes later, they came back empty-handed.
"Probably what you heard was the foxes," the officer said. "They've got this crazy mating call that sounds just like a woman screaming."
"But I heard her crying--"
"Look it up online," he said, with a smile. "I've been fooled by it too. They sound just like a woman screaming her lungs out. It's insane."
By the time we climbed back in bed, the gray light of dawn was spreading over the horizon. When I couldn't sleep, I took the officer's advice and looked up fox sounds. Apparently, they do make a sound that sounds pretty similar to a woman screaming.
Convincing myself that's all it was, I fell asleep.
But the next night, it happened again.
4 AM, on the dot. The soft crying, coming from the forest. I called the police again--yet again, they found nothing.
They also warned me not to call them over the crying again, unless things got worse.
And so I didn’t call them when it happened the next night. And the next. And the next. I chalked it up to the foxes, even though they only made screaming sounds, not crying. I forced myself to fall back asleep every time.
We invested in a heavy-duty white noise machine. Bought fans, too, for good measure. Turned everything up to full blast and, for about a week, we all slept like babies. Thankfully, the kids’ rooms didn’t face the backyard, so they never heard a thing.
Then the night of August 24th happened.
The night started out well. Emily and I got the kids to sleep early, and we cuddled in bed for a long time--longer than we had in weeks. “Our little Ellie,” I said, skimming my hand across her belly. Despite her being five months pregnant, there was barely a bump there. “Are you sure you’re eating enough?”
“I’m fine,” she replied, pulling my hand into hers and giving it a squeeze. “I just don’t want to gain so much weight, like I did the last two times.”
“You know I think you’re beautiful at any weight, right?” I asked. “You don’t need to do this for me.”
“I’m not.” She smiled, and closed her eyes. “I love you, Harry.”
“I love you, too.”
We fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Only to be woken a few hours later by the crying.
It was louder. Much louder. So loud I could hear it over the white noise. As I tossed and turned my way out of a deep sleep, and pulled myself out of bed, I realized why.
It wasn’t coming from the window.
It was coming from our closet.
I immediately shut off the white noise and got out of bed. "Who's there?" I yelled, my hand firmly on my phone. Ready to dial 911.
No response. Just more halting sobs, shuddering breaths, soft sniffles.
“What’s going on?” Emily asked, sleepily.
“There’s someone in the closet.”
I turned my phone’s flashlight on. The light twinkled in the darkness, bouncing off the metal doorknob. “Emily, call the police,” I said, advancing towards the door.
I heard the soft sounds of the dial tone behind me--then Emily’s hurried voice.
“We’re calling the police,” I said. “Tell me who you are!”
I charged up to the door. I grasped the doorknob. With a deep breath, I twisted and pulled.
A terrified woman looked up at me.
It was Emily.
Her eyes were red and swollen. Her face was wet with a never-ending stream of tears. But it was, without a doubt, my wife.
She sobbed, over and over, as she stared up at me. As if she weren’t quite registering who I was.
Then I looked down, and my blood ran cold.
Her hands rested on her stomach. Her round, protruding stomach.
She was visibly pregnant.
Episode 2 comes out 1/11/2021