When I was dating my husband in the early '90s, he was traveling for work a lot. One weekend, I drove with him from Milwaukee to Indiana to help set him up in a rental. Our goal was to get to his new place before nightfall. It was only October, but there was snow forecast.
I packed very little for me, but for him, I brought blankets, his winter clothes, his stereo, some pots and pans, cassette tapes, my spare bathrobe for the weekends and our favorite videos.
His apartment was on the second floor of an older building. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean and in a relatively safe neighborhood. This was important because I’d sometimes be driving there by myself at night to spend the weekend, and didn't want to visit any place that kicked my already high anxiety into overdrive.
We parked in the back lot of his apartment building just as it was getting dark. My boyfriend was getting cranky because he was starving and I didn’t pay attention because I needed to use the bathroom something fierce. We grabbed a few boxes and headed upstairs.
The moment we walked into his place, he was immediately sidetracked when he saw an old pizza carton he had left on the dining room table. I’m still not sure why he thought he had to clean it up before unpacking, but after I ran to the bathroom, I followed him back downstairs. I left the apartment door open just a crack.
We grabbed a few more boxes and trudged back up. Since his hands were full, he kicked open the door and then stopped so suddenly that I walked right into him. He began to run through the apartment, yelling, "Who's here? Who's here?" I backed away into the hallway, my heart pounding out of my chest. What seemed like half an hour went by before he came back to find me.
"You gotta see this," he said, looking all wild-eyed.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me into the apartment. I saw something dark on the dining room table. It was a huge, black bird — a dead crow, as big as a chicken — lying right where the pizza carton had been.
My boyfriend was going through the apartment again, checking closet doors and looking under his bed while all I wanted to do was bolt. He wrapped a plastic grocery bag around his hands and lifted the dead bird into another plastic bag, went back downstairs and deposited the carcass in the dumpster on top of the pizza box.
"Where did it come from? Did someone put him there?” I asked. My boyfriend was clueless. And to tell you the truth, I didn't really care one way or the other. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. We didn’t, and when I awoke the next morning, I was happy we made it through the night.
My boyfriend, who is now my husband, remains convinced it was nothing more than someone sneaking into the apartment while we went downstairs for those twenty or so seconds and placing the black bird on his dining room table. Maybe to spook him or maybe it was for another reason — who knows?
But he also recalls how the hair stood on the back of his neck that evening as soon as he stepped into the apartment, even before he saw the bird. And that on another occasion when I wasn't there, he had the same hair raising experience — a feeling that he wasn't alone in the apartment.
After that weekend, he came home to Milwaukee on Fridays, and funny thing, he never asked me to go back to that apartment again.
My husband has thought about that night often and has even asked our now-teenage sons what they think. Which tells me this — if he's so sure it was nothing, then what's with all the eagerness to solve the problem? Is it just a need to know or has it now become the scariest story of his life?