It Could Have Been Them
“When I was 10 or 11 years old, a guy came up to my friend and I in a park and said he was a gymnastics coach. We were sitting on the monkey bars and he offered to ‘help’ us flip up onto the top via grabbing our butts.
He told us to meet him the next day and he’d take us to the YMCA on the other side of town. We didn’t go, thankfully. A girl the same age as us was kidnapped from the same area shortly after, and her body was found near that Y. Was it the same guy? I can’t say for sure, but he was never caught, and the similarities have creeped me out for decades.”
His Sister Saw Him And Did Nothing
“I nearly drowned in a recreational swimming pool. I think I was around 6 years old and didn’t have much swimming talent. My parents had my older sisters look after me while they were swimming around with my uncle and aunt.
At some point, I went under and swallowed some water, which made me cough badly. I couldn’t stay afloat anymore and was waving my arms all over the place trying to get someone’s attention to help me. My sister saw me and she did something I still give her a hard time over. She waved back at me. That’s all she did, she waved back. I thought to myself, ‘I’m dying.’
Luckily, a lifeguard saw me and pulled me out in time. I’m still not comfortable whenever I go swimming.”
She Begged Him To Stop
“I remember screaming, ‘Stop it! Please, stop it!’ while seeing my 9-month pregnant mother get beaten up by my stepfather while he was high. I was 6 years old.
He started beating her that night because she defended my sister and I. He’d squished an orange in my sister’s face because she couldn’t open it and she’d asked him for help, then he hit me in the back with a chair. I got hit with the chair because he got mad when he couldn’t open a pack of ground beef so he just grabbed the nearest thing he could and smashed it into the ground. That thing was the chair I was sitting on. My older sister threw herself over me so I wouldn’t get hit twice. While he was beating my mom, he got a call from his mother. While he talked with her, my mother saw her chance. She told us to run over to our neighbor (this wasn’t the first time we had done that) while she grabbed my 2-year-old sister from the stroller. While running, I stopped to look at how far she was. When I turned, I saw my sister drop her pacifier and my mom turning around to get it.
When she did that, I was so scared that he was going to get out and kill her. I just stopped running and waited for her. I’ll never forget the look of fear in her eyes and her face all beaten up and bloody.
She left him numerous times over the years, but left him for good 12-13 years ago.
He’s sober and he’s a completely different person now. Now he helps other people with addictions to get off them. Since he’s my 2 younger siblings father he’s still around. My mother isn’t totally fine with him being in her home because of all the crap he put her through, but she knows how important he is for my siblings so she allows it.
Still, for years, I couldn’t even think about it, let alone talk about it without crying or tearing up.”
The Face Of Death
“When I was 12, I woke up to my mother running around the house in a panic. It was still dark out, but there was bright orange light streaming through our windows from our neighbor’s house down the road.
My mom, brother and I ran over there to see the lady who lived there and her son outside staring at the fire. They weren’t moving or blinking. It was quite odd. Her husband was not with them. She started to frantically ask, ‘Where’s Ernie?’ over and over again. He was still in the house, along with the family dog. They never made it out.
This was all pretty scary for me, but what really got me was that I accidentally saw Ernie’s charred remains after the fire went out. They turned him over and I saw his face. I didn’t sleep for a week. I went on to see many dead bodies, I was in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Plus, a lot of time spent in combat zones, but this always stuck with me.”
A Fear They Have Never Felt Again
“My mom had post-partum psychosis, so there were a few instances where she tried to kill us. But I think the worst one was one of the times she just hurt me. I was eating sugar out of a cup when she came downstairs and saw me eating it. She said something in Hindi (which I don’t speak) and grabbed me. She took me upstairs to the kitchen and turned on the stove burner. She held me still while we waited for the burner to turn orange. Then she put my hands palm down on the burner. It hurt a lot. I remember shrieking and wanting to rip my hand off to make it stop.
I don’t remember what happened after that until I had to go to kindergarten the next day. My teacher asked what happened, and I told her the truth by accident. I started panicking and screaming, ‘DON’T TELL MY MOM! DON’T TELL MY MOM!’ My teacher promised she wouldn’t as long as I told the school counselor the truth. I did. While switching from telling what happened to begging him not to tell my mom, I told him this. He said he wouldn’t and sent me back to class.
Twenty minutes later I was called back to the office and my mom was standing there looking at me. Seeing her there, figuring out that they called her the second I left the office…that was a kind of fear I have never felt again in my life.
I don’t remember the drive back home but I remember lying on my back on her bed with the lower half of my body hanging off. Her face was really close to mine and I couldn’t breathe. She was yelling. Then I fell asleep, so I think she choked me until I lost consciousness.
I went through a few years of some pretty intense therapy when I got older. I worked through it and I’m now on the ‘other side’ mentally so to speak. My hands have a bit of nerve damage in them but nothing that impairs their functioning from that awful day. Also, my mom finally got the help she needed and got started on anti-depressants and she is mentally stable now. Even happy, which is lovely. We live in different states but keep in contact.
But mental illness is no joke though. If you suspect anyone you know may be suffering from it do what you can to intervene and help.”
They Were Talking About Their Plans While He Listened In, Totally Terrified
“My dad tried to kill himself.
My mom came home and found his note on the fridge door. He’d come home early from work and left the note instead of taking the babysitter home. She ran to the car and I followed. It was the only time in my life my mother didn’t care if I was wearing my seatbelt and floored it out of the neighborhood.
We got to the cemetery, where he was standing on my sister’s grave with a weapon in his hand. My mom started trying to talk him down. Being only 5 years old, I hadn’t quite pieced it together what was going on until my dad started offering to take us with him. I saw what he had in his hand and suddenly it all clicked.
I knew that there was a McDonald’s where I could ask someone for help if I could just get out of the cemetery. I got out of the far side of the car and started trying to sneak away across an open field with no cover.
Of course, my parents noticed and determined that my running off was dangerous and they dragged me back.
Listening to my mom arguing for all our lives was horrible.
I gave up on getting away fairly quickly. There was some brush nearby I considered climbing through to reach a different route to safety, as at least there would be things to hide behind in that direction, but there were rattlesnakes. It seemed deeply unfair that there would be snakes.
It then occurred to me that I could hide even if I couldn’t run. I climbed into the car then crammed my legs under the front passenger side seat, worked my knees around, and managed to jam my hips under with a little pain and a lot of prayer. Then I gathered the toy debris and a beach towel from the floor and carefully layered this over my head.
The wind blew the car door shut, and it quickly got very hot, but from where my face was pressed to the seal at the bottom of the car door I was able to suck small breaths of cooler air. I could also hear my parents continue to argue.
A few things about that conversation stand out in memory, like my mother going from trying to reason with him to full out anger that he would even think about doing this, or my father confiding that someone had offered to adopt me if he were to just kill her and himself, but he felt bad about doing that to me. I was old enough to remember. It was better to just kill me too.
It was so hot.
It was Texas in early summer in a sealed car with a couple beach towels draped over my head. My world slowly narrowed to just each suck of cooler air I could pull through the seal of the door. Having had time to listen, I couldn’t bring myself to move.
Eventually, they realized I was gone. That distracted my dad enough for my mom to finally get the weapon away from him. I still don’t know how they went from that to agreeing to table the issue of my father’s murder-suicide until they’d found me and made sure I was safe.
By this point, I was unaware of that. All I could think of was needing to hide and each delicious breath of cold air sucked through the seal on the door. I heard my father yelling my name and I curled my body as far under the chair as I could. It left deep scratches and bruises on my ribs for the next week, but I was no longer a recognizable human shape and my hair was still hidden under the towel. He opened the car door and the drop of temperature felt amazing. He closed it.
Finally, I registered my mother screaming for me. She opened the car door. I tried to reach for her, but I couldn’t. She closed the car door, but I could still hear her. At that moment, she was my safety.
They kept looking for me. My body was so heavy and clumsy. It took me ages to lift my head. I couldn’t grip the door handle, but I could wedge my claw of a hand far enough in to force it open. Falling out of the car finally let me get my legs out from under the seat.
Logically, I know I couldn’t have been in the car for more than a couple hours. My mom came home at 4:00, we got to the cemetery ten minutes later, I climbed into the car around 5, and the sun usually starts to set around 7:30. Still, it was getting very dark when they found me and was fully dark by the time we got home, so I know it wasn’t an insignificant stretch of time.
The ride home was surreal. I struggled to care about much beyond the temperature of the air and passively listened to my parents argue about my father’s suicide and whether my mother would join him and whether she would allow him to die at all. Listening to them suddenly remember I was there and decide to continue the discussion after I was asleep felt bizarre.
We got home and I sucked down several tall glasses of water. I felt like my belly should be sloshing from it, but after a few minutes, I was thirsty again. My mom called the babysitter, who had taken my sister home with her when no one came back and we went back to the cemetery to pick up my dad’s car the next day.
My mother decided I must have slept through the whole thing. She refused to admit my father had ever tried to kill himself and told me it was just a bad dream until I was an adult, several years after I got married.
My relationship with my dad had improved and was quite strong at that point, and sometimes I wonder if my mother finally admitted the whole thing happened because she was getting jealous. She sat me down with big dramatic sobs and confessed this ‘terrible secret’ she’d been hiding from me. I just sat there like, ‘Um…yeah? I remember this. I was there.'”
She Probably Won’t Go Back To That “Friend’s” House
“When I was a smallish, awkward kid, I went to my first sleepover with my ‘friend’ and her older and younger sisters. It was alright until the mom told us to go to sleep/lights-out. Then my ‘friend’ and her older sister punched me in the ribs/stomach a few times and told me repeatedly that my parents were never going to come back for me, that they didn’t love me, and that they probably died on the way to the restaurant they were planning on going to that night. The little sister just kept whispering ‘no one loves you’ as a chant with a nursery rhyme teasing sound.
I kept trying to be strong, but after probably 30 minutes, I started crying and had a full-on anxiety attack. Their mom came and took me to the couch and tried to ‘calm me down’ by yelling at me to stop or else I would throw up on her carpet/furniture. I remember crying more and getting confused. Do people actually throw up when they’re freaked out and crying?
Then at some point, I fell asleep, and I woke up in my parents’ apartment.
My mom said my ‘friend’s’ mom was so nice for carrying me home, but she took my side after I told her what happened.
It was strange, they seemed fine the week before when I met/played with them but, unsupervised they turned into monsters. Looking back I’m honestly a bit worried that their parents might’ve been abusive or something? I don’t know how else to explain it.
Still, it was the most traumatizing thing of my childhood, and it messed me up for quite a while. I never really made friends after that, and had a rough time ever going to a sleepover again.”
A Panicked Father And Dying Mother
“I woke up one morning to hear my dad sounding panicked when I was about 12.
I ran upstairs and saw that he was on the phone explaining something to someone. My mom was on the floor, propped against the wall in the hallway looking grey with her eyes half closed, and a giant pool of blood was on the floor trailing from their bedroom.
She’d been having problems with her period coming so heavily that she needed to wear diapers instead of pads and it turned out she had a few cysts in her uterus that ruptured or something and caused her to hemorrhage. I thought I was going to watch her die on the floor before the ambulance got there. When they got there, it had stopped and the paramedics told her they could either take her in the ambulance that second or let us gather some overnight things and new clothes and take her to the hospital ourselves.
I got to clean all the blood off the floor so the dogs didn’t get into it while my dad sat with her and gave her food and juice before we helped her to the car and headed to the ER. She ended up getting a hysterectomy soon after and she’s now completely healthy except for high blood pressure.”
A Dare He’ll Never Forget
“While walking home from school in third grade, an older kid dared us younger kids to climb a utility pole using those handle things on the side of the pole. A classmate took the dare, the older kid boosted him up to the climbing handle things and my classmate climbed the pole. When he got to the top, he grabbed something and was immediately electrocuted and fell to our feet, dead and smoking from the electricity.”
A Close Call
“I almost got abducted once. When I was 8 years old, my school was on lockdown for a couple of weeks after three kids went missing. Two had gone missing from the other school around the corner, and one had gone missing from the high school.
Predictably, it was reported that a white van had picked them up. I, a child, had of course been protected from all this information. All I knew was that we had to stay inside our classrooms during recess and lunch.
Then, disaster struck. The air conditioner broke. This was during a heatwave, so the teachers had to release us outside. My school’s buildings formed a kind of ‘U’ and we were kept in the middle, with teachers bordering around us.
Of course, it was crowded, so my friend and I decided to sneak off. I was drawing a heart in the sand when I noticed the van out of the corner of my eye. Subconsciously, I must’ve been hyper-aware of its presence, though I wasn’t consciously aware of it until its third circuit, then I lifted my gaze and asked my friend something along the lines of, ‘Is that van creepy or am I just being paranoid?’
My friend looked up. The idiot. The instant she did, the van stopped, so I shouted ‘run’ even though she’s only a foot away from me, and took off sprinting for the steps.
Anyway, this abruptly occurred to me as I saw my friend sprint ahead. I’m not proud of it, but I did think, ‘Should’ve gotten a head-start before I told her.’
I heard a car door open behind me and, presumably, the guy chased us. We flew down the steps and told our teachers, who promptly grabbed the plastic bats we used to play cricket and marched up there like a mob. By the time they got there, the guy was gone.”
On Thin Ice
“My friend and I used to explore the property adjacent to our properties. Our favorite time to explore was winter when we could see all sorts of animal tracks. When I was 10 and my friend was 9, we were exploring somewhere we’d never been before. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground and my friend fell into a lake that had a thin layer of ice with a little bit of snow covering it.
I barely got him out and since this was pre-cell phone days, I had to run the mile back home to grab an adult. We got him airlifted out of the woods but he almost died of hypothermia. It scared me so much, we never went out into the woods unless it was summer.”
A Field Trip He’ll Never Forget
“The summer between second and third grade, I went on a field trip with my day camp to the zoo. The zoo had a little kiddie jungle train which we all begged to go on, and the chaperones conceded.
On the back half of the ride, the skies darkened and it began to rain, but we kept going. Shortly after, it turned into a loud and violent thunderstorm. The train stopped as we waited it out. A bolt of lightning hit a tree, and it fell down ONTO THE TRAIN. Luckily, the car it smashed was empty, but still.
The ride operators got us off of the train, and we walked along the tracks for a while in the downpour. I remember being told we had to get off the tracks because we might get electrocuted. I was separated from my group, following a bunch of people in the direction of the main zoo.
I remember getting to the main part of the zoo, and not seeing anyone I recognized. (I also remember seeing a bunch of peacocks hiding from the rain in the gift shop.) Not knowing where to go, and being 7, I decided to find the group bus.
Now, this zoo has a VERY, VERY long set of stairs from the main area to parking. Also steep. There are escalators, but the storm has shut them off. I walked down the frozen escalator in darkness while the trees whipped against the windows and the walls shook from thunder.
I finally found the bus, and the driver was chilling out there and drinking coffee. While I found the storm scary, I apparently had a better time than my older brother – he stayed with the group, and they were all guided to shelter together in a fake concrete teepee. Apparently, he freaked out when they couldn’t find me.”
An Unwanted, Not So Secret Admirer
“During my freshman year of high school, I was still fairly new to the area, and I saw this guy with merch from a band I liked, so I started up a conversation. The dude was a senior and imposing. He was really friendly though, and we hit it off immediately. Time passed and he’d follow me everywhere. He said some weird stuff but was otherwise harmless. He actually memorized my schedule, would walk with me to every class, even follow me to the buses even though he had a car. A few weeks later, I found out through a friend that he had a crush on me, a tiny 14-year-old, and I was terrified. I was genuinely scared that something would happen. This was also right before my parents were going out of the country on a trip, as well. We went to the counselor the next day, and she said she’d talk to him. I actively avoided him after that. He showed up again one day after he had graduated and without thinking, I hid behind a chair. It turns out he was there trying to follow one of my friends. I later found out that while he was mentally ill and didn’t quite get things sometimes. He also had six restraining orders against him that he broke. Overall, I’m lucky that he never made a move.”