Despite our varying stories and journeys, I think it’s safe to say there’s one thing that all van dwellers have experienced: that little bit of fear and uncertainty after dark.
After all, we’re living in vehicles in forests, parks, remote campsites, random neighbourhoods, bushland and sometimes even the side of the road. There are criminals, opportunists, wildlife and psychos out there, and nowhere is truly safe. I’m sure we’ve all got some kind of panic plan, maybe a knife under the pillow or the police on speed dial, but honestly, when it comes down to that moment, how will you really react?
Personally, I’ve only experienced two real moments of terror and I’m still alive and breathing so I’d consider myself pretty lucky.
The first occasion was at our favourite beach spot. It’s pretty dark and eerie, but there’s usually another van or two there so we always feel pretty safe (funny that, isn’t it?). Anyway, we were fast asleep when suddenly I was jolted awake to the sound of someone knocking on the van sliding door. Just a real gentle knock-knock-knock. It’s the middle of a Tuesday night, why the fuck is someone knocking on our door?
I think an almost silent whisper “john..” escaped my lips and he instantly shoved me to tell me to shut up. What feels like a whole minute (but is really only a few seconds) of frozen silence passes, and then the knock happens again, this time a bit louder and more urgent.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
I’m deliriously scared by this stage. But, being the idiot I am, I had to look. I had to. Just like in those scary movies when the stupidly innocent main character just has to go and investigate the person who is about to brutally murder her. “Don’t do it!” you say, but she doesn’t listen. She escorts herself all the way to her gory death. I am her.
I raise my arm to the curtain in e x t r e m e slow motion, pull it the tiniest bit open, and what do I see? A hooded figure standing at the door. I kid you not – somebody is standing there, about fifty centimetres away from my face, wearing a dark hoodie, in the middle of the night, at a secluded beach car park. I drop the curtain and instantly regret looking. What are this persons intentions?
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.
There it is again, but angrier this time. This entire situation hasn’t even lasted an entire minute and I’m already throwing up the white flag. I’m basically ready to open the door and invite this person inside to kindly end me. But then I hear a voice. “Excuse me!?,” The voice belongs to a German sounding woman “do you have a lighter?”
Not for you, I think to myself. We lay there silently and she speaks again. “I just really need a lighter!” Seriously? I’m not convinced. She sounds undoubtedly fake. Despite the fact that I’m certain she’s lying and that it’s very possible she’s not alone, I am mildy relieved that it’s not a man and that all the glass on the van is in tact.
We continue to lay there alert completely silently until we’re sure she’s given up, and eventually fall sleep. The next thing I remember is waking up to the sun rising and the comforting sound of waves crashing on the rocks. I still get goosebumps when I think about the terror I felt with each knock on the van, and how much worse the situation could have been.
The second occasion was last night, at a spot that we stay at more than anywhere else. It isn’t our favourite spot, due to the reputation of the area, but nothing bad has happened in the six odd months we’ve been frequenting it, so hell why not? Last night was the hilarious exception.
I’m not going to drag this story out because it is ridiculous. But the fear was the same, if not worse.
At about seventeen minutes past three this morning, some kind of creature/s landed on/were thrown at/bounced off our van so hard that I thought we’d been hit by another vehicle until I realised that the horrible sound I could hear was it/them screaming. I think we narrowed it down to either a feral cat, zombie or a possum. But honestly, imagine being curled up in your bed, in your ground level room of your cosy home, and then a Jeep veers off the road and smashes into your wall. That’s what it felt like for me, the unfortunate soul that sleeps on the door-side of the van. I don’t think I took a breath for at least twenty seconds after impact. Those creatures were out for blood.
I laid there semi awake after the incident trying to figure out what had happened but nothing made sense until I surfaced this morning and conducted a bit of a crime scene investigation. What did I find? Some tufts of fur on the ground, proving that it indeed wasn’t a zombie. Ahh, closure.
Although terrifying, both incidents were laughable and I’m still alive to tell the tales. Anyway, I’ve heard that a bit of adrenaline keeps you young…… 🙂