The Screaming Woman

Have you ever been in the forest, in the mountains, alone, at night? No street light a block down giving a muted halo. No LED lights from sound systems scattered like stars around the room. No reflected red light from an alarm clock. No cell phone with a handy bright screen or flashlight feature. No porch light or welcoming glow from a lamp.


It’s not just dark, it’s Stygian.

On the night I’m going to tell you about, there was no moon. The mountains, the ridge line, and the trees blocked out all but a tiny square of sky.

I wasn’t a city girl back then, having grown up in a farming town. But at the same time I definitely wasn’t a mountain girl either. And yet circumstances placed me in the Pacific Northwest mountains. Alone. Well, except for a dog who was equally out of her element.

In the middle of that very dark night, I woke to a woman screaming. What else can you do when someone is in desperate need of help, but grab a flashlight and go? I took the dog with me, who shook as bad as I did. I reminded her that she was half German Shepherd, but she didn’t believe me.

My imagination was vividly awake. A car accident on the road? Was some woman out there in the woods, lost and afraid?

I followed the wavering flashlight beam down the long, narrow driveway with nothing but trees crowding in. Trees that anything could hide behind. I listened so hard that my breath was held captive. I searched until the cold night leached under my skin and numbed my nerves.

I don’t remember how long I stumbled around before giving up and returning to the pile of blankets still retaining a warm pocket. The screaming had ended. I went to bed fully expecting to find a body in the morning.

By the way, this was before cell phones and where I was, there was also no electricity, let alone land lines. And in all honesty it never crossed my mind to drive out to the road and find a pay phone.


What I do remember is this.

The next morning was bright and sunny and clear and crisp. Early summer in the mountains. I drove to the nearby tiny town to open a post office box in the back corner of the general store. Outside the store three elderly men lined up on a wooden bench, watching life. I could hear one as I got out of the car.

‘Did you hear the cougar last night?’

Me, tentatively: ‘What’s a cougar sound like?’

‘Just like a woman screaming.’

I’ll end with this thought. I walked around in that dark night with a flashlight trying to save a cougar.

7 thoughts on “The Screaming Woman

  1. lol perhaps the cougar got mauled by a bear. lucky you didn’t find the scene of the incident. Then the 3 old timers would be mumbling: “Jawwwj, I can swear I heard two screaming cougars last night…. Darn creepy, I tell ya!”


    • Those three old guys turned out to be quite the characters; I could definitely see them responding that way! And your comment about the bear made me laugh. My family gave me the nickname of ‘Bear Magnet’ years ago because of all the bear encounters I’ve had. I’ll share some of those stories one of these days.


  2. Your post reminded me of a dark time years ago.

    After my dad died I had paralyzingly anxiety. I would put my 4 year old son to bed and lay with him until he fell asleep. It took every ounce of strength I had to not bolt from his room and run. I wanted to run and run and run. Every fibre of my being told me to run and not stop. I guess I was trying to run away from a world without my dad, watching him wither, mortality, time marching on, how inconsequential we all really are…all of these things and more.

    Some nights the anxiety got the better of me and propelled me downstairs where I would clutch desperately at my husband and tell him I NEEDED to run. Then I would take my hyper active, crazy legged gazelle of a standard poodle into the pitch blackness of Moses mountain and I would run by the light of the moon or a jiggling flashlight. I ran with the coyotes who sang from 15 feet across the river when we had bonfires. I ran with the black bears who ambled up our road in the mornings. I ran to a salvation I couldn’t see. I ran away from death and things I couldn’t wrap my head and heart around. I ran the anxiety and crushing sadness out of me. Or I at least beat it down with each footstep and heart beat to a size I could manage.

    In time I became a jogger. For one year I was dedicated and it brought me back. Off of meds, present again. I ran from death all the ways back to life.

    I don’t run much these days. But I know it’s there if I need to again.


    • Wow. Such incredibly powerful words. I’ve spent many hours in the woods, sitting on granite, or just walking to slowly work my way back into life. Specifically after radiation treatments. And the loss of parents. Are you familiar with Shinrin-yoku? It means ‘forest bathing’. Taking in the forest as a cornerstone for healing. We’ve both done that instinctively. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s