I have always been afraid of the dark. Always. Creatures live there. They exist where the light dies. Small beings, with hate and death on their minds, play and dance within my grasp. Their fingers tickle my cheek, lovingly caressing my hair as I hurry past them to step into the light. Walking the few feet from the living room to my bedroom causes my pulse to race and the blood to pump furiously in my ears. My couch stands empty when the room is lit, but as soon as blackness fills the void, a mysterious monster takes its seat in the middle of the cushion. How do I know this? Because I can hear it breathing. The hairs on the back of my neck stand tall signaling to me that danger is awaiting as I stand, hand still on the lamp, frozen with fear, in the dark.
Do not laugh at my fear of the dark and the monsters that inhabit it. Do not sigh at me as you would a pestilent child who refuses to go to sleep. My apprehension, which grows with each ticking of the clock that signals the approach of nightfall, is all too real. It is grounded in truth and reality.
My first brush with the dark fear came when I was eight. Young and trusting, I climbed into bed that fateful night to sleep the sound slumber that I was used to. I felt the familiar weight of my eyelids as they began to close on my day. My breathing, heavy and rhythmic, pulled me down into the trenches of dreamland. My teddy bear, worn from years of love and closeness, was brought tightly to my chest. Time evaporated into the night. The moon rose in all its glory to signal that it was time to rest. My house settled in for the night, its baseboards ceased their creaking. My world, exhausted from the day's work, quiet within its own arms, embracing the solitude of silence, slept. The hands of the clock that kept time, quieted itself to a hushed ticking that only it could hear. We all heaved a heavy sigh of contentment as our consciousness changed course.
Now, I do not know the hour that the monster first visited. Nor do I know if it had always been there, quietly listening to the sounds as I comforted myself to sleep. And as my foot dangled precariously over the side of the bed, I can not say how long its claw reached out and scratched at it. What I do remember, even now, almost thirty years later with my mind cluttered with memories of years gone by, is the terror that seized my heart as I awoke to my skin being torn from my ankle.
Over the years, I have encountered other assorted monsters and creatures that take refuge in the night. There are the troll like beings, with their pudgy bodies and green eyes that follow you closely as you make your way to the bed. They live in the closet. They peer up from under neath the door to see if you are resting comfortably before they slowly turn the door knob and open the only barrier between a sleeping you and them. Their feet make the light thumping noise across your floor when they inch closer to the bed. That's probably what woke you up last night. That small, quiet sound. The sound of danger that is so faint, you shake your head and dismiss it before you curl back to sleep. Don't ever do that. I refused to accept that I heard it one night. That was a long night. That was the night that a smelly beast climbed onto my chest and robbed the air of the oxygen I needed.
Yes, I have always been afraid of the dark. Even before I was eight, before I felt the thing underneath the bed, I was apprehensive of the creeks and groans of my home. Something within me spoke out and said that I was to remain vigilant. It ordered me to keep a watchful eye all hours of the night. However, it wasn't until that fateful event that I paid it any heed.
Last night, overcome with sleep deprivation, I closed my eyes and returned to the dream state that I knew as a child. Last night, after I made the mad dash from the lamp, through the blackened living room, past the monster nestled comfortably in the middle of my couch, I laid in the dark and closed my eyes. I now sleep in the middle of my bed. I am barricaded with pillows on all sides. A nightlight shines from my bathroom, illuminating the various corners between me and the closet door. But, last night, in the dark, during the sleeping hours, I felt a hot breath drift across my cheek. I stirred and settled back down into my desired slumber. A heart beat later, not only did I feel the hot moisture of death traveling from the side of my face towards my neck, but I could smell the stagnate odor of decay. Gasping, I sat up in bed.
But, you see, my screams fall on the walls of my empty home. They are absorbed by the carpet that covers the floors. There are no ears that belong to concerned parents that will come running to flood my small bedroom with light. So, I had no one to save me from the thing that hovered over me. The thing with the red eyes and the yellow teeth. The creature....the monster with the long black hair. It threw back its head and laughed a maniacal laugh.
I have always been afraid of the dark. Always. And I have reason to be.