Twenty-six years ago
“No! Please! Please don’t make me! You can’t! The… The light! You’ve got to turn the light on!” I pleaded. My desperate, wholly immeasurable, cries, though seeming to rattle the very glass of my tiny 1’x2’ windows fell on deaf ears until the face turned back to me with a sardonic grin.
“Oh, knock it off. I’m not falling for that shit.” As she grasped the door handle, I heard her exasperated mumble, “Scared of the dark, gah.” With a cruel grin and half a laugh, she glanced briefly over the triangle of light that lit my terrified countenance, pulling the door slowly, as if with enjoyment, as she was starting to roll her eyes. But then, she stopped, her eyes shot to the immediate left of my general direction, as if she was following some quick figure. The look of second guessing briefly flicked over her face and her half-smile wavered. She seemed to shrug it off as if some silly superstition.
“No! You can’t do that!” My brother’s voice was heard, but, body unseen, somewhere in the illuminated presence behind my captor. “You can’t put her in the dark AND close the door.” He was saying.
The door magnetized, once again, in its imminent swing toward the latch and I let out a wail so loud it made my own skin prickle. “Please, please.” I heard my own voice, scarcely audible and seeming to come from somewhere directly above me, as the door made its final clash with the metal hole.
Putting aside my terror and listening with all my might, I only heard faint murmurings beyond the door, nothing resembling understandable words. It seemed as if half of my entire being was concentrated on the stillness of the room that followed and the other half listening beyond the door. I knew what terrors lay in wait for me in the dark. What malevolent forces (though I didn’t know the term at the time, I could have grasped its meaning) waited for me under the bed, in the dark recess of the closet, and in the little, closet-like alcove in which hid the water heater. I listened, hearing the thumpings of my own heart, hearing the eerie stillness from the dark places, and the mumblings of my brother and the “sitter” (as she was called) outside my door.
“See,” I heard my brother speaking in broken sentences, as the bathroom light (that I knew was directly across the hall) flicked on. “We leave that… …if her door… …shut but the hall light is on.” The next part, I heard more clearly and emphatically, “She has to be able to see her way out or she’s locked in with them until someone rescues her! You’ve got to have the light on!”
More murmuring commenced and I heard the tonal supremacy of someone saying to go upstairs. I was crushed. He had explained everything but it did no good. I was left in the dark corner, huddled, knees to chin, on my bed. I began to whimper softly, wishing for some comfort but knew that I had never really known the comforting arms of safety on nights like this. None the less, I felt, I was a lion. I had braved these nights before and come out unharmed, for the most part. I could think of Peter Pan and Wendy, in her pretty, blue dress and imagine myself, flying off with them, to a land of happiness and only the terrors of the very real Captain Hook. My mother would have told me to, ‘Switch it to a different channel’, so that’s what I would do. These night things couldn’t take me because there are good things out there, like Peter and Paddington Bear, to protect you. I realize that I don’t need the light. I don’t need the sitter. I’ll just change channels. …And so, it begins.
First, the bed jolts violently to wake me from my nodding and happy thoughts of flying away. A low, deep sound comes from under the bed. It must be my dream. I tell myself. Somehow, it got into the flight with me and Peter and Wendy. I look, with sleep-weary eyes at the darkened room and see nothing to arouse concern. Must be. I tell myself.
-grrkrkkerkk- it vibrates from under the bed, echoing from a deep chasm, and originating from a thick throat. Conscious of the fact that my knees are still pulled to my chest, unheeded by my slumber, I pull them more tightly. Terrified, I inch backward; slightly closer to the corner in which my bed sits. My eyes widen, my throat goes dry, I involuntarily swallow to soothe the ache, and something, someone, darts from the corner diagonal to me, and in the crevice shared with the door hinges, to the darkened corner, just within arms grasp of the very empty end of my bed. That gnawing, frenzied, almost too potent to be true, fear sets in and grips me.
“Look, Lilly, I’m so sorry. I honestly don’t know what happened… She was just screaming. And when I… Well, when I, um.. Well, I went to make her stop and that’s when….” The sitter’s voice trailed off as my mother turned eyes of fire on her. I was being checked and doubled checked for any additional injuries besides the scratches to my arm and slightly swelling eye.
My brother, watching reproachfully with arms crossed, sat silent in a chair at the head of the dining table. Only two years older than me, but with a wary and knowing look in his eye, and an almost-missed shake of his head, said, “I told her, Momma. I told her she can’t shut the door an’.. an’..” With a deep inhale and quick exhale with a palm to the air and exasperated shake of the head, known to kids that age, he said, emphatically, “And can’t shut the door or not leave the light on.”