Fear of the Dark

I can’t sleep tonight. I’m not sure why, but I’m more on edge than normal. All the lights are off, but my eyes are adjusting to the darkness. The muffled moonlight coming through the curtains casts just enough light to see shapes in the dark. I glance around the room. To my left, my nightstand and another source of ambient light – my alarm clock. To my right, my vanity and both open doors. One leads to the bathroom, the other the hall. Directly at my feet is my large walk-in closet and the larger dresser next to it. I can see the faint light of the stove’s hood light shining a dim orange on the wall of the hall. Why didn’t I leave the hall light on? 

As I stare at the orange light I think I see something in the reflection of the vanity mirror. I turn my head quickly, but there is nothing unusual there. I should just get up and turn the closet light on at least. I dismiss the idea. I’m a grown adult. I don’t need lights to go to sleep. There are no monsters in the dark coming to get me. I pull my covers to my chin, another childish act. I pull my sleep mask over my eyes and try to sleep. 

Then I hear the groan of a floor board. I rip my mask off, but I see nothing in the room or what I can see of the hall and bathroom. It’s just a windy night. The house is settling. It’s an older house so that only makes sense. It’s not “colonial” old, just 80-85 years, but that’s old enough for a few creaks every now and then. I pull my mask back over the head and close my eyes.

I hear shuffling and the soft pad of feet next to me. My heart beats hard against my ribs. Do I pull the mask off or just let whatever it is kill me? I sit quietly and perfectly still. You’re an adult and it’s nothing. Get your ass up! I listen to my rational side. I pull my mask off and look over to find my cat sniffing around the night stand. I sigh as relief fills me. I also laugh a little at how ridiculous I’m acting.

I finally fall asleep. It’s a dreamless sleep. A deep, wonderful, restful sleep. Around 4 I slowly wake up. I slide my sleeping mask off and roll onto my side to check the time. I groan and roll onto my back. My eyes grow wide as a see her face. It blocks out everything else. I close my eyes. It’s just your imagination. I open them again. Her pale skin and dark eyes loom in front of me. I close my eyes tighter this time. It’s just the remnants of a dream I don’t remember. I keep them closed for another 10 seconds. When I open them her scared eyes continue to stare straight into mine. I’m not fully awake. I rub my eyes and smack my cheeks lightly. 

I open my eyes and she is still there. Her tiny body hovering on the edge of the bed. Her eyes look sad and she says nothing. I blink fast a few times and she disappears. I lay my head back on my pillow. I hadn’t even realized I’d lifted it. I unclench my fists and feel my body starting to relax again. I’ve never experienced a dream so real.

I sit up, still thinking about turning a light on. My shoulders slump and I run my hands over my face, rubbing the little girl’s face away. I am about to lay back down when an odd shape in the bathroom mirror catches my eye. I can see the full length mirror through the open bathroom door. Since the door that connects the bathroom to the hall is right next to the door that connects my bedroom to the hall, the mirror reflects a small portion of the bathroom door and the hallway. There is a tall dark shadow in the hall. A shadow I hadn’t seen earlier that night.

I close my eyes and shake my head, trying again to wake myself. I look at the mirror again and the shadow is gone. Get ahold of yourself woman! There’s nothing out there. I lay back down and nearly have a heart attack when my cat jumps up on the foot of the bed. He’s not allowed on the bed and he knows it. I’m about to scold him when he turns toward the closet and starts to back toward me. A low, slow growl starts. In the faint light I can see he’s crouching, but his fur is standing straight out. He’s in a protective stance and moving closer to me, but never taking his eyes off the closet.

I look up and see the dark shadow is now in my closet. I can see faint yellow eyes. I’m almost not sure they’re there. They are so dim. My heart beats harder. The hair on my arms and neck are standing straight just like my cat’s fur. It’s getting harder for me to breathe. What do I do? Do I ask who it is? Do I try to run? My cat is now against my side, still growling at this unknown shape. I am frozen. Fear freezes me. I feel completely paralyzed. If this thing were to throw itself at me, I probably would do nothing to stop it.

The eyes start to get brighter. I feel weight on my chest. I feel light headed as I struggle for air. I feel like something is pushing me back down on the bed. I resist as much as I can, but the weight is so heavy. I realize I’m breaking out in a sweat, but I’m not hot, if anything my room has gotten colder. As the pressure increases, my stomach churns and my throat burns.

My cat hisses and jumps in my lap. It’s as if he knows what is happening to me. I slowly am pushed back to laying on my pillow. My cat continues to growl and hiss in turns. I feel him back up on my stomach now. Don’t do that. I’ll be sick. I’m covered in sweat now and I can’t even see the shadow in my closet because I’m flat on my back. My arm tingles and I feel a hot tear run down my cheek.

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