I am 20 years old and still afraid of the dark.
The hours between midnight and 5 AM are the most terrifying. I can still be found with the blankets over my head and my feet tucked safely beneath. Before I get up to start my first job and join the adult world, I am still just a little girl here.
I won’t even get up to go to the bathroom. If I do, I will turn on every light in the house to do so. Everything from my bedroom light to the hallway and finally to the bathroom. One of them is likely to stay on for the night afterwards.
Living alone has been awful.
Not only in these times but in the sense that I haven’t paid my bills by myself. That’s been my daddy’s doing.
I am eager to get up but the alarm isn’t ready yet. Still two more minutes. Two minutes suddenly seem very precious and I close my eyes again. I can hear my dog, Max walking down the hallway. His long nails that I haven’t got around to clipping hit the tile floor at a slow pace and march closer and louder.
My brain steps in.
“You know, if the Devil really has hooves it would sound exactly like this if it were him walking toward the door.”
I am awake now.
The alarm still gives me a heart attack as I jump to my feet and shut it off. I hate that stupid thing. It’s a really old alarm that my dad gave me that he had from the 80’s. Sounds like the buzzer from halftime at a basketball game. Just as loud and just as jarring even if there were white noise conversation stirring in a gym.
Max stops at the door and his tail slams into the wall a few dozen times as he can’t contain his excitement to see me. I rub his ears and he cocks his head over. He loves that. His eyes roll back and he gives the complete weight of his head to my hand.
I love him.
I love that he would make noise if someone tried to break in.
Down the stairs we go. I use my flashlight on my phone to guide us because some genius put the only switch at the bottom of the stairs.
I lose my breath at the sight of the couch. It looks for a second like someone is sitting there and when I should be in fight or flight mode I end up frozen. Soon my eyes adjust and my brain believes them. One of the back pillows is turned to it’s side a little so it looks like someone’s head resting against the white wall behind the couch.
I turn on the light to confirm it’s just my imagination.
My horrible imagination.
For a split second I could already hear the conversation between the man in the shadows and me.
“I am going to kill you” he says.
“Why?” I struggle to ask
Even though it’s not really happening I can feel my stomach drop and my legs failing to support me.
To the right of my fridge is a sliding glass door that leads out to my back porch. On the way to get the desert dryness out of my mouth I can imagine a knock on the glass. It’s loud and heart stopping. I want to scream even though it’s only in my head. I guess.
Max already wants to go outside.
Here is where I have to decide whether I turn on the light for the porch and draw attention or do I walk into the pitch black and rely on him to let me know if someone is out there. I decide to go with his canine abilities and hope that he alerts me if someone or something was around.
It’s calm and quiet out back but little cold. Nothing to do but fold my arms against my chest and wait for Max to finish his business. Nothing to do but slip into my thoughts.
The man is here again. From out of nowhere he appears behind me and I dream the scenario of trying to get back inside before he grabs me.
“Max!” I yell and whisper at the same time “Let’s go back inside”
He comes running back up the hill as he always does. His floppy ears come into view first and then the rest of him.
Sliding the door open I let him in and rush to close it behind me. I am in a panic as I lock the door. Imagining him inches away from getting his arm inside and getting to me.
“Face your fears”
It’s something you always hear but you imagine them coming from a side of light. A side of good.
These words in my head were a darker shade.
I couldn’t believe I was thinking what I was thinking.
I went back to the light switch and turned it off. Pretending I had just come down I looked at the lopsided cushion again and readjusted my eyes. Readjusted my brain.
“Do exactly what I say and I might let you live” the voice was so real this time that it echoed off the walls.
“Okay” I answered out loud.
“Take your clothes off” he tells me “Slowly”
There were only three articles of clothing protecting me. A shirt, sweatpants and panties were hardly enough armor to protect me. Now there was nothing. Not even a shield to block the cold air shooting down from the vents overhead.
Just the shadow that beckoned me over without another word.
His huge hand gripped my wrist. Big enough to wrap around twice if it wanted to and strong enough that the time to be able to run away was lost.
I’m not afraid of the dark anymore.