The Dark

December 8, 2008
I’d always been afraid of the dark. Well sort of. I wasn’t afraid of the blackness per say. More of what could lurk within it. From the earliest age in memory to my then 13 years of life I had been safe but you never knew when they could attack. Monsters are tricky things. Just when you think you’re safe one has a tendency to pop out of the woodwork. So as soon as you got a cross necklace to fend off vampires you’d start thinking about the creature from the Black Lagoon.

One thing was clear. This could not go on. My friends all laughed at me and our electricity bill was giving my mom fits. Something would have to be done. But what?

I began with immersion. The idea had come from my cousin’s psychology textbook so I reasoned that it worked. For a whole day I read about ghosts, vampires, evil witches, demons anything I could get my hands on. I watched a scary movie where a missed call means your ticket is up. I did the whole shebang. Maybe a little too much shebang. The minute I turned off my light I saw zombies. Method 1 had failed. The next day I told my cousin that her psychology book was stupid and decided not to rely on psychology anymore.

Several other techniques failed in quick succession. I was beginning to despair of ever ridding myself of a night light. Maddening visions of a college-age me being the only one with a night light danced through my head and I was sure that my entire future rested on this one factor. My cousin told me “Look who cares all right? I’m sure you’ll grow out of it.” I scowled at her and ignored that bit of advice. She owned the psych book after all. What did she know?

Next I tried sleep deprivation therapy. I’d wait until the absolute brink of exhaustion and only then would I fall into bed followed by a gratuitous helping of coffee in the morning. It worked depending on your definition of the word. I quickly discovered that this had the unfortunate side effect of making me a nocturnal being and so desisted.

Eventually I sunk so low as to swallow my pride and ask to sleep with mommy. This was a delicate operation. She was of the opinion that I was too long legged and too old to sleep with her. I had to wait till she fell asleep and then ever so carefully sneak in. However this was by no means a long term solution. After about the 3rd time mom just started waiting for me.

I brooded, I thought, I puzzled till my puzzler was sore but I still could not solve my problem, could not find what X equaled. So eventually I resigned myself to a life of being the epitome of “uncool” and made do with my night light.

Of course as soon as I started to do that things began to change. My brother, who was diagnosed with autism, began to speak in leaps and bounds as his speech therapy took effect. Clang! I crossed swords with an undead pirate and sent him spiraling away. I staked a vampire through the heart as we started making better money. I shot a silver bullet into the werewolf’s heart as I passed all my classes with flying colors. And I decapitated the zombies and exorcised the ghosts as I realized that the people who’d called me fat and lazy were wrong.

To me the dark had represented monsters of all kinds, tangible and intangible. My own insecurities and private demons had all obligingly materialized into gruesome shapes to allow me to combat them with the power of a night light. And now as things began to change I discovered that I didn’t need it anymore. So I put it away in a box, wrapped with care, and closed the lid on my monsters.

Maybe someday my child will need a nightlight. At that time I will unpack my box and present my nightlight to her. My monsters which scared me senseless will seem silly and insubstantial and I will rest easy knowing that my child will be kept safe by the soothing bathe of the yellow glow of a night light.

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