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Achluophobia was what they called it -- the fear of darkness. Of course, I was only four years old at the time, and everyone had a fear when he or she was four years old. Some people had arachnophobia, the fear of spiders; others had acrophobia, the fear of heights. Many objects and conditions posed fear but my biggest fear was found in the dark, and consequently I slept with the lights on every night. In the daytime, I was part of the world that carried on with normal routines, schedules, and tasks. Daylight offered sight, and seeing is believing: if I saw with my own eyes, I would not have to second guess or let my imagination run wild. The night, however, was not part of this ordinary world. The dark terrified me with a constant eerie sensation of something watching me and sneaking up behind me at my most vulnerable state. In the dark, one could never anticipate -- everything was unforeseen and unexpected. To me, darkness was an everlasting void that just waited for something terrible to happen. However, in spite of all the blackness, my one dependable source of comfort and sanity was my red nightstand. In creeping darkness, my nightstand would illuminate the whole room filling the space with bright light, causing darkness to shrink back into the shadows. The light unfailingly triumphed darkness and in the light, there was nothing to fear.
My story begins with me in my bed, with the lights on of course. My little four-year-old self lay there and as time passed by I gradually, slowly fell asleep. I remembered having a horrific nightmare that night, for four-year-old standards. A tall, slender figure opened the door to my room, a man. He stared at me for a while, but all I could see was darkness in his eyes. His dark silhouette came closer and closer, inch by inch. As he came closer towards me, I tried to get a glimpse of his face, but it was too dark for me to recognize it. Every step he made towards me, waves of shivers ran down my spine and my anxiety skyrocketed. My body was completely paralyzed-- my mind was racing but I was frozen solid. Finally, at the front of the bed, he extended his arm. His long, bony fingers were inches away from my tiny toddler face, and seconds before his hands touched me I woke up.
I continued to shiver from the nightmare. I turned frantically from left to right in search of this man, but the pitch-blackness consumed all of my vision. I realized that the lights had been turned off. My parents must have come in to turn them off I thought. I initially tried to reach for the nightstand, but it was too dark, and I could not find it. I continuously rubbed the walls in search of the light. I gave up. I let out a tiny whimper, and gradually this tiny whimper turned into a loud screech.
Immediately, my mom opened my bedroom door and thankfully the lights were finally turned on. I was safe, and so I let out a huge sigh of relief. From my mother’s point of view, I looked scared out of my mind: I had rolled myself into the blanket, my head peered out like a turtle, and I was shivering softly.
“What happened?” my mom asked worriedly.
“I -- I had a nightmare,” I managed. “It was too dark.”
My mom looked into my eyes for what seemed like an eternity and finally replied, “I know that you’re afraid of the dark. But sooner or later you’re going to have to learn to overcome the darkness.”
“I -- I just can’t,” I mumbled. “The dark is the scariest thing in the world. It’s a fact.”
“It’s okay. There is nothing to be afraid of in the dark,” she reassured me. “Once you close your eyes, you’ll fall asleep. It’ll just happen all of a sudden and BANG! you’ll be safe and sound sleeping and you won’t notice it. In fact, we all have to go to sleep now, so goodnight.” She exited but this time with the lights off.
Oh no, it was dark again, and out of instinct I tried to spot my nightstand. But the darkness absorbed the color and sight out of my eyes, and I could barely see anything from two feet ahead of me.
“Okay,” I said to myself. “It’s going to be alright. Just close your eyes.” I closed them, but only to open them back up again. It was almost like I was expecting the lights to turn back up magically, but of course, magic isn’t real.
I closed my eyes once more, but I knew I was not going to fall asleep in the darkness, while the stupid nightmare was still so fresh in my mind. I reached with my right arm for the nightstand. I reached further… and further… and further, but I was unable to find it. Hopeless, I lay down not knowing how I was going to fall asleep.
Trying to fall asleep, I came across an unusual thought: I realized that all nightstands ever created were useless. Only in light, are you able to reach a nightstand, but when you are in the dark, at the time when you most need it, it is impossible to find it.
Nightstands are like training wheels because your parents decide when to put on and off the wheels. Once they feel as though you have mastered riding the bike, they will take the wheels off. In the same way, when my mom turned off the lights, my mental readiness was not considered. It was her own decision that took away my “training wheels”.
I was going to have to sleep with no nightstand by myself. There seemed no other viable option. In the mix of my delirious state and anxiousness, I apparently drifted back to sleep. Then it happened again: I lay paralyzed in my bed, and the faceless man was approaching me. I looked away and then looked again, but the man only got closer. My frantic mind started firing away commands for my sloth-like body to crouch into a defensive position. As I was fidgeting and squirming against my unyielding body, my right hand suddenly came across a cylindrical object. As it came to form in my hand, I picked it up but I was unable to identify it in the dark. My fingers stumbled around the object and discovered some type of a button. In instinct, I pressed the button and aimed it toward the creature. Immediately a burst of bright light came out of the object and shone against the man that was coming towards me. This light penetrated the man who started to disappear in front of my eyes into thin air. Bits and pieces of him fell on the floor and soon even that disintegrated. I looked down to find in my right hand a shiny, large cylindrical rod.
At that moment, I woke up. The sun was shining through the windows and I could finally see everything around me, even my nightstand. I did it! I thought. I slept through the night! I managed to destroy the fear and the worry that occupied all of my thoughts every single night. My mind had focused all its energy into the shining rod, which became my shield and fighting force in the moment of my greatest fear. Through courage, I alone was able to overcome my fear of darkness. From that point on, I never saw that man in my nightmare again.