by Adam Smith
A flash fiction of a childhood fear
|I was never afraid of the dark as a child.
My father never checked under my bed and in my closet for monsters that I should have convinced myself were there and my mother never read me stories to comfort me before my room lost its light and was plunged into darkness. The dark was a comfort, a necessary way to let my mind wander free after a long day of thinking.
Some nights there would be a scratching noise against my window, a raspy yet shrill sound that involuntarily sent shivers through me. In the dark, I hadn’t the slightest idea whether this noise was caused by a monster with either the height or flying capabilities to reach my bedroom on the second floor, or just a lone tree branch in the steady wind. Of course, like all children, my mind raced straight to the possibility of a monster or ghoul outside the safety of my room, but I had no evidence behind that, so I let myself believe it was only the branch.
As I grew older, darkness was not only a comfort, but an ally as well. At the age of thirteen, the dark sheltered me as I had my first kiss in a pitch black empty classroom after school had been out for a couple of hours. I didn’t have to see his face as he kissed me, and I didn’t want to, for it was an obligation for me to kiss him. After all, I was his girlfriend.
When I was fourteen my closet didn’t hold my clothes anymore, it held me. As my mother and father screamed bloody murder at each other for their flaws, my closet and the absence of light distracted me from reality. In there, I couldn’t see Mother’s face that would grow redder by the moment as she hurled insults at my father who would fling his arms each and every way and eventually hurl them at her. I didn’t want to see that, and the darkness saved me.
I began sneaking out of the house when I was sixteen. By then, I knew how to open my bedroom window and jump into the arms of the tree who resided directly to the right of the opening. I never went to parties or meet with a boy, I went to walk. There was a good sized patch of woods a few blocks behind our house and no matter the season, the trees would grant me sanctuary and the moon and stars would be out of my sight, allowing me peace and quiet. A time away from my parents, from my so called friends, from the world.
I moved out of the house the day after I turned eighteen. I said goodbye to my bedroom, my closet, my window, my favourite tree, and the woods. I did not say goodbye to my mother and father. A close friend of mine offered to let me say with her until it was time to move into a college dorm. We shared a bedroom for two months and she always had a two night lights on while she slept. I lay awake most nights and when I could hear her breathing slow, I gently lifted myself from the bed and turned them off, leaving me with comfort.
In the dorms at the university, I had a single one all to myself. There were never any lights on at night and my boyfriend at the time knew this. Under the cover of darkness, who was once my only true friend in this world, he took what I can never replace. He left me there too, but there was no more comfort in the dark. There was no believing that there are no monsters outside, there is only truth.
I am twenty-three now, and I sleep with a night light. I turn on the light over the stove too for if I wake in the middle of the night, I want to see, to know what I might face. I don’t walk in the dark anymore, nor do I ever leave myself in total darkness. I was betrayed, and I am afraid of the dark.