I’m sure that I’m not the only one that has to turn a light on before I enter a room. For me, though, I can’t even be in the room when I turn the light on. I have to be in the hall, face turned away from the darkness, and slide my hand around aimlessly in search of the switch that will fill the dark void with light. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. The thought of walking into the darkness paralyzes me. I fear what I cannot see. What may be standing in wait within the shadows.
When I enter a dark room I can — or at least I think I can — see the figure of something standing in the corner. Sure, it could be nothing. But what if it’s something?
My parents always tell me to grow up and to stop being such a child. What do they expect? Sure, I’m 15 and shouldn’t be scared of the dark anymore, but I am. Because I know that I am never alone in the dark.
My little sister Annabelle has even begun to adopt my custom of turning away from the dark rooms as she searches for the light switch. At seven-years-old my parents find her fears to be more sound, but still blame me for her eccentricities. It’s my fault my little sister is scared of the dark.
But if my parents knew what I know — what lies in wait — about the shadows then perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to condemn me. At first, I thought that maybe they were right. Maybe it was just my imagination running away with me. Maybe I had watched one too many horror films on Netflix. But, that’s not the truth and I would be remiss to act as if it were.
Like I said, I don’t know for sure when this fear started. Not even really sure why I’m thinking about it now. It has always been second nature to me. To stand in the safety of the light while only my hand is exposed to the dangers that lurk in the darkness is my way. Now it’s my sisters, too.
It’s not just the fear that I may see one of the shadows move, but I can feel their eyes on me. I can feel them waiting for me.
The other night I went to Google and searched for other people like me. People that saw these shadow figures. The ones that move in the corner of your eye but are gone when you turn to catch them, almost as if they were never really there at all. The ones that cross the street when you drive down lonely roads at night — perhaps why people crash without obvious cause. Even the one with the hat and the long coat.
I’m not alone in my fear. Neither is Annabelle. Still, my parent’s refuse to even entertain my fears. They even grounded me from my computer when I told them what I had found.
“Melissa,” my dad yelled from downstairs. “I still see a light on up there!”
Finally, my hand found the switch and flipped it on. As soon as light filled the black void of my room, I switched off the hall light. “Going to bed now,” I told him.
“Okay, make sure Anabelle brushes her teeth,” he shouted back.
The fact that I’m 15 and share a bathroom with my seven-year-old sister should bother me. I should want privacy. But I don’t. I like taking comfort in the fact that my sister’s bedroom and mine are separated only by the bathroom. We can open each of our bathroom doors and turn on the light within there to let radiance into our own rooms. We have even moved our beds to be close enough to the bathroom that we can sleep in the light.
“Melissa,” my sister said as I entered the bathroom to brush my teeth. “Why do I have to brush my teeth? It’s so boring!”
“Because if you don’t your teeth will fall out and no one will like you,” I teased.
“Jennifer will, so will Kaylee. They’d like me no matter what I looked like.”
“Maybe, but no boys would like you.”
She grabbed her pink Cinderella toothbrush and put a dab of paste on it. Before shoving the toothbrush into her mouth she said, “Daddy says I can’t have any boyfriends anyway.”
I chuckled at this. Dad had had the same rule with me. I learned early on that you just don’t tell him that you have a boyfriend. Mark and I had been dating for almost six weeks and dad had no idea. Before Mark Camwell, it was Brandon Jaspers. But that ended the second Brandon let Janette Morrison wear his letterman jacket.
“Melissa,” Anabelle said through the foam in her mouth. “I don’t like when they watch me sleep.” Her voice lowered and there was a slight tremor that made my hairs stand on end.
“You still have that flashlight I gave you, right?”
She spit out the foam from her mouth, “Yeah, but if I use it, they’ll know I’m awake.”
“Well Mom and Dad are both working tonight. What do you say you bunk with me?”
“Really? Can I?” Anabelle began jumping with excitement.
I wrapped my arm around her neck and pulled her with me playfully into my room. Truth was, I was just as excited about her bunking with me as she was. I hated sleeping alone just as much as she did.
The dark amplifies that aloneness. In the light, you are safe. However, in the dark you’re completely vulnerable. You can’t see the eyes that remain hidden, watching your every move. You can see nothing but the silhouettes of the shadows as they move. They’re there. You can feel them. Still, in the dark you never really see them.