Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Life of Fear: Monsters


Lots of kids are afraid of monsters underneath their beds. I had monsters in the ceiling.

When I was about five years old, my parents had ceiling fans installed in the bedrooms of our house. I was fascinated with the thought that the installation would require a hole to be drilled into the ceiling just above the foot of my bed. Something previously permanent, in what should have been the safest place in the house, was being breached. It seemed inevitable that something... some thing would take advantage of this newly opened portal.

I have vivid memories of lying in the dark watching the newly installed fan spin. Logic would seem to dictate that since the fan plugged the hole, I was safe. Nope. Its gyrations created a vortex that drew supernatural creatures from the ether and sucked them into my room, like bugs caught in the water of a draining tub. Closing my eyes didn't help. I could feel them brushing against my face in the fan's breeze.

Eventually I started to see the shapes that these monsters had adopted. They flew from the ceiling, circling the the room: lurid, cartoonish figures that bled from the pop culture, television, and comic books my mind had soaked up. Frankenstein's monster, Freddy Krueger, Dracula, Satan, even some superheroes - it only occurs to me now that of all the possible monsters that could have terrified me, the ones that were the most frightening came in human forms. Maybe it was that those seemed more realistic, as if I realized that something the most likely to do me actual harm would come in the form of another person.

I'm not sure whether I fell prey to a particularly vivid nightmare or some form of sleep paralysis that night, but the specters were banished with a scream, dispelled by the light from the hall shining into my room as my parents rushed in. I never saw the monsters again, a fact that I attributed to the litany of prayers I recited each night afterward as I fell asleep. I'd make bargains with God, enumerating the names of the monsters from whom I required protection - scariest first, least threatening at the end. I'd keep my face buried in the pillow, half in trust that there was nothing hovering above me, half out of fear that my gaze would wander back to the ceiling and I'd discover with sickening dread that I was wrong.

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