By Delbert H. Rhodes
Sleeping through the night always evades him. Even in childhood, he would wake to alien darkness, disturbing threatening darkness. Then: three siblings and he shared a large bed. Yet when waking in the darkness, he was alone. Afraid. Almost every night, in his dreams, creatures hounded and hunted him. An imp with a long sharp knife, a red devil with a pitchfork, invaded his bedroom to harm, to kill him.
For safety, from the little man, JD needs to turn the light on, but the light string is always out of reach. Fear of the ghastly imp usually causes paralysis, and the terror-stricken boy is unable leave the bed. Then as JD lay frozen, the villain with the sharp blade carves his chest.
Seeing the devil peering around the doorframe, the child could jump from bed and attempt running around the creature. If successful JD would flee in horror to his parents’ bedroom. Sometimes, his attempts to escape fail. To the devil’s clammy clutch JD (then) becomes prey. With pitchfork in hand the devil lunges at the child, trying to stab and gore him. The devil almost succeeds on one occasion. The terrified child just makes it to safety, diving into bed between his sleeping mother and stepfather, the pitchfork’s jab missing the child’s heart ever so slightly.
Throughout his childhood, the dreams haunt JD. Night after waking night dread shares his pillow. Day after sleepy day he resents the nights.
As he ages, JD’s mother works the evening shifts. She too has her torments. A single parent: the financial strains are greater, and more money is needed. Alone in the living room, fear and television are JD’s company. Often his eyes and sleep fight raging battles. Snapping him into consciousness, his dangling neck fights back. Nevertheless, soon JD surrenders and falls.
The living room is kept well lighted. JD is too afraid to enter his bedroom for sleep. In there it is dark. In there he is damned. In there he is doomed. Always, JD falls asleep in the living room and with the light. The couch is his place of comfort, although often his fear prevents JD from relaxing-even-here. Sometimes it becomes difficult to stretch out sometimes it is difficult to feel comfortable. The couch’s armrest or its backing serves as JD’s pillow. Thereafter, and to the serenade of Television, he falls into restless sleep.
On her arrival: his mother always wakes JD, and sends him to bed. Sometimes, before Mom arrives, he attempts sleeping in his bedroom. Unfortunately, this feat is impossible. JD’s fear is too powerful. With his mother’s presence, and merging courage, JD faces his mental creature. A difficult task, but he is willing. From darkness deeper than his soul, the creature looks out; its face fills JD with terror. Sharp dripping fangs, and glowing red eyes, are menacing, horrific. Wrenching his tiny tired body from the couch, and tugging his sleep worn PJ’s; sluggishly the lad crosses the floor.
In the empty apartment: shadowy echoes make JD tense and nervous. From the kitchen, a noise shakes him: his fear antennae scream higher; craning his tiny neck, JD listens. Silence. Nervously, JD ventures to the kitchen to investigate. On the floor, and resting upon its mouth, stands a drinking glass. Knees shaking and wide-eyed, JD is fixated. His little boy’s mind is gripped by Halloween thoughts. Posturing JD tightens his little fists. Trembling, and breathing deeply, he summons his courage. Yet, JD is just a little boy. Moreover, little boys are not very big. Facing the wrong foe, not very big, could be too small. Furthermore, and although he would try to fight, the unknown is a very “big,” big.
How could this have happened? How could a drinking glass end standing on its mouth on the floor? Of course, JD has no explanations. After all, he is only a kid of twelve years. Knowledge of such things is beyond him, though he knows about ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. Consequently, this knowledge feeds his fear; and his fear is hungry. Starving.
All his life JD has suffered other life forms. In the periphery, he had seen them: from the corner of his eye. In darkness lives looming shadows, the livid stillness harnesses a flash of movement. When he would look, nothing would be seen. Behind him, a man sits in the living room; many times, he is sure of it. Near JD’s bed stands the figure of a little girl. In his mind, her visage is clear, but to his eyes evasive.
While watching television, when JD was fourteen years old, a shadow becomes visible on a hallway wall. As JD looks, it senses him and darts from sight. The moment leaves him feeling clammy creepy afraid. JD bravely although barely leaves his mother’s bedroom to look around but finds or hears nothing. Nervously JD surrenders to his feelings of gratitude.
For had he located the specter, or whatever it was, what could he have done? A few years later, JD experiences paralysis in bed. Many times something trips his radar, but he is unable to move, unable to turn to look. During his years at college, JD continues to suffer. The experience is harrowing, a day mare.
Dorm life as a transfer student is optional. JD’s choice to live off campus is easily made. Dwelling in the house for about one year, here he feels comfortable. JD’s comfort and challenge soon lock horns. Waking one morning, an eerie feeling shrouds him. Behind him, something, a presence lay. The rise and fall of its chest is almost perceptible. Turning to look, he feels it leap away. Some ghostly, ghoulish figure (had) shared JD’s bed. Feeling soiled and dirty he lay aghast. Unnerved by the incident, JD never tells his housemates. They would think him nuts.
JD’s threshold eighteen years later continues to invite the uninvited. With the bedroom door closed, he rests and sleeps better. A lesson he’d learned long ago. The act is insecure, but it is welcome. The measure offers insulation, but without protection, a mere psychological edge. To a specter traversing space and time, there are no barriers. Nevertheless, what other choices does JD have? Additionally, although periods of sleep are brief, still, he sleeps.
When retiring, failing to close the bedroom door invites problems. Suffering in his dream state JD tosses and turns: nightmarish haunts invade him, peppering him with conflict and dread. Waking, he wonders why such ills are endured. To his knowledge, JD has committed no heinous acts, not in this life, but perhaps in another. Consequently, this life is JD’s inferno his hell on earth, his avenue of retribution. Has all that is good delivered him into purgatory? Then he would notice the door. Unreality can be quite real.
Sometimes the tips of JD’s toes tingle. In order to relieve the sensation, he retracts and squeezes them. The sensation is never harsh, but a sharp tickle. To him, it is an enigma. Is he suffering a new malady? Is it all in his mind? Maybe. In the wee hours of his bedroom, his mind offers JD answers. Tiny answers…
…Work is usual, and its rewards a dire zero. Memos, meetings, conflicts and complaints rule the day. Every day. At the whistle, JD shrugs it off, and stops by his favorite Pizza place. A quiet meal exhilarates him. Talking with his buddy and the shop’s ambiance lifts JD’s spirits. The weekend is here, and JD has no pressing engagements. Even if he has, they could wait or press on. Sometimes, he is like this. Most times. After completing and paying for his meal, JD says farewell to his friend.
Rejoining his idle auto JD revs her up. Before gearing her in, he enjoys a private thought and then smiles. The car purrs sarcasm, or “carcasm,” as he mocks. The little hatchback and he, have been together too long. After backing her out, JD turns her into the street. He is homeward bound and finally.
After bathing, JD feeds his face, and enjoys a few movies, but minus the popcorn. What he really needs, however, is a good night’s sleep. Absent-mindedly, JD retires, and without closing the bedroom door. He is exhausted his eyelids slam shut. From his throat tiny animals snarl and growl. I hope that his neighbors are undisturbed.
This night JD falls asleep on his back. About two, maybe three hours later he wakes. Though somewhat incoherent, he is conscious. Moreover, in his apartment he feels company, and close-by. The feeling surrounds him here in his bedroom. Something compels JD to stillness, as he scans the foot of his bed. The model is makeshift: a sleeping bag cushioned by blankets, resting on the hardwood floor. Simplicity is important to this man, and being close to the ground is his way. JD often says, “A soft bed makes a soft man.”
Standing near JD’s feet are tiny figures. Their height is the measure of one foot. Somehow, he senses them as male, but non-human. Both figures attend to the toes of JD’s left foot. Each creature holds in his hand some type of instrument. JD watches as they touch him, but feelings are indiscernible. The creatures work with intent. Nevertheless, when he moves they startle. Each gives a head turn, glancing over its shoulder, but momentarily. Subsequently, the task is simply resumed. The feeling of threat never consumes JD, but rather that of invasion, and experimentation. Somehow, anger too, is absent. Who, what are these creatures? Furthermore, where in God’s name, do they come from! In addition, what are they doing to his toes, and why?
As much as he wants to, JD is unable to remain awake. Submitting once more to heavy eyes, on a sailboat of sleep, he drifts. Later, the morning wakes him. Quickly, JD looks down at his feet. The strange little creatures are no longer present. A foot and toe inspection ensues, and everything seems okay. All toes present, and nothing hurt. An illusion he thinks, but this manner of thinking is absurd. For: past experiences eradicates that consideration. JD saw what he saw. Besides, as disconcerting as it is, he accepts the incident. What else could he do, sue? One month later, on a second night, the door to a visit remains open. In addition, the frame of JD’s mind is perplexed.
The tiny Podiatrists never return, and their whereabouts are never pondered. Replaying the incident in his mind provokes enough thought. Besides, even if JD knew where they were, from where they’d come, they are unreachable. Unfortunately, a time machine is unavailable to him. Nor does JD have space age weaponry, with which to blast those critters. No, the urge to harm them is denied him. Those feelings are alien. JD is left mystified.
The day is long, and the night short. The eyes of the nightlight are closed, and the stare of the television unconscious. The radio stands silently next to JD’s bed, but its silence is broken. Ironically, JD favors a program that deals with the unexplained. During the wee hours, spaceships, shadow people, distant worlds, and those much closer; titillate his thinking. The program manifests peace of mind, and relaxation. Willing, JD surrenders to the embrace of sleep. The bedroom door remains open; he feels it to be okay. Tonight, JD is in a different mood. Relaxed at ease. An open door is an invitation.
This night, JD sleeps in his usual position, fetal, left side. Sleeping well, he is without conflict, yet compelled to ignore dreamland. Again, he wakes with an overwhelming, yet non-disquieting sense of a presence. JD listens, but the melodies of nocturnal romantics are all he hears. Toads and other low light lovers croak and chirrup. Inaudibly, a spectral presence sweetly whispers in his ears. From wall to wall, and point to point, JD scans the room. Nothing, no one. Nonetheless, there is someone, something. From his position on the floor, his head lay next to the doorframe. Driven to peer around its bottom, he stretches, and then cranes his neck. Then as JD looks out, looking in at him is a small face. Startled, shocked, they each freeze; resting eye to eye nose to nose, almost check to rose-colored check.
The face is that of a little girl, a teeny tiny little girl. She is one to two feet tall, milky skinned, with shoulder length wavy dark brown hair, and large dark brown eyes. Her eyes are luminous exquisite and expressive. Apparently, she peers around the frame, at the exact moment as he. In her eyes is indication of JD’s presence; she knew he lay on the other side. To peer at him, hers was calculated movement. Although in brief, JD views her from head to arm line. She wears clothing made of an unidentifiable fabric. Furthermore, her manner, although startled, is unthreatening, actually placid.
Without saying a word, if she speaks at all, and when realizing the blunder, the little girl retracts her head. Never shying from her gaze, she hides behind the doorframe. With exception to height, anatomically, she appears normal. Moreover, although tiny, she seems adult. An intuitive maturity radiates from her.
JD is breathless speechless in awe. Who is she! Allowing for composure, slowly, he peeps around the doorframe. Waiting without her is her memory. The darkness of the rear bedroom meets JD’s gaze. Where did she go? He rolls into his bed, and replays the mental video.
The tiny child is adorable, cute. Her face reminds JD of a familiar image. Yesteryear, a longtime girlfriend and he discussed bearing children. JD never agreed to children, however, the face of one-child remains in his mind. Her face is as clear today as it was many years ago. Additionally, the face of JD’s imaginary daughter, and the face of this little angel seems identical. How could it be? His child remains a fantasy, never breathes air. Yet, this child is real. Solid. Reaching out he could have touched her. The little girl’s image is vivid unshakable. A feeling of calm surrounds JD and he begins to smile. The experience feels special. He wants to see her again; but the child never returns.
Five years have passed since her visit, and the little girl remains elusive. Alone in his apartment, JD sometimes feels her presence. Frequently, while working at his computer, he senses her at his right side. Fleetingly and seemingly, her image rests near JD’s shoulder. Often close enough to interrupt his work. In his mind, JD clearly sees her, but when turning to look; there is no one.
Lately, her presence is pervasive. A repeat visit is almost certain. Is this person inter-dimensional, from another world? A relative, a long-lost friend? Could she be the child I refused? She is the elusive bridge spanning his questions. In addition, JD needs desperately to be its points of anchor.
Occasionally: as he sleeps, JD leaves the door open. Subsequently, and although risking the uninvited, the worth is greater than the wrath. For in the darkness of space and time, a little girl calls to him. Moreover, one day, when she is ready, he will hear.
Copyright © 2002 Delbert H. Rhodes