Things have happened, and there's naught left for me to do but the obvious. In this, you must be the judge, but first let me start at the beginning.
When I was young, I was always afraid of the dark. I'm not sure why, and it doesn't really matter. I just was. It seemed I would see places that were a little darker than the rest of my bedroom, and as I stared wide eyed into the darkness the blackest areas would slowly change shape and sometimes flit about the room thus scaring me even more.
Sometimes I would become so frightened that I would end up screaming out in sheer terror, and naturally, as soon as the light came on, everything would completely disappear. I remember feeling so stupid as I looked around my very normal bedroom and then at my angry mother.
Eventually I reasoned that the dark was as much afraid of the light as I was of the dark, and it would quickly slip away in the blink of an eye whenever confronted by the light. I could almost see it as the last bit slid under the closet door and retreated even further to the tiniest places like under the shoes and into the recesses of the deepest corners if the closet door was open, but I knew it would be back just as fast the moment the light was turned off again.
What hideous things the dark would do to me if only given the chance I could only imagine, and I often did just that. The clutches of the dark thing closing around my throat or sucking my life's breath from my body were only two of the many things I laid in bed thinking about. Each night of my youth became a battle to thwart the darkness and its hideous designs on me.
Sometimes I would sneak our dog into my room with me. Everyone knows that they can see in the dark, and the dark knows this and was afraid of pets such as dogs and cats.
Other times, when I wasn't able to sneak the dog into my room, I would resort to hiding under my blanket. I've heard of some kids hiding under their beds, but isn't that one of the places that the dark is the deepest? On those nights, I would completely cover myself with my blanket with the edges tightly tucked under me all the way around so that the dark couldn't slip in. Only my mouth was exposed so I could breathe fresh air. I was careful not to give the dark access to my mouth too. I used to place my pillow in front of it and used my arm for a pillow instead.
Once in position, I dared not move out of it lest the dark shapes could quickly move into an exposed area and wrap itself around me and get me. I didn't care if my arm would go numb and my fingers tingled. I was afraid, and I knew that as long as I stayed in that position I was relatively safe.
As I grew older, I began to challenge the dark. I had finally acquired a flashlight and kept it at the ready at all times. Whenever I saw the deeper shades of darkness form or move about, I'd quickly flash it on and try to catch it in the sudden stream of light, but as always, the dark was as quick as the light and instantly raced to the farthest reaches of the room. I never did see anything, but I always felt that something was there lurking in the shadows just the same.
Once when I was twelve, I actually saw the darkest of the dark slowly change shape and even more slowly move towards me, or at least, I thought I actually saw it, but instead of being gripped by fear, I smiled and thinking, "I got you now!" I waited until the last second, and in less than an instant I brought the flashlight to bear and flicked the switch, but nothing happened! The damned thing didn't work!
In the next moment, the dark was upon me! I felt its cold, clammy body wrap itself around me, squeezing my body until I couldn't breathe. I tried to scream but couldn't. My throat didn't work, and I was too frightened to move!
At the very last of it, I managed to throw the flashlight at my door just before I blacked out.
A panic attack is what the doctor said. How could I tell anyone that he was wrong, that it was the dark that did it to me. The noise that my flashlight made when it hit my door brought my mother to my room, and when she hit the switch to see what was going on, the light scared the dark away, and I was saved.
Six months of psychological therapy showed me that my parents must really love me. After all, didn't they pay all that money to a therapist who in the end was convinced that I had been cured of my insecurities, which had manifested themselves into my being afraid of the dark?
Actually, I felt bad about my parents paying all that money for nothing, and I told my therapist that I could see that he was right; there was nothing about the darkness that was frightening, that it was all in my head and that I was a perfectly normal preadolescent with perfectly normal fears and that the dark couldn't possibly really hurt me ... especially since I got a new flashlight and a small back up one besides!
Eventually, as I grew into my teens, I realized that I was using the flashlights less and less. I attributed this at first to the dark knowing that I had the flashlights and that it had pretty much given up on molesting me.
Still, every so often there were times, even after I became a young adult, when I would get that old feeling again and look about into the darkness with suspicion. Afterwards, I would always admonish myself for being so foolish.
I wasn't even thinking about the dark on my wedding night. My girlfriend turned wife distracted me enough from it that I'd completely forgotten that I had ever been afraid of the dark. In fact, I really didn't give it another thought until our son turned five and woke us up with the most terrible scream in the dead of the night.
We both bolted upright in bed, and I ran to his bedroom with his mom close on my heels. Throwing the switch, I saw it all in an instant. I saw the terrified look on my son's face as he sat up in the middle of his bed in his very normal looking bedroom, and that old feeling came crawling up my back once more. I suddenly realized that it was me who was standing at the entrance of my son's bedroom with my finger on the light switch. The circle was complete. I had grown up and replaced my mom in the scene.
I thought about all of the things that she used to tell me in such situations, and remembering how hearing them had made me feel, I rejected them. I thought about telling him how I used to think the darkness was afraid of the light, but figured it would be best if, as a father, I shouldn't attribute genuine thoughts or feelings to the darkness.
I even thought about simply telling him the truth that as he grows older, his fear of the dark will eventually go away, but before I finished the thought I realized that the knowledge wouldn't really help him through the next ten years or so of being afraid.
All of this went through my head in an instant, but my momentary indecision wasn't noticed since my wife had rushed past me, and scooping our son up into her arms she told him that everything would be all right.
"Mommy and Daddy are right here," she told him. "You're safe now. We won't let anything bad happen to you."
Oh how I wished that my mom had said that to me! Security was the answer to all the fear, and the motherly instincts of my wife would solve years of living in fear in only a matter of moments.
Once again I felt like a fool, only this time it wasn't because the light had chased away the dark and the room looked so normal. It was because the solution to the problem was so incredibly simple. It was just too bad that neither I nor anyone else had thought of it years ago. Not even six months of expensive therapy could teach me such an obvious answer to the problem.
"There is no such thing as a bogeyman," cooed my wife. "And it's all right if you get scared sometimes. Just remember that Daddy and Mommy are right in the next room, and we'll be here for you anytime you need us."
God how I wished my mom would have said something like that to me, and in that moment, I realized that I loved my wife even more than before. She was both practical and a good mother.
I was certain that other than an episode here and there, everything would be fine, and my son would be able to work things out on his own under the watchful eye and love of his mother, but things didn't quite work out that way.