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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Our Childhood Fears

I cannot explain why this artist's depiction shows me
in striped pajamas. I never in my life have worn striped
pajamas.  The creature under the bed, however, is rendered
with excruciating accuracy.
Who among us can honestly report he was not afraid of what was under his own bed?  Many is the night I spend cowering under the cover, my bladder filled to bursting like a water balloon, too terrified to set foot on the floor because I knew, just knew, that something was waiting under there to get me.  This thing, I knew, played by certain rules which it was unable or unwilling to break.  For example, although it was as aware of my presence above the bed as I of its below, and although its appetite for little boys was as urgent as my need to pee, it would not, under any circumstance, slither out from under and just grab me on top.  It could only wait.  And its patience was terrible.  Terrible.

Looking back, I realize that it could only extend from under the bed as much as I extended out of it.  For example, if I stuck my foot over the edge as far as my ankle, it could, indeed could do nothing but, stick out a corresponding length of claw, tentacle, or mandible.

Obviously I never encountered this thing, otherwise I would not be writing this blog today, but I surmised rather conflicting things about its phenotype.  For example, it had both the oozy gelatinous quality of an under-cooked egg and the hard shiny carapace of a black stag beetle.  How both are possible, I can't say, unless it were some bedroom-dwelling relative of a soft-shell crab.

Its body, though amorphous, corresponded rigidly to the bed's dimensions, filling the space as thoroughly and precisely as if it had been a shadow.  The shadow comparison is an apt one, because being photophobic, it scuttled to whatever alternate dimension such creatures scuttle when the sun rose.  In fact, had I been able to turn on the light, I could have thumbed my nose at it with a carefree tra-la-la, but owing to some malevolent electrician's whim, the light switch had been placed on the wall by the door, diabolically out of reach of the bed, with several feet of no-man's-land hardwood flooring, intervening.

These irrational fears, thank the Lord, were only a phase, and I haven't suffered from them since my early 30s.  Now I have much more sensible fears: sinking foundations, old age, work.  I'm no longer scared of the dark; I actually find it comforting.  It's daytime that terrifies me.

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