The semester has ended and I found myself looking over some past assignments from these past few months. Here’s one of my favorite pieces (which isn’t saying much). This is part of my autobiography.
I was caught in an infinite web. Fat, hairy, and alien bodies, scurried along the ceiling on long, prickly legs. There were hundreds of them, skittering about in the darkness. I was falling up into their jumbled mesh of weaved threads. Even when I closed my eyes, I could see the descending threads; feel them brush against my cheek, feel their numerous eyes on my plump, five-year-old body. The rhythmic breathing of my parents surrounded me on either side but I could not will myself to sleep, not with them waiting for me. I scrambled over the mass of my father’s belly and tiptoed into the living room.
The room, that was usually full of life and noise, was in dead silence. The hallways hid monsters in their black shadows. I curled up on the sofa, so my face was near the small television. I winced as the static shot the silence as the TV turned on. I turned down the volume so it was a mere murmur, which still screamed in the night. This was how I used to put myself to sleep as a child, with eyes watering and wanting for rest, and my head nodding and snapping awake. I did not want to be conscious of when I fell asleep, for I did not want to meet my monsters.
That night I was watching re-runs of I Love Lucy, when my father appeared in the doorway. “Get to bed.” He said.
“I don’t want to. Please.” I pleaded.
“Sleep before I make you.”
“But papi, the spiders…” His hand rested on his waist, looking for the belt that was not there. He gave me a look that was a mix of anger, annoyance, and tiredness. His steel colored hair stuck out in random directions and the light of the television painted his face ghost-like. I dragged my feet and kept my head down as I shimmed back under the sheets. He slumped back into bed; the springs echoed their distain with a chorus of creaks. I ducked my head underneath the sheets, and held it tight against my face. My breath made the sheets hot and uncomfortable, unbreathable but I dared not move as I curled into my mother’s side.
The spiders, although never gone, were the least of my worries once my new terror emerged. This one, though, was smart and only appeared whenever I was alone. The next night, my parents were at work so my grandfather put me to bed. He knelt on his bony knees and bent his head in prayer. I let the warmth of his deep voice wash over me as sleep pulled at my mind. After he finished, he said “buenas noches,” which I parroted back. He left and the only sound was the roaring beat of my heart that made it impossible to submerse myself in my subconscious.
When I heard his cackling, I sat up straight in the bed, clutching the comforter in shaking fists. His silhouette stood behind the thin curtains my mother used instead of doors. He cackled again, and peeked his awful little head in. The scars, crisscrossed across his face, his evil blue eyes stood out even in the darkened room. The knife gleamed in the orange glow of my Pocahontas nightlight. I wanted to scream as the possessed doll came closer, waving his knife as he took careful baby steps towards me.
“Leave me alone Chucky!” I yelled. His smile grew. I ducked underneath the covers, my only protection, and willed him away. He is not there. Not there. Not real. I lied to myself. There was silence, no laughter, no shuffling of good boy sneakers across the carpet. With a sigh, I removed the covers and glanced around. The air felt cold against my warm face.
“Still here,” his grin stretched the limits of his rubber face. He was at the foot of the bed now, looking for a way up.
“No, no, no,” I said as he placed one child-like hand on the bed. I squeezed my eyes shut and thought of the God my grandparents and mother prayed to. God, please don’t let him get me, I prayed. A halo of green light surrounded the bed and grew into a dome-like barrier. It radiated energy and sparked whenever Chucky touched it. He scowled and shook his hand in pain.
“Next time,” he promised as he left the room with his head turned backwards watching me with maniacal eyes. He would come back, every night, as I lay alone, but I was ready for him now. Eventually, he too faded away along with the spiders.
As I grew, my monsters shrunk away back into their horrible abyss. When I turned eleven however, a worse foe appeared. I saw him perchance as I glanced out my window one afternoon. He stood in front of the abandoned car in the shade of the grand tree that grew in the backyard. He wore a baggy yellow jumpsuit with puffy white sleeves. Two tufts of dirty orange hair poked out of his little yellow hat. As if sensing my gaze, he glanced up and smiled. I could see the painted blue triangles on his chalky white face stretch under his eyes. “Come down,” he said without using his mouth. “We all float down here.” I shut the curtains of the window and fell against my bed. Not there. Not real. Yet I could not erase the image of the red balloon he held in his hand, the one that was still despite the breeze.
I hated going into the abandoned lot that the owner of the house called a backyard. He would stand underneath that tree, beckoning me as I retrieved items from my mother’s car.
“What are you looking at? Apúrate,” my mother yelled with her hands full of grocery bags. I grabbed all the bags I could and waddled to the front of the house.
“Do you want a balloon, Joycie?” He said with a smile that showed his teeth. They were piranha like, rotten and yellowed with age. No, I do not want a balloon, I thought. At the top of the steps, I dropped one of the bags, the one that held a carton of Breyer’s ice cream. It bounced down the steps and rolled to a stop on the sidewalk. The top fell off and the melted butter pecan oozed between the weed-cracked sidewalk.
“Agarralo!” my mother commanded. When I didn’t move, she pushed me aside and tried to save the remainder of the ice cream. “You’re not supposed to stare at it,” she reprimanded. In the sanctuary of the kitchen, she asked me why I hesitated to pick up the carton. I shrugged, too ashamed to say it was so I didn’t have to see It again and it’s damned red balloon.
Night fell and it was time for bed. I hated my room. It was tiny, possibly used as a nursery but the size did not matter. It was the closet that bothered me. It had double sliding doors and covered with mirrors. Shadows loved to play tricks and I could never look into the mirrors as the shadows danced and distorted my vision. My back was always to the mirrors and my body hugged the wall. The window sat a few inches from the top of my bed and the cold air rolled down the sill. It was a night like any other, he was outside, I had just checked, peeking through the break in the curtains. He waved and I squeezed my eyes shut. He was not really there. How could he be? Not there. Not real.
Hot breath was on my neck but I had never felt so cold. “We all float,” Pennywise said in his stupid singsong voice. I did not want to turn around. I could not. I could not run; he was between the door and me, so I did the only thing I could. I pretended to sleep, hunched my shoulders up to my ears and became a ball. My blanket threatened to suffocate me as I draped it over my head. He shuffled about in the small space. Then he stroked the air above my body, his nails were long and dirty and resembled claws. I cannot remember how long I lay there waiting for him to leave. Taking a chance, I turned just slightly. I was alone again but the air was still thick with his presence.
His chuckles echoed in my ears. Turning over to my back I jumped as my mirror double copied me. Her eyes were too round, only deep black circles. Her mouth was a black hole pulling at the rest of her face. I could not take it anymore, kicked off the sheets, and left my room. Moonlight filtered into the small kitchen giving me enough light to navigate around the table and chairs. I tiptoed into my mother’s room and slid in beside her. Her boyfriend, who luckily worked nights, would not be back until around six in the morning. Enough time to cover my tracks. My mother’s snores were comforting and lulled me to sleep. If I had dreamt, I cannot remember, but then again some things are best left forgotten.
It feels as if most of my life is defined by the things I have believed I have seen but couldn’t have, from the crazy old man that would hang outside the window of the living room, to the shadows that move or the creatures I see creeping around barely lit corridors. I still feel like this is misnamed, seeing as night terrors (or sleep terrors) are defined as intense fear felt while sleeping. The spiders where pre-sleep, Chucky was probably during sleep, and Pennywise was actually during the daytime…so make what you will from that.