A List of Things that Scare Me in the Dark

1. When I was very small, I feared the Witch at the Window. I don’t know why. I suppose she was a climber, green fingers hanging on the sill outside, and her long nose pressed to the glass. There was no tree out my window, and she never came tapping, just a silent thing peering in. We kept the shades drawn at night, to keep the car lights out, and all our sleeping in, but sometimes the corner pulled away at the bottom. I never looked, already knowing she filled the peeking space.

2. It took me a long time to learn not to watch horror films before bed. It took longer to learn not to watch them at all.

3. There’s a slow, creeping knowledge that I have no idea how to fall asleep. I am just lying still in one place, quiet as I can, hoping that some thing on an uncharted track will trip over me. I listen to my own thoughts, and I think they might just be too loud. They seem to be scaring this thing away.

4. I remember looking at the corner of my room once, and knowing there was something there. I remember the lean of the shadow, the ruddy grey that would have been bright orange paint under daylight, and the exact inches between it and my blanketed toes. I don’t remember what it was, but I shut my eyes, and I turned the speed of my heart into the back beat off the most important phrase I knew: “You have a good imagination, idiot.”

5. Sometimes dreaming feels like floating. Or I imagine it does. I have never held so still on top of a pool or pond, never been so confident I would not sink. But my arms and hands get sluggish, dragged down by the weight of the water. My feet might move, but they don’t move me, just duck and slip and kick. And every once in a while I bob too low, and jerk awake.

6. After a few hours of lying awake, there’s a slow, creeping knowledge that I might never fall asleep. I might watch sunrise from the wrong side, and my blood will run too hot all day, and my head will say nothing useful, and my chest with constrict with laughter this moment and tighten into tears on the next. But this lying here is useless. It might be better to just throw back the covers and find a book. Or get to work. Or do anything but lie there, begging for a thing to trip over me. Because I have no idea how to fall asleep.

7. I do not like zombies. I do not like anything that will smile at me until I love it – until I’d run for it, fight for it, cry for it, hunt for it, give in for it – and then suddenly become a mindless thing with teeth, made to rip through me. I do not like the fading thought behind their eyes. I don’t like not knowing how to use my last breath: praying that memories aren’t as dead as they seem, or running flat-out.

8. I dream things sometimes, and on the good nights I wake in the middle of it. Then I can creep out of my bed, and touch the hands of people I love, and know they aren’t the dream things that I had seen hanging on a tragedy.

9. I leave my phone on. I can’t figure out how to turn it off, how to tell a machine to ignore the voices of my friends, when it doesn’t know the crack of a voice that needs an answer.

10. I don’t know how to fall asleep. It’s not me that turns off my hands and feet and spine, and hollows out the inside of my head until it’s not the place my thoughts crowd around, but a stage for me to watch impossible things. And I never feel that thing coming, to tap me on the shoulder with thick fingers and send me into this quiet unconscious, unfeeling, unknowing.

11. I don’t like ghosts either. But – except for that one that the movies showed me rising out of the black water, just slick hair and white eyes – I don’t think they’re real.

12. If there’s a fire, I’ve got it covered. I’ve been itching for a chance to unroll the emergency ladder and see what it looks like, and I can never sleep when it’s too hot.

13. No vampire would be seen dead in my town.

14. But I don’t actually know how it is that I fall asleep.

When I asked my friends what I should write tonight, they told me to make a list. Apparently this is what comes out when I tell my brain to make a list that would be interesting to read.

A long while ago, DJ Matticus over at The Matticus Kingdom also suggested that I write a horror story without using an of the bump-in-the-night creatures (werewolves, zombies, ghosts, etc.). This is the closest I’ve come to doing that. But I think I broke the rules.

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