I can remember that when I was a child, I was afraid to shut my eyes.
I’m not sure if I watched too many scary movies, or if my big sister locked me in dark closets one too many times, but at some point I developed a fear of darkness.
It started out like normal kid stuff – I wanted a night-light in my room. Fine. But soon the night-lights weren’t bright enough and I wanted a hallway light on with my door left open a crack. I would stare into the slightly illuminated darkness and tell myself that the shadows on the walls were from normal things, and no one was under my bed, and if I needed an adult I could just yell. This became a bed-time routine that continued until my eyeballs became dry, and my heavy eyelids could no longer stay open, and I would unintentionally fall asleep.
This is the very first time I can remember having a nightmare: The shadows in my room came alive and a bad man was coming to get me; I screamed and screamed and screamed for help but I was voiceless, at which point I would wake myself up with a muffled, whispered “ahhhhhh…“.
That was the first time I had that nightmare, and it was definitely not the last. This dream became recurring into early adulthood.
This led to my fear of being alone. If an adult or a friend wasn’t in the house with me after dark, I would turn on every single lamp and light switch and sit in a corner with a pillow and blanket, a knife or something to defend myself with, and stare into the brightness of the house until I once again would unwillingly fall asleep.
I hated when my parents left me alone. I still have issues being alone at night.
Around the time I was about eleven or twelve I started taking an interest in my cosmetic appearance, and experimenting with make up; I developed a nightly wash-my-makeup-off routine. It was fun and girly and something I could share with my sister, and I was excited to be entering this stage in my life.
This was the first time I saw the man’s face.
It was after supper, and I was at my dad’s house, taking a shower before bed. I put face wash all over my face and lathered, and closed my eyes to wash the mascara off. He was there in the darkness of my mind – the same man from the shadows of my nightmares, but this time it was just his face. His features were grotesque and warped, his eyes hollow and black, and his mouth twisted into a sneer. I screamed, and opened my eyes, and he was gone.
I thought I was going crazy so of course I didn’t tell a soul. But my new nightly wash-my-makeup-off routine became something that terrified me, rather than bring me joy. I would lather my face around my eyes, rinse with a face cloth, and then wash one eye at a time as to always keep one open, so I wouldn’t see the man.
I can’t tell you how many years I did this for. But it led to many sleepless nights, plenty of night terrors, and eventually this life I live everyday, fighting depression.
I don’t see his face anymore, but I feel the fear. I truly believe that his face was a manifestation of my depression- a sort of foreshadowing of my troubles to come.
I hope you never meet him, the man with the scary face.