When I was a child I was afraid of the dark, but not just any old dark. When the lights went out I wasn’t filled with dread. Instead I was afraid of a very specific kind of darkness. That special kind of darkness that lives only beneath the bed of a child. The kind that waits, and breathes and listens.
When it was time for bed I would stand at my light switch, situated exactly 6 feet, 3.65 inches and 10 full steps from the safety of my bed. I would ready myself like an Olympic gymnast before the next event. As soon as the room went dark I bounded and vaulted with perfect grace into the waiting heap of sheets and pillows. Had the lights been on to witness my feat any present judge would be forced to have awarded me with at least a 9.5/10.
As it is well known, and stated clearly in the Handbook of Rules and Regulations Applying to Mythical Monsters and Scary Sleuths, once your feet are tucked deep inside the safety of a blanket – you’re officially safe. The Darkness, of course, is still there, but you are tucked away from its grasp. All it can do is lay in wait for another chance, maybe tomorrow, when you might fail to stick the landing quite as expertly.
But what do the Darknesses to when the children are gone? They can’t stay put while they escape to summer camps, sleep overs and family vacations. Instead they make their ways to their local meeting hall.
It’s always one of those gorgeous old Victorian homes on outskirts of every suburb. There they stand, huge and foreboding, but empty and forgotten all the same. The state of their disrepair and the thought of every utility bill makes parents shudder when they drive by and their kids point to the house and ask why no one lives there. Inside, between furniture coated in three decades of dust, corners stuffed with cobwebs and a solitary mirror stained and worn in all the right ways to make it more beautiful than it ever was in its previous life, the Darknesses gather.
There are plenty of rooms for them to pick from, but they of course prefer the master bedroom. In the middle there’s a massive four poster bed, what were once ornate and deep, velvety bed curtains hang in tattered, moth eaten shreds. The lack of electricity and pesky nightlights pleases them, now they can gather and talk.
They talk of all the children they saw grow into adults, whose own children they then saw grow. They would tell each other of all the dreams they saw over all these years, especially the ones based on a horror movie and a scary story the children snuck glances at. Of seeing little feet grow larger, and small thin limbs grow to long and shapely ones. How the toys would always eventually migrate from the room, and how nice it was each time their bed was upgraded.
The cribs were the worst, there was no storage and barely the room to lay during daytime. And you really only ever saw their parents’ feet, that were once so small. But how wonderful when a crib became a twin, a twin became a full, and if they were truly lucky, when a full become a queen. When this happened they gained room to stretch and relax, and every now and then a very interesting book would make its way down there. All the Darknesses were quite fond of H.P. Lovecraft. His childhood Darkness always had the best stories to tell at these meetings, the ones that even little Howard lost in the realm of his own dreams.
They talk about how these days’ children seemed to be much less fearful of them. This was good, in its own way, the Darknesses don’t necessarily enjoy inspiring fear in their children, but did it mean they were being forgotten? They feared, each secretly so as not to have to utter it aloud, of being relegated to the list of other creatures and tales that languished without human thoughts and fears to keep them around.
Like poor Spring-Heeled Jack. Jack once kept millions of children awake far past their bed times, staring sleepily out their windows to catch a glimpse of his storied figure run across a rooftop, or sliding down a drain pipe to fade into an alleyway. He ran from town to town, scurrying through the night with boundless abandon always knowing where he was needed.
But then one day all the children’s children’s children grew up, and he was slowly forgotten about. Children no longer gathered in schoolyards in circles to whisper his name in broad daylight. For a long time, he still wandered the sleepy towns and cities, but no one looked for him. Slowly he grew thin and tired, his eyes that once glowed (though they glowed a deep blue, not the rumored red), burned out aand went dull. Eventually he ceased his wandering and another day was simply gone. And there was no one to tell them to where he went.
“But surely you can’t be rid of all the Darknesses?”
“Can we be sure?” A Darkness that sat on the dusty bed asked nervously. The thought that they could vanish, too, silenced the room.
“But who then will watch over them?” One said.
With that the sun began to break the horizon and many went home, hoping to see those little feet.