When I was a young child there were many unknown things to be wary of, including strangers. There were monsters with many eyes, others with multiple legs and still others that could fly. All of them seemed to meet up under my bed or in my closet when I should have been asleep. Naturally they’d disappear the minute a light was turned on or a parent came into the room, but I knew they were just hiding, waiting for the lights to go out again. I’m sure my parents got exhausted checking to prove there were no monsters hiding anywhere in my room. Just as I grew tired worrying about how far under all the sheets I needed to be just to hide from them at the foot of the bed.
Even worse for my parents was the that monsters liked to migrate during the day, sometimes slipping through the vents to the basement. And once they were down there, they’d just wait patiently, probably listening with anticipation for the moment my mother would send me down to fetch something. On trembling legs, tip toes only touching the floor, I’d try to stretch myself out as long as I could, so I could hit the lights without being down in the dark too far or too long. Once I had the requested item, I’d slap the light switch off, pound up those stairs with my heart right in my ears. I knew it was a close call, the monsters had just about gotten me, but I was fast.
At some point my mother got tired of my feet slamming on the stairs as I ran back up, just as she grew impatient with how slowly I’d make my way down those same stairs. My father would just shake his head and tell me not to stomp in his house. As though somehow he thought there were no monsters down in the basement. Of course he spent time down there alone so for all I know he may have made a deal with those monsters. They’d give him his space and he’d give them there.
They weren’t able to prove there were no monsters out in the bigger world though as I recall a young boy going missing when I started school. He was almost the same age as me and he just disappeared one day when he should have been walking home from school. I remember my mother reminding me of the importance to not stray from my path home and not to go with people I did not know. It was the first time I realized that there were things that could not be chased away by opening a door, or turning on a light.
I remember when they found the little boy, only because my mother seemed to hug me tighter and not let me out of her sight as much. I also remember my mother and father talking about how kids should just be safe to go to school, come home and play the way it was when my parents were young. I didn’t know that these horrors were old, that children had gone missing ever since children came into existence.
And as the fields I wandered in grew larger and further from home I realized that there were more monsters than I could ever have imagined on my own. And no amount of pounding feet or standing on tiptoes can keep us safe. No shining lights, checking under the covers or opening and closing a door can make those monsters disappear. Instead we can only hope we are prepared and able to avoid them at the same time.