I love this.

Cost

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
- Henry David Thoreau

Childhood Fear

“I remember my own childhood vividly…I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”
- Maurice Sendak

This quote inspired me to tell my own story from when I was young.  I knew terrible things...

I imagine everyone can remember being scared as a kid.  Maybe for you it was a dark closet, the garage, the back yard with the neighbor’s dogs barking away…or maybe it was an abandoned house in the neighborhood that captured your imagination in a way that made your nights restless.  For me, it was the witch across the street that brought terror to my heart.

I hid a single eye in the bottom corner of my bedroom window to see if it was safe to go to sleep.  Right eye closed, my other eye peaked over the window sill just enough to see the spot.  The rest of my body was tight, every muscle contracted, in pajamas and I swear my hands gripped the flat wood paneled wall like I’d fall through the floor if I let go.  It petrified my little four-year-old body, but each night I would look anyway.

She had long curly black hair that wrapped around her ashen face.  Her eyes, big, black and dark pierced the twilight between me and her as she stared down my courage.  There was no mistake that she was looking through the walls of my room and right at me.  Nothing else on earth existed for her but a four-year-old peaking with one eye through a window across the street.  Rising through a rainbow swirl of color terror from the welcome mat on the porch across the street from my bedroom, it was as if she knew when I would be looking and timed her arrival by smelling my fear…and as my fear grew, it seemed to draw her nearer.

I would watch until she started leaning and pointing her finger at me.  As she began to float I would look away and run to cower under my covers.  And, with no hope remaining, I would resign myself to the certain death that was coming.  It never came, and I assume I eventually fell asleep, but I don’t remember and this sequence happened for what now seems like years.  I suspect it was only a few weeks; maybe a month.  Then, one evening everything changed.

I began the watch as I always had, but she was not there.  I could see the rainbow swirl on the mat, but she was not there.  My body still tense, but my spirit relieved and ready for sleep went back to my bed.  There had never been a swirl without her before, but she was not there and I did not question the loss – it was a happy loss if it was a loss at all.  I snuggled cozy into my covers and rolled over towards the dark corner of my bedroom.

She was staring back at me with those dark glassy eyes…she was floating in the corner…not high, but not standing on the floor either.  Her eyes widened and she began to creep…float and creep at the same time…across to my face as I lay there unable to move, unable to breathe.  I mustered a scream and it would not come until she was inches away.  I have no recollection of what happened after I screamed.

I do know that I never looked out of that bedroom window again and I was so happy when we moved away from that house.  The witch never returned, but the house is still there today – it looks much like I remember it when we lived there – although it has been painted and seems like a happy place.  The house across the street is still there today; more dilapidated than I remember.  It has no welcome mat on the porch.