[The point here is to write a story about something that happened to me a very long time ago. I started it last week not knowing where it would go or how long it would take to get there. Let’s all find out together, shall we?]
While living in the limbo of preadolescence, all things appear alien to a boy. To this boy they did, anyway. At the same time, the world of fantasy becomes increasingly attractive since the one he’s living in grows increasingly hostile. The sense of estrangement from all things familiar is thoroughly disorienting. Nighttime only intensifies the resulting wonder and fear.
Today, waking up from a deep sleep is a nightly occurrence. At least. In those early days, sleep was a jailer to whom I was willingly incarcerated. A raucous day in the Florida sunshine made sleep that much heavier. How to explain, then, awakening to nothing in the blackness of the night? Perhaps I’d consumed too much Coke or lemonade to relieve the oppressive Florida heat and humidity. The pressure on my bladder attested to that possibility.
In the surrounding darkness and unfamiliar environs, inertia and fear battled nature’s urges. For a few moments, I was able to hold back the dam and, there being nothing to see, I listened to the sounds of night in the swampy neighborhood.
In complete darkness and with no one stirring in my aunt’s house, I was surprised to hear, not silence, but a near deafening din. All manner of creature filled the sonic vacuum left by sleeping humans: frogs, insects, wild and domestic beasts. Low murmurs, high-pitched screeches, and everything in between created a symphony of the unknown to my immature ears and overdeveloped imagination.
I was in no hurry to leave the safe confines of the bed, but my bladder had other ideas.
With stealth befitting a more perilous predicament, I slipped out of the room and along the length (maybe seven feet) of hallway to the only bathroom in the cramped ranch house. What’s the first thing to do when one finds oneself in a dark bathroom, preparing to do one’s business? Turn on the light, of course.
Imagine yourself under a spotlight on a stage in a coal-black hall with innumerable… somethings you can’t see watching you. That was me. The world was black and I was immersed in glaring brightness to which my eyes had yet to acclimate. I’ve never, before or since, felt so vulnerable. I was in a cube of light in a world of dark. The single window in the bathroom shone like a beacon out to the unknown outside.
It was unnerving to a boy who had no idea what it meant to be unnerved. My consuming thought was to finish what I went in there for and get out as soon as possible. My fear, unfortunately, inhibited the process, forcing me to stand exposed. The task took far longer than it normally would but I finally finished.
It was at that precise moment that I heard the first of the footsteps. From outside.
To be continued…