Childhood days are filled with fun, a time of delight and discovery. But children also have vivid imaginations for conjuring the denizens of make-believe. Like most otherworldly elements, the fantastical is inhabited with beings of light and dark.
Most of us remember the boogeyman under the bed, a malevolent creature born from the blood of midnight, dust and shadow. When darkness settled, the boogeyman left its realm, oozing to life through the floorboards beneath a child’s bed. We knew better than to dangle a hand or foot over the edge of the mattress. The temptation was a blatant invitation for the boogeyman to “get us.” Although it was never really clear what that amounted to, we knew it would be terrifying.
Trying to convince an adult of the boogeyman’s existence was pointless. Once a light switch was activated, or a parent peered under the bed to reassure us, the boogeyman retreated, seeping back through the floorboards before it could be spied. Clever and ghastly, it wasn’t the only menacing creature to haunt our bedroom.
Kindred of the boogeyman, the closet monster was every bit as sinister. Like the boogeyman it appeared at night, summoned when a closet door was left standing ajar. That crack, no matter how minuscule, summoned it with the lure of slipping into our world. Shut the closet and the monster would be trapped inside. For all its menacing presence, it was powerless to open the door on its own.
With the closet monster contained and the boogeyman prowling beneath the bed, that left only the dark enchantment born from the night. Wind, moonlight and shadow had the power to turn everyday tree branches into writhing snakes and skeletal fingers. When those same grasping fingers tapped against night-blackened window panes, we knew the danger lurking outside actively sought a way indoors.
In the morning, the touch of sunlight banished all dark creatures to their shadow-draped warrens and we could almost believe the danger wouldn’t return. Almost. In the bright wash of daylight, darkness and the denizens that inhabited its realm held no power.
We rode bikes, raced across open fields, picked wild strawberries and climbed trees. When dusk fell, we danced with fireflies, told ghost stories and played hide-and-seek. Twilight was magical, nothing to fear. But night eventually settled, forcing us to crawl into bed, certain the boogeyman had returned.
Somehow, despite all the ghoulish creatures that wanted to “get us,” we emerged from childhood unscathed. In time, we reached an age where they no longer existed, and ceased to trouble our sleep.
Maybe it’s just me, but dangling my hand over the edge of the bed is something that still gives me pause. Even as logic tells me there is nothing down there, I get that shivery sensation that has me snatching my hand back to safety after a short time. Silly? Yes. But a writer’s imagination is every bit as vivid as a child’s. How about yours?
Bet honest. How comfortable are you dangling a hand or foot over the edge of the bed? What nighttime creatures frightened you in childhood?