I am awake, yet barely.
My heavy eyes are open just enough to see blurred figures of monochrome horses galloping in circles around my bedroom, emanating softly from my guardian: my carousel of light. One after another, over and over, the horses follow the same path; every shape is a beacon of white light, washing the room in its amiable glow—a glow that casts away the menace of the shadows and whatever creature may lurk in them. I hear the soft, yet reassuring sounds of my carousel’s music box, sweet tings and hushed dings, lightly coaxing me into the dream world with their melodies, making my heavy eyes heavier.
But somewhere beneath the harmony, I hear the harsh click of an old door slowly creaking open.
I rub my tired eyes and sit up in bed. Everything looks as it should: my carousel nightlight shines and spins in the far corner; my teddy bear is snug by my side; my closet door is wide open.
But Daddy closed the door before bed.
I strain my eyes to the darkness of the closet. A long, pale hand slowly snakes out of obscurity and grips the trim of the door.
I am not so tired anymore; my eyes are not so heavy. I grab Bear and fling myself down, bringing my blanket over my head to create a cocooned refuge underneath bulky flannel sheets. My breath is hot under the weight of the sheets and my little heart races. I cling to Bear.
Bulky steps drag across the carpet. They don’t seem to be coming my way.
Then, the reassuring sounds of my carousel stop. I hear the plug drop to the floor.
I grip Bear tight as the heavy steps creep my way. I am scared, but my childish curiosity overpowers my emotions. I make a hole small enough for one eye to peek through and make Bear look first.
I take my turn.
I can only see the floor, but the room is dark; barely illuminated by the faint light of the moon desperately trying to pierce my window’s blinds. The horses have stopped their roundabout.
Feet suddenly step into view.
My little eyes widen.
White, nearly translucent feet, not of a man, but of a monster. White, like the bed-sheet ghost I cut holes in for Halloween and Mommy got mad at me.
I can’t move, I can only stare and clutch Bear and the blankets. The monster doesn’t move, either. It just stands there with thin, boney feet.
Deep silence sweeps the room, pounding in my ears, squeezing against my skull.
Just as I exhale as softly as I can, the blankets are ripped out of my terrified hands.
I wake up. A dream of my childhood; memories of that first night I cannot seem to forget. I sigh and sit up, grabbing the tall glass of water off my nightstand.
The room is dark with only the faint glow of moonlight seeping in through the window blinds.
The room is empty.
A part of me, my lost childhood, still yearns for my carousel of light, for the blurred shapes of horses galloping endlessly around my room; for the warm white light it radiated, keeping the shadows at bay for as long as it could, and for its hushed melodies. Anything to help me sleep better at night.
Then, from the darkest corner, my closet door slowly creaks open.
Frantically, I throw myself down and bring my blanket over my head. I have no Bear to grip tonight or any other night. Bear now sleeps with my daughter in the room down the hall.
Bulky steps pound against the carpet.
There is nothing to unplug this time, so they come straight my way.
I make a small hole and peek from under the security of my blanket; my childish curiosity never left me.
Thin, boney feet come into view.
Silence sweeps the room, but the air above me is unsettled.
It’s hovering over me.
It’s breathing in my ear.
I exhale as quietly as I can. The blankets are ripped out of my hands.
Our eyes lock; green eyes on black.
I smile. I can’t tell if he’s smiling, he has no discernible features safe his eyes—jawbreaker black holes flushed against translucent skin. He hovers over me, his branch-like fingers resting on either side of me, all highlighted in the faint glow of the autumn moon.
After all these years of playing his game, this version of hide-and-seek, I have convinced myself it’s his favorite.
I have convinced myself he smiles.
Our steady gaze remains for a moment more, then my monster lumbers back to his closet and closes the door behind him. I pull my sheets back up in an attempt to feel warmth again; those last bitter nights of autumn always send a chill through the house.
I lie awake for a moment more, reminiscing on that first night. I thought my carousel nightlight was my savior, my knight with a music box.
He doesn’t like the light, but my daughter does. I can hear the sweet and hushed sounds of the carousel carelessly spilling out from her bedroom and faintly into mine.
Then, somewhere beneath the distant harmony, I hear the click of an old door slowly creaking open from inside her room.
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