Unseen in the Darkness

Ray Bradbury talks about the thing on the top of the stairs, watching and waiting in the darkness. He said he was able to finally escape the thing at age thirteen when he moved west. I, on the other hand, have never been able to escape it. I found it in Hyderabad when I was eleven, it follwed me to Bangalore at eighteen, hopped on the plane with me to Dallas at twenty-one and creeped into in my luggage when I moved to San Diego.

It’s 2am, my first day in my own apartment, I can’t sleep. All the lights are on, but I know that if I close my eyes, the thing will jump out of the darkness my closed eyelids would cause. I remember seeing the thing and being curious about it – not at eleven! But at six, in Bangalore. It was lurking in the back of the closet in thatha’s room. I had sneaked into his room to steal some of the candy he kept in the closet. He had warned me there were ghosts haunting that part of the room, but I hadn’t believed him. There it was, looking at me… I couldn’t really see it, but I knew it was there. I had forgotten about it until I turned eleven and felt it under the bathroom sink.

It lurked everywhere throughout my life; in my shadow, at the corner of my eye, in black thunder clouds and in every drak corner around me. It never left the dark, never spoke to me, and never even attacked me. Maybe it’s biding it’s time. But I know to fear it… it causes extreme anxiety in my heart, so much that I can feel my heart beating in my throat.

At 23, I learned to live with it. I know I am in no danger if I am with someone. The cover of darkness may protect it, but I know it will not show itself if someone is around. But I have never had to sleep alone before. Not once in my 23 years of existence.

I chose to move to a place of my own and live alone without roommates because I was tired of living in fear. I wanted to finally confront the thing. I had no idea what made me take that decision. I had no idea what it felt like to live alone. No safety of another human being. Anything could happen, I could doze off, or the power could shut down. There are so many possibilities for the thing to attack me.

4am, and I am exhausted. I only have to stay up for another hour and a half. I can close my eyes as soon as the sun raises. I don’t even have to wait for the sun to raise. The predawn light should be enough to keep the thing away.
It’s been a week of sleeplessness. It doesn’t feel like insomnia, I am sleepy, I want to sleep, but I just can’t close my eyes.
It’s been a month, and my eyes feel sunken into my face. I have lost my appetite. I have requested to work from home for a while.
I fell asleep last night, at around 230 am, the first after two months. I woke up with scratches on my neck and my arms. I must have been beyond exhausted not to have felt it. But this means the thing is real. It’s not in my head.

If I am not going to feel pain from the thing’s attack, it’s probably not so bad. I am afraid of the pain more than anything the thing might do. I should be able to get a good night’s sleep.
Six months, I am sleeping well enough. I wake up 3-4 times a night but am able to fall back asleep… I tried turning off the lights last night except a nightlight, but I swear I could hear growling. I still wake up with scratches all over me. I have been telling people I have an unruly cat.
Two years, and these scratches just feel like part of my skin. Nothing more drastic has happened. I only wake up 2-3 times a night now.
The last seven years have been wonderful. I have had a mostly restful sleep almost every night. Akhil and I have been living together. He hasn’t had to spend a night away yet, but now he is leaving for six weeks.

I feel the old anxiety, tightening of my chest, and the fear creeping back up. I have already had a few panic attacks at the prospect of having to sleep alone again. I had thought therapy the last five years had cured me, but I guess not. A false sense of security has driven me into complacency.

There is nothing to fear objectively, though. I was able to sleep alone in the past, I should be able to do it again. The cuts don’t really hurt, and most importantly, I haven’t felt the thing in years.
I woke up with a pretty deep gash on my thigh. It barely missed the femoral artery.

I refuse to let this fear take over my life. Maybe it’s not real. Maybe I am hurting myself in my sleep. I am going to videotape myself tonight.

Akhil has been knocking for over an hour, and I wasn’t even answering his calls. I sat on the bed watching him outside the window pacing up and down. He has left for now.

I don’t know how long it has been, but Akhil seems to be back with the apartment manager. They have gotten the door open and are staring straight at me. I am on the bed staring up at the ceiling. Nothing amiss except I am no longer in my body.

I feel a nudge. It’s time to move on to the next victim, but this time, the thing isn’t alone. It has me.

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