I reach out in the darkness, my fingers groping for the glass of water, my heart beating fast. Something too terrible to contemplate is waiting for me. It’s lurking there, hidden all day long but anticipating this moment - the moment when I drop my guard. Then its sharp claws and vile, venomous fangs will, in one swift move, grab me and drag me down. Down into its filthy lair where it can devour me in a manner so horrific that even my own wild imagination is too limited to picture it in detail.
Unfortunately, though, my imagination is not limited enough when it comes to the idea of this dreadful attack. It is utterly ridiculous. I KNOW there is no monster under the bed! So why is it that when I have to reach my arm out from under the duvet of supreme safety (it’s amazing how protective some hypo-allergenic foam inside a cotton cover can be) I still get this irrational fear?
During daylight hours the monster is dormant and invisible. His lair is still pretty filthy, I must confess; the boxes with contents that have long been forgotten and the stray books and odd socks that have ended up under the bed are covered in a film of dust, fluff (always blue, for some reason) and hair... Now and then a predatory vacuum cleaner may venture there to suck up these morsels and fill its belly with such detritus. In spite of the rude interruption of a probing hoover head and roaring motor, the monster remains unseen and undisturbed. But I know it’s there, as soon as darkness falls, waiting for one false move – the moment when I reach my arm across the threshold or when my foot inadvertently stretches out from under the covers…
Of course I’m exaggerating it, but it’s funny how this unfounded childhood fear still lingers somewhere in the back of my rational adult mind. Where does this idea come from? It’s such a common and quite specific anxiety. There’s a theory that it’s linked to a primordial fear of predators. Our early predecessors were obviously more vulnerable to fatal animal attacks in the dark and children were the easiest prey. So the combination of being distanced from parents/protective adults and, especially, being separated from them at night, could perhaps be the reason this fear seems to emerge so instinctively at a certain stage in our development. Maybe that instinct, so laughable when I think about it from the relative safety of my grown-up mind under the false sun of an electric light, is simply reawakened when I curl up, childlike and blinded by darkness, in my bed. The world is a different place then: a world of half-asleep random thoughts, a world of weird dreams and a strange, subconscious insanity.
There are far more worrying things that lurk between the mattress and the floor; old gas bills that should have been thrown out ages ago, embarrassing teenage photos and several years’ worth of bank statements are the most likely cause of any true concern. However, I feel I really should just say that if you never hear from me again, you’ll know that the monster under the bed took a dislike to having its existence disputed. I never should have reached out for that glass of water after lights out.
Image copyright C / Sun Dried Sparrows