Recently I was asked to contribute to the wonderfully brilliant series “What Scares Us? – First Frights” by the equally wonderfully brilliant Kalie Zamierowski at Just Dread-full. I’ve been a fan of hers and of her boyfriend Michael (over at My Comic Relief) for a while now so when the opportunity arose to work with either one of them, I couldn’t say “YES” quick enough.
Just Dread-Full’s “What Scares Us?” series has been a joy to read. Between Kalie’s and Michael’s articles on the subject, we’ve also have had Nancy of Graphic Novelty² and The Green Onion contribute wonderful and frightful stories of their first frights. For me this is an honor to be anywhere near the orbit of these amazing people’s blogging-spheres. So thank you to one and all!
The first thing that I can remember scaring me doesn’t have a name. I mean it has a name, I just can’t remember what it is. It has been so long ago since I’ve even thought about it and even longer since it haunted my dreams. I can’t even place an age or a year to the memory but the thoughts I now have still seem fresh. It has been decades since I’ve even thought about it but with the subject of first fears I knew I had to dig through my psyche and unearth something I have never spoken about.
As I said, I can’t place an age or year to this memory, I only remember that I was young…very young. It was during a time when my bedroom also doubled as my mother’s library. So it had to be either the late ’70s or the dawn of the ’80s.
The house I grew up in was very old and very small. The house only had 5 rooms, and that includes the bathroom, so to save some space one wall of my bedroom was dedicated to the ever growing library of books my mother owned. When I say library I mean nothing more than a collection of books in one area. These were not leather bound tomes of literature, they were paperbacks that ranged from trashy romance to epic fantasy. The books lined shelves my father had made and built into the wall. This was also where the doorway of my bedroom was and I don’t know if I mentioned this but there were no doors. I mean, sure we had doors on our closets but there were no doors on the rooms themselves.
To separate my room from her library there was a large canvas and wood trifold room divider. It was an unhealthy tan color that either meant it was crafted in the early ’70s or that it had seen better days, I opt to think that it was a mixture of both. The area was small so even with the large canvas screen it didn’t take up too much space in my bedroom and before my father had made me my first bed, my crib stood in front of the screen. It surprises me as I write this that I have such a vivid recollection of my life. I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember something that I think happened somewhere between the years 1979-1981 when I was 3 to 5 years old.
I always looked at the covers of her books. Some were plain while others were works of art, a 7.25 by 4.25 inch window into another world, another time, another place. My favorites featured wizards, warriors, and dragons and I think a lot of what I saw on those covers set the course for my dork life today. That’s one thing I am truly thankful for in my childhood.
But on the flip side of that, there was something within those yellow paged paperback tomes that would haunt me for a couple of years and cause me to never trust my mother again (in a manner of speaking). Peppered throughout the shelves were horror novels. My mother had/has a large scope to her reading repartee and when I was growing up she would read a book a night. It was no wonder she had such varied tastes because when you are reading at that volume you need to switch it up a bit nightly to keep it fresh.
Some of the horror novels were of the V.C. Andrews ilk and featured creepy kids holding bloody roses and shit like that on their covers, while others were glimpses into worlds filled with fire and brimstone. None of those even bothered me because I was indoctrinated into having a Sci-Fi and fantasy mindset and I just viewed it as another dark alley way within the same structure. But there was one cover that made my blood run cold for some reason. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the book or even the author’s name. I’ve done countless searches on the interweb during the span of my writing of this and have yielded zero results. I guess that within itself could be a little spooky…LOL
The cover was very simple. A majority of it was concrete (when I was young I thought it was an egg) in its visual texture, except for an area in the middle that was cracked open. Within the craggy break there were a pair of eyes staring back at you, bathed in an eerie light blue iridescence. The eyes were feminine and stern. They held no glint of malice, they were just intense and gravitational in their power to hold your attention. If you were to see someone with this look in your final moments you would know that they took no joy in killing you, you would only know that they HAD to kill you for some purpose only known to them.
This image also marred the spine of the novel. From where my bed sat in the room the eyes watched over me, peering over the old and dingy room divider. Before I would fall asleep every night my eyes would look onto “hers”. Bathed only in the soft yellow glow of my nightlight, “her” eyes would hold me until I drifted off to sleep. But sadly, sleep was no escape from “her” eyes.
The upstairs of my childhood house only consisted of two rooms, mine and my parent’s bedrooms. The doorways faced each other with only a 3’x3′ landing between them. From my door-less door way, the steps leading between floors was on the left and a small linen closet was on the right. Inside of my nightmares, these close quarters were my battleground between life and death.
The nightmare I had always played out the same way for what seemed like months on end. It started with me being in my bedroom and looking into the darkness of my parent’s bedroom. Suddenly I would see the eyes peering at me from the darkness. They would begin to move, coming towards me. My bedroom was well lit, so I had no chance to hide. I was out in the open, no darkness to hide me or a door to shut and lock. As the eyes got closer I could see that they belong to my mother. I would pled for her to stop but she would never respond, she would only continue to stare with those intense and emotionless eyes.
Sometimes the dream would change at this point. Sometimes she would continue her slow walk towards me and then other times she would take a beast-like stance and turn into a monster with a gnashing mouth, wild hair, and razor sharp claws. Most of the time it was simply just the eyes and the darkness that lay behind them. The nightmare would always end the same no matter if the change happened or not. I was young, there was never any thought of fighting, only fleeing. I would escape her grasp by jumping over her.It was the biggest jump anyone could ever muster and even within the dream world I could feel my young muscles burn from the strain. The only problem was there was only one place I could jump to safety, down the stairs. I would always wake up before I landed, or crashed, or died…I didn’t know which. I can still remember the feeling of weightlessness in those finally moments before I awoke.
There I was, now awake in the real world, with “her” eyes still watching over me.
I’ve never told anyone about these dreams. In most cases a child could turn towards their mother to comfort them. But in this case I felt it safer to hold it in and keep it to myself because somewhere deep inside I was afraid it was real.
Note: A tremendous thank you to Rob from My Side of the Laundry Room for contributing to the My First Fright series. Rob’s awesome blog is eclectic, intriguing, and very well-written. I highly suggest checking it out. Thanks again, Rob!