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Friday, October 28, 2011

In the Dark

Okay, so what've we learned so far?

It's really, really hard to write when there's a baby crying right behind you.

Well, yes, that too. What else?

A teething infant causes a significant number of sleepless nights over the week which all culminate into several, unexpected moments of visual and auditory hallucination.

Seriously, I heard someone call my name at work today -- long after everyone had gone home for the day... weeeird.

Especially weird 'cause I heard it clear as day but didn't recognize the voice. Also, those brief moments of movement out of the corner of my eye. Like shadows flitting about, doing shadowy things.

Yeah, fun!

On the bright side, we've started feel the uneven ridges of young, sharp teeth poking up, barely restrained by gum-line. Our son is displeased with this development, and, looking at it from his perspective, I can't really blame him.

You see, outside of all the wonderful joys of having your mouth and jawline ravaged by the onset of razor-sharp baby-teeth, one of the other side effects is a little something called 'Night Terrors'.

Now, being a Storyteller (one that started off with a strong Horror bent) I'm well acquainted with the concept of what a 'Night Terror' is. It's like an ultra-intense nightmare, one that you can't wake up from.

It's a classic theme and hundreds of wonderful horror stories have come from this simple concept -- this inescapable nightmare.

Yes, it's all well and good on paper.

And then you see the real deal. Face to face.

You witness your formerly-placid child, this little roly-poly half-pint, jolt upright in their crib, screaming like they're being murdered.

Now, you've heard them cry before. Sure. You've even heard them cry when they've hurt themselves, gotten a little boo-boo.

But nothing prepares you for this... sound. A shriek is the only true way to describe it.  You realize that it's more than just a scream, this child is afraid for their very life.

From zero to 'HOLYSHITWHATTHEFUCK!?' this kid is flipping out, flailing, crying, hitting. Whatever's in there, your child is fighting it tooth and nail.

I'd never seen a baby fight for its life before this last week, but my God if it isn't the scariest goddamned thing I've ever witnessed.

Even worse, you jump out of bed, scoop the little one in your arms, hug and hold and whisper and sing and dance and pat and kiss and... they're not there with you. Wherever they are, they're lost in the mist, trapped in a battle that rages on without you.

My son looked at me a few days ago, in the midst of a full-blown night-terror; his eyes wide open but seeing through me... and whatever he saw scared the utter shit out of him. He flailed like he'd been caught, like the slavering jaws were moments from closing 'round his head.

For a moment I truly believed that I was the enemy.

That somewhere, somehow, someway, I'd done something wrong, unleashed some unknown... thing... upon him. I racked my brain: he's a baby, he's never seen anything more menacing than a red plastic spoon, what the hell could be tormenting him so fiercely?

Still I held him, rocking him, calling to him, patting him; wondering how the battle was going, if the clashing of steel would come out in his favour.

And, slowly, he came back to us. Slipping back to silence as if he'd never been bothered, sliding a thumb back into his mouth, sucking away as his head lolled and my heart thudded in my chest.

We laid him beside us then, as if somehow, my wife and I could offer some sort of protection; some bastion from his dream usurpers.

I'd like to say that it never happened again, that we haven't had to undertake this battle over and over again, a few times a night for the last week or so... but, alas, that's not the case.

Though we've gotten better at it, steeled our hearts against it, when we sleep now we wait for that sound; that... shriek.

And when it comes, we're there, laying beside him; helplessly watching as this formless foe wreaks havoc on our little one. Helpless but to watch and soothe and cuddle the transition from wounded to whimper to whisper.

He's sleeping now, finally, my little guy. But even now I feel my pulse racing, waiting for the attack to come. Remembering those vacant eyes as they stared through me to that unseen beast.

Here, by his side, I wait.

And in the darkness, I know horror.

Sleep well, my friends.

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