I was startled by the sound of a bumping through the wall. The kind of startled where your whole body jolts you awake. It was very jarring, and as you can imagine, I was instantly as wide awake as I would have been after a triple-shot cappuccino.
I could hear my daughter whimpering from down the hall. In the 3a.m. darkness, I walked softly up the corridor. The wooden floor was cold on my bare feet, and a breeze swept passed me, sending a tingle up my naked spine. I peeked into my daughter’s room and saw her figure shivering against the wall, in the corner of her bed. Her knees concealing her chin and mouth. Shivering, but not the kind of shiver you get from the cold. The kind of shiver you get from overwhelming anxiety. That unwelcome adrenaline-shiver. As I sat on the bed with my arms open, she leapt into my chest and clung to me. She looked up with a face that screamed for solace. I wiped her moist eyes with my thumb, “did you have another nightmare, Darling? Tell me what it was about.”
“It was about the monster, again,” she spoke in a whisper, and rather slowly. Almost cautiously. As if she was weary of who might still lurk in the shadows. I couldn’t see them clearly enough, but I imagined her eyes darting around the room as the words escaped her lips.
“Look, I’ll show you: there’s no monster in your closet. Just your coats and shoes and the dirty socks you threw in the back. Which is also why you haven’t been able to find any socks this week.” I made a point of standing to the side of the door so she could see the inside of the closet. Despite the darkness, this gesture usually seemed to render reassurance.
“It’s not in my closet, Daddy,” she said so mater-of-factly, shaking her head from side to side. “The monster is in your closet.”
“Darling, there are no monsters in any closets. Don’t worry your sweet little munchkin head about it, okay? I will be just fine.”
“. . . okay, Daddy.”
“Now go back to sleep, okay? Goodnight, princess. And how about we dream of unicorns this time, hmm?” I kissed her firmly on the forehead as I pulled the blanket up under her chin.
After returning to my own room, I let out a sigh of relief. Relief that my daughter once again felt safe and secure, but also relief that I could get back to my own slumber. I fell backwards onto my bed. It was now cold. It felt silly, but I briefly scanned the dark recesses of my room and glanced at my closed closet door. A smirk flashed across my face and I quietly chuckled at myself as I wriggled under the blanket, pulled it up under my chin, and shut my eyes.
I opened my eyes and there in my closet stood my daughter. She had no eyes, no mouth and no ears. But she could smell my fear.