Friday, December 31, 2010

Things That Go Bump Under The Bed

Things That Go Bump Under The Bed

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2010, 2004

Erik is out on vacation this week, so we are reprinting one of his columns from 2004, mostly to see if we can scare the bejeezus out of him.

My oldest daughter is afraid of basement noises.

She told me this a few days ago when she raced upstairs from the basement after hearing a noise.

"I'm afraid somebody is in the house," she cried.

I assured her there wasn't, and we talked for several minutes about how there was nothing to be afraid of. She said she had watched a movie with my wife, and some bad guys were sneaking up on the heroes who were trying to solve a mystery. So she thought there was a Guy In The Basement.

"I know no one is there, because the dogs are calm," I said. "They'd go nuts if anyone was in the house."

Actually, my dogs are to home security what a tripwire and a cowbell are to Fort Knox. I'd be better off with an ill-tempered hamster.

My daughter agreed with my logic, so she didn't make me go downstairs to check for her.

This was relief, because now I was worried that someone was in the basement.

I've always been afraid of things in the dark, whether they were villains, ghosts, or monsters. When I was a boy, I was convinced that something was lurking in my closet or under my bed, and only through extreme cleverness did I avoid being eaten.

Even now that I'm a grown man and father of three, I'm certain that one day, when I finally let my guard down, this will be my end. I'll walk into a dark room without turning on the lights, and will be mercilessly attacked by every childhood monster I've ever feared.

I was six the first time I discovered monsters. I had seen the cover of a Superman comic book at a friend's house. There was a villain on the cover who looked like his face was melting, and I was convinced that he was hiding in my bedroom. I called him Eugene, because I went to school with a kid named Eugene, and that Eugene was a real jerk.

Monster Eugene didn't venture into any other part of the house, because he was afraid of my parents. So he lurked in my room, waiting for me to slip up, so he could make me the next victim of his evil plot.

Eugene and I had an understanding. If I made it to my bed before he got me, I was safe for the night. If I discovered where he was hiding before he got me, his turn was over.

Every night, I pushed my bedroom door all the way open to see if he was behind it. Then, without stepping into the room, I carefully slid my hand along the wall and turned on the light.

It's a well-known fact that monsters are afraid of the light, and will actually dissolve forever if captured in its glow. But Eugene was too smart to get caught this way.

After I changed into my pajamas — always in the safety of the light, of course — I made sure the closet door was closed. They were sliding doors, and Eugene's sharp claws couldn't get a good grip to open them. So if he was in there, he was stuck until morning.

But Eugene usually hid under my bed so he could grab my ankle as I climbed in. While Eugene couldn't open closet doors, he did have a knack for grabbing onto little boys' ankles and pulling them to their doom.

However, Eugene was also cursed with short, stubby arms, and I knew how far he could reach. So every night when I got into bed, I stood at the same spot on my rug and did a standing long jump that would have earned me an Olympic medal.

Once I was safely under my covers — magic covers that resisted pulling by any monsters — the game was nearly over. The only problem was that my bedroom light was still on. I couldn't turn it off and climb into bed, because Eugene would get me before I took two steps. So I did what any sensible child in my predicament would do.

"M-O-O-O-O-M-M-Y-Y-Y-Y, WOULD YOU TURN MY LIGHT OFF?!"

Without ever knowing about Eugene, my mom would come to my room — monsters don't attack moms — kiss me good night, and turn off the light. I was finally safe. Eugene was foiled once again, and had to wait 24 hours for our next battle of wills.

This was an ongoing battle for the next several years, until I was finally too old for my mom to turn my light off for me. Then Eugene and I agreed to a truce, and moved on with our lives.

He's old now, and just hangs around my house. He doesn't bother me anymore, unless I watch a scary movie. Then he half-heartedly hassles me, for old time's sake, since I can't make the same Olympian leap into the bed. So I've come to consider him sort of a friend.

So I'm deploying him to get rid of my daughter's Guy In The Basement.


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