There is nothing to be afraid of

It’s almost dark when she steps off the bus. She looks up at the menacing storm clouds gathering, making it even darker. She has had a lousy day at work, is tired, and just wants to get home. Have something to eat and then relax on the sofa. A raindrop hits her cheek and interrupts her thoughts. Then it’s like someone opens the valves because the raindrops hit her like a waterfall. She looks up towards the clouds and screams, thank you and then runs towards the park. When she reaches the entrance to the park she hesitates for a second. She doesn’t like the park, especially when it’s dark. Trees and bushes are not maintained, and most of the park lies in shadow. She has complained to the authorities several times without anything happening. She could go around, but ten minutes more in this rain isn’t an option. She starts to get anxious halfway through the park as the park feels darker than usual. She looks around, and for some reason, it feels like someone is hiding in the dark. She tells herself that nobody would lurk in a bush in this weather. She has walked through the park several times in the dark, so why should it be different this time? Then she sees that up further on, the light has gone out, and the path lies in total darkness. The anxiety tightens its knot, and she gets uneasy and stops. It’s just a short walk, she tells herself. What would other people think of her if they saw her standing in the pouring rain doing nothing? A cold breeze makes her shiver, and she tucks her coat firmer around her and starts to walk. After a few steps, the darkness engulfs her, and the creepy feeling becomes even mightier. She can feel her heart beating faster and faster. There is nothing to be afraid of and it’s only her imagination, she tells herself. She needs to pass through as quickly as possible, and then she will be home safe and sound. But something inside her pokes her consciousness with scary images. She tries to ignore them but is not able to. She is certain that there is someone behind her, and even if she knows that there is no one behind her she can’t push the feeling away and starts to run as fast as she can.

She is still a bit uneasy when she enters her house and makes sure she locks the door properly. She is cold and starts to prepare for a warm shower when questions fill her head. Why had she spooked herself when she knew that it was safe? Why couldn’t she keep herself calm, ignoring the images? She knows that there was nothing in the bushes. Yet, she couldn’t get the thought of someone hiding in them out of her head. She steps into the shower and lets the warm water heat her cold body. The water flows over her body and lets all the tension and questions follow it down the drain. It feels great, and she lets her body soak up the warmth. She promises herself that the next time the anxiety starts to rise she won’t get scared that easily. She hardly has time to finish that thought when the light goes out and the shower gets completely dark. With a strong voice, she says to herself, that there is nothing to worry about, she needs to stay calm. She turns off the shower and when she moves the shower curtain she can feel a cold breeze on her arm. Every muscle in her body freezes, someone is in the room with her, and she can feel their breath. She feels an enormous pressure over her chest and is slightly dizzy. She tries to reassure herself that there is no one there. She needs to calm down and start to take deep breaths. The dizziness increases, and she needs to grab hold of something. She grabs the first thing she can feel, it’s the curtain that can not withstand her weight and rips. She slips and falls to the floor. But the pain when she hits the floor is not on her mind, the only thing she can think of is to get out. The fall has made her disoriented and she can’t find the door. After what feels like an eternity she finds the handle on the door and tumbles out into the hallway. The hallway is also dark and she gets out into the kitchen. From the cleaning cabinet, she retrieves some candles that she lights. With every candle she lights, she can feel herself calming down and soon the kitchen feels warm and light. She sits down at the dining room table with a big sigh. Through the kitchen window, she can see that the lights are out in the whole neighborhood. It’s a blackout, she got that scared by a blackout. She doesn’t recognize herself. She has never before behaved this way. The walk in the park has made her edgy. How could she lose her awareness like that? Just a second ago, she promised herself not to lose it. It was like she couldn’t control her brain. Suddenly, a shiver runs up her spine, and she realizes that she is still naked.

After she has slipped into something comfortable she gets a glass of wine and leans back on her sofa. She picks up her phone and calls her mother.
“Hi Mom, it’s me. I’m just calling to see how you are doing. I’m feeling ok. I just got home. No, it’s not because I live on the outskirts of the city. I had to work late. Yeah, the lights went out when I was in the shower and I got frightened. I don’t know why. I just… No, I can’t, yes, yes, no, Mom, I’m not interested in Richard. I can take care of myself. Well, I have to go, bye.”
After she has hung up, she asks herself why her mom always does that to her, making it sound like everything was her fault. She just wanted some comfort. She just wanted to feel safe. Tears start to fill her eyes, and she lies down and hugs one of the couch pillows. She starts to listen to the wind outside, and it sounds like the roof is about to be blown off. The walls are creaking, but what was that? That didn’t sound like the walls it sounded like the creak the floorboards in the hallway make when someone is walking on them. No, no, no, she says out loud and sits up. She won’t be tricked into that again. It’s the wind and all she needs is to relax. She has a long day tomorrow, so she might as well get a good night’s sleep. On the way out of the room, she picks up a marble figurine on the mantlepiece, just in case. As expected, there is no one in the hallway. Before she makes her way up the stairs, she double-checks that all windows and doors are firmly locked.

It feels like a warm hug when she slowly lowers herself into the fluffy and cozy bed. She leans towards the nightstand but stops as she is about to blow out the candle. Maybe, she should keep the candle burning. After thinking some more, she decides it’s too dangerous to keep it burning and blows it out. The room gets dark and she instantly regrets blowing it out. She can feel her stomach tighten and sits up to light the candle again. But she realizes that the room isn’t that dark as she can see the familiar shapes in the room. Just lie down and relax, she tells herself. When she closes her eyes, she starts to count sheep to get her mind thinking about something else. She feels the sleep coming closer and closer. What if there is someone in the house? Perhaps they are hiding under her bed. She needs to stop making things up. Relax, relax, there is nothing there, lalala, once again, she starts to count sheep, one sheep, two sheep. But something deep inside of her won’t let go. In her mind, she can see a hand slowly rising behind her back. NOOO, she screams, jumps off her bed, and lights the candle. The light shows her what she couldn’t tell herself, there is nothing behind or under the bed. She will never be able to fall asleep when she is wound up like this. Perhaps if she reads a bit and picks up the book on her nightstand. To be able to sit and read she arranges her pillows. After a while, she starts to relax and slowly drift further and further into the book. Slowly her eyelids start to feel heavy and she has difficulties keeping up with the reading. Finally, she can sleep and is about to close the book. Did she close the closet door before she went to bed? The thought comes from nowhere. She tries to ignore it and continues to read. But she can’t help looking over the top edge of the book at the closet door. She lifts the book higher so she can’t see the closet though it’s too late. She is certain she closed the closet door, so why is it now open? Why? Why on earth did she insist on getting a walk-in closet, a closet that’s big enough for someone to hide in? She needs to close the door, and then she will fall asleep. No, she tells herself, she needs to conquer these thoughts and convince her brain that there is nothing in the closet. She turns around and lies down with her back against the closet. She blows out the candle, puts the headphones in her ears, and listens to some relaxing sounds. It doesn’t take long until she sleeps soundly and is oblivious to the two small reflections observing her from the dark closet.