As a child, I had always thought I knew what true fear was. The fear of something hiding under your bed, or in your closet. Hell, I thought clowns were the scariest shit there was. Of course, I hadn’t known the feeling of real fear; hadn’t experienced it, until I was twelve.
They say people are most afraid of the unknown, of things they can’t quite explain, things they can’t see. Unexplainable sounds in the dark, paranoid thoughts of monsters creeping in the unoccupied spots of their bedroom. These are the things that people are most afraid of, so they say. This wasn’t exactly true for my case. Sure, sounds in the darkness were a factor, but I knew the source behind the sounds. Oh, I knew. And the knowledge of the source drove terror into me, like a mallet rhythmically driving a nail into me, over and over and over.
I don’t know how it started. It was as if a switch was flipped in her and suddenly she became an uncontrollable marionette (oh, the irony). My father tried to stop her, but she persisted and he eventually gave up trying. I suggested that he call the police, or tell the neighbours, but he dismissed twelve year-old me, and told me he didn’t trust “those corrupt government lackeys” and sure as hell didn’t want the neighbours finding out. They’d have immediately called “that wretched three number hotline”. Besides, he told me, she isn’t harming either of us. I had hoped it would stay that way. She sure didn’t seem like my mom anymore, and I told him so. He yelled at me and scolded me, calling me foolish. I wanted to shout back at him, telling him he has no idea how scared I am every night, hearing her, but I didn’t.
Mother was fine in the morning and for most of the afternoon as well. Although she was always in bed, occasionally sitting up just to stare at the blank wall a few feet past the foot of her bed, she seemed as fine as her condition would deem it. Father was at work. He usually works until two in the morning or so. When my mother first started acting weird, he was afraid to leave me alone, so he took a few days off from work. He didn’t dare hire a babysitter, he trusted those people just as much as he trusted the government. After a few days, he figured it was safe enough to leave me at home, alone with her, and resumed leaving for work every morning. Take care of your mother, he would always tell me before he left. I simply nodded, when in reality, instead of taking care of her, I hid from her. But for the most part, she was fine until evening.
It was only at night, when I’m huddled under the covers in my bedroom, that she begins acting up. That’s when the noises start. I would hear her get out of bed in my parent’s bedroom, and hear her crawl across the hall, making her way to my bedroom. After the first night, I always remembered to keep my door locked. She would crawl; I would hear her crawl, all the way to the front of my bedroom door.
And then the tapping began.
They were just light taps, like how a student would knock at the door of the principal’s office. But the taps, they went on for some time. Just a constant steady tap. I remember clamping my eyes shut, trying to ignore it and go to sleep, and after almost an hour of tapping. It stopped, and I slowly opened my eyes. That’s when I realized the door wasn’t locked, and there she was, at the foot of my bed, just standing there. Staring at me. The fear I felt was real. And it sure wasn’t caused by the unknown. My eyes were open, looking at my own mother (that was merely a label at this point) stare at me. There was something unnatural about her eyes; I think it was her pupils. They were dilated to the point of being dots. Just little black dots.
There she was, just staring at me, not doing anything else. She didn’t hurt me. She just stood there. But there was something terrifying about it. Maybe it was her eyes. Maybe it did have something to do with the unknown. Not knowing what she would do next. Not knowing if she would spring at me, and attack. But nothing had happened. My father eventually came home from work and was greeted with the sight of his wife (only a label now), and his son, covered in sweat and fear.
The days following that incident, I had always kept my door locked. I double-check the lock even to this day. Of course, that didn’t stop the tapping sounds. Sometimes I swear they weren’t even coming from outside my door. Sometimes it felt like they were coming from the window, or the closet, or even under my damn bed. Fear of the unknown, that’s always how it is, one way or another, I suppose.
That was when I had my first encounter with true fear, at the age of twelve. Every day after that, the door was always locked. Eventually my mother passed away (cardiac arrest right outside my bedroom, my father opted to bury her in the backyard, can’t go trusting those morticians now), and I moved out. I tried to convince my father to live with me, but he refuses to let go of our old house; he was always a stubborn man.
Life has gotten much better for me since. I landed a high-paying job at a law firm, and next week I have a date with this beaut of a woman I met a few days back.
But, every single night before I fall asleep, as I lay under a new set of covers I bought, I could almost swear.
I swear I could still hear the tapping noises.
Credit To – Kevin Liu