Richard screamed for his father, drawing the duvet covers up to his chin in a bid to protect himself. His father burst into the room, brandishing the poker from the fireplace. “I’ll get you!” He yelled, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “I swear to God above!” The father paused for a moment, realising he was shouting at an empty room save for his son. “Ricky? What’s wrong?”
Richard snaked out of his bed, sprinting towards his father and grabbing onto his leg. “It was the dark, Daddy! It was coming to get me!” His voice was muffled, seeing as he was trying to talk into his father’s leg.
“Okay, Ricky.” His father said, lifting him easily with one hand. “It’s okay now. No darkness. See? The light’s here. I’m here.” He held his son tightly as he made the few steps across to the bed, rocking his son gently in his arms.
“But you’re gonna go away again. Then it’ll come back.” Richard looked up at his father with bright blue eyes on the verge of tears, his bottom lip quaking as if it belonged in San Francisco. “The dark’ll come back again. I’m scared, Daddy!” He looked poised to leap from his bed again, but his father perched at his side, bedsprings creaking under his weight.
“What are you afraid of, Ricky?” His father asked, reaching out to stroke his son’s blonde curls. “Is it the dark itself? Or do you think there’s something in the dark?”
“Well, the dark itself can’t hurt you. The dark is nothing. Humanity conquered the darkness years ago when we discovered fire. Your Da always told me that the cavemen had the right idea. They had a problem and they found a solution.” He took his hand away from his son’s forehead and moved long fingers across a stubbled chin. “Then again, he always told me that Babybel and Ritz Crackers were an evil plot, so can’t be too sure on that one.”
“Daddy…” His son yawned, the gap in his teeth obvious in the big movement, causing his father to smile. He’d seen the thing fly out when Ricky had run into the lamppost.
“Right. So, the dark isn’t to be afraid of. It’s for us to beat. You get me?”
“What about the monsters?”
“I’ll show you what we do to monsters. Say, where do yours come from?” His father took hold of the poker, grasping it firmly in his strong hand. “They’re all beatable. Especially with the poker.”
“They’re under the bed, Daddy.” His father got to his knees, pointing for his son to look over the other side. He counted under his breath, counting down on his fingers for his son. He got to one, then dropped to the floor, shouting at the space beneath the bed.
Looking back at him was the terrified face of his son, gap in his teeth showing bright in the darkness. The boy said, “It isn’t me, Daddy! It isn’t me!”
That’s when the screaming began anew.
The Idiot in Tin Foil