Day 253: A four-year-old child is afraid of the dark. Write about the child’s fears and what you might say or do to help the child overcome the fears?

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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?”

“Both!”

“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

Day 155: An unexpected gift

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I hate the dark.

Every time it gets dark, I run. I scurry back to whatever hold I can find where the light is and I wait for the day to come back. Night is acceptable as long as the air is clear, the stars are bright and the moon hangs like a beacon to guide me home. But when the cloud cover is thick and the lights from the sky can’t break through, panic rises in me like vomit.

There were three of us out that day. Fred, Elena and me. We were out on the Dales, crossing the fields and climbing the hills. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, just the way I like it. Summer was at its peak, heavy in the air like a waiting storm.

Three steps. That’s all it took to get me from the light, open fields to the darkness. I strayed from the path by three sodding steps and the ground swallowed me up like I’d often wished it had. No warning, no ominous rumbling, just three steps and then whoosh. The Earth claimed me, summoning me with the soil, entombing me.

I was trapped. Buried alive. I could hear Elena and Fred calling for me, searching for me. Occasionally their footsteps would reverberate through to my poorly protected ears, but I couldn’t risk calling out in case the earth got into my mouth. I was struggling enough with keeping my breathing under control, let alone waste any precious air in shouting.

I wanted to scream. Or cry. Or both.

I did neither. The darkness had finally found me.

I started to squirm. Felt the rocks that had surrounded me scratch at my skin like fingernails grabbing at me, the soil crumbling around me. I didn’t know how long I could stay here but I was sure that I wasn’t going to go without fighting for it.

So I wriggled. I squirmed. I wormed, wiggled, whatever word you want to choose I did it.

The ground let me go. I plummeted again, further into the darkness. I landed with a bump.

It was still dark. Panic rose, fighting for control of me, fighting me to make me run around screaming. At least I wasn’t trapped inside an earthen coffin any longer.

Something gave me pause. I raised my hand to my face and realised I could make out the shape of my fingers. My eyes darted around the blackness before catching, hiding on the very edge of my sight, a blue glow.  A second appeared, and another, until I realised that the ground was giving me a present. The glow stretched away from me, but the darkness was kept at bay.

In for a penny, in for a pound. I followed the glow, deeper into the bowels of the earth.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 61:What’s the worst nightmare you remember?

This always got to me. For a while, it was just a dream. I was enjoying a train ride through a beautiful piece of countryside, rolling green fields, undulating hills, etcetera etcetera. It’s even a steam train. Honestly, it was like I was in the bloody Railway Children.

This is actually one of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had. I can still hear the train’s whistle, taste the soot in the air. I can feel the wind on my face as I look out of the window, watching those green fields fly by. There are wooden benches in the carriages, with those slight cushions that are far too thin to actually make a difference into how numb your arse gets. And I can actually remember the feeling of my bum losing all feeling as I’m eating a ham and cheese sandwich. That’s right, there’s even a ham and cheese sandwich, cut into triangles. I was thoroughly enjoying the dream, then it happened.

The train, a huge black locomotive, started to pick up speed. You could feel a shift in the acceleration, a small feeling that you’ve been manipulated in some way. At first it’s a rush, as if that machine was trying for a record of some kind.

Then the malevolence invaded. An eerie grey pallor crosses over the whole affair, and the increase in speed becomes threatening. And it doesn’t stop. It just gets worse. The train is now going faster than is possible. The scene becomes a blur, a painter’s pallet when the only available paint is blue, grey and green.

Now I’m afraid. I look out the window, and can see a structure in the distance, a monstrous mouth of shadow encased in steel and glass. The station. But there’s no sign of slowing.

Imagine the river scene from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. The original, with Gene Wilder. Not the Johnny Depp remake… I still haven’t seen that one. But anyway, you know it. The ominous feeling that bad things are going to happen, the swirling, the rhythm. In my dream, it was just a drumming of wheels on the track. Thudding. A drumbeat, marshalling the troops of my nightmare.

Suddenly, jarringly, my viewpoint changes. I’m no longer in the first person. I’m now floating above a lake, where there are three men fishing in a large boat. The lake is calm. The only sound is a soft cooing of the family of birds in the blackberry bush. The scene pans around and you see a monstrous building of steel and glass, with a huge round window.

Suddenly, the train erupts through the window, the hurtling mass of black metal thudding down onto the fishing boat. One of the men is struck immediately.

I flash to the point of impact, see the wheels still turning as they fall towards him in slow motion.

Now I’m back out, watching the other two men thrown high into the air before thudding heavily into the water. You know in an instant they’re gone.

I see through their eyes. Feel my body thrown through the air, air whistling past my ears as I see a watery death rushing towards me.

I’m left with a single picture. The classic image of the train, dangling from the station. I assume that’s where the entire dream came from, but I still don’t know.

And I still get scared by it.

The Idiot in Tin Foil