My sister Laurie and I had a favorite game with my dad. It may sound weird--sadistic, even--but we used to beg him to play it, over and over again. He would probably only agree maybe half a dozen times a year, but it was worth it.
He'd actually get into costume for the game. He'd dress entirely in black, and then he'd place a black hockey mask on. It made blending easier.
We'd wait upstairs, while he'd go down into the basement, to turn off all the lights. And then to hide, waiting for us.
I always wanted to be the first one. I used to love the creepy thrill, of grabbing at the door to the basement, twisting it open. I'd feel a chill down my spine, as I stared down into the inky blackness. And then, I'd look back at Laurie, who would giggle at me, and push me forward to get a move on.
I'd start down the stairs, straining to pick up some sign of my father's presence--a rustle in the darkness, a sneeze, the glimpse of a huddled figure in the inky blackness. But more often than not, I couldn't see or hear or sense anything, and so I'd descend further down the stairs, feeling with each step a visceral thrill of anticipation, of suspense, of wondering whether the next step I took would spell disaster.
I'd make it down to the last step, swallowed whole by the darkness, wondering where the bogeyman was lurking. I could feel the cool linoleum cellar floor under my bare feet, and feel totally vulnerable, with only my pajamas and my thin bathrobe for protection. I'd start to look around.
I could hear footsteps behind me, coming down the stairs. But then, they'd stop. Where was Laurie? Had she made it down? Had she chickened out? Was I all alone?
My eyes would start to adjust to the darkness. Was that a chair in front of me? I'd try to walk as silently as possible, try to blend into the landscape, wishing, in a way, that the bogeyman would get Laurie, and not me, that I would be spared and receive the chilly satisfaction of hearing the cry of the monster and the scream of my sister and then the giggly chase up to the top of the stairs.
And then I'd take one more step, and--
A shadow figure would spring out of the darkness, and I'd hear Laurie screaming behind me, and I'd feel the touch of a strong hand on my arm, and I'd try to run to get away, and I'd find myself screaming myself, and then the bogey monster would try to drag me into the old part of the cellar, where the furnace was kept, where it was cold and unfriendly, and sometimes, the eyes of the furnace glowed as though they were the very gates of hell.
We'd always get too wound up from that game. After a half an hour or so, Dad would decide to call it a night. It was always Mom's job to wind us down.
When I was entering my teens, the scariest story that I read was The Amityville Horror . My sister Laurie knew that it bothered me, and one day, she decided to play a trick on me and place red dots on to all of my stuffed animals, as though they had been possessed by Jodie the devil pig. It worked. I entered my bedroom that night and screamed loud enough to wake the dead.
That was, of course, until I saw The Exorcist . I was about 13 years old, and Mom said yes, foolishly. I only saw about an hour of it, and then I gave up and went to bed, scared out of my mind. Then, I really had problems sleeping at night.
I had possession dreams for years. Well into my thirties. Josie used to say that every night, I would wake up screaming, at around two in the morning.
Oddly enough, when I moved out on my own, the possession dreams stopped. I'm not sure why. I think I wrote about it once, and said that it was because I finally knew what being scared was really all about.