The dark hides me.
It’s safer here, hidden.
My mother tells me this story later: she heard crying, a child, outside. She thought “That sounds like Jenny.” She goes outside and finds two-year-old me, outside, in the middle of the night, when I’m supposed to be in bed. This is the first recorded time of me going outside, in the dark, in the middle of the night. I have long been scared of the dark—I slept with the lights on or with my parents to escape it—unless the dark was outside. My excursion out-of-house as a two-year-old was my first but far from my last. One night, I spent the night at the neighbor’s house. But I woke up and wandered home. I still remember the deep, deep blue of that night as I walked down the hill to my house. As a teenager, I wandered out, avoiding pools of orange light cast by streetlights, staying in the shadows. Hidden. Unseen. The air cool enough to send goosebumps on my skin. Perhaps I would see a ghost? What are those footsteps behind me? Are those leaves skittering across the road or are they the whisper of a witch’s curse? The golden-green glow of eyes—a cat? raccoon? goblin? Sometimes I still walk out the door, leaving my family sleeping behind me. But stepping into the dark, the cold air, the witch’s whispers surrounding me, feels the same as putting scary stories down on paper. On paper, I give the ghouls their dimensions, I learn succubus secrets, I empathize with werewolves. In the dark, I find their haunts, walk their paths, hear their breathing. When I was little, I cried and my mom found me. But, in the years since, I’ve learned it’s safer to chase the monsters of my imagination than wait for them to crawl out from under my bed.