For reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, I never spoke of these things to anyone else. The battle remained with me and me alone.My siblings and I were born into a very religious family. Throughout our childhood we memorized long passages of the Bible in exchange for gifts.
One night, in the midst of my terror, I began reciting Psalms to myself as I lay there sweating. I focused my mind on their meaning, on my nascent connection with the Divine. I filled my mind with their beauty and praise with iron determination to think of nothing else.
The fear eased. I lay in bliss and freedom, able to rest by turning away from darkness and focusing only on light.
The evil in my bedroom never left. But from that night forward I had a powerful weapon to use against it. Even in my dreams I could call up favorite verses and shield myself with them. When I awoke I glared into the darkness and told it: Every time you come for me, I will praise God.
Eventually we moved away from the farm house. My nightmares evaporated with the change in location. Years later, my family and I got to talking about times we had felt afraid. I shared for the first time my experiences in the attic and said I even knew where the foulness was centered.
“Stop,” Steve told me. Without speaking further, he drew a floor plan of the attic and circled a small area beyond the western curtain wall. Every hair on my body stood up and I couldn’t warm up for a long time that evening.
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One of the small doors which led from my bedroom into the storage space beyond the curtain wall had been left hanging open about three inches. Again, a foreboding presence pressed fear into me, imprinting it on my brain like a brand on a calf’s skin. I could never decide whether to stare at that blank line of darkness or to look away, pretending it wasn’t there, so I alternated techniques. Staring at the space invited more fear. Looking away simply moved the fear into my imagination.
The fear and dread never abated over the years I slept in the attic. They grew worse with time until they seeped into my dreams, leaving me with nightmares I couldn’t distinguish after a while from the reality of living in that dark room.
Possessed things–animals and humans both–entered my dreams and stalked me relentlessly with their slack jaws and empty eyes. There were times I got so tired of fighting that I longed to just lie down and let them take me. Dreams of haunted buildings became fixtures of my sleep.
Many times I woke up only to see clumps of clothes on my floor and illuminated by moonlight or starlight transformed into dead animals slowing being reanimated. Sometimes I dreamed I woke up and, relieved, would begin to get out of bed only to find my nightmares being reiterated in what otherwise looked like “normal” life. I fought to wake up. I failed.
Meanwhile, Sunny developed night terrors. At unpredictable intervals she would sit bolt upright in bed and emit prolonged, blood-curdling screams.
Without understanding how, I knew the terror emanated from behind one of the curtained-off walls–the western one. I even knew in what portion of that dark area the evil dwelled. I dreamed of it–saw foul power oozing from that area and attacking me and my family.
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The farm house stood mostly straight but the wind blew right through the north walls during the bitter, humid Ozark winters. We arrived at the twenty acre farm when I was six. The parents started remodeling the rotted-through, creaking place from the first day.
My brother Steve and I went up the bare stairs to explore. My sister, Sunny, was only two years old and stayed with mom. The attic reeked of disuse. Its unfinished walls and ceiling were dusted with cobwebs and someone had tacked sheets of styrofoam to the ceiling joists. Several of these styrofoam rectangles had come partially untacked and leaned down into the room.
Another owner had built curtain walls so the slope of the roof line ended abruptly at about four feet, leaving long, triangular spaces running invisible beyond the scope of the living space.
We stared around. I tried to put a brave face on it as I wanted my own bedroom but it didn’t work. After thirty seconds or so, my brother and I simultaneously felt a threatening presence billowing into the room. We screamed and bolted for the stairs, not stopping even when we got to the main floor, not stopping until we found mom and touched her like she were home base.
Mom shook her head and assured us there was nothing to fear. Dad, the handiest handy man around, finished the stud walls and ceiling with Sheetrock and tape and mud and the bare plywood floor got covered with carpeting. I watched the furnishings being carted up the stairs with dread and explained to my mother I was fine sleeping in the living room. This was not an effective ploy. That night, after dark, we went upstairs. Mom tucked us in and prayed with us.
The attic was not wired for electricity so an extension cord ran from the lamp, across the room, and down the stairs to an outlet on the main floor. Mom left and I waited in rigid silence until the light went out when she unplugged the extension cord. There would be no relief until morning.
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