A younger me in an older house
Held a quiet terror
Of the third floor.
From the playroom’s open door
The attic’s entrance I could see,
And if I glanced up from my toys
I would remember
That there lay a dark unknown,
Behind a portal I could not lock or bar –
And no matter that I had been through it,
Explored every crack, every crevice of that attic,
Had reveled in the clutter of that place.
It was the closed door that I feared,
On the off-chance
That it would, one day,
Open from the inside –
Would be opened
from the inside.
By the later years of my childhood
I was the only soul up on that floor,
At any time, in any season.
When my gaze fell upon that door
I felt very alone indeed.
Such fear was a flight of fancy,
As in a ghost story, full of fantastic things,
And yet I could not shake it –
And betimes I held another terror beside it,
A terror not of that door, but of the door and wall
Of the playroom itself,
Not of the wood of the door or the wall’s plaster,
But in the notion that I would glance up
And see an arm, snaking around the wall,
Reaching for the lightswitch –
One clear evening I chose to be brave.
I ascended the stairs to the third floor
With not a speck of light to guide me.
I plodded up stairs whose shape I knew
By heart, I paced through a hall whose
Shape I knew by heart, I turned a corner
Whose position I knew by heart –
And then the utter blank blackness
Was broken by a dim, sinister light –
A subtle orange
Of the streetlights, seen in the distance
Through the windows,
And in the moment after I realized
It was just the windows,
And not an eye upon me,
Still I felt seen, watched, noticed –
And what could I do to still my heart,
But to do as a child does,
When confronted by sinister shapes in darkness,
And switch on the light, and banish ghostly forms,
As in any ghost story,
When the specter is there, and then
When you turn on the lights, it is not there?
I did not wish
to stand in the doorway
And be watched by that place.
I stole past the doorway
Hid behind the wall
And reached my hand around
To turn on the light –
In that moment
I realized –
I had become the thing I feared.