I have something to confess.
I know it’s stupid, but I’ve always hated having my curtains open.
If I opened them, it meant, at some point, I would have to close them.
Not during the day; I mean, come on, I’m not a baby or anything! … It was just having to close them at night. When it was pitch black and dark. Reflective glass gives nothing away as to what could be lurking behind the window’s mirrored surface. Who’s watching? What’s out there? You can’t see out, but everything out there can see in!
I know it’s silly and immature. It’s just… I couldn’t control my runaway anxiety. I would think these horrible loud thoughts inside my head. ‘Everyone is wrong! There’s something out there!’
In all honestly, I always expected to be halfway through pulling the heavy draped material closed when out of the darkness, a giant fanged drooling werewolf would jump out, snarling up at my window, teeth scraping on the glass, baying for my blood, eyes outsized with a glare full of loathing.
My heart races just thinking about it.
And yes, I’m an adult.
And no, I don’t know how closing curtains would protect me against anything other than an attack by the giant Karri moths, which get drawn to any light source.
But every night… every goddamn night, the hairs on my neck would stand up with the whole goose bumps, handshaking and heart beating faster regime. I couldn’t get past my anxiety. I couldn’t believe there was nothing out there. I couldn’t stop being paranoid.
Okay, I lived by myself. That didn’t help. And I admit to being an introvert who loved living on a quiet bush block in the middle of nowhere. Yes, I know, that probably didn’t help either. And I was ‘required’ to go to a therapist.
Trust me; he really didn’t help!
This experienced and highly qualified ‘expert’ said things like; you need to learn to control your stress. Stress makes you go into self-protection mode. It shuts you off. It makes you too cautious and fearful. Too hard to reach. Look at what your last episode did to your life. Do you really want that to happen again?”
He was such a twat!
But sadly, I had no choice. He was the only therapist within a reasonable driving distance. I kept thinking I should make the three-hour drive to Perth, but I couldn’t stand the traffic and the people. It was just too much noise. Too many… people. I wish, in hindsight, that I’d just pushed myself… sigh.
But unfortunately, I continued to go once a week and was forced to listen to him sit there and plan and then inflict my aversion therapy.
There he sat in his leather grey chair, smiling like a patronising idiot looking over his black half-rimmed glasses, grey hair slicked down in a side part to cover his balding dome. The first step, he explained, was for me to… leave one curtain open at night and then build up from there.
By the next appointment, he wanted me to have all the curtains open in the house, even in my bedroom! That’s right! Leave my curtains open. Undress with my curtains open. Go to sleep with my curtains open. You get my drift. Creepy!
During the next session, he wasn’t pleased when I informed him that all the curtains were open.
‘All?’ he questioned with his intonation bordering on condescending.
I had to admit, not all. Just the bedroom one was closed.
Honestly, all I wanted to do was stand up and slap him in the face when he corrected me with a ‘Tut tut.
“How do you expect to overcome your childish fears, your prior episode, if you don’t confront your fantasies, your unfounded fears like an adult?”
I sat and squirmed on the uncomfortable plastic designer chair he made all his patients sit on. His childish references burned a hole in my spirit. Staring back at him, seething with anger and contempt, was my only form of retribution. “You know, it’s not my favourite thing to come here once a week and be told how to live my life!”
He continued with an amused sneer plastered over his features, “I understand, but this is your Doctor’s order. You have to do this if you want to remain out of hospital!”
I hated this guy so much!
…Yeah, I forgot to tell you that one. Too much stress and an overactive imagination sent me spiralling for a month before my mother found me in her garage hiding in a corner waving a big kitchen knife about, telling her the ‘little people were after me.’ Off to hospital for a nice quiet rest.
Here’s a question. Why, when some people have breakdowns, do they get to have visions of little fairies dancing at the bottom of their garden? And when I have a breakdown, I get creepy little feral pixies with black slit eyes and huge bat ears sliding under my door, trying to slit my throat in the middle of the night? How is that fair?
My therapist’s voice drew me back into his dingy office full of hunting trophies and photos showing the big Groupers he’d caught.
“Tonight, I want you to embrace your fear.” He smiled with lecherous delight. “When your curtains are drawn back, open the window and then… you must stand naked in the moonlight.”
“Excuse me; you want me to do what the hell?” My levels of discomfort rose so high, I thought I would vomit.
Who was this guy?
What kind of a weirdo was he?
Who the hell would stand buck-naked at their window for everyone to see? This sicko needed to be reported!
He smirked, “I can see you’re uncomfortable with my suggestions.” He didn’t move, just sat perfectly still, assessing my every reaction.
“Well, who the bloody hell wouldn’t be?” was my angry reply. “That’s just weird and creepy and downright unprofessional! You needed to be reported for unbecoming behaviour.”
The thought of three hours in a car and a city full of noisy people wasn’t as bad as sitting through another session with this creepoid flourished in my mind.
“Samantha, you live by yourself on an old remote dairy farm; no one will see you. Your bedroom is your last bastion of safety, welcome the world into it; you’ll see you have nothing to fear. If you stand naked, you are at your most vulnerable. By opening the window, you create such a heightened experience that your fears will be crushed under the weight of your success.” He crossed his legs and wrote something scribbly on his note pad then looked up with his bloodshot brown eyes. “This is aversion therapy, Samantha, not give me an excuse to fail therapy.”
Stupid does as stupid is told to do!
So, that very night, I stood in my dressing gown, in front of my black reflective window, with the creepoid’s words ringing in my ears.
‘This is aversion therapy, not give me an excuse to fail therapy.’
I’m bone tired of always being afraid. Frightened I’ll go over the edge again and start seeing… things. Start believing again that I’m being stalked.
“No one will see, no one will see. This isn’t weird; it’s aversion therapy.”
The pretty pink curtains, which have hung in my bedroom from the house’s previous owners’ occupation, were flung wide open.
My bedroom was reflected back at me, confronting me with my worried glances.
Slowly, as if I’d become automated, void of all emotions, I pulled the cord of my dressing gown, loosening the cloth, making it easy to slide the soft, enveloping material off my shoulders down my spine and onto the floor.
I watched my naked self, standing in the mirrored reflection, breathing deeply as anxiety threatened to take over.
“Do it now. Do it. Success, not failure.” The mantra was repeated as I took the three steps to the window and placed my hand on the cold metallic handle.
Without time to listen to my treacherous heart thundering away in my chest or my mind which screamed, ‘Don’t!’, the heavy wooden window with its white peeling paint was push out wide, forcing me to lean out into the cold air, my skin rippling under the night’s icy fingers.
I stood there, leaning forwards, hands gripping the windowsill, drinking deeply from the cup of success. No longer was I bound to hide in my own home like a trapped rodent; I embraced the night. The thrill from my accomplishment rang out loud and clear.
Drunken with success, I raced around the house, opening every window I could find.
Then it was the front door's turn.
With a loud bag ringing out into the night as the old solid wooden door hit the front wall, I boldly walked out onto the grey wooden veranda. Out and under the embrace of the moonlight shining down, I celebrated my newfound freedom—the shackles of fear which had held me captive broke and fell away.
The cold night bit at every exposed part of my naked body, but it had no effect on my buoyant mood.
“Welcome moonlight, welcome night, welcome into my home!” The warmth of freedom from fear filled me with internal heat. Onto the dew-covered lawn, I ran, laughing, twirling, blowing the moon a kiss.
“I’m so glad you took my advice, Samantha. It’s so wonderful to truly see you free.”
Fear returned in a Tsunami wave.
Out from the inky blackness, he strode on clawed, sinewed and monstrous legs.
People often think it’s only vampires who can’t come into your home uninvited. It’s not. I learnt that the hard way.
My therapist was naked but not entirely human. Hair covered his lean, skeletal body, distorted and twisted, so the articulation of his knees and ankles bent backwards. Stalking awkwardly out of the darkness showed he belonged on fours.
Skin now goose-bumped and rippled for an entirely different reason.
“I knew you were special as soon as I’d read about your visitations. I lusted for you.” Salivation drooled out of the corners of his jaws as huge canine teeth pushed out and through his squirming gums as he launched himself onto me.
If only I hadn’t opened my curtains…
I don’t remember much of the attack. I’m thankful for that small mercy. My memories came flooding back in full force when I slammed into my old wardrobe, making the doors bang and rattle against the force of my body.
A bellowing of fear continued until my throat became roar and horse.
Part of me, kept safe and quiet in a dark recess of my mind, sat and listened to the terrified animal in our bedroom.
Crying took over—soul shuddering, crying, making my body convulsion under its force. I’ll admit, it took me a while before I could crawl off the floor and into the shower to wash the blood away. And it took even longer for me to realise the hot water had run out.
And now, dear reader, there are explanations for why we hide in our homes at night.
It is wiser to remain afraid of the dark and everything that hides in it.
There are reasons we should never let strangers in but lock our doors and bar our windows.
He was one of those reasons.
I am one of those reasons.
Keep the eye of darkness out; keep your curtains shut!