Story Time with Abigail: “The Black Things”

One night, when I was three or four years old, I slipped into my “big girl” bed as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. I fell asleep perfectly content, peaceful, and happy…

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up. Everything was in its place, normal as it should be. My little sister was sleeping soundly across the room. My stuffed eagle was still on the floor where it belonged. Something was wrong, though. My vision. Black dots, blacker than the dark of that night, were lined in seemingly infinite diagonal rows. I blinked some, trying to clear my vision, but the dots would not disappear. They were everywhere, everywhere I looked. Terrified, I did what any three-year-old would do–race to my parents’ bedroom.

I assured myself that once my mom turned the lights on, the dots (I called them “black things”) would disappear. Shaking, I awoke my mother and tried to explain what was going on using my more limited vocabulary. An even greater terror swept over me when the dots, in contrast to the bright blue of my parents’ curtains, were still blacker than ever, still lined in their eerily straight rows–ready, I felt, to march right into my world and crush it. I was powerless and afraid, curled up on my parents’ bed trying to make everything stop. My mom–perfect, all-powerful mom, who cooked me macaroni and drove me to preschool in her super minivan–could do nothing to help me. I had to rely on whatever was causing the black things to calm my fear.

I finally must have fallen asleep, because I woke up with clear vision once again. My parents were still concerned and wanted me to be seen by the optometrist (I called her “the eye doctor”). The eye doctor performed all these strange and scary tests using strange and scary equipment. I don’t believe I’d ever been to an optometrist before. After my eyes had been dilated, all I could do was sit miserably while the doctor readied more tests (I assume that’s what she was doing; I really had no idea what was going on) while watching blurry Bob the Builder sing his stupid song.

After all the horrible tests were completed, the possibility of any serious problems had been ruled out. The doctor proceeded to tell me that all the previous night’s events might have been “just a dream.” Even eleven years later, those night’s events are crystal clear in my mind–and I know they were certainly not a dream. It would be ridiculous to assume so. I felt that everything I’d been through that scary night didn’t matter, like it was being minimized. Even at three, I felt like my problem had been swept under the rug.

The black things never came back after that. To this day, I still have no idea what went on. All I can say is that I was one brave little three-year-old. Even now, as a teenager, I’d probably freak out if my vision was full of perfectly aligned black dots. I’d freak out even more if a knowledgeable adult tried to tell me it was all just a dream, a random firing of neurons in my sleeping brain.

At least I got a fuzzy stuffed frog out of it all.

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