It's a dark and stormy night here in Minneapolis, and I am sitting down with a cup of tea, the sound of rain dripping from the eaves, and all my candles burning.
Time for a little dark personal history.
When I was a little kid-- like, first and second grade-- I lived in terror that the sun would supernova and turn into a black hole. In less than ten minutes, the Earth and everyone on it would be sucked past the event horizon and be crushed by the incredible pressure within the hole. This was especially likely to happen at night; I was afraid that the moment I fell asleep, this horrible process would surely begin, and I would never again see the light of day. It's almost as if I made an existential leap of thought and fear, linking my consciousness with the with the existence of the world, as though reality was merely my dream... And if I lost consciousness, everything and everyone would perish.
For endless nights stretching into years, I tossed and turned restlessly under my blankets, fighting off sleep, fighting off the apocalypse and resultant nonexistence.
I slept under the blankets because they were my only shield against the monsters that came out at night. If they saw any of my skin at all, they would realize I was there and rip me apart; it worked on much the same principle as Haku's warning for Chihiro to hold her breath as she crosses the bath-house bridge in Spirited Away.
As far as monsters and demons go, I must admit, mostly, I was afraid of my mother.
I was watching a Discovery Channel Halloween special on vampires and vampirism, and the narrator was describing the seemingly infinite list of ways one could become a vampire...falling off the left side of the hay wagon, being born with a caul over one's head, suicide, being born with teeth. My mother was watching the show with me, and she felt the need to share that, in fact, she had been born with teeth.
Linking this with the fact that she lived in the dark and creepy attic, and that she was most active at night, I came up with the conclusion that my mother was a vampire, and that she came down from the attic after I was asleep, and that one night I would wake up and see her pale face leering over me, eyes glowing and mouth smeared with blood.
Needless to say, for a few years, I didn't get a lot of restful sleep.
One might think that I would learn that the world did not end when I closed my eyes and my mother behaved in far too human a manner to be a vampire, and then I would stop being so irrationally afraid.
Eventually, I did.
But it took a few years.
Sometime about...oh, I don't know...third grade (yeah, that sounds right), I was staying at my Great-Grandmother's house and found a religious tract. This is hardly surprising; my G-Grandma got all sorts of Christian letters and pamphlets and so on in the mail. I guess they thought she cared, or something.
Though I don't remember, I feel confident now in stating that the tract I found was probably from the Seventh-Day Adventists or some similar group, and the message of the tract was based entirely off of the Book of Revelations.
A literal reading of Revelations.
The main thrust of the argument was that people who worshiped on Sunday bore the mark of the Beast, and that real Christians and the saved worshipped on Saturday, which was properly the last day of the week.
Me, I'd been raised unchurched. I don't think I'd ever been in a church in my life when I read that tract, much less been to an actual service. I barely knew anything about the Bible when I first picked it up to research this "Revelations" book the tract authors kept babbling about.
I read all of Revelations.
It scared the hell out of me.
I eventually reread it, and then again; I completed it three or four times within a few months.
And I couldn't sleep for about two months.
Once, between those two different periods of night horrors, I was lying (awake) in bed (under the blankets), and something rolled over in my mind and I suddenly grasped the idea that I would not only grow up, but grow old. Stunned by the implications of this, I was wracked by heart-wrenching sobs.
How could life be so cruel? So unfair? I asked the universe, the questions cracking my lips and emerging only as a low horrified moan.
And the, just as suddenly as I had made this leap of understanding, I became aware of something else.
Someone was there in the room with me.
And He spoke to me in calm, soothing tones about the nature of growing up, growing old, and death, and when He sat on the edge of the bed, it went down under His weight; I felt it. His hand smoothed the blankets as He talked, and I eventually stopped crying. The Stranger spoke sense and wisdom and love; how could I not listen to Him?
The only impressions I can remember of Him is that of bright white light and the chocolately-rich melodic tenor of His voice.
At the time, I thought He was Jesus, stepped right out of that ugly garage-sale-find velvet-and-orange-fabric-paint painting hanging on the wall by the bathroom. I didn't know anything about Jesus, except that He was supposedly the Son of God and liked little children. Certainly that Stranger was kind-hearted to me, a small child, and as wise as only God could be, so that made perfect sense.
I think I've only ever mentioned that to maybe three people in my entire life.
Why do I write so many dark fantasy and horror stories? Why have I written at least five about the end of the world, the Rapture, the Apocalypse, or some other form of end times? Why am I obsessed with spirits and vampires and werewolves?
Impressions left on my vulnerable young psyche, that's why.