I am running into my parent’s bedroom even before I know I’m awake.
“Why do I have to die?” I’m screaming. “Why? Why? I just hate it. Why was I even born? I’m so scared. "
“Shhh,” says my mother, “you’ll wake your sister."
“But I’m scared, mama. Scared.”
“Oh, for god’s sake what’s wrong with you,” says my mother.
“What are you, sick or something? What kind of little kid worries about dying?”
“I’m sorry, mama. I’m really sorry. I’m not sick. I’m just scared.”
And I am scared, terrified actually, literally shaking with fear, bouncing on the balls of my feet, wanting to run I don’t know where. Out of the burden of living a life that must end in complete annihilation.
“I heard you the first time, now just stop it this instant, there is nothing to be frightened of,” my mother tells me. “What about the giant, the knives, and the witches?” I ask. “What about the hunters, and the men with guns, and the bad soldiers?”
“I told you, they’re not real. And they’re really not real. Period."
“But they are real to me, mama. I see them every night.”
It’s been like this for weeks.
“Go back to bed. puuulllease,” my mother sighs. “Just think good thoughts. Think about the circus or ice cream. Think about something happy. Think about the baby. Think about not thinking so damn much! Please. Just stop crying and stop worrying.”
“Well put me to bed and lie with me,” I beg.
“Not a chance, kiddo, not a chance. I’ve already put you to bed once. Don’t be a baby."
“The kid’s only five,” my father says.
“Fine, then you put him to sleep and lie with him.”
Father rolls out from his bed, takes my hand, and leads me back down the hallway into my bedroom. He tucks my blankets in. He leans down and whispers, “you’ll be okay boy, trust me on this one, you’ll be okay.” He kisses me on the forehead.
“Don’t go papa,” I plead as I grab my father’s hand, but he straightens up and pulls away.
“Goodnight son,” he says, framed in the doorway, and walks back to his bedroom.
“What are we going to do about that boy,” I hear my mother ask.
“Don’t worry, he’ll outgrow it,” says my father.
Something about their talking fills me with shame nearly as unbearable as my fears.
I look at the foggy street light pouring in through the window. I wonder where I go when I sleep and if I’ll be in this bed when I awake, if I awake. I clutch a torn stuffed bear with only one eye left.
“Wherever I go, Teddy,” I whisper, “is where you go too. Okay?"
And I swear that bear smiled.