Tag Archives: fears

Attack of the Robot Roaches

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I shaved a few years off of Paul’s life last night.

First, let me say that it wasn’t my fault. You see, I have this problem. There’s a communication breakdown between my brain and my body, wherein the little part of my brain whose business it is to crank out dreams sometimes forgets to alert my body that the sensory input is not real and that its (the body’s) services will not be needed for the night.

To put it more simply: I sleepwalk. And sleeptalk. And sleepfight evil aliens from the planet Krakkavid with a flamethrower I built out of household cleaning products.

My college roommates used to think it was hilarious. How they loved to regale me in the mornings with tales of my midnight lapses into pirate-speak and treks into the dorm room closet in search of the lobster people. Even Paul, who has to share a bed with the spaztastic night wanderer, finds it amusing when I spring upright in bed and insist that the puppy (the nonexistent one that we can’t have because of apartment regulations) has to get down off the bed, and I mean NOW.

He wasn’t laughing last night, however. I really scared him this time. The weird thing is that I remember most of it. I recall waking up to find that there was a swarm of giant half-robot half-cockroach creatures (no doubt spawned by some nefarious mad scientist) invading the apartment. I could hear them clickety-clackering around in the living room, and skittering up the sheets from the floor. When one of them leaped onto my chest, I smothered it quickly in the bedclothes and bolted from the bed like an avenging angel, determined to clear a path through the apartment and somehow get the kids to safety.

Well, I made it as far as the hallway, where I flicked on the light and peered around the corner into the kitchen, listening intently for the tap-tap of robotic insect feet. That was when I heard Paul’s voice.

“Katrina.” Firm. Loud.

I turned on the bedroom light. “What?” I asked impatiently.

“What are you doing? Are you awake?”

“Of course I’m awake,” I snapped, irritated. Paul told me later that the really scary thing was that I looked awake. And totally, utterly insane.

“What are you doing?” he repeated.

“I had to kill a…thing, in the bed, over there!” I spluttered, that sense of urgent danger making it hard for me to think. “We have to get the kids, babe. Because…there was a thing…a bunch of things…and…we have to…uh…” My voice trailed off. As usual, the rational act of explaining my delusion woke up the part of my brain that had, heretofore, been asleep at the switch. Reality reasserted itself slowly, laughing its butt off.

“I was dreaming, wasn’t I?”

“Yes.” He still looked worried. “Are you okay now?”

I promised that I was, and after a moment’s poking of the duvet “just to make sure”, I lay back down.

A few moments passed.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes!”

We slept.

I think Paul’s fear is that I’ll actually make it to the kids’ room one of these days. So far, my episodes have been brief ones. It usually only takes a few moments after I burst out of bed for me to awaken enough to realize that, in fact, the apartment isn’t flooding, nor is my pillowcase filled with spiders*. Soon, I’m tucked back into bed, sleeping soundly. The occurrence rarely repeats itself within the same night. I’ve heard of some people who prepare and eat food in their sleep, and a few unfortunate somnambulists who wander out their front doors or drive themselves around in the car only to wake up miles away from home with no memory of the trip. This is nothing like that. Still, I imagine it’s disconcerting to the outside observer.

I apologized to Paul this morning for scaring him so badly. “You remember that?” he asked, surprised. Many times, most times, I don’t remember. I’ve even accused him of making this stuff up. “Yes, I remember. And believe it or not, I was making perfect sense before you woke me up,” I teased.

He shuddered a little at the memory. “Your eyes were bloodshot, you know. You looked…” Words failed him.

Eventually, we’ll look back on this night and laugh.

But until then, I have to sleep in the laundry room.

*Spiders, more than any other dream object, get me moving. It’s a recurring theme. I can’t tell you how many times I have awakened Paul with the thrashing and squealing that accompany killing imaginary spiders. I’ve dreamed of them covering the duvet like a pulsating second blanket; I’ve dreamed of them dropping down from the ceiling on a thousand gossamer webs; I’ve dreamed of a giant, scabby, hair-covered one creeping around under the sheets. Ick. I loathe spiders.

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannolis

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The bugs have declared war.

It seems the spiders I killed had mob connections.

This morning I awoke to find a teeming trail of sugar ants snaking around the kitchen floor. No ant spray, so I assaulted them with Windex and wiped their disinfected corpses up with paper towels.

Two hours later they were back, in force. Another round of Windex and paper towels, taking care to liberally coat the little crack under the door where they were gaining entrance. One of the more stalwart little soldiers escaped from the paper towel and ran up my hand to bite me between the fingers. It itches.

Later, in the car, I made to brush a stray hair from the underside of my arm only to discover that the little tickle I was feeling was made by a tiny spider, who, once discovered, skittered for the safety of my sleeve, nearly causing a fatal collision. (No doubt that was the plan all along.) I flicked it away only to have it catch itself by a slender thread and dangle from the steering wheel before lowering itself rapidly into my lap.

Have you ever seen someone do the Icky Spider Dance of Girliness while navigating five o’clock traffic on Appleway Avenue?

I was slapping my legs and my belly and feeling hugely thankful that I wasn’t wearing a skirt. And the way I was stomping around on the floor, it’s a wonder I didn’t rear end the Dodge Ram in front of me. I still don’t know what became of the little eight-legged ninja. It may have lived to fight another day. Just typing this, I feel like it’s crawling on me.

I don’t know what to do. I see the ants are regrouping now. If they carry me off in the middle of the night, just remember this: they started it.

Terror on the Toilet

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I was almost finished with my, um, “business” when I looked up and saw the monster.

Its hundred beady eyes gleamed with malevolent purpose as it gazed at me from across the expanse of tastefully understated sage green bathmat. It was the size of a salad plate. Well…maybe a dessert plate. Okay, okay—it was the size of a quarter. A big quarter. Its slavering jaws gnashed senselessly together, and I saw one of its hairy legs twitch, as if readying itself for violence.

My pants were still down around my bare feet and I knew I was as helpless as a gazelle on Kapiti Plain at high noon. Slowly, so slowly, as my heart beat a rumba of terror in my chest, I hooked my fingers into my belt loops and slid my jeans up over my hips in a soft swish of denim, keeping my eyes locked onto the terrible beast while I zipped and buttoned and glanced helplessly around me for aid.

Still it stood there, right in the middle of the bathroom floor, in clear defiance of the Katrina-Arachnid Peace Accord of 2002 (Article 1.1 “No spider shall cross acknowledged boundaries into areas designated for human habitation, on pains of immediate and excruciating death by means of shoe, spray, or toilet.”) Not only was my official Spider Executioner away from the premises, but I had been caught unawares by the enemy at the most undignified, vulnerable moment of my day. Here, in my inner-sanctum-slash-library-slash-thoughtful-spot, where not even my children dare intrude, the loathsome interloper was boldly eyeballing me with its rude, unblinking stare.

I started to get mad.

It’s a powerful thing, anger, and it soon took the place of my fear as I gathered up a great wad of toilet paper in preparation for the squish. I leaned closer, snarling now, and advanced on the spider, visions of King Leonidas and his courageous Spartans flashing inspirationally across my mind’s eye.

And then, it moved.

I squealed. I jumped two feet in the air. I did the Icky Spider Dance of Girliness, and then, shuddering, I leapt forward and smashed the hairy brute under a bundle of Charmin the size of my head.

Victory.

Later that afternoon, the spider’s cousin Vito showed up next to the heating grate and got the same treatment. I tossed his tiny corpse out onto the front step as a warning to other eight-legged invaders not to mess with me.

That was Monday. I guess it must be working.

Leonidas would be proud, I think.

Fright Night

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Put the words “deepest” and “darkest” together, and I don’t think of secrets, Africa, the ocean, or corners of my mind. I think of the dank creepiness of the vast, unfinished basement in the Georgia house where I grew up. I was a child cursed, as it were, with an overactive imagination, and no landscape provided more fertile ground for the seeds of fear and fancy than the silent nooks and unexplored crannies between the acres of old boxes and the piles of dust-covered tools that filled the subterranean realm beneath our floor.

The steps going down into the underground were utilitarian, made of plywood and two by fours, with spaces in between them where slithery, shifty things could reach through with their slimy tentacles to grab your ankles. I never walked up the basement stairs. I ran.

Sometimes my dad would hear me careening up the stairs at full speed and think (in that way dads have) that it was really hilarious to hold the door closed so I couldn’t get away from whatever horrors were hot on my heels. I never found out what they were, since on those occasions I would close my eyes and pound on the door, yelling out in my most fake-authoritative voice: “DADDY! It is NOT FUNNY!!! Open this door RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” After a few seconds, he would, and I would reenter the world of light and safety, quickly forgetting the panicky feeling of waiting on the other side of the door for cold hands to find me in the dark.

Apparently, I wasn’t permanently scarred, because later, in my teen years, the need for privacy and a space of my own overcame my apprehensions and led me to move out of the room I had always shared with my sister into an unused corner of the basement. I had carved it out for my own, furnished it with a bed, and decorated it with clippings from magazines, souvenirs from my youthful adventures, and Christmas lights. To fifteen year old me, it was a paradise, at least in the daytime. At night, all my childhood fears returned to me, and many nights found me huddled, unmoving, beneath my comforter, sure that I had heard someone moving around in the unoccupied three quarters of the cavernous space around me.

Another peril of life in the catacombs was the spiders. Those big, fat, mostly harmless garden spiders were the creatures of my nightmares, closely followed by the shiny, brown cave crickets that thrived in the damp gloom. I took to sleeping with my blankets over my head to avoid the unpleasant prospect of waking up to some creepy crawly wriggling its way across my face or, worse, into my mouth (I once woke up on a family camping trip to find a daddy longlegs doing this very thing, and I’ve never quite recovered.)

I was all cocooned in my blankets one night when I awoke, disoriented, to find that there was a heavy weight pressing down on my head and chest, making it hard to breathe. Did I mention that I was disoriented? Because that’s the only possible reason I have for coming to this conclusion: some intruder had broken into the house, and was now quietly sitting on my head. Not wanting to let him know that I was awake, I stayed perfectly still and pondered what to do. Nothing came to me. Finally, panic overwhelmed me and I screamed at the top of my lungs.

Within seconds, the basement light clicked on and my mom was calling down from the top of the stairs: “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Somebody’s in the house and he’s sitting on my head!” I yelled, my voice muffled through the blankets, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why the Somebody hadn’t jumped up yet.

I heard the quick thudding steps of my mother running down the stairs and across the cement floor to my aid. Then, unexpectedly, her laughter, loud and unrestrained, bouncing back to us from the corners of the basement.

“Come out and see your attacker,” she said. Puzzled, I pushed the heavy weight off of my upper body and yanked down the blankets.

It was my dog, Jesse.

You see, Jesse loved to climb up on the bed in the middle of the night and sleep curled up on my feet. Unfortunately, since I had completely covered myself from head to toe in blankets, he had, understandably, become a little confused about which end was which. Finally, he chose the wrong end, and forty-five pounds of black labrador came to rest on my face.

The rest is a piece of oft-told, and greatly relished, family history.

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