There was a short period of my early life that was punctuated by truly unfortunate nightmares. I'd go to sleep feeling safe and warm.
As I lay there between my parents, I felt a gigantic flood of relief.
After enduring several consecutive nights of spastic flailing followed by days of gleeful chaos, my parents decided that they needed to take action.
My mother, being the shrewd diplomat that she was, decided to bribe me into staying in my own bed at night. She knew that I had been lusting after a certain stuffed toy, and told me that if I stayed in my own room every night for an entire week, she'd buy the toy for me.
But the promise of such an enticing reward did not make the nightmares go away. Nighttime turned into a battle of will power. I would awaken, become completely terrified and be overwhelmed with the desire to bolt to the safety of my parents' room. But I willed myself to stay in my bed. Instead of sleeping, I spent the entire night vigilantly watching the closet.
I really, really wanted that toy.
My sleepless nights turned me into a listless little zombie during the day. Activities that I once enjoyed with childish abandon became a struggle.
But the most insulting part of the whole ordeal was lying awake in my bed, shaking with terror and suddenly becoming aware of my younger sister slumbering peacefully on the other side of the room, wrapped up in her blanket like a fearless little burrito
Not only did she sleep soundly but she awakened cheerfully, ready to take on whatever daily challenges a three-year-old is likely to face. The numbness and deadness I felt inside contrasted sharply with her blatant contentedness. It started to feel like she was being happy at me - like her enthusiasm was intentional and malicious.
And most importantly, if I could make her scared enough to seek refuge in my parents' bed, I could use her as a sort of Trojan horse and tag along under the guise of concern.
She was my ticket to safety and I had to scare the ever-living fuck out of her.
When it was finally bedtime, I waited for my parents to turn off the lights and leave the room, then I turned to my sister and said "Do you want to hear a story?"
She loved stories. She didn't see it coming.
Satisfied with my handiwork, I whispered "goodnight" and nestled into my blankets to wait for the inevitable moment when her tender young mind crumpled beneath the sheer volume of terror I'd just injected into it.
As I lay there in the dark, willing my sister to awaken and experience the full force of the nightmares I'd planted in her mind, I began to think about the story I'd told her. The bear-snake with bat-arms. The skeletons. The blood. The murderers.
Then I looked at my closet.
The jolt of fear I felt in my spine nearly paralyzed me, but I still managed to flee to my parents' room with tremendous agility. I desperately clawed at their door until they let me in.
Even the impenetrable safety-fortress of my parents' sleeping bodies was not enough to ward off the incredible amount of fear I'd brought upon myself. I didn't sleep. And it wasn't because I was high on safety.
I almost didn't notice when my sister climbed up next to me.
She was not only unfazed by the story - it had awakened a hunger in her. She experienced the scariest story in the world and she loved it. And she would not be content until she had mined my brain for every terrifying snippet it was capable of producing. I had to make up more stories to tell her. Scarier stories. Stories with more blood. Everything became a potential subject for a story. Tell me one about lawn mowers, she'd say. And I'd have to come up with a story about a sentient, homicidal lawn mower.
I had created a monster.