I never had trouble sleeping as a child.

As a child I never had trouble sleeping. My mother would brag about how easy a baby I was to my jealous aunts and her jealous friends. Basically, nap time was most of the time to hear her tell the story and, honestly, I remember going down for, and getting up from, those naps better than I do the days in between. I must have been about 2–3 years old. I remember times when I would wake up after having been put down for a nap on the couch, crack open my eyelids just a sliver, and watch for a while whatever show my mom had on the television.One show was sponsored by Pam Cooking Spray and I’m pretty sure the other was a soap called The Edge of Night. Neither were interesting enough to keep me away from the world that was spinning inside my head. I wish I could remember what I dreamed about but I know loved my dreams and never had trouble sleeping then.

To illustrate just how little problem I had sleeping, when I was around 5 or 6 my father thought I should at least get used to the idea of having a gun. Given that this was probably some incremental improvement over the standard of child rearing he experienced a few decades earlier I can only guess what grandpa decided should nestle cold and reassuring next to his bed between the wall and the mattress. In my case it was a .22 caliber bolt action rifle with the bolt removed. Good sense prevailed in my case I guess. Progress is progress.

Anyway, around that time I had the most viscerally frightening and vivid experience of my life. The room I slept in was nothing fancy. It was basically a rectangle with a door, two windows, and a little alcove that served as a closet. A thin light green fabric curtain was hung there, probably so I could cram toys and boots in there and the room would still look modestly presentable. Anyway, one night I woke up lying on my side facing the little closet with the curtain closed when I noticed something truly fucking startling. A pale hand looked to have been slowly drawing back the curtain but stopped when I came to my senses and started staring at it.

None of this seemed to happen in an instant either. I had plenty of time to slowly but surely freak my shit out inside. I tried to not even blink for fear the hand would notice and begin to move again. I held my breath for as long as I could and waited for the dream to fade and the hand to vanish. It didn’t happen. I remember beginning to exhale and / or scream but whichever it was got stuck in my throat — the hand started to move and draw back the curtain revealing half of some sort of short sickly-thin skin-on-bones form and a face that didn’t seem totally connected to the body. I think I thought it was a vampire or a demon. I’m not sure why. Those were probably the only truly horrible things in my lexicon at that age that could describe something that terrifying. Fuck that thing, whatever it was, even if it was just a figment of my imagination.

At this point I pretty much lost my mind and became something like an animal. I didn’t think but flipped instinctively over in the bed, grabbed that rusty, bolt-less piece of shit rifle by the barrel, and jumped to my feet twisting in mid air while raising it with both hands over my head as if to strike while screaming as loudly as I could. Like it would be both the last scream and the last breath I’d ever breath. I’m kind of proud of that reaction to be honest. I was brave little shit and I wasn’t going to go down without leaving a mark on that fucker.

The hand was gone, of course, as was the form and the face. But I swear that even as my father staggered into the room, half-drunk with sleep and a baseball bat in his hand, the curtain was still swaying. My father’s eyes met mine and recognized the terror in them and followed my gaze to the closet and the curtain. He didn’t hesitate or doubt, and with his left hand he ripped the curtain down, rod and all, and swung the bat high to beat the shit out of whatever was going to lunge out. When nothing moved he began to jam the business end of the bat into the darkest recesses of that closet while my mother called out from behind him in her nightgown. Those were still a thing back then I guess. Nothing groaned or crunched or snapped.

After calming himself down and me right after he took the gun from me and stashed it back beside my bed. I think he was proud of me too for having the presence of mind to try to use it. He was shaken but was reasonably satisfied it was a nightmare and told me something along the lines of scream again if it comes back. I laid back down staring into the confused shadow of an overstuffed closet that looked like it had just been mugged until, in an embarrassingly short period of time, I fell back sound asleep. I basically have a sleep superpower I guess.

Anyway, that’s how easy it was for me to sleep as I child. I don’t think I technically have insomnia now but my mind is always turning, even when I’m sleeping. I think worrying is my other superpower. Random thought : I think this is about the same time I took the machete from my father’s work shed and slid it under my mattress. He never gave me a hard time about it but, but he did ask about where it had gone. Maybe he had seen something too that night. He was definitely a superstitious man through-and-through regardless.