Monday, August 07, 2006

Nighttime for Natalie

For the past four consecutive nights in a row, Natalie has been inadvertently freaking me out in a repeating reenactment of a scene that I have seen in one too many horror movies throughout my life.

My heart races for no stupid reason but my own imagination and a visual reminder of some creepy things I’ve seen on the silver (and blood red) screen.

Tonight is a perfect example. I’m in my office, dutifully chipping away at the Mt. Rushmore that is the project that’s due at the end of this week (to give you perspective: I’m on Page 9 of 14, in Group 1 of 58 and it’s taken me three hours to get this far). Anyway, I’m in my office, quenched in deep concentration, working from both computers while trying to stay focused. The window to my left is open, so I’m surrounded by the Crystal Lake Camp sounds of crickets and the breezes through the trees (similar to the calm experienced before Jason slings himself from the bushes and plants a meat cleaver in some co-ed’s head), and it’s dark and quiet, the room bathed only in the illumination from the computer monitors and a small 40-watt desk lamp; I’m comfortable, relaxed and unsuspecting… and out of the corner of my eye, Natalie suddenly comes into focus, and I jump like a school girl. The part that freaks me out is that I know that she’s been standing there for a few minutes, silently sobbing, hair tussled, with a stoic sleepwalking trance on her face as she has both her hands on her cheeks trying to hide her face. Her bangs hang over her eyes like Linda Blair’s from “The Exorcist” and she has that aura of “They’re here” Heather O'Rourke from “Poltergeist.”

The scary part for me (for a reason I’ll explain later) is merely approaching her, because she’s just standing there, silent, motionless and seemingly asleep. When I kneel down and put my hand on her shoulder or her back, only then does she start to speak, and it’s in tongues, like the possessed. It’s toddler speak, reverted to infant babbles that are all but muffled with her sobbing. Tears streaked down her cheeks and she won’t look up at me.

“What’s the matter, honey?” I ask. “Why aren’t you in bed?”

It’s obvious that she was awoken by another nightmare (we cleaned out a bunch of spiders from her outside toys and table yesterday, so it’s no wonder we’re not all hugging our knees in the corner of the room searching for a "happy place"). The only words I can discern from quite a lengthy sentence is “Mommy’s bed,” and tonight, “I can’t sleep in my bed anymore,” was very clear.

“Do you want to come sleep in Mommy’s bed tonight?”

“Yes,” she whimpers, “I do,” and falls into my arms.
So, we round up her pillow, which tonight was drenched in sweat, her blanket and any of “her guys” that earned her good graces to sleep in her bed tonight, and we stumble our way through the darkness and up into our bed, where she quickly settles in next to the darkened lumps that is Mommy. She’s sound asleep by the time I leave the room.

Okay, so what is so freaky about the whole scene? For starters, it creeps me out that she is just standing there when it is nearly the last thing I would expect to see at one in the morning. Secondly, she doesn’t move or talk or make her presence known until I approach her, sometimes not until I touch her.

To me, that’s how horror movies start. Remember that little girl at the beginning of “Dawn of the Dead” (2003) when she standing at the bedroom door? She is standing there in the same manner that Natalie does, and it isn’t until the husband of the main character approaches her, bends down and asks her what’s wrong that she bites a huge chunky hunk out of his neck! Blood spurts everywhere and it’s a surprising twist you didn’t expect.

Well… at one in the morning, it would be a surprising twist in my day, wouldn’t it, and that’s what sometimes gives me the shivers.

It’s just a movie, of course, and that wouldn’t happen with Natalie, but it still goes through my mind when all I can think of are shadows lurking in the dark, strangling clowns on chairs in the corners of rooms, and that quiet creeping music that sounds like the breathing of homicidal maniacs that precedes the imminent slaughter in any horror movie.

Okay, I’m going to bed, Page 9 of 14, in Group 1 of 58 and all the rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

I hope the bed’s not levitating when I get there. That will totally ruin my night’s sleep.

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