(Fear of darkness)
“The night creeps on little cat’s feet” was what little Donny Weston’s mother had read
to him once, but Donny Weston felt that it stalked on big panther claws. And the night always seemed to stalk him. It always seemed worse on the dark nights when there was no moon out. On those nights, Donny insisted that there should be a light left on in
his room. His mother would indulge him on those nights but his father would complain about the cost of electricity. After a few times of spending the night in his parents bed, his father decided to yield to the inevitable since it became a matter of either having his son in his bed or having sex with his wife; uninterrupted sex won out. His father eventually quit complaining about the cost of electricity.
Donny was, of course, unaware of the disruption that his fear was causing in his parent’s marriage. His mother would tell him that it was a phase that all children went through and that it would disappear as he got older. This was something that he wanted to believe and on those nights that were especially scary, he would quietly chant this phrase to himself as he hid under the covers. Ironically, on stormy nights when lightening struck and thunder sounded, he did not feel so afraid because the milliseconds of light from the lightening tended to comfort him. Unlike some cartoons he had seen, Donny did not have a giant leafless tree outside his window. All he saw outside of his bedroom window was the bedroom window of his next door neighbor and occasional playmate, Jimmy Dunstan.
Jimmy Dunstan had spent a sleepover at Donny’s house once, and this had kept Donny fairly calm since the two boys spent most of the night talking and reading comic books under the glow from their flashlights. That was when Donny was seven, but now Donny was nine years old and his fear still stalked him.
Donny’s mother had once taken her son to a psychologist to see if he could help her son overcome his fear. The psychologist had told them a story about a patient that Sigmund Freud had encountered; a child who also was afraid of the dark had asked his aunt to stay in his room with him at night. The aunt said that it would do no good, since the boy would not be able to see her. The boy replied, “Yes, but I will be able to hear you talk.” Donny was not as impressed with the story as much as his mother had been, and when she told his father the story, he just threw up his hands and said: “For that, I paid $50?” Despite his father’s objection to the cost, Donny did see the psychologist a few more times.
On one fourth of July, a carnival came to town and Donny and his friend Jimmy went with Donny’s parents. The two boys had fun on the roller coaster, the carousel, and playing at some of the games at which one could win a prize. Jimmy even managed to talk Donny into going on “The Tunnel of Terrors”. At first, while the car they were in slid through the entrance doors and before going into the main attraction, the boys found themselves in total darkness. Donny was almost ready to scream when the doors opened and they saw various monsters poised to “attack” them. Donny’s only screams after that were normal reactions to the horrors. Ten minutes after going into this “hall of horrors”, the boys found themselves once again among the noises of the carnival. Donny’s parents were waiting for them outside.
“Boys, how about we get something to eat and drink?” Donny’s father said.
“I wanna hot dog and Coke!” Donny yelled.
“Me too!” Jimmy chimed in.
“Alright, you boys wait here with Mom and I’ll go get the food.”
The boys were suddenly hungry when Donny’s father mentioned food. The boys and Mrs. Weston went to sit at a nearby table while waiting for Mr. Weston to return. As they were sitting at the table waiting for Donny’s father to return with their food, Donny heard one of the carnival barkers; he was advising the crowd to come see the Master Hypnotist, Doctor Cellini.
“Come one, come all! See the doctor change man into animal!, see him cause people to float in the air! Come see him cause people to feel no pain! Come one, come all! Only 75 cents a person!”
Donny was hypnotized just by the promises that the barker was making. He turned to his mother and asked if Jimmy and he could go see Doctor Cellini. His mother told him that they all would go see the show after they had had their lunch. Ten minutes after Mr. Weston had come back with their food, Donny had almost finished wolfing down his food. His mother told him to slow down or he would get sick.
“What is he in such a hurry about?” Mr. Weston asked his wife.
“Oh, he wants to go see the hypnotist show and I told him that we would go after our lunch.”
When his parents finished eating, Donny jumped up from the table and said, “come on, guys, let’s go!” His father just looked at his wife and shrugged his shoulders. “You heard him everyone, let’s go!” his father said. They got up to the counter and Mr. Weston paid the $3 for them all to get into the tent. The inside of the tent was slightly stuffy and dimly lit. There was a small stage at one end of the tent with about fifty chairs lined up in a square fashion. Donny led the way to a row where there were four empty seats and everyone sat down. A minute later, a spot light hit the stage area and the barker leaned towards a microphone and announced: “Welcome ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls! You are in for a very special treat today! Doctor Cellini is one of the world’s foremost authorities and practitioners of the mysterious art of hypnotism! Prepare to be astounded by his amazing feats! And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, our Master Hypnotist, Doctor Enrico Cellini!!!”
With the introduction finished, a man who looked to be in his sixties, with a bald head and a white goatee, dressed in a brown suit and a bright red tie stepped out from behind the ragtag curtains and bowed to the audience. As the audience lethargically clapped (Donny was the loudest), the Doctor raised his hands to quiet the audience and spoke: “Thank you one and all for coming. Now, let’s get started shall we? For my first demonstration, I require a member from the audience. Any volunteers?”
The people in the seats shuffled their feet and muttered until one man stood up and said, “I will!” The rest of the audience clapped and cheered him on. The man was in his twenties and walked up to the stage with a bit of a swagger.
Doctor Cellini asked the young man if he had even been hypnotized before. He said that he hadn’t and that he was sure that he couldn’t be hypnotized. Doctor Cellini said, “We’ll see” and asked the man to have a seat on a stool that had been brought up unto the stage. The doctor told the man to relax and concentrate all of his energy of the shiny watch that he held in front of the man’s eyes. The crowd in the audience became completely quiet without being told. The doctor slowly twirled the watch and spoke in a low voice to the man. Within one minute, the doctor was sure that the man was hypnotized and said, “Can you hear me?”
“What is your name?”
“Carl, in a few seconds I am going to clap my hands twice and you will wake up. Once you do, I will say the word “chicken” and you will start to act like a chicken. Do you understand?”
“Very good, Carl.” and with that said, the doctor quickly clapped his hands twice and Carl woke up. “See, I told you I couldn’t be hypnotized.”
“Yes, you did Carl. By the way, have you ever raised a chicken?” When the doctor said the word “chicken”, Carl jumped off of the stool and crouched down like a chicken and started to cluck and peck at imaginary food on the ground. Everyone in the audience laughed. The doctor then asked the audience to be still and clapped his hands rapidly again. Carl instantly quit pecking and looked up in confusion. “Thank you, Carl. Please return to your seat.” The barker walked up to Carl and led him back to his seat.
“That, dear friends, was a minor feat of hypnotism. For my next feat, I would like to request the assistance of a young lady. I assure you ladies that I will not have you performing any animal acts.”
There was some laughter from the audience, and soon a woman’s hand went up in the air. Doctor Cellini saw it and waved the woman up to the stage.
“And what is your name, my dear.”
The woman smiled and shyly said, “Carol”.
“Very good. Now Carol, have a seat. Have you ever been hypnotized?”
“Very well. Now I want you to relax your body and your mind and keep your eyes on this watch.” The woman quickly went under and the doctor asked her to stand up. While the doctor had been hypnotizing the woman, two men brought two saw horses and a board covered in nails on the stage. They laid the board on the saw horses and then left the stage. The doctor then led Carol over to the makeshift bed and laid her on it.
“Now Carol, I want you to listen to my voice. You are laying on a very comfortable bed. Do you feel the soft mattress?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Now, Carol, I want you to turn on to your other side.”
The woman did as she was told without crying out in pain. She really did feel as if she were in her very own bed.
“Very good. Carol, it is now time for you to get out of bed and I want you to stand by me.”
Carol slowly got off of the nails and walked over to where Doctor Cellini was standing. Carol was facing the audience so that everyone could see that she had not been harmed while laying on the nails.
“Carol, I am going to count to three and when I say ‘three’, you will be fully awake. One, two, three.” When the doctor said “three”, Carol opened her eyes and looked around wondering why everyone was clapping.
Donny and Jimmy were fascinated by Doctor Cellini and wondered if they could learn to hypnotize people. Unfortunately, Doctor Cellini had not written a book, so Donny wondered if he could get to talk to the doctor in private. His parents were skeptical and tried to distract their son with something that would take his mind off of hypnotism. Jimmy managed to distract Donny by saying that he wanted to go to the firing range.
Five years had passed since Donny, Jimmy, and his parents had gone to see Doctor Cellini’s show. Within those five years, Donny had gone to the library to see what books he could find on hypnotism. He had found several which he had wanted to keep, but knew that he couldn’t, since they belonged to the library, so he started to save his allowance money and visit bookstores. His friend Jimmy would occasionally go with him to the bookstores, but he was more interested in reading comic books. One time, Jimmy went with him to see about getting the new copy of “Thor”. Donny had just finished going through the section that had books about hypnotism when Jimmy walked up to him and showed him an advertisement in the back of a comic. It said that for $2.95 you could buy a spiral wheel that could hypnotize friends and family. Donny was, at first, skeptical, but Jimmy insisted that they buy one and give it a try. Donny sent the money to the address in the ad and within three weeks received a package. He called Jimmy to let him know that the wheel had arrived and had him come over to try it with him.
The spiral wheel came with a small booklet which told him how the wheel was to be used. The two boys went up to Donny’s room and read the instructions. After reading the instructions and understanding them, Donny decided that he would be the first one to use it and he would use it on Jimmy.
“Just don’t make me act like a chicken.” Jimmy told him.
Donny went over to his window and closed the curtains and turned on his bedside lamp. The boys faced each other on the bed and Donny started the wheel to spin. Jimmy stared at the wheel, but after a minute passed, did not feel like he had been hypnotized.
“Maybe you didn’t relax like the book said.”
“No, I tried to relax. All it did was make me a little dizzy. It’s my turn now.”
Donny handed the spiral wheel to Jimmy, kicked off his shoes, and tried to drive all thoughts from his mind. When he felt that he was ready, he told Jimmy to start spinning the wheel. The black and white twirls were blending into one color before his eyes. Soon, he heard Jimmy’s voice asking him if he could hear him.
“Yes” Donny answered. Jimmy was startled when he realized that the wheel had worked. He tried to think of something to make his friend do. Jimmy knew that Donny had a fear of the dark, so he decided that he would make him think that he was in a haunted house.
“Donny, I want you to think about a haunted house. Do you see it?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Now there is a full moon out. The moonlight is glowing on the front porch steps. Do you see the steps?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good. Now go up the steps and through the front door.”
“I don’t want to; it’s scary.”
“Go ahead, I’ll be with you.”
“What do you see?”
“A staircase going up to the next floor, a living room with furniture covered with cloths and some spider webs.”
“Do you hear anything?”
“Alright, now go find the kitchen.”
“I found it.”
“Do you see a door to a cellar?”
“Open the door and go down into the cellar.”
“It’s too dark; I’m afraid.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll be with you.”
At that moment, Donny’s mother walked into the bedroom to let Jimmy know that it was time for him to go home for dinner. Jimmy was startled when she opened the door, but jumped up and ran out of the room. She saw Donny sitting out the bed staring at the wall and saw the spiral wheel lying on the floor. She walked up to Donny and gently shook him, but Donny did not respond. Finally, she snapped her fingers in front of Donny’s face and the boy shook his head and his eyes cleared.
“Mom, what are you doing? Where’s Jimmy?”
“He had to go home for dinner. What were you boys doing?”
Reluctantly, Donny told his mother about the spiral wheel that he and Jimmy had bought and that they were just seeing if it worked.
“Well, it must have worked on you because when I came in, you were staring at the wall.”
“Yeah, wow. You boys have to be careful with that. It takes years for a real doctor to learn to control a hypnotized subject. Now, get ready for dinner.”
The thought running through Donny’s head that Jimmy had managed to hypnotize him caused Donny to have trouble sleeping. He moved closer to the radio on his nightstand and changed through the stations. He found one that played soft classical music and laid back in his bed. Sleep eventually caught up with him and, not long after that, so did a dream. He saw himself walking along the sidewalk alone. The sun was just setting and three houses away from where he was, he heard a whisper in his ear, urging him to go into the third house up the street. When he got there, he saw a badly-painted white fence and dead leaves spinning in the wind by a dead oak tree. He was reluctant to even go through the gate, but the voice in his head became insistent. As he expected, the gate creaked when he opened it, but he continued to walk towards the front door. As soon as he got to the door, a breeze came up and pushed it open. He slowly entered the house. To his left, he saw a living room filled with furniture covered in tarps and spider webs hanging from the light fixtures. Slightly to his right was a staircase which had seen better days. He heard the voice calling to him, but it wasn’t from the upper floor. He looked down a narrow hallway which was beside the stairwell and led to a kitchen. There was nothing on the kitchen table or in the shelves, but to the right he saw another door. The voice seemed to be coming from behind the door. Donny walked over to the door and opened it. A stairway led down to a dark basement. The voice continued to call out his name but Donny stood there shaking his head.
Suddenly, a loud growl sounded behind Donny and, without looking behind him, Donny ran down into the basement. The basement door slammed and darkness swallowed Donny. Just as Donny was about to scream, he heard a noise. It wasn’t the voice, it was something else. It seemed to sound like a far off drum. Donny started to slowly walk towards the sound. With each step, he felt that he was getting closer to the drum sound. Suddenly, the drum started beating faster and faster. Donny started to run towards the sound but tripped and fell down on his face. When he looked up, he saw a man’s face with an expression like a wild animal. He screamed but the darkness took over again and Donny lost consciousness.
At Donny’s funeral, his mother was dry-eyed and stock still. The memory of that night when she was only sixteen and had been raped by her neighbor played back in her mind. She had hoped that it would never return, but when she went into Donny’s room and found him lying in the same position that the police had found her, she knew what caused Donny’s fear of the dark.