I, of course, assured him that everything was fine and used the glow from my iPhone to cast a bit of light around us rather than admit that I, too, was afraid.
But not of the usual things that a normal person should be afraid of in such a situation, such as a mugger or some such other threat to our safety.
No, I was afraid of the monsters that might be lurking in the shadows.
Basically, I might have grown up, but have yet to grow out of the primal fear of the dark that haunted me as a child.
And that's part of the premise for a short story I recently had published. I recently received my contributor copy of Fear of the Dark, an anthology from Horror Bound Publications edited by Maria Grazia Cavicchioli and Jason Rolfe.
My story, "Nocturnal Visions" was written after being inspired by a comment my son made one evening at dinner. It was quite cute, actually. Alexander had recently lost a tooth, so at the dinner table he made a comment about wondering if he might hear the tooth fairy come into his room.
I had been about to tell him something along the lines of: "No. If the Sandman gets there first, you'll be fast asleep." But before the words could even form, my mind had already started tearing down the deep dark alley of inspiration, catching that fleeting glimpse of my muse and pursuing it at a desperate full throttle before she got away.
I immediately excused myself from the table, went downstairs to the den, and started to write the opening line of the story, plus a few quick bullet points of thoughts about my idea. Then I went back upstairs to re-join Francine and Alexander. Fran cast me a strange look and I said I'd explain later, because I wasn't about to explain the concept that I had been struck with. Not to my son, who had been eagerly anticipating a nocturnal visit from the Tooth Fairy that night.
To illustrate why I hadn't been about to share this with my son, here's the opening few lines of my story "Nocturnal Visions"
When Carl was six years old he watched the Sandman strangle the Tooth Fairy.
It wasn't the first bizarre nocturnal sight he'd witnesses, and it definitely wasn't to be the last; but it did alter him permanently from that day forward.
He'd been tossing and turning in his bed, unable to get to sleep because he was anxious about the visit from the Tooth Fairy. His parents had told him about her as yet another one of those nocturnal beings who slipped in and out of a person's house in the middle of the night while everybody was sleeping.
And while he'd been lying there, worried he wouldn't fall asleep and that the front incisor wrapped carefully in a wad of tissue would not be replaced with a bright shiny coin, he heard a muted shuffling outside his door.
The basic premise is that Carl has the ability to see all of the nocturnal beings that children believe in and adults talk about. So, growing up, he never grows out of his wondrous faith in those creatures, constantly aware of the annual visits from Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Father Time as well as other entities such as The Tooth Fairy and Cupid. An insomniac, Carl also constantly struggles with the dark pact he made with The Sandman on the night the Tooth Fairy was murdered.
I was quite pleased with this tale, and also pleased that it nicely fit in with the theme of the Fear of the Dark anthology.
I'm also quite pleased that my story appears in a collection alongside the following authors: Adrian Chamberlin, Eric Dimbleby, Christopher Fowler, Michael F. Fudali, Dave Ingalls, Paul Kane, Charles Loudowl, Lisa Mannetti, Brian D. Mazur, Angel Leigh McCoy, Jason Muller, Sandra M. Odell, Anne M. Pillsworth, Aaron Polson, Martin Rose, Norman L. Rubenstein, A.D. Spencer, Mary A. Turzillo and Brian Wright.