You’re never too old to get scared of things that go “boo” in the night. This weekend my wife and I had the entire house to ourselves. Child Harbat’s grandparents and aunt took her to Disneyland for her birthday and were out from Friday to Sunday. For the first time in many years we had nobody in our house. No children, no guests, no pets. Just after five in the morning I woke up, padded to the bathroom in the dark, then got back in bed and was just drifting off to sleep when I heard a child’s voice.
I lay still, electrified with fear. Did I imagine the voice? Surely my mind was playing tricks, an echo of the hundreds of times Child Harbat called for help in the dark hours of the night. For ten minutes I was frozen in bed, ears dialed to maximum sensitivity. Then I heard it again, a small voice coming from her room.
“Can you help me, please?”
It was unmistakably a child’s voice, calm and polite, and it floated down the dark and empty hall and into our room. Now I was on full alert, my body drenched in sweat. Do I get up and investigate? Should I go toward the voice armed with the machete I keep under the bed, or just hope fists and fear will be enough? My wife, I should add, was sound asleep during all this. In a brief moment of insanity I considered waking her to accompany me to investigate the spectral voice, but then I realized the wrath of a woken pregnant woman might be worse than paranormal visitation, so I kept my fear to myself.
Ninety minutes. This is how long I stayed in bed, terrified and unable to relax to go back to sleep. We only had two days of freedom before CH returned, the baby would be born, and our household would return to a steady state of noise, and here I was frittering away half of my freedom. Then it hit me: Elmo. CH has a talking Elmo doll that asks for help when it tips over. Somehow it had turned itself on or been turned on the past several months and now, at five in the morning, it decided to speak.
I summoned the courage to get out of bed and I stood at our door, peering down the dark hall towards CH’s room. The door was shut and I waited to hear the voice again. Maybe hearing Elmo one more time would defuse the situation, would remind me I was a grown adult afraid of a little battery-operated Muppet. But there was only silence. I shut and locked the door and prayed for the sun to come up.