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My Worst Nightmare

Six-year-old Julian lived in a valley surrounded by rugged mountains. His affectionate and charming aura got him tons of friends who liked his bubbly and chatty personality. Julian was very kind, well-mannered, compassionate, and soft by nature. His school was just around the corner, around 100 steps from home. He was glad he didn’t have to race to reach the school. Every morning, he happily sat by the window and watched people walking by when he could arrive at school in no time. Despite his bright personality, his school uniform carried most of the dark colors: gray pants, a light blue shirt with the gray logo on the right side of the pocket, a gray-blue tie, and gray sweaters matching with black shoes and gray socks. He hated it, as it resembled the gloomy skies. He was never worried about getting his knees scraped when summer days brought gray shorts back.

An ace student, Julian spent most of his time in active learning and developing cognitive skills. His friendly attitude was intriguing to the girls and boys in his class. In the evening, children came together to play on the street or on the porch after finishing their homework. Overall, he was enjoying a fantastic childhood while having a great time with the children in the class and neighborhood.

Julian lived in an apartment, in a big colony with many building with several apartments. The Government had done a mass development for their employees and their families. The vicinity included parks and schools. There were street markets outside the East and West gates of the colony within walking distance. The main gates were closed at 10 pm to prohibit the entry of outsiders, the colony was safe and secured within the gates.

While the construction was going on, Julian saw the structure built in front of his eyes. It thrilled him to see the laborers working rigorously through day and night. The development plan included a new school and a park for the children. Julian’s father had applied for the new apartment well in advance to have a secured spot. The building was right across the park and close to the school. The family wanted it badly. Julian went to grade 1 in another school. As he walked past the building every day with his parents, the idea of having an apartment close to school, park, and a few meters away from the East gate had kept him captivated. The months passed, and they got their apartment on the third floor of the new building. There were no lifts but stairs to access the floors. He was a young and energetic boy who swung the stairs like a Ninja.

As Julian grew older, the children gossiped during playtime. Someone mentioned the park next to their building was a children’s cemetery in the past, where thousands of children were buried and cremated. The park was full of colors in the daytime; he visited it with his friends all the time. They went on the slides, and see-saw, but as the night fell, his overactive mind began creating stories based on things told by his friends. To his disgrace, their family room window faced the park, which was compelling him to freak out at night. It scared him to move from one room to another and always expected company. There was a temple on the other side of the park. All neighborhood children started visiting the temple every Tuesday night at dusk and by the time they returned park got really dark. They recreated horrifying stories while walking through the park, leaving him startled. The park was a shortcut to his home, but he had to walk through a longer route if he avoided it. He was fine during the day as lots of people walked by, but nights were quiet, especially in winters. Sometimes, he closed his eyes and ran from one end to the other to skip the park. His heart pounded, and his legs pervaded his mind. His lungs felt out of air. He breathed only when he reached in front of the building and saw the bright lights covering the area. He skipped three steps at a time as he climbed upstairs towards his apartment.

Julian became more stressed day by day. He avoided watching horror movies and won’t talk about them. Dark places frightened him. He couldn’t stay alone and always felt someone was watching him or was around. Nightmares became regular. Once at midnight, he woke up after a supernatural dream while everyone at home was sleeping. He covered his head inside the blanket and thought of all the weird, horrible stuff he could imagine. The imaginative mind raced with insecurity and his body covered in sweat, but he still stayed in the blanket and started praying so he could finally fall back asleep. His fatigued body commanded to snooze, leaving him drowsy, but his mind said, “No, no, no, remember what happened there?” His brain repulsed and couldn’t shut down. The next day, he woke up traumatized by thinking about all the creepy things at night. He was exhausted. The trips to the bathroom became terrifying and if he ever had to pee in the middle of the night, he’d just hold it until his windows reflected sunlight.

As he grew older, these small talks and gossips by the neighborhood children turned his fear into a phobia. He often dreamed of ghosts and monsters; he saw demons chasing him on the run. One night, he woke to the feeling of something heavy over his body. Julian tried to wake his parents by screaming loud, but they couldn’t hear him. It turned out to be a dream which still left him petrified. He tried very hard to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. These events consistently bothered Julian. One of his friends told him to count sheep in his mind that could help in sleeping, but it didn’t help. His mother told him to pray if he has ever woken up again.

One of his friends told him stories of ghosts coming out around noon, so he started avoiding quiet places in the daylight. Although he never agreed but once, his friends convinced him to watch a horror movie together, the flashbacks left him with sleepless nights, so he never watched them ever again.

Julian grew into an adult, worked as a Top executive, earned a good living, got married and had children. But he was ashamed to talk about his fears and never discussed this part of life with anyone. The phobia was still within him, and never cured. He never learned to face it, it became a part of his life.

Adolescent minds are like whiteboards, some marks can linger eternally if left untreated in the early stages. It’s important to disarm the fears and learn to feel safer in one’s environment. It would be wise to identify these issues at the beginning to avoid future mental health issues. Childhood stays with us forever and these incidents can leave a person scarred for life. Julian is now a middle-aged adult man with children, but his childhood stories still haunt him at night.