The sliver of light coming from under the closed door was the only light in the darkness. My breathing, the only sound I could hear. With the door to my back, I could make out the reflection of my silhouette in the mirror in front of me.
Just a faceless shadow. I could be anyone really. There was no way of knowing if the person I saw in the mirror was me. Maybe here, I was someone else.
But the voice in my head sounded like mine. And I felt the same. Afraid.
Fear, my ever faithful companion.
The darkness should've scared me, but it didn't. The bedroom I was sitting in was as familiar to me as the back of my hand. The bed on which I sat, felt like home.
What scared me was what waited outside of the door. In the mirror, I watched the light from underneath the door and waited. My heart pounding in dread when that shadow appeared in front of the light.
As the door knob turned in the darkness, I began to shake. A nurse, in a white dress and hat, appeared as a faceless shadow in the mirror, back lit from the hallway light. Slowly, like a bride walking down the isle, she crossed the room and came around the large bed and stopped at my side.
Gently, without saying a word, she took my hand and helped me stand.
I already knew what I was suppose to do.
Hand in hand with the silent nurse, I walked out of my grandparent's bedroom into a hallway that wasn't theirs. Instead, it was a dimly lit hallway with tall ceilings and circular saws of every size hanging on the walls.
With hesitation I walked down the hallway with the nurse who had released my hand but kept her stride slow to match mine. I didn't want to do this. But there was no door, no window from which to escape.
I just kept walking even though I wanted to run back to my grandparents' bed, crawl in and throw the covers over my head.
Maybe, I wasn't really me here. Because the real me would've done just that.
After walking for what seemed like forever, a light appeared at the end of the hall. And I knew it was over.
Everything was over.
I wanted to scream. The pressure was building in my throat, but I never made a sound.
With each step that brought me nearer the door at the end of the hall, the doom that filled me was pushing the oxygen from my lungs and the blood from my veins, crushing me from within.
At the threshold I slowed to a stop. They were waiting for me.
The room was lit by a lone surgical lamp casting light over an unconscious man. A handful of nurses were preparing for surgery and my companion left me at the door to ready herself as well.
I couldn't see the surgeon, because it was me.
And no nurse spoke a word as they walked to me and began draping me in a surgical gown, placing a plastic cap over my hair and gloving my hands.
No one said a word because I already knew why I was here. I was the only one in the whole world that could preform this surgery. And this man would die without it.
But once the surgery began, it would never end. I would be standing under that surgical light, holding the scalpel that was just placed into my shaking hand, for forever. There was no escaping this labyrinth I'd awoken in.
Somehow, my feet were still working and closed the distance between me and the man whose life I was about to save. But as I was about to make the first cut, the world shifted and rippled like water as the masked nurses around me became the faces of my worried siblings. And the light of the surgical lamp, was instead the glow of a Braves game on TV.
"Give'r some space, LeeAnn." It was my dad's voice.
My step-sister's face was right in mine, she was sitting next to me on the couch in the dark. "Well, it worked." Looking satisfied with herself, she tossed a lighter onto the coffee table in front of us.
My half-brother Chris and step-brother Marvin were sitting on the loveseat, watching me like I was the latest sci-fi thriller.
Kim, my little sister was in my step-mother's lap on the other side of LeeAnn.
My dad sat in his reclining chair looking at me, a mixture of worry and and something else in is eyes.
My reoccurring night terrors were always of the same nightmare. And the aimless sleep walking that I did while I was having the nightmare, I never remembered. My siblings said I looked like a zombie and scared them so bad they would come sit in the living room with our parents.
The night terrors only ever happened on the weekends. Only ever happened at my dad's house.
They took me to the doctor several times. "She'll grow out of it, she's only 7. It's most likely a phase," he'd said.
"Yeah, but what's causin' 'em?" My dad had asked.
"Who knows. Just don't let her eat a few hours before bed. Nothing but water to drink."
But nothing stopped the terrors. Every weekend, they came like clockwork.
But the terror wasn't confined to the night. A clouded sky would send me to the floor, sobbing and hysterically screaming. I just knew I was going to drown. My family's worst nightmare was a rainy day. For as long as it would rain, I would cry and beg someone to do something. Lightening would have me hiding in a closet terrified of being struck, because I just knew it could see me through the windows. A gust of wind would have me running for the nearest basement in fear of being swept away by a tornado.
Once my parents got lost trying to find a restaurant and I had a meltdown trapped inside the car. I had to get free. The thought of the only people who knew how to get me home being lost was too much for me to take. I just knew I would perish.
There was no rhyme or reason to my phobias. Fireworks. Swimming pools. Rain. Loose socks. The skin of a grape.
I was afraid of life.
And when the weekend was over and my little sister, Kim, and I would climb in the car for our dad to drive us an hour back up the interstate to our mom and step-father's house, I would pick up the dread that accompanied that house and wear it like an armor.
The terrors wouldn't happen at my mom and step-father's house. The phobias never surfaced there. There was no pacing, or crying, or hysterics. I was a different kid.
It was as if the fear I tried to let go of while at my dad's, I couldn't be untangled from. It had become a part of me and refused to be cast aside. It was eating my mind.
But it was in those moments on weekends when everyone else was already asleep and I awoke in the living room with my dad watching me with those worried eyes; he'd smile and joke about having to keep me from falling over furniture, as he passed me his bag of pork rinds and poured me a glass of milk, as he drank his beer, watching the Braves run bases; that my fear reset. My bases cleared. The score leveled. And I could bear the fear just a little while longer.
To this day, the sound of a bat hitting a ball still feels like coming home.