by Kristin Baker Przybyla
It was a dark and windy night. My husband was out of town on business, and I'd been having quite a time trying to get the three youngest kids to stay in bed.
"We hear noises in the other room," Brian whimpered.
"It's probably the cats or the hamsters," I tried to reassure him.
"No, REAL noises!" Elijah said, his brown eyes round with fright.
"The hamsters are awake at night, or it could be the wind blowing a branch against the window."
"But it's snapping noises."
I sighed and tried again. "The hamsters make a lot of noise on their wheel."
"LOUD snapping noises!" Anya insisted.
I threw my hands up in exasperation as I turned to find my pajamas. "Fine! It's the zombies!"
Instant silence. I looked over to see three pairs of little wide eyes staring at me. Giving up, I told them to bring in their pillows and blankets; we were going to hide from zombies in my bed. Three delighted little kids grabbed their things, and within minutes were sleeping soundly in the master bedroom.
But I stayed wide awake for an hour or two longer, jumping at every sound, inside or out. Every scrape on the window became ragged zombie fingernails trying to find a weakness in the glass. Each creak the house made as it settled meant the undead had found their way in, and were now sneaking down the hall to find me and feast on my brains.
I'll admit it: I deserved the instant karma.
In the Harry Potter books, a boggart is a Dark creature who lives in enclosed spaces, and takes on the form of whatever a person fears most. (In traditional folklore, boggarts take on more varied roles, but are generally mischievous creatures who like to scare people.)
I'm convinced if a boggart were to make its home in my closet, and if I were the unlucky person to open the closet door and release it, a zombie would come staggering out to scare me to death. Currently, they're my boogeyman of choice if I want to be scared silly by a creepy late-night movie or book. Despite having seen only three or four zombie movies in my life (I'm a scary movie wimp, plus very squeamish about gore), they get to me every time. I love them in books. Lately, I've been reading books that are a little creepier than I'd usually choose, because, being a fantasy author, I want to learn how to make my creepy villains as frightening as possible.
Of course, good frights don't extend to just the supernatural. My 17-year-old has a very different phobia. Lia's boggart would take the form of a giant, thrashing shark, or maybe some unnamed but very toothy deep-sea monstrosity. She used to get nervous just looking at pictures of sharks. It isn't so much sharks she's afraid of, but unknown creatures swimming under her if she's in a murky body of water and can't touch the bottom.
Last summer, we went swimming in the Boise River. While my mom and I sat on the beach, Lia took my niece down the current on an innertube. When they got to the bridge, I noticed a truck from the Fish & Game Department parked near the railing. A ranger was dumping buckets of something over the bridge into the water--just as Lia and her cousin drifted past.
I said to my mom, "It would be really funny if it's fish he's dumping over the side. Lia would freak out."
Sure enough, a few minutes later Lia and my niece walked back up the trail to our site, and Lia was screaming, "Fish! They were pouring buckets of FISH into the water all around my head! I almost died!"
I laughed then, but now I realize Lia has it easy. All she has to do is keep out of deep water and she'll avoid her phobia. But zombies walk on the ground. They won't relent until they claw their way into your house. They don't care if it's day or night, although they're a lot creepier to me at night. And right now, I'm writing this post in near-total darkness.
I'm just glad it's not a windy night.
What about you? If a boggart came out of your closet, what would you see? Are you immune to the fear that late-night scary books and movies can cause; do you avoid the horror genre altogether; or, like me, do you enjoy the occasional fright? Even if you might regret it at bedtime?