Thursday 1 February 2024

Childhood: The fears and hairs that still haunt

What I heard to my hurt

My ears have a sense of betrayal of self, the sounds that syncopate with the rhythmic resonance of my ear drums taking me into worlds that I have never intended to visit. It was one such occasion when my aunt and our male valet or servant were having this conversation about the esoteric and weird, uncanny stories of the evil supernatural in the hearing of an impressionable 10-year-old.

Seeds sown into my vivid imagination would result in 2 terrifying encounters in which I believed I had seen the devil, a red-crested beastly creature at about 7 feet tall, arms raised like in surrender, but I saw terror and the spirit of fear that I never knew before took hold.

A dismissal of my experience

In the first sighting, my father dismissed my screams as some sort of juvenile exuberance and over-excitation, until late at night I woke up to a sound that brought everyone running to my rescue. My mother was both confused and perplexed by this strange change in my demeanour and as we sat in the living room this apparition appeared again.

My listening experience in the space of less than 30 minutes, the unguarded conversations of seeming adults unaware of the consequences of their discussion in the presence of a child would suggest that in the 1970s there was no knowledge of the serious safeguarding requirements to having anyone care for children and the result was a spectrum of child abuse, much of which I have written of.

In the grip of superstition beyond sense

I guess this informs why I curate what I absorb into my overactive imagination, fundamentally, I do not watch horror films, I have the capacity to imagine enough without have the stimulation of things that might go beyond my control.

Maybe I do now rationalise situations in which I find myself that I am more controlling of irrational fear, or so I think. Then I was walking up a road late at night when I realised the open field to my left was in fact a disused cemetery some gravestones displaced like a place abandoned and desecrated to the extent that the forgotten are indeed forgotten in terms of care for the place.

Between the temptation to look there and look away, I quickened my steps and still stole a few glances, for where in folklore have, I acquired the idea that a graveyard, the reliquary of the dead could be a hive of activity that would interact with the living? And yet, whatever schooled that idea into my consciousness has left it unlearnt.

I was ready to scream

Then the hairs still in their roots of my bald scalp were standing on their ends, in an excited state of sense something otherworldly. In the grip of unexplained fear, a wild guttural sound was forming in my throat and ready to explore into a torrent of the fiendish wailing of a banshee, and on the other hand, I checked myself thinking, why are you about to scream about nothing but the phantoms in your head?

It is however likely, if I had screamed I might have not only given voice to the fear, but also it would have allowed the extirpation of the tension, a release that might have brought people to enquire about the source of my discomfiture either for my embarrassment or in sympathy for hapless mental gymnastics with endearing pity for my need of some sort of help.

Time in a timeless appearance

It was not long after that, a homeless man in the recesses of a building along the way nodding to something asked for the time. A time I should have been ensconced in the warmth of my bed. The reckoning wondering is the person I told the time was homeless as pertains to the life in which we live or homeless from the displaced stones of the graveyard in an encounter I was not prepared to countenance.

If there is a lesson in this that has had lasting consequences for almost half a century, it is an admonition to parents to beware of the people they expose their children to, whether relations or employees. I doubt many parents fully appreciate what it might portend and, in my case, I might have been better helped by a child psychiatrist then being trafficked between religious and animist grottos of unlicensed practitioners of strange acts along with the rituals of reading Psalms in a language I hardly spoke into buckets of water for spiritual ablutions to ward away evil spirits.

You haven’t heard half the tale of this gruelling thing, much of which I attempt to forget as I also deign to forgive. Much as one was wronged there is grace that abounds to soothe and calm the troubled soul and it in that knowledge that I have found hope and redemption.

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