How I Killed the Monster Under My Bed
When I was in the 2nd grade, I was deathly afraid of sleep. Whenever I laid down, I heard these voices in my head, saying, “We’re going to kill you Joe, we’re going to eat you and murder you and you’ll never wake up again!” It was like such a traumatic thing to hear, especially when you’re that little. I never knew if the voices were real, or if it was just my imagination. I mean, I had a wild imagination, but some of the things the voices would say were more scary than I thought I was even capable of thinking myself.
It eventually got so bad that I had to listen to the radio just to drown the voices out. I would turn on this christian radio station, and there would be these hymns and church choirs. Sometimes a minister would come on and talk about God and the bible and Satan and all that stuff. Eventually, there would be a part in the program where nobody was talking, and there was just this creepy organ music for a long time.
Around this same time, I was hearing a lot about demons. I was a pastor’s kid, going to a Christian elementary school, and ideas like hell and demons were always being reinforced. And even though my parents didn’t talk about it that much, if the topic ever came up, those demons stayed on my mind like I had just watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I mean, they were monsters. REAL monsters. Like grown-ups are always saying to kids, “Oh, there’s no monsters under the bed.” But at the same time, I was being told that demons were everywhere. I was told, “If you ever come in contact with a demon, say, ‘I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ!’” That’s a pretty scary thing to say, especially since I didn’t even know what ‘rebuke’ meant. Maybe it was something like shooting them with a gun or a laser or something.
One night I was trying so hard to ignore the voices, and they just kept getting louder and louder, and eventually it was louder than the radio, saying I was going to hell and if I died tonight I would be stuck there forever. And I ran downstairs and my mom and dad were watching the news. I told them that I was afraid that I was going to die and go to hell. My Dad told me that I could become a Christian, and I would never ever go to hell. That summer, we went up to the lake and I got baptized. In fact, almost my whole family and some extended family got baptized along with me. I still have the video tape. There I am, standing in the cold water. Dad’s telling my whole story, and then he dunks me in the water, and I come up drenched. It’s kind of awkward and silent, a whole crowd on the beach looking at you, trying to see if you’re different, if you’re better.
That night I went to sleep hoping that everything would be better. I closed my eyes and it was completely silent. For about 5 minutes. Then the voices came back, even louder and clearer than before. “You think being baptized will stop us? You can’t stop us! You’ll hear us for the rest of your life!” I said, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ!” but they just kept going on and on and on, scaring me, tormenting me, threatening me. Nothing was different, nothing was better. It was like that movie Nightmare on Elm Street, where you know, every night, everyone’s just going to have to go to sleep, and eventually, no one will be able to help you.
I suffered with these voices for a few years, always with the radio, and the creepy organ music, and the minister, talking about demons, until one night, I just couldn’t sleep. It was dark, except for the crack of light at the door that my parents kept open slightly. Mom was at the door, and I said, “Mom, I can’t sleep.” Mom sounded a little fed up, “Ah, just sleep,” she said, and I did. I fell right asleep. The next night I fell right to sleep again, no voices. It was so simple, so easy. Why didn’t I just do that before?
I think I was thinking too hard. Obsessing about the voices made them a bigger problem, and gave me something to worry about. Just choosing to “just sleep,” was like acknowledging that I was creating the voices, perhaps that I was indeed working very hard to imagine the voices. After all, my mind was a mind that would create whole board games out of nothing, puppets and mazes, hundreds of characters good and bad, animated flip books, comic books, stories and movies. My mind was using the idea of a demon to exercise it’s creative muscles and see just how scary I could make them, just how scary they could be. The problem with this premise though, this premise that I assume that I am creating the voices in my mind, is that eventually I must question the voice of God in my mind as well and think, maybe I’m just creating his voice too.