Last week I was home alone for the night, as my partner Marc was away. Now, I absolutely hate sleeping in an empty place, as I start imagining noises. I sleep with the en-suite bathroom light on, as it’s not so much that I’m afraid of the dark, but I’m afraid of not being able to see something because of the dark. I’m more scared by the idea of something being there and me not knowing about it, than the thing itself. When it comes to going to bed, I hurry through each room, checking it and turning the light off, only breathing a little more easily when I’m in the bedroom with the door firmly shut. It usually works okay, and then I put on an audiobook to drown out any scuffles from neighbouring flats, as they send my imagination into overdrive. My favourite story to listen to is Anne of Green Gables, because I have listened to it so many times that I can sort of not-listen now. Audio-books are all well and good until you realise that you’re purposefully keeping yourself awake to hear what happens next. With Anne, I don’t have that worry.
Anyway, last week I set about preparing myself in the usual way. I had just turned the hall light off and was about to close the bedroom door and breathe a sigh of relief, when I heard a great big crash from the spare bedroom. As I’ve said, I’m more scared of not knowing about something, so I rushed into the room, heart thudding and breath short… to find that the ironing board had fallen over. Of course I told myself that I must have knocked it slightly when checking the rooms, rather than there being an angry poltergeist, but it still took a little bit longer to fall asleep afterwards than usual. It probably didn’t help that I happened to put on my Anne audiobook just at the point where she’s scared to go through the woods to Diana’s house at night, as she’s imagined that they’re haunted.
When I finally did drop off, I dreamed of my childhood fears. I was quite a nervy child, and would sit quietly at the top of the stairs reading until one of my sisters started up the stairs, at which point I would run into bed and feign being asleep. I was terrified of the gremlins (yes, that children’s film which left most others wanting one as a pet) and also had a recurring dream that I annoyed a wizard who gave me a monkey tail as revenge. I was a weird kid. But the strangest one, and the one most heavily featured in my dream that night, was a fear I’d forgotten about. When I was a child, I became convinced that unless I was out of the bathroom immediately after flushing the toilet, a goblin-like creature named ‘Jack of the toilet’ would rise up from it and grab me. I’d always have to wash my hands and pull the lever before sprinting out in fear. Now I have no idea where this idea came from, nor why this monstrous being was ‘Jack’. I can only assume that it came from a book, or a film, or a playground story. If anyone reading this ever heard of a tale which might explain this, or had an usual fear themselves, I’d love to hear about it. If your name is Jack, I’m sorry. You’re (probably) not a toilet goblin.