Fortress of Solitude

As a kid, I always made forts out of blankets and pillows. Embarrassingly, this lasted for a long time-- up until I was 11 years old. I went all out, too; I may as well have built a castle. I was also afraid of monsters up until the age of 8 so I would put all of my dolls and stuffed animals on the outside of my forts as if they were my guards. Needless to say, they did a pretty good job at keeping me safe. I felt protected as if nothing in the world could hurt me.
There is, however, a specific incident I remember. It was freezing cold outside, which meant that in my poorly ventilated room, it was also freezing cold inside. At the time I shared a room with my sister, but she was out at a concert, so I was left alone for the time being. When it was time to sleep I turned off the lights, cuddled up in the blankets, and closed my eyes . . . then opened them again because I realized how seemingly terrifying the room was.
To this day I can tell you what it is that scared me so much because I still have problems with it today: darkness. The shadows splattered against the walls, the deafening white noise that fills the room, and the open closet door that seems to lead to an endless abyss -- everything is more terrifying in the dark.
So what did I do? I made a fort. It was one of the saddest excuses for a fort I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t in the living room so I only had flimsy pillows, a Powerpuff Girl blanket, and my stuffed animals. Being the young genius I was, I managed to get everything to stay upright by letting the blanket hang over all of the pillows (and a particularly large teddy bear) and had the objects leaning away with my blanket tucked underneath my mattress so I could climb in. However, the blanket wasn’t the largest thing in the world and there was a cold breeze coming through the cracks. Worse yet, it was the only blanket I had; I therefore had nothing to try and warm myself with, leaving me curled up in a ball trying to survive through the night.
Why would I put myself through all of this? Why didn’t I just ask for a nightlight like every other young child? It was because of my room’s inescapable darkness. Yes, it was even darker in the fort I created, but it was different. That was a darkness I created and understood. I knew how far the blanket went and what was inside. I felt safer in an icy, dark, cave-like setting than snuggled up in a blanket comfortably. Underneath my blanket, I definitively knew that I wouldn’t look over my shoulder and see a monster looking back.
Today, I still have troubles extending my comfort zone and taking risks. I have come a long way, but I still run towards my room when turning off the last light in the hallway. I don’t feel the need to hide from things, but I also have a hard time exploring and proving to myself that those monsters don’t exist. I believe one day I’ll be able to tear down my metaphorical fort and embrace the darkness-- not something scary, but as something unknown that’s worth exploring.

By Alana James

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