By: J.J. Cheesman
When I was a child, I was taught to say my prayers every night before sleep. Every night after brushing my teeth, I would get on my knees and pray. I wasn’t ever taught a specific prayer, but my Mother always said to make sure that I prayed to god, and ask him to keep watch over myself and anyone I wanted to keep safe. So I usually improvised.
I would cup my hands like I had seen in church and in movies, and I would ask god to watch over me, my dog sparky, my little brother, and of course, my parents. This was a habitual action for me. It was just part of my routine. As I got older, however, I began to question the reasoning behind it.
Why was I praying if I didn’t know for sure if anyone was listening? Why was it even necessary? These questions plagued my curious child-mind, until one day I got the courage to ask my Dad why Mom made me pray.
“Well, son, your Mother believes very strongly that god watches over us, and that he protects us from evil.” He said.
“Do you pray Dad?” I asked him.
“Every night.” He said.
“Do you think god is listening?”
Dad thought long and hard about his reply before answering. “I believe that, more than anything, Prayers keep the devil locked out of your life.” His stern expression and solemn tone made me believe his words, without a shadow of a doubt.
So my routine didn’t change. Every night I would be at my bed side, asking for protection on behalf of my family, from god. That was until one day, when I was about thirteen. I had spent all day at the park playing basketball with some friends from school and when I came home I was exhausted. I walked through the door and marched straight to my room to relax on my bed for a little while. Before I knew it, I was passed out. I remember having an odd dream, one about someone knocking on the front door, and then all of a sudden, I woke up to the sound of squeaking hinges.
I shot up in bed and looked around frantically. My room was pitch black, which meant that it was sometime late in the night as it was in the middle of summer. My parents must have assumed I’d already gone to bed, and didn’t bother to intrude and wake me up. I looked to my bed room door, but it was closed. A little light leaked in from the crack underneath it from the hallway outside, allowing my eyes to adjust rather quickly to the darkness.
Once I could see fairly well, I surveyed my room once more to find my closet door slightly ajar. I began to move off my bed to close it, when I realized I could hear heavy breathing with the darkness of the closet space. I froze, and my heart began to race uncontrollably. The pounding in my ears was almost unbearable, until suddenly, my pulse along with my heartbeat, seemed to cease. A voice, deep and rasping, echoed from within the closet.
“Sparky.” The voice said. As if in answer, my bedroom door opened, and my terrier came trotting into the bed room and sat down in front of the closet doorway. A clawed and mangled black hand emerged from the shadows, and snatched Sparky up with a blink of an eye, into the blackness of the closet. I heard a slight yelp, and then the hand re-emerged, grabbing the handle of the closet door, and slowly pulled the door closed.
I sat in disbelief for several minutes, hell maybe hours. In any case I can tell you it was a long time before I noticed that I had pissed the bed. In the morning, my Dad and my Brother searched all around the house for Sparky, the dog I knew they would never find, while I washed my bed clothes. I just told my parents that I had a bad dream, and I drank way too much water the night before.
That was twenty years ago. I have children of my own now, a little boy and girl. Whenever they ask me why I make them pray, I tell them simply,
“It keeps the Devil locked away.”
I of course, pray myself. I pray every night, and every night, no matter how hard I have prayed since that terrifying time, though my Wife claims not to hear a thing.
I still hear heavy breathing from just behind my closet door.