The first time I saw him, I was nine years old.
My sister had had a bad dream, and asked me to come sleep with her. Our parents were gone for the weekend, and out brother’s girlfriend had come over at eight and they hadn’t come out of his room since.
I was only two years older than her, but I guess when you’re scared any kind of company is better than none.
She had come into my room at about midnight, shaking me awake. I had followed her blearily into her room, crawled under the covers, and promptly fell asleep again.
I woke up at three a.m., and to this day I can’t really remember why. There was no loud noise, no bad dream, and no sudden movements. I just opened my eyes and there he was, standing at the foot of the bed.
I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise, and I was so stunned I almost forgot to be scared. My nine-year-old mind knew it was bad when a strange person was in your house, especially when your parents weren’t home. But I had never been faced with this kind of situation.
So I sat there, peering out from the covers, my fright fighting my curiosity.
He was tall, dressed in a long black cloak that was tattered at the edges. I couldn’t see his face due to the shadow his hood cast. He was eerily still and quiet, yet his aura was somewhat calming. My instincts were screaming danger! Yet, my body wasn’t responding.
I abruptly noticed what he was holding.
In his hand he clutched a long wooden staff, and a wicked, curved blade perched atop it, its point razor sharp. It glittered in the faint moonlight coming in through my sister’s window.
That’s when I knew the identity of this intruder. I had seen him in cartoons and pictures, and Dad had mentioned him a few times.
This was the Grim Reaper.
I glanced at my sister, but she was fast asleep. I turned back to him. He still hadn’t moved; his hidden gaze still trained on me.
“Umm… hi…” I murmured shyly. I didn’t know what else to do. There was a moment of intense silence, and then came a sound that was almost inaudible at first, but began to grow. It resembled two stones getting ground together. I sat there, staring stupidly.
Then I realized what it was. He was chuckling. Laughing.
The idea of Death standing in front of me laughing was just too much. I couldn’t hold back the wide grin that spread on my face. I couldn’t wait to tell Dad about this.
I blinked and he was gone, just like that. I remember staring at the spot he’d been for a long time afterwards before drifting back off to sleep.
The next morning it was hazy, like a dream, but I was certain it had been real.
My brother and Mom said I had an over-active imagination, and I didn’t tell my sister because I didn’t want to scare her.
Dad watched me with this strange expression when I told him, and nodded when I was finished.
“Don’t tell your friends about this, Janey,” he had said. “You don’t want to scare them.” And that was all.
Even though that was all he said, I knew he believed me. Dad could always tell when I was being serious.
But as I got older, I kept the other incidences to myself. As I got older, I came to understand that I didn’t have the ‘over-active imagination’ card that little kids got to protect me. Adolescents and adults who saw things were told to go get a shrink. Or a straight jacket.
And I knew I wasn’t crazy.