We asked Lisamarie Lamb, author of Excess Baggage in Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed, what her inspiration for her story was – instead she shared one of her childhood fears. Read on to find out why Lisamarie writes…
I’m Afraid of Pandas
I’m afraid of pandas. Don’t laugh, it’s the truth. Oh, they may look cute and cuddly, they may seem soft and soppy, but they are, in actual fact, cruel and creepy. They are evil.
I don’t say this lightly. I say this with a heavy heart and a troubled mind. But, you see, the thing is… I have had first hand experience with pandas. With a panda. And it was not pleasant.
I was four years old, and that is long enough ago that I really shouldn’t be able to remember it, but I do. The entire episode is as clear to me now as it was then.
I should probably explain…
One night when I was four, I had a nightmare, as children often do. I’m sure that I had many a nightmare at that age, many before and many since, come to that, but this one was so vivid, even though it made no sense in any way, that it’s never left me.
I awoke – in my dream – to find a giant panda sitting on my bed, watching me. There was nothing unusual about this panda (apart from the fact that it was there in the first place). It wasn’t some demon creature, it didn’t have bulging red eyes or scales or horns, it wasn’t holding a knife or even baring its teeth. But it was terrifying. It didn’t blink. It barely moved. It just watched me, and the part that worried me the most was that I didn’t know how long it had been there before I woke up.
Even at four that unnerved me.
To think that it had been waiting for me, silently, patiently.
I wanted to cry out for my mother, but I was too scared to make a sound. I wasn’t sure it knew I was awake.
So I lay there, paralysed with fear, my heart slapping against my ribs, my eyes mostly closed but just open enough to watch the panda watching me.
We stayed like that, the panda and I, for an eternity.
And then, out of nowhere and for no discernible reason, the panda plucked a cigarette out of the air, lit it with an unseen match, and smoked it, right there, in my bedroom. On my bed. It’s large, furry rump nudging up against my stiff, sweating legs.
I found my voice.
It was meek and weak, trembling and far too soft to attract any attention, but I called out anyway, desperate, needing to do something; “Mummy! Mummy! Help!”
Now the panda looked at me. It turned its head and stared into my eyes, smoke curling from its snout. It was angry. Its eyes narrowed and it hunched backwards. And then it was gone, I could feel its weight lifting from the mattress, and I saw it bolt.
The dream becomes hazy after that. My mother appeared, in the doorway, and I think I must have woken up by then because she was really there. She remembers it still, remembers me calling out so pitifully, so quietly, and yet waking her anyway. But what she doesn’t remember, and what I can’t explain, is that she passed the panda on its way out.
It ran out of the door as she ran in.
She never saw it, but it saw her. It growled at her.
She took its place on my bed and told me not to worry about it. It was just a dream, after all. Just a panda, and it was just smoking a cigarette. Nothing else.
I believed her then. But in the morning I cried out for her again because in the dawn light I could see something that we had both overlooked the night before.
There was a cigarette burn on my duvet cover.
We still talk about it. Every now and then it comes up in conversation. And neither of us can explain it.
I’ve been trying to exorcise that demon ever since.
I don’t think I’ve quite made it yet.
Those whispered tales of monsters hiding under the bed, or of the demons lurking in the shadowy corner where we dare not glance for fear that seeing them will make them all too real. Oh, how the innocent landscape of a child’s imagination lends fertile soil to horrors ready to be sown on the slightest of sounds; the tales and the terror they wreak on our youthful minds never quite leaves us.
We asked the authors in this collection to reach into the forgotten recesses of their twisted minds and share with us the tales of nightmares that can only thrive in the hidden corners of a child’s imaginings; the bogeyman under the bed, the outlandishly fiendish creature lurking in the dark, the slight murmur of sound coming from the hall… did you close the door completely?
Explore the myriad terrors that only a child can twist from nothing into some ‘thing’ in the span of a single rapid breath. Do you dare delve into your own memories? Perhaps you’ll start sleeping with the lights on again…
Tell us, who is Under the Bed?
Contributing Authors: Colin F. Barnes, Nina D’Arcangela, Phil Hickes, Amber Keller, Kim Krodel, Lisamarie Lamb, John McIlveen, Kate Monroe, Brandon Scott, Joshua Skye, Julianne Snow, and Jack Wallen
Pick up a copy of Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed as either an eBook or in print format from:
Excess Baggage is the story of Nigel, his past, and how nightmares don’t always occur when you’re sleeping. Here is a longer look at Lisamarie’s contribution to Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed –
The holiday was over. Done. And now they were back to the realities – not too harsh, not too bad, just rough enough – of everyday life.
Oh, but what a holiday it had been! His first. Six years old and this was the first time Bob had been away from home, the first time he had seen the sea, the first time he had felt hot sand burn his feet and grab them, pulling him down into the golden grave of old beer cans and sticking plasters.
Every second had been exciting. Even those moments during which he had simply sat, watching the sea crashing in and out, watching the boats bobbing up and down, watching the world turning round and round. It had been two weeks of constant, fizzy tummied joy. His parents were relaxed, happy, they held hands as they walked in the evenings and they kissed. A lot. Bob didn’t mind. It made him smile. And it was so much better than the constant snipe, snipe, sniping at home.
He felt like a family.
His father even told stories of when he had visited the town they were staying in, in his youth. He and a friend whose name he couldn’t remember – it was more than twenty years ago – had celebrated the end of their exams right here. But it had been very different then. Very different. Although, that being said, he couldn’t quite put his finger on why.
The only problem came at the end. The last day, when they were packing to leave, when the light, bright atmosphere of holiday began to give way to the drudging dullness of lists and deadlines and clocks, Bob’s suitcase broke. It was a hard shelled, bright green thing, brand new, bought just for the holiday; bought especially for Bob.
But it broke.
It wasn’t Bob’s fault, not really. But the shells he had collected from his wanderings on the cooling beach in the evenings were just too much for the case to take. And as much as he tried, as much as he pushed and groaned and grunted and eventually jumped on to the suitcase, it simply wouldn’t close.
It did crack, though. Straight across the front in a long line. It appeared just after the jumping incident, just after Bob’s feet came to rest on the tiled floor of his bedroom, slipping a little in his flip flops. The sound was incredible, echoing out of the open balcony doors and flowing around the corner into his parents’ room next door, telling tales on him like the boys at school.
If you want to read more about Lisamarie, you can find her on her blog.