So, how does a harmless, albeit creepy, pillow open a gateway to some demonic force?
Well, you have to understand kid logic, as opposed to adult reality to truly fathom how these things occur.
That awful pillow rode home in the back of our Plymouth station wagon, stowed directly next to the old metal Coleman ice chest (that I vowed I'd never eat from again, now that it had direct contact with a corpse pillow). Every time I turned around in the car, hour after hour through Minnesota, Iowa, and all the way home to Illinois, that white satin taunted me.
When we got home I picked up the offending object using a car blanket wrapped around my hands so I didn't have to touch it. I raced it into my doll-sized bedroom with the speed usually reserved for hauling coolers for organ transplants. Breathless, I flung open the closet door, and with one hand, I felt around for something to contain the darkness. My fingers met the splintery stays of a cheap green basket left over from Easter a few months before. I pulled it down and stuffed the awful souvenir deep into a bed of pink, plastic grass. With the fervor of an Olympic hammer-thrower, I hauled back and launched the basket back onto the shelf, where it rolled into the pitch black space at the back of the closet. I barricaded it in with a wall of sheets and towels, and slammed the door shut.
And here's where kid logic comes in: whatever's hiding in the dark, if you can't see it, it can't see you. And if you only open the door in the daylight to retrieve clothes or shoes, you're okay. And, of course, you must always hold your breath when you open that door, or you might accidentally suck in some dead people dust and become a zombie or just die yourself.
Funny, huh? Not at the time. This was all deadly serious.
I'm betting most kids have their own set of Monster Rules. Those were mine. Initially, at least. I spent three years sleeping in that tiny bedroom, one eye on the closet door every night, hoping the knob did not turn on its own. In what was surely some low-level case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I would rattle the knob fairly aggressively, making sure the seal between me and that hideous pillow was firm. Only then could I confidently climb into bed and let my uneasy sleep settle in.
But then, my sister B. moved out of the house, and I inherited the big bedroom next door. The big bedroom was vast for a 12-year-old. Lots of space for bookshelves, a queen-sized bed, room for my drawing table (a table I still have and use today), and an enormous closet. Unlike my smaller quarters, this closet had two doors. On rollers.
This was a complication I had not pondered as I emptied the contents of my old room into the new one. I was so excited about the new digs that, by the time I'd gotten to clearing out the top shelf of the old closet, I'd nearly forgotten that hateful thing tucked away in the darkness. When my fingers brushed a satin edge, and I heard sawdust crunch within that white wrapper, I flinched as if a snake had bitten me.
Now, you might ask, why didn't I just throw the damn thing away? And certainly, that's a very good question. Honestly, I just couldn't do it. At first, I think I was afraid it might get discovered in the trash and get me in trouble with my parents, especially my bellicose father, still grieving. Later, that damn thing had just grown to epic proportions in my mind and developed a sinister life of its own. I figured if I ditched it, I might just find it back at the foot of my bed the next morning, waiting for me. Waiting for the moment to make its move.
Because limbless, mindless pillows make terrible, horrible moves in the world of kid logic.
And so, foolishly, stupidly, I grabbed that damn basket, bolted next door, and tossed that sucker as far back in the new closet as possible. For the second time, I'd buried it, and I hoped whatever powers it possessed would stay cloaked in a wall of flannel sheets. I rolled the door shut, and, and once I calmed my heart to a normal beat, all was good with the world. That first night in my new digs, I slept soundly, our dog Termite planted at my feet.
But in the morning, I saw the terrible evidence of otherworldly activity: the closet door - that door I had so carefully shut the night before - was open. Open. Oh god, oh god, oh merciful god, it was open. Not much, surely. But enough. Enough for me to know that whatever portal swirled at the back of that shelf in a cheap green Easter back was open, and something very, very wrong had slithered out, and likely spent the night hovering over my bed, pondering how to eat me or tear me limb from limb. As I gawped at the space between door and frame, Termite just watched, wagging her stubby tail, and smiling that eager canine smile.
"Great guard dog," I growled at her. "Just great."