In the dead of night, something wakes me, I don’t know what, and I don’t have time to trace auditory memory backward to find out, because my husband is sitting bolt upright in bed, screaming. Not yelling, not screaming at–screaming. At virtually the same instant, a child starts screaming, too, the two of them screaming across pitch blackness like Gerti and E.T., only a lot louder.
“Stop it, Christian, it’s Nicholas!” I shout, flinging the covers off and jumping out of bed. I can hear him doing likewise on the other side, but he doesn’t stop screaming. Both of us bend down and paw our way across the room, looking for the screamer at waist level, but we can’t find him. And Christian is still screaming.
I’m sure the whole thing takes longer to read than it actually lasted, ten seconds at most. I hear the telltale echo of Nicholas’ scream, and I realize he’s in our bathroom. “Stop it, Christian, it’s just Nicholas!” I yell again, but neither of them stops. At the moment my outstretched arms connect with tiny pajama-clad body, Christian (still screaming) flips the light on, flooding the bathroom with 300 watts of eye-piercing brightness. “I’ve got him!” I shout over the din, and flip the light off. “DON’T!” he roars, and immediately flips it back on. Giving up, I scoop Nicholas up and soothe, “It’s okay, honey, I’ve got you,” hoping if I can calm down Nicholas, Christian will follow suit before the din wakes Michael up.
It works. Quiet restored at last, I lie down with a wonderfully cuddly little boy body stretched out over me, trembling with terror. I hold him tight, murmuring comfort. Christian is frantically searching the bathroom. It transpires that he was awakened by a noise that sounded like electricity arcing, but which turned out to be a small foot kicking a plastic hammer across the tile floor.
By now, of course, Michael is crying, and Julianna is awake too. (Alex remained passed out through the whole episode.) Somehow we manage to calm everyone back down and return to bed. It is 2:35 a.m. At 4:30, Christian and I are both still awake, he trying to conquer paranoia, me doing my usual can’t-sleep-once-my-brain-gets fully-in-gear.
In the morning, no one remembers but us.