The following is a true story:
It was a dark night in 1972 when the little girl first made up her mind about that light. Somehow, without logical or tangible cause, she decided to fear a tiny red light that shone constant from dusk 'til dawn, night in and night out.
She didn't fear it just a little; not just to manipulate her parents or to have something to whine about. She feared it to the very core of her embryonic soul. No matter what reasoning her parents tried, telling her things like, "It's just a light on a radio tower," or, "It's miles away," or, their favorite, "We're standing right here with you," she refused to give up her steadfast suspicion of that fixed red dot that grew brighter as the evening light dimmed and downright menacing when the sky turned pitch black.
If in the yard at dusk, she panicked, threw fits, cried, begged to go inside. Her parents finally resorted to the only kind of reasoning they had left in them. "Lucy," they said, "that's just plain dumb to be afraid of a tiny light. If you don't quit acting like that, we're going to give you something to be afraid of."
The little girl knew it was an empty threat. There wasn't anything scarier than that red light in the sky.
Besides, she knew what dumb was, too. The dream she had about cows coming out of her chest of drawers was dumb. Calling her mother in the middle of the night because she woke up convinced that a fox was in their station wagon was dumb. Her older brother's unreasonable obsession with the much fretted over but never seen, still to this day, giant flying spiders was altogether stupid.
But that never-blinking red eye in the sky peering at her with laser-like precision threatened her with dire consequences. Plus, to a child barely above toddler-hood, the words "radio tower" translated as "reign of terror." And telling a 3-year-old that the thing she dreaded most in the whole world was "miles away" was the same as saying, "Don't look now. It's right behind you."
And every kid who has ever had a monster under her bed or in her closet knows that if her parents are right there with her when it comes out the monster will eat them first, leaving no one to rush in and save her from its ragged-toothed jaws.
More importantly, however, once a person makes up her mind to fear something, no amount of logic can convince her otherwise. Besides, this little girl was about as hardheaded as a cat on a leash. Her parents could pull and they could drag, but dog-gone-it, that child was going her own way, even if she had to claw a path up their legs and down their backs to do it.
One day, her family moved to a new house where there was only a security light, which was way more comforting than a "reign of terror" light. She exhaled a breath that she had held for years. But on late-night drives in the family car, when she would ride with her head leaning on the cool glass and stare out the window, she would sometimes see that red eye looking for her alongside highways and interstates.
No one knows how or even when it happened, but eventually that little girl disappeared.
Still, on dark nights, if you look to the sky, you too might see the red "reign of terror" light. Just hope that it doesn't see you. Mwa-ha-ha-ha.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and to visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)