Molly Williams did all of the right things. She avoided the in-between places: thresholds, shadows, anything that lay between one thing and another. Her parents started taking her to Dr. Hanson after she started to refuse riding in cars or the schoolbus. They did all of the right things: they put her on meds that would help with the anxiety.
She was already nine and still afraid of the dark. But she abhorred nightlights for the same reason that she hated twilight. The shadows were long and difficult to stay out of. They danced around her, hungrily swinging back and forth like sea anemones reaching out for her with little tentacles, ready to sting.
“What is it that you’re afraid of?” she would be asked. But Molly only shook her head. No one believed her when she said what she knew was true. That there were things in the shadows that wanted her.
Her parents were tired. Dr. Hanson recommended something called flooding. They would expose her to her greatest fears all at once. When Molly found out what they had planned for her, she cried. Her little blue eyes shook in their sockets and leaked like sieves. Her mother cried too, and her father consoled, but they knew what they had to do. They unscrewed the bulbs in her room, left a nightlight, and barricaded the door. She pounded on the door. She cried and begged. But Dr. Hanson was very clear: they had to let her weather the anxiety.
Molly stopped crying, stopped begging, and her parents were pleased. They opened the door and put the lightbulbs back where they were supposed to go. She sat on her bed, looked at them, and she smiled with large black eyes. “I feel better, Mommy. Daddy.” She reached out her arms, no longer quivering. Her teeth seemed ever so slightly pink. Maybe she’d bitten her lip because it certainly looked like blood. Her parents, relieved, held her tight. And then the shadows swallowed up the room.
Dr. Hanson doesn’t see the Williamses anymore.