Scared of the Dark, part 3

T. H. McClung, she/her(s)
4 min readJul 23, 2021
Photo by Ciéra Cree on Unsplash

Pet Sematary

My husband enjoys scary movies. Generally, I do not. I’m a fraidy cat, so watching a movie of the horror genre can often mean a night of no sleep. Hubby loves the Alien franchise. When I was around 15 he convinced me to go see Aliens, the second in the series. I was terrified — for days. I have no interest in space travel.

Early in our marriage, he wanted to watch Pet Sematary.

Until I was writing this very story, I had never realized that “cemetery” is spelled “sematary.” Weird.

Hubby used to be a huge fan of all things Stephen King. Of all the Stephen King movies, he thought Pet Sematary would be the least scary for me. If you haven’t seen it, well, I won’t try to explain. If you have seen it, just let that sink in for a minute. He thought Pet Sematary would be the least scary to watch!

We were young. We were newly married. We wanted to share things with each other. He happened to want to share a movie about a dead little boy being buried in an ancient evil site which brought the boy back to life — but not really. He was evil.

I told him I would try.

Because I had learned my lessons growing up and knew that any time I watched a scary movie, I ended up having to crawl in the bed with my parents, I knew it was a big risk. It had been a few years since I had even tried to watch anything remotely scary. In fact, Aliens was probably the last and the scariest thing I had seen in a while. So, I made a deal with Hubby.

“I’ll watch it with you, but if I can’t sleep you are going to have to stay awake with me.”

He agreed. I guess he didn’t fully understand the degree to which I would become frightened. It didn’t mean nightmares. It meant NO SLEEP. And, laying next to him while he was sleeping soundly wasn’t going to bring me the comfort I needed either. So, I warned him. I’ll experience this with you, but then you will have to experience a night of no sleep with me — if it comes to that.

Of course, it would come to that.

We watched Pet Sematary. I think I’m okay. Scared, but it wasn’t all that bad. Good story. Stephen King is quite the author. When we go to bed that night, I have to leave the bathroom light on. That’s okay. No big deal. I was often afraid of the dark. A little light shining from the hallway would be fine. Hubby lays down. He is asleep in what I believe was a matter of about 45 seconds. It takes him longer to fall asleep now than it did then, but he can still fall asleep about a day and a half sooner than I can.

I tried to be brave.

“This is utterly ridiculous. I happen to believe there is no such thing as an ancient evil site that will bring whatever is buried in it back to life. Just go to sleep!”

Hubby snores. I close my eyes and the images from the movie play across my mind no matter what I do. I try to think about anything else, but I can’t. I start sweating. I bury myself further under the covers to be protected against any monsters that may come after me.

I don’t REALLY think there are monsters. At least I don’t now. I honestly can’t tell you whether or not I thought there were monsters back then. I was scared a lot. Not only when I watched horror movies. Just generally scared. It was awful. I think the younger me did NOT truly believe there were monsters. But, the younger me believed that there was a POSSIBILITY that I was wrong.

I tried shutting my eyes again. The light shining from the bathroom helped absolutely zero amount. After a little bit, I have no idea how long, I couldn’t stand it anymore and though I didn’t have to walk into another room to wake my parents, I did roll over and shake Hubby awake through my terror.

“I can’t sleep.”

“There is nothing to be afraid of. I’m right here.”

He put his arms around me.

“I know there is nothing to be afraid of. And, I’m still afraid. I told you that I couldn’t handle it. And, I’m too scared while you are sleeping. You have to wake up. We have to watch Dumbo.”

He did, of course. He is a man of his word. And, he would never leave me alone and afraid anyway.

He turned several lights on for me as we moved to the sofa in the den. We grabbed the Dumbo VHS and put it in the VCR. He fell asleep many times and every time, I would punch him awake again.

I don’t know why Dumbo was the magic remedy. And, I can’t remember how much I slept after that, but I know it calmed me down. How could anyone be scared watching that cute elephant with those big ole ears?

After that, the images from Pet Sematary still came in my mind — that night and other nights — but so did Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse and Casey Junior.

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T. H. McClung, she/her(s)

In no particular order: Writer, pastor, Mama Bear, LGBTQ+ ally, wife, preacher, watcher of TV, seeker, mystic want-to-be