I've been off ill for the past few days, and have spent my time huddled under a blanket on the sofa doing exactly what any gentleman should do when his toddler is at nursery and his squeamish husband is out at work: binge watching schlocky horror movies on Netflix. Watching all these demons and tortured spirits parading on screen got me thinking about the ghosts of my own childhood: the Ghost of Darkness and the Ghost of Light.
I think my brother introduced me to the Ghost of Darkness when I was about six years old, when we still shared a bedroom. He explained with the patience of an elder sibling that the Ghost would come into your room late at night, and should he find you still awake he would kill you. I asked, of course, how late 'late' was, and it seemed the definition was 'when the central heating switches off'.
I'd thus lie in bed wide-eyed until 8.30pm, when the clunk of the boiler switching off would resonate through the room and my parents would switch off the landing light. Plunged into darkness, there would follow the clunk-clunk-clunk of the radiators cooling down, and my mind of course raced to the assumption it was the Ghost of Darkness rapping his claws against the window.
Hauling the blankets over your head was a clear sign you were faking sleep -- my brother had so kindly explained -- so one instead had to lie perfectly still, face exposed for the Ghost's inspection, eyes kept shut but not too firmly, lest he sense any weakness and pounce.
My brother was not scared at all, as he assured me he enjoyed the protection of the Ghost of Light. Of course, I had never seen the Ghost of Light so could not rely on such defenses.
I would say my brother was being some sort of dick, but I imagine he just wanted to get me to go to sleep at night and stop bugging him with chatter. I am just as guilty now anyway, as ten years later in order to get my toddler cousin Alexander to walk home a bit faster at dusk I introduced the tale of the Great White Bat of Aragometh, a giant beast which comes out at night and swoops down to seize young children with its claws and drag them deep underground to feed.
Sure we got home on time, but two years later he was still concerned about that bloody great white bat.