Fear of Darkness
I was kneeling down, a small bundle in the middle of the road during a winter blizzard, waiting to die. I was only eight years old. My eyes were tightly shut. I plugged my ears with my fingers, plunging them deeply into my ears. I didn’t want to hear if a car was approaching. All I wanted was for my life to be over. My mind was taken over by darkness and despair. My body was covered with bruises from Ted’s beatings. There had been no rest from his beatings for a long time. I could not take it any longer and I found no other hope for escape but to end my life.
Suddenly I heard a voice. “Hey kid, what on earth are you doing out here in the middle of the road? Don’t you see it’s a blizzard? I could have hit you, it’s a miracle I saw you in time.” I slowly turned around and lifted my head with considerable embarrassment, thinking to myself, I sure hope he doesn’t know what I was about to do! I felt totally exposed. The bus driver stood right behind me with the bus he had abruptly stopped just three feet from where I was sitting. His face was covered with tears, as he continued to say, “I could have hit you, I could have hit you with my bus, quickly, get out of here, go home.” I got up on my feet and started to walk towards home, glad he didn’t start to question me further about what I had wanted to do. I turned around and could barely look at him, while he was shaking his head, before he went back onto the bus and drove off.
I had to return to the house of hell, failing in my attempt to die. More and more my heart felt like it was turning into stone. I did not know how I would be able to continue to cope with it all. With slow steps I walked towards the house, uncertain when Ted was going to attack next. I quietly went up to the bedroom and threw myself down in my cot, I just stared at the ceiling, thinking this was not my real life, that it was just a dream and that I would soon wake up from it. I wished that I was a little bird, with wings that could fly high above all the mountains, far away from this house.
In Norway in the seventies, if the amount of alcohol in a drunken driver’s blood was found to be more than 0.5 per thousand, he was considered under the influence. Today there is zero tolerance. In 1975 when I was nine years old, Dad had started to work as a bus driver about 95 miles away, with Fjords and Ferries. Dad was unable to come home from work every day. Mary had left home by now, so there were only four of us left. Sally was going to leave that summer. Dad commuted home every weekend and Mum was left to tend to all the work on the farm. Sometimes Mum went to see Dad at weekends. There she had access to more alcohol, since this was a city and it was easy to get.
Mum and Dad had both been drinking and driving and caught by the police.
Mum lost her driving license and got a fine. She didn’t want to pay the fine, so she went to jail instead. I don’t know how many days Mum was in jail, but she went and came back. I didn’t notice any difference if she was at home or if she was not, I had become very apathetic by now. I simply didn’t care. Later Dad was caught drinking and driving. He put up a big argument with the police and said he was innocent; he ended up in jail too. But not for long!
I remember the two policemen that came to our house to question Dad. He had been drinking that day and he really thought he had a brilliant idea. Dad had hidden Sally’s cassette player on the shelf under the coffee table, to get evidence that the police were “lying”! Only God knows why he thought that would help him with his case. When the police arrived there was mayhem in the house, but I felt relieved that this time the shouting was not directed at me. When the police eventually left, Dad was celebrating his victory over them. The fact that he had recorded his conversation with the police without them knowing it, made me think Dad was clever and very brave to even dare to do that, and I felt a slight admiration for him at that moment.
Their drinking continued for days, Mum and Dad of course fought with each other on and off. Suddenly Dad was shouting for Sally, running around the house slamming all the doors so they almost jumped off their hinges. “Where is the bloody cassette player, and where are the f***ing tape recordings?” Sally had taken back her cassette player and accidentally recorded pop music over Dad’s interview with the police.
Dad was furious and stormed into Sally’s room in the attic, grabbed her player, all her cassettes and ran downstairs with them. When he entered the sitting room he opened the door of the fire stove and threw the lot in. The stove was not lit and he turned around to get some newspaper so that he could light a fire. I saw my moment, wanting to help Sally, and snatched the cassette player out of the stove and ran to the hallway. Dad was drunk, so he was not quick enough to grab me when I took off and I headed upstairs to the second floor. But when I was on the twelfth step of the stairs, Dad managed to reach for my feet as he had made it to the hall. The stairs had no outer rail, so when you were downstairs and as tall as an adult you could almost reach up to the top of the stairs.
With a bang, my head hit the top step as my Dad pulled my feet from underneath me. My head bounced hard on each step as he dragged me down to where he was standing. I know I passed out for a couple of seconds and I woke up to Dad beating me all over my body. I screamed hysterically and again I saw out of the corner of my eye Mum just standing there at the end of the hall, watching Dad beat me up. “Help me, help me!” I screamed, but nothing was done.
I was so hysterical, I must have spun around uncontrollably, because I managed to slip out of Dad’s grip and run into the kitchen and from there into the sitting room. Dad was running after me, so I ran back out into the other hallway and around and around he chased me. I thought he would catch me soon and I needed to run outside if I didn’t want to be caught again. I was terrified of the dark, but headed for the door, with Dad just a few feet away. I ran down the road with him chasing me, screaming, “I’ll get you, you bloody kid. I will beat the life out of you.” I ran down to the main road as fast as I could. It felt like an eternity. It was pitch black, no moonlight or stars to give any light. Afterwards I realised it was good there was no moonlight that night, because Dad would have been able to see where I was!
I had to get off the main road and run across the fields. Dad was not far behind me! I shot off the road towards the neighbouring farm. The place where I ran off the road was swamplike, because of the overflow of silage and the open sewerage from their farm. I heard Dad’s voice shouting, and suddenly my right foot stuck in the deep mud! I pulled with all the strength I had left to get out. Finally I was loose, but one of my slippers was sucked into the mud hole. I continued to run up the hill without my slipper, not realizing that Dad was not shouting anymore. He had given up running after me. I finally reached the neighbouring farm, but was so out of breath that I was unable to speak for a while.
The neighbours took me in and they didn’t dare to send me home that night, so they gave me a bed and said that I could wait until the next day before going home when hopefully Dad would have sobered up. This was the only time I had gone to someone outside the home for help. My whole world revolved around the house. To me everything further than 200 yards was too far to go, and hitchhiking I had only done a few times during daytime. I never thought I could get help from anyone before, because everyone lived so far from the house and it was too scary to go out in the night. Although I hadn’t planned to run to the neighbouring farm that night, it was the only option I had, to avoid being caught by Dad. Without thinking, I just ran out into the dark, scary night. It was only when I was running away from him that the thought struck me that I could run up to the neighbours’ white house on the hill.
Dad eventually had to go back to the city to work when his weekends were over. With Dad gone, Mum started to have a man visiting her now and again during the mid week. He was a lovely guy. He rang Mum and asked if he could take me to dinner in the local village, 16 km away. So he picked me up, we went to eat, and after we had eaten we went home to Mum. She and he would then normally disappear and I was left to sort myself out. I knew something was going on, but I didn’t care. This was a nice man, he took me out for dinner to a proper hotel every week, and I loved it!
It was a better season for me. Dad was working far away and a new man was coming to the house, making me feel special. He took me for dinner and not Angela or Ted. This secret life that Mum was living went on for about a year.