Sorry, eager devil-worshippers. The real devil makes only a token appearance in this post. Try www.youaresototallydamned.com.
It happened every night as I lay down to sleep, right after I said my prayers. I’d snuggle down under the covers, and then, very tentatively, I’d lay my head down on the pillow. With tremendous relief, I would feel the normal soft, sinking fluffiness of my wonderful, friendly pillow, and I would think that my ordeal was over. The relief and the release of tension were so tremendous, I would begin to fall asleep immediately. Just as I was approaching the deepest part of sleep, though, it would happen again:
The devil would reach up from hell, through the mattress and pillow, and poke me sharply in the head with one of his claw tips.
Up I would jump to sit upright and stiff-backed with fear, eyes wide open, not crying, but with cold tears streaming down my face anyway. I pictured Satan’s arm extending back from his hand, passing through the mattress, his face just under the bed, smiling at me in the dark. The poking was to meanly let me know every night that he was waiting for me down there.
I was a practical, logical child. The first night I had been been poked, I had felt through the pillow’s fluff for a pin or needle. Nothing. I felt through it again. Nothing. Only after I lay down to sleep each night—after saying “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”—was I poked in the head by Satan.
Decades later, I still remember the awful terror. I told no one. (Children who grow up unnurtured or abused have no one to tell things to. It is much safer to hide your vulnerabilities from those who would use them against you.)
I loved God, and believed that He loved me. That is what saved me. One night, I sat on the bed before saying my prayers, and I thought. I decided that God would not allow the devil to persecute a little girl by poking her every night with his claw. Therefore, the poking must not be the devil. It must be something sharp in the pillow that was very hard for a little girl to find. My pillow was very thick and fluffy, and my little girl hands were very small. So:
I put my big pillow down on the floor. I got a fat dictionary and another fat book and put them on top of my pillow on either side of where I always felt the claw. Then, I knelt on top of the books. Then, I pushed and pushed with my little hard fists in the bunched up pillow part in between. I kept doing this, and worked away for such a long, long time on that pillow. My faith in God’s love just made me so determined that I was not going to quit until I figured out the mystery.
At last, I found it: Just for a moment, at my hardest push with both fists, I was able to spy the tiniest tip of a needle poking out. I got my dad’s needle-nose pliers. It then took me what felt like another hour of work until I was able to grab and extract Satan’s claw: a long, shiny embroidery needle.
It had been stuck deep in the very center of my pillow. The very dead center, stuck in exactly vertically.
I felt so proud of myself: For thinking logically about God and his love, for figuring out how to apply enough pressure to the pillow, and for persisting for all the time it took to get the job done. And I feel proud of that little girl now. Way to go, little B.! You were so very brave, suffering all those scary nights on your own, with no grownup to go to! I’m sorry you had to go through that! And how smart you were, to solve that big problem on your own!
What I wondered then, and still don’t know if I was overly-paranoid to wonder, was whether my mother had put that needle there on purpose.
Added the Addendum. I left that off of the story when I first posted it because I wanted it to have a happy ending, but the story is not complete without that ending. I was still frightened AFTER finding the needle: This time, not of Satan, but of my mother.