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  • My father, a martial arts teacher, keeps five, seven, ten of these lamps in his studio. They sponge the room with soft light and play up the drama of swords and leaps. When I was a year old, my parents bought their first house, and Dad brought home a lamp for my bedroom.

    In the first few years, we fear before we learn to fear, before a litany of earthly slights teaches us what we ought to be scared of. War and famine and strife hold no candle to the demons shit out by mutinous young minds. In those liminal years, I feared my lamp.

    It took me a decade to finally chuck it. Even as a child I was stubborn to a Pyrrhic fault. I lay awake until its sparse skeleton tattooed my brain and blazed behind my eyes. Somehow, I reasoned, my vigilance and hyperactive nerves were a talisman against the figure’s stoicism. You can’t move like I can, breathe like I can, love like I can. You aren’t even alive.

    I got a new lamp when I was eleven. I grew up and grew gothic. I became a Wiccan and fell in love with a medium. I learned to conquer the netherworld.

    (I moved into an apartment with fluorescent lights.)

    Still, down where my nerves are too frayed for logic, the image of that lamp still hits me, raises the lines of those ancient cranial tattoos. Slim and liminal, all too capable of slipping under my skin and living there. Nowadays it morphs: stripped by my memory of any lamplike features, it palely pervades, its skinny whiteness distilled into raw, base terror. It’s formless and faceless and featureless. The peasant’s Slenderman.

    It doesn’t mean me harm, exactly. It doesn’t mean me anything at all. It hasn’t the ability to mean. An intentless, formless, featureless creature, drifting parasitic through an empty world.

    It never leaves you, because it has no energy to leave.

    Malice I can handle. Apathy is spookiest of all.
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