The inside was dark. Jimmy’s mother shoved him into the closet. Jackets, pants, and dresses fluttered around his head and bare shoulders, caressing him menacingly. The door was shut with a harsh slam and a click.

“You’re staying there until you learn how to behave,” his mother shouted angrily.

The dark inside was not merely the absence of light. It was a darkness from the time before there was light, when the world was void and unformed, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.”

Jimmy shivered. He had never been afraid of the dark before.

He tried to open the door. The knob jiggled uselessly.

Jimmy whimpered. He knew it was no use crying out. His mother would open the door when she was good and ready, not a moment before.

As he moved the clothes moved with him, the unwanted touches repulsing him, their musty smell filling his nostrils. He dropped to his knees, but his persistent companions tousled his hair.

Jimmy curled up into a tight ball and waited for his mother to release him.

He could hear the sounds of the house: the running of water through the pipes, the creak of the floors, the opening and closing of doors, the ring of a telephone.

He strained his ears. Though he could not see, at least they could warn him of danger.

Soon, he discerned another sound. It did not come from outside of the closet.

Jimmy trembled. He was hearing someone breathing heavily, and the closer he listened the louder it became.

Someone, or something, he wondered.

He hardly dared breathe.

A voice whispered in his ear. He could barely make out the words.

“Jimmy, Jimmy,” it crooned.

“You’re a bad boy, Jimmy,” it went on. “Even your mother doesn’t love you.”

“Who are you?” Jimmy asked, stifling a sob.

Icy fingers stroked Jimmy’s back.

“I’m your new friend,” came the raspy reply. “My name is Roger. I live in the dark. I live in your closet.”

“What do you want?”

“To play with you,” Roger said softly.

Thin fingers grabbed Jimmy’s pee-pee and began to squeeze it.

“Maybe I’ll pull it off and eat it for supper.”

Jimmy tried to pull the fingers away.

“Go away,” he cried. “Leave me alone.”

“No, Jimmy,” the ghostly voice insisted. “You’re my friend now.”

“I’m not your friend!” Jimmy said hoarsely, still trying to free himself from the grasping fingers. “I hate you!”

“Don’t get me angry,” Roger hissed. “Or I won’t just pull off your pee-pee and eat it. I’ll cut out your tummy and heart and brain and eat them, too.”

Jimmy suddenly had to struggle to breathe. He could not tell if Roger was choking him, had his hand over his mouth, or if Roger had plunged another hand down Jimmy’s throat. All Jimmy knew for sure was that with each passing moment, it became harder and harder to breathe.

“Don’t hurt me,” Jimmy gasped. “Please don’t hurt me.”

Whatever had been choking him relented.

“You’re all alone, Jimmy. No one loves you anymore. Even your mother hates you; that’s why she threw you in here.” The thin fingers relaxed on his pee-pee but did not withdraw. “I’m the only friend you have, Jimmy. And if I can’t be your friend, I’ll have to eat you up.”

“I’ll be your friend,” Jimmy sobbed.

“Prove it,” Roger demanded.


“When your mommy finally lets you out, I want you to go to the bathtub, fill it with water, and then I want you to take the kitty and drown her in the tub.”

“I can’t do that,” Jimmy protested. “I love kitty.”

“You have to,” Roger insisted.

“But Mommy will put me back in the closet!”

“Yes,” Roger cackled. “And then I can play with you again!”

“No, I can’t!” Jimmy exclaimed.

Something tightened around or inside Jimmy’s throat.

“Then I’ll just have to make certain that you never do leave,” Roger said.

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it,” Jimmy gasped. “I’ll do it, I promise.”

Jimmy could breathe again. The fingers left his pee-pee.

“Remember,” Roger warned him. “You promised. And if you don’t keep your word, I’ll find you. I live in the dark, Jimmy, and one day I’ll find you, even if you’re already grown up. You’ll never escape me, Jimmy. Never.”

The door opened. Light flooded into the closet. At that instant, Roger disappeared.


Jimmy shifted in the large leather chair. The psychiatrist, Dr. Franklin, leaned across his desk and looked at Jimmy.

“Well, James,” Dr. Franklin said, “tell me about it.”

Jimmy shrugged his shoulders. He was a tall, good-looking boy of 18, with a broad face, a shock of dark brown hair that fell over his forehead, and big blue eyes that looked calmly back at Dr. Franklin.

“It’s really silly,” Jimmy said. “There’s nothing wrong, except that I’m afraid of the dark. Terrified of it really.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“The bogeyman,” Jimmy replied, smiling sheepishly.

“The bogeyman?” Dr. Franklin asked.

“When I was a small child, my mother punished me for misbehaving by putting me in the closet,” Jimmy explained. “The closet was dark. The bogeyman was there. He scared the daylights out of me. Ever since then…” Jimmy’s voice trailed off.

“What did the bogeyman do to you?” Dr. Franklin asked.

Jimmy laughed nervously.

“He grabbed my penis. Said he was going to pull it off and eat it. He said he would eat me up if I didn’t do what he wanted.”

“What did he want you to do?”

“He wanted me to drown the cat. Made me promise. Told me if I didn’t do it, he would find me, even if it took forever, even if I was grown-up.” Jimmy shivered when he finished. The hair on his arms stood up.

“Did you do what he asked?”

“Of course not,” Jimmy said. “But ever since, I was afraid that he was going to come and kill me for breaking my promise. He said he lived in the dark…” Jimmy’s voice trailed off again.

“James,” the psychiatrist asked, his voice gentle, “were you ever abused as a child?”

Jimmy shrugged again.

“No,” he answered, “I don’t think so. I mean, it may be possible, but I have no memory of it.” Jimmy fell into a reverie. There was silence as Dr. Franklin waited. “Funny,” Jimmy said, breaking the stillness,” I remember the bogeyman’s name. It was Roger.”

“Do you have any idea where that name came from?”

“I think there was a TV show I watched that had a scary character named Roger,” Jimmy responded.

“You know there is no such thing as the bogeyman, don’t you, James?”

“Of course. Look, even the thing with the penis, it was probably me holding myself because I was so scared. And the touching, the feeling of fingers, that was probably the clothes hanging in the closet. Still, it was so real, so real, Dr. Franklin.” Jimmy shook his head. “To this day, I’m scared of the dark. I have to have a light on when I sleep.”

“Did your mother ever put you in the closet again?” Dr. Franklin asked.

Jimmy shook his head.

“No, I never gave my mother cause to punish me after that. I always behaved. When I got older, I even made sure to be a good student. I never wanted anyone in authority to have cause to get angry at me.” Jimmy laughed bitterly. “The perfect kid. Except for this demon following him around.” He looked up at Dr. Franklin earnestly. “I’m going to college in the fall. I want this monkey off my back.”

Dr. Franklin took a deep breath.

“Well, James, there are two courses of action. You can have therapy and we can get to the bottom of this. Or…” The psychiatrist pointed to a closet in a corner of the room.

“You’re such a successful, well-adjusted kid. You’re rational enough to realize that there’s nothing to fear from the dark.” Dr. Franklin again pointed to the closet. “Now you need to prove it to yourself.”

“I’m here with you,” Franklin said. “Go in there and close the door. When you step out, you’ll be free.”

Jimmy’s face grew pale. He got up and walked out of the doctor’s office.


The breeze lifted Cynthia’s long red hair as she walked briskly down the street. Her high cheekbones and smooth skin glowed in the light shining from the tops of the lampposts; her eyes were dark under heavy, hooded lids. Jimmy had been dating her for a month and was crazy about her, though she was still as mysterious as when he had first met her.

She was taking him to her apartment. Jimmy was ecstatic. Though nothing had been said, he knew what she had in mind.

He was nearing the end of his second year of college. He had never slept with a woman before, and he could barely hide his anticipation.

Jimmy did not want to speak, afraid that if he said the wrong thing, the mood would be broken and she would change her mind. So he walked silently beside her, without even holding her hand or touching her arm.

They turned into her apartment building. He followed her into the elevator, still not speaking. They reached her floor, got out, and walked down the hall. As she put the key into the lock of her door, Jimmy thought that his heart was pounding so loudly that she could hear it. Cynthia, for her part, betrayed no sign of eagerness or anticipation; she coolly opened the door and beckoned him inside.

She stood for a moment, appraising him.

“You’re a good-looking guy, James,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this since I met you. Now shut the light.”

Jimmy couldn’t move. Cynthia reached behind him for the light switch. Jimmy grabbed her hand.

“Please leave it on,” he pleaded. “Please. You’re so beautiful, I want to look at you.”

She shrugged, and nodded knowingly, as if she understood.


Jimmy lay in Cynthia’s bed, naked. He stared up at the ceiling.

“That was incredible,” he sighed. “Lord, what I’ve missed all these years.”

Cynthia smiled and kissed him on the forehead.

“Now be honest with me about something,” she said. “You’re afraid of the dark, aren’t you?”

Jimmy didn’t answer. Cynthia poked him in the ribs.

“Come on, come on, admit it, James. I saw the look on your face when I tried to turn off the light.”

Jimmy sighed.

“Look, when I was a little kid, my mother locked me in a closet. It traumatized me. Ever since then, I’ve been afraid of the dark. Even when I sleep, I have to have a light on.”

“The closet, eh?” Cynthia said, her voice almost breaking into laughter. “Would you let me lock you in the closet?” she asked, pointing to a door.

The horror that her suggestion filled him with was mixed with a strange sexual arousal caused by her mockery.

“Please, Cynthia, don’t make fun of me,” he said.

Cynthia slid off the bed and grabbed his arm.

“Come on,” she said, pulling his wrist. “It’ll be fun. I want to scare you and help you get over your fears.”

Jimmy resisted her tug.

“No!” he stated firmly.

“Oh, James, please. It’ll turn me on, a lot. Think of all the things I can show you once I let you out again.” She purred suggestively.

Jimmy allowed himself to be pulled over to the closet. Cynthia opened its door and gave him a gentle push into the frightening darkness.

“In you go,” she chirped.

She closed the door after him. He heard a click as she locked it.

Jimmy took a few labored deep breaths.

“Okay,” he said. “Let me out now.”

Cynthia laughed.

“Not so soon.”

“Please, Cynthia, let me out?” Jimmy could not hide the panic in his voice.

“Are you afraid, Jimmy?”

“Yes, yes, I’m afraid.” The panic grew more intense.

“What are you afraid of Jimmy, the bogeyman?” Cynthia laughed and laughed and laughed.

“Yes, Cynthia,” Jimmy said in a low voice. “I’m afraid of the bogeyman.”

“Oh, Jimmy, this is so funny! I’m recording you now. Won’t your friends be amused when they hear you crying like a baby?”

The only thing that stopped the panic from overwhelming Jimmy was a rising anger.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Cynthia? Let me out of here!”

“I’ll be back,” she said. “In a while. I’ll let you out. Maybe.” Her laughter filled his ears. “Meanwhile, remember, the tape recorder is running.”

Jimmy heard her walk away.

“Bye,” Cynthia called.

Jimmy raised his fist to break down the door. He was about to strike when—

Icy fingers moved slowly down his back. Jimmy froze.

“Jimmy, Jimmy,” a long-forgotten voice crooned. “I told you I would find you.”

Thin fingers grabbed Jimmy’s penis.

“My, my, how your pee-pee has grown,” Roger cooed. “Yum, yum, it will taste so good.”

Jimmy tried to scream, but no noise came from his throat. He could feel the air being forced from his lungs as his windpipe was squeezed from inside his neck. He made futile gasps for air.

“Jimmy, you’ve been a bad boy again. You broke your promise.”

Jimmy felt himself grow weak. His knees began to wobble.

“I told you I would find you,” Roger said, his voice gurgling with glee.

Jimmy fell to the floor.

His heart had stopped beating.