I opened his door and crossed the carpet, which was a mine field of jumbled toys in the darkness. The top of my foot caught the edge of the hard, knobby tire of a monster truck. I attempted not to swear.
As Erik detected my presence, his screams melted into heaving sobs. I settled down next to him in bed and stroked his hair. He began to explain his distress.
"Little Red Caboose! Coming down the track! I heard the whistle!"
He was still hysterical. I wondered if the sound of a distant train had seeped through his bedroom window or if that particular sound, which tormented him horribly just a couple of years ago, continued to haunt him in his dreams. Sirens do. He began ranting about flashing lights and tractors. In the center of my still sleep-numb body, my heart sent throbbing ache to my brain.
He let me hold his hands and mumbled through his tears. He said, "I love you, too."
I stayed a few minutes until he was calm, and then I got up to leave him to go back to sleep, despite the urge I had to stay and lie next to him in his tiny bed. He needs to learn to fight his own battles. Over the years we have ensured that he understands that we are just around the corner. He began to whimper, and I told him that he needed to get some sleep.
I am thankful that Erik will never fear the bogeyman I knew as a child. Because of his strange love affair with the world and all who live here, there is and likely will never be that particular monster in Erik's dreams. At least not like the one that came for me in the night. However, there is apparently an endless supply of terrifying nightmares in Erik's world that I will never know or begin to understand.
Nightmares that don't automatically dissolve in daylight like the bogeyman did.