I never believed in magic as a kid. While other kids would marvel at any magic trick presented to them, I would always be the one to counter with “there’s a scientific reason behind this!” In middle school, I watched the film “Now You See Me,” and remember the first card trick done in the opening scene. The trick relied on timing and precision, and while my friends were amazed, I was the one to give them an in-depth explanation of how it worked. Growing up, I would spend hours glued to the TV screen watching shows like “Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed,” “Brain Games” and “MythBusters” to understand how “magic” works. Don’t get me wrong — magic shows are extremely entertaining. As much as I loved watching TV shows dedicated to revealing magicians’ secrets, I would also spend a countless number of hours watching Criss Angel’s stunts and tricks with my family. But like the Tooth Fairy, magic was not real. Everything had a logical explanation behind it.
While it felt like I always had an explanation for all things hocus pocus, there was one thing I couldn’t explain: nightmares.
Since seventh grade, I’ve had extremely vivid nightmares involving some of my biggest fears. Nightmares where I wake up to find my family has vanished, nightmares where I’m trying to escape a serial killer and worst of all — nightmares about frogs. Yes, it’s extremely silly that my biggest fear is frogs, but nightmares like these — ones where I would be trapped in a parking garage with millions of slimy, smelly frogs appearing out of nowhere and filling the air with the low rumbles of their hideous croaking — would cause me to toss and turn throughout the night, waking up in a cold sweat. These terrifying dreams continued to haunt me more frequently and even followed me to high school. And unfortunately, they eventually escalated from being harmless nightmares I would have once or twice a week to night terrors that would occur almost every night.
By the summer of my sophomore year of high school, I was used to having nightmares every night. However, after all these years, one particular night has stuck with me forever.
One hot summer night as I was starting to fall asleep, the musky heat caused me to sweat uncontrollably while I tossed and turned. At first, this was no surprise to me because in the summertime, my room is known to be the hottest in the house. I ripped my fuzzy purple blanket off my body and relied on my dingy oscillating fan to keep me cool. Taking slow, deep breaths, I closed my eyes and focused on the white noise of the fan’s blades whirring while counting to 100 in my head, a method that has always helped me fall asleep in the past.
One, two, three …
Fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty- wait, what number was I on again?
One, two, three …
Seventy-seven, seventy-eight, Seventy-ni …
An eerie silence suddenly cast over the room.
Slowly rubbing the crust out of my eyes, I saw my fan had come to a complete stop, as if someone had come in and turned it off completely. Thinking the fan may have just broken down since it was pretty old, I closed my eyes and rolled back to bed.
One, two, three …
Thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-
I craned my neck to see the door of my room creak open.
But there was nobody there.
I slowly inched my feet forward to find my blanket, simultaneously trying to calm down by reassuring myself that it was just my Amma checking in to make sure I was asleep.
One, two, three …
Before even making it to 20, I opened my eyes back up to see a small shadow, no taller than my younger brother, in my doorway. I told myself it was my younger brother hanging out in the hallway because he also couldn’t sleep, before letting my eyes flutter closed.
One, two, thr-
A fully fledged figure was now standing in my room’s doorway.
The figure’s eyes were a bright, burning red. Its face was paper white with blood red cheeks framed by short, thin black hair, and it was wearing an all-black pinstripe suit. It couldn’t have been more than three feet tall. At this point, I was too afraid to close my eyes and count again, so I figured if I just kept them on the figure, it wouldn’t move. But within the fraction of a second it took to simply blink, the figure appeared closer. With the next blink, it came closer. And with the next one, even closer. At this point, it had reached the edge of my bed.
I tried to roll around, but I found myself stuck. I couldn’t move my body, even enough to roll over. With the next blink, the figure was now levitating — its slender, pale body stuck to my ceiling. Its ember-colored eyes were locked with my tear-filled ones. Before I could scream for my Amma, the figure was inches away from my face, hovering over my motionless body. I vividly remember the pungent breath of the figure suffocating me as it slowly unhinged its jaw, as if it were about to command me to do something. I felt a pressure on my chest, making it difficult to breathe, and tears started to stream down my face. As its jaw fully opened to reveal its dark, hollow mouth, I sprang out of bed to see my door closed, my fan still oscillating and my purple blanket on the ground from when I had kicked it off earlier in the night.
I had no explanation for what I had just experienced.
After that night, the figure would pay me a visit at least once a week. Then twice a week. And then, unfortunately, every night. It got to the point where I would stay awake until sunrise, hoping to avoid encounters with this ominous creature. I never told anyone what was happening. Even writing out the description of what I was experiencing makes me feel like a child, or like someone will read this and send me an email saying that I’m being ridiculous.
But how long was I supposed to fear going to sleep? I knew I needed to find a solution. So as I always do for every minor and major inconvenience, I turned to my Amma. One afternoon, I explained to her what I had been experiencing; fighting off tears, I couldn’t help but feel like I was five years old again, telling her I needed to sleep in her bed because I was too afraid to sleep alone. She wiped my tears away, gave me a big hug and told me I was going to be okay. Then, she picked up her phone to call my Pinni — her youngest sister — in India. She explained to my Pinni what I had been experiencing, and my Pinni immediately sent us a package that arrived only a few days later.
The package was small, and contained three silver pendants of Lord Hanuman, one for me and the other two for my brothers. Our family believes that Lord Hanuman is the destroyer of all fears. We pray to Him every morning and evening, asking that He give us all His strength and that all of our fears are vanquished by His protection. So, it made sense why my Pinni sent us Hanuman pendants. My Pinni explained that wearing these necklaces would keep the figure away.
This sounded like magic — the thing I didn’t believe in. But not having any other solution, I thanked my Pinni for sending the pendants before sitting with my brothers to pick out which one each of us wanted. My Amma found a plain silver chain for me to attach the pendant to, and I immediately put it on. I was never a fan of wearing the same piece of jewelry every day, but I decided I’d give it a try for a day or two.
Lo and behold, when I closed my eyes that night, I slept like a baby.
There were no vivid nightmares about frogs, no shadowy figure visiting me, just the beautiful white noise of my dingy, oscillating fan.
Although I was extremely happy to no longer be experiencing these horrible night terrors, I was still skeptical that it was because of the pendant. After about a month or so of wearing the pendant everyday, I decided to take it off; I wanted to go back to switching up my jewelry and told myself I would put the pendant back on at night. But after a while, I started to become lazy and decided not to put it back on one night.
To my horror, the figure returned that night, and I relived the terrifying experience of being motionless as its pale, lanky body hovered over me.
I immediately put the pendant back on the next night, and as you can infer, no figure came to see me.
It was that day I told myself I would wear the pendant every day. My Amma would always tell me to change my necklaces during the day and just wear the pendant at night. But, fearing I would forget or become lazy again, I made it clear that for as long as it’s possible to do so, I’m never taking this pendant off.
Some of my Amma’s friends have asked me if I truly wear this necklace every single day, and not wanting to go into full detail about why I do so, I simply nod my head and tell them it’s my favorite necklace. Even while I’m out jewelry shopping, I’ll look at every single ring, anklet, nose ring or earring to consider purchasing, but I’ll never bat an eye towards the necklaces. This pendant, barely the size of my thumbprint, has given me a sense of security. Every time I feel anxious — whether it’s during finals week or right before I go to a vocal lesson I didn’t practice for — I always make sure to look down and grab my pendant, assuring me that I have the strength to overcome anything in my way. I don’t have a scientific explanation as to why this method of acknowledging my pendant immediately enables me to relax and push through my worst days, but I’m willing to let “magic” be a valid explanation.
So although pictures are rather boring with me wearing the same necklace every day, it’s my one piece of evidence that maybe magic is real.
MiC Columnist Smarani Komanduri can be reached at email@example.com.