Cindy, my little sister, was around four years old – I was about five and a half – when with voice quivering, she begged me to join her in her bed.
A frantic whisper spread across the room into my ears. "There's a man in my bed! Come here!"
Our twin sized beds were on different walls separated only by the corner with the door. I was the older sister who should help my little sister. But how would I get there without putting my feet on the floor? It was a problem. I couldn't do it. So I offered her some advice.
"Turn around." Yeah, that would get the imaginary man out of her bed. It was the best I could offer.
"I'm scared. Please come here. He has my doll."
She was getting on my nerves.
"So turn around really quick, grab your doll, and turn around again."
"I'm too scared," she pleaded, crying. "Pleeeeeaaase come here!"
A conscience is a really strange thing to acknowledge when you're not yet six years old. I felt terrible about my little sister's dilemma, but I had to show her how brave I was too; otherwise she might think I was a coward for not helping her.
So I solved the problem this way: "You come here."
"I can't. I'm too afraid."
"Run really fast (the distance from the bottom of her bed to the bottom of my bed was approximately four feet) or jump off the end of your bed onto the end of mine."
"I can't move. I'm too scared. I can hear him breathing." Cry cry sob sob.
The problem was more than I could handle. I really really really wanted to help her. I just couldn't explain to her that the reason I couldn't join her in her bed was because the second my feet hit the floor, the man under my bed would grab me by the ankles and pull me into oblivion.
I don't remember how we fell asleep that night. We went through numerous years of sibling rivalry, probably as a result of me abandoning her in her time of need, but – thankfully – we're friends now.