The Boogeyman came into my room at 4am, “Are you awake?” I barely heard him scrape a chair across the room and sit in it. “Are you asleep?” One of my eyes opened halfway, I saw a white face and steampunk glasses surrounded by chaotic darkness. I closed them. He said, “I can wait until you are awake. No worries.” He crossed his hands in his lap. “No,” I said, rolling over, flipping on a lamp, and propping my head up on a pillow. I yawned. “If you want to talk,” I said. “I’ll listen.” He seemed happy at that. He jumped right in, “I feel like my calling has been hijacked. People talk about me—my name is on the lips of every mother in the world, in multiple languages! Boogeyman, Boogeyman, Boogeyman. But they say it to scare kids. They’re always saying false things about me — twisting what I do. Tell me, Yukon, what have you heard about me? What’s my reputation?”
I told him, “You come get bad children. Disobedient children. Children who break rules.” It was early, I was having trouble thinking, “Children who don’t do what society expects them to do.” He sighed, “And so they are threatened with me.” He straightened his back. “I’ll come get them,” he said dramatically. “Look at me. Do I really look threatening?” He looked like the Child Catcher from the Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang movie. I didn’t tell him that. “You are a little… dark,” I said. He said, “There is a place for darkness, you know. It’s not scary. It’s just mysterious. What have we done with mystery these days?”
I began to answer that question before I knew it was rhetorical.
He said, “We’ve made it all disappear. Everything has an answer. Science, Science, Science or God, God, God.” I nodded, adding, “So, the Boogeyman is mystery.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Why couldn’t he be an intriguing mystery to find out more about instead of a punishment for bad behavior?“
“You have the grounds for a defamation suit,” I told him. He perked right up. “Can I sue every parent in the world?” I told him that wouldn’t be feasible. Too many defendants. And they’re all using your name the same way, and ignorant of the truth. It wasn’t unique to him. Monsters were often judged on appearance alone, whereas actual ‘monsters’—the kind who WILL hurt you—are freely accepted by society and sometimes had positions of power. They looked like average people. And this allowed them to do their monstrousness to others without fear of retribution. Hiddens, however, had some trait that others considered weird, creepy, different, unusual, fabulous, something that made a person who expects or experiences a very narrow conception of what is “normal” very uncomfortable. I told him if disliking groups of people based on misinformation were subject to trial, a helluva lot of people would be asking for compensation.
“You aren’t going to get parents to change their use of your name,” I said, reaching for a notebook on the nightstand and a pen. He asked, “Should I change it then? Go for something less scary, I guess.” I said, “No, don’t say that. They are defining your name as scary. It doesn’t have to be. Also, you have name recognition which works in your favor.” I wrote some things down. “You should lean into the darkness part, and market yourself straight to kids. They don’t have preconceived ideas till their parents tell them.” He was excited. I told him he needed to have a whole public relations overhaul. “Parents say you will ‘get’ children who misbehave— perhaps these are children fighting against authority, aHA!” I wrote that down. “You ‘get’ children who have bad behavior—or—kids who don’t meet the standards society expects of them. That’s a wider group of nonconformists. So there!” I looked up. “You need to market yourself as exactly the kind of thing parents say will ‘get’ the kids who don’t WANT to fit into society. You ‘get’ them—you ‘understand’ them. They will want someone to understand them. My dark friend,” I looked at his beautifully scary face, “You need a webpage. Do you have a webpage? Okay, we’ll get you one.” I scribbled some more ideas down, and the number of a few people I knew who designed cheap webpages. Actually, I thought, this might be a way to go for more Hiddens than just him. “Aim for kids. This is a kid’s space. Imagine—,” I held up my hand to a giant webpage in front of us as if I were writing the copy on front page: ‘Do you like to learn about horror, about mystery, about other people who misbehaved in history, about the Taboo things you shouldn’t know? Come learn with the Boogeyman!’” I told him Kids will want to “be gotten by the Boogeyman.” And— it’s an educational site! “They will come to you!”
He joined in, “Disobedient? Come to my website!” I said, “Tired of your parents making all the rules! Come to the Boogeyman!” He called out, “Love the darkness? The scary? The weird? You’ll be right at home at The Boogeyman! Let the boogeyman get you! Boogeyman, Boogeyman, Boogeyman!” Already, I could hear in his voice, he had freed his name from the way other people said it. He had reclaimed something used against him. He was happy with his name.“
Okay, these are good to start with. I’ll call people I know, we will start this campaign of reclaiming your name!” He clapped. “Thank you!” I told him it was the least I could do. He would have to find things to teach and come up with lesson plans. I got up and started to dress. He said he would go home and write up all the dark things he knew. I said, “One more thing. Do you boogie?” He looked confused. “Boogie? Dance? Do you know how to dance or do the boogie-woogie?” He said no. “Now is a good time to learn. We can add that to your portfolio of darkness—dance classes. It’ll be a twist on your name, another way to re-imagine what they think they know. Hold on, I can show you some moves.” I stood up half-dressed and slid in my slippers in front of the window. I found an appropriate song, one of Bumble’s favorites with a good beat, “Kids will love this because it’s ancient, and weird. You add moves to it and it’ll be even weirder.” He took my hand, and the darkness fanned out around him like it was taking a breath, and then we boogied in my bedroom at 5am.