|"I'll see you in your nightmares, tiny fraggles.."|
When I was young, I really liked Fraggle Rock. Like, I really liked Fraggle Rock to a borderline unhealthy degree, as in, I would dig holes in my backyard trying to find their secret lair, and bury my toys so that they would have a secret lair. For those of you that might be too old or too young to remember, Fraggles were tiny creatures that lived in a miniature underground construction site, and there were larger creatures above ground that were always trying to get them for some reason, and above that world was a man who lived with his talking dog, I think. I felt a strong connection to these Fraggles, in their struggles in life, being forever hunted by larger creatures while they build on and on in their perpetually unfinished world.
It was Fraggle Rock that inspired my very first business venture. I would write, plan, and produce my own puppet shows for my family, who patiently attended each showing sometimes held entirely against their will. The jokes in my puppet shows were always strange and almost never ever funny. I didn’t quite understand punch-lines, so often my routine would consist of tremendous amounts of absurd buildup and then just flat-line awkwardly at the end. I did notice though, that my jokes got more of a reaction when I screamed them at the top of my lungs, and so I did just that. “Why did the dog cross the road?!! Because I said so!!!”'
I made my own marionettes by tying strings around the necks and arms of my stuffed animals, then I would make them dance and sing from their tiny nooses as I swung them around the room. A particularly disturbing puppet was made from a stuffed rabbit, whose head I had removed and staked onto a sharpened popsicle stick. I cut a hole where the rabbit’s mouth was so that I could manipulate it to talk, however, the mechanics of talking puppets was a bit too complicated, and instead, I just waved the decapitated rabbit’s head around on a stick, its mouth gaping in horror. My parents would watch my plays with unease, but they would always clap at the end. They were careful not to stifle my creativity.
One evening my parents had company over, and that called for a special performance. As I set up for my play, my mother quietly said fearful diversions, like “Oh, let’s watch the play next time, honey…” or “hey, why don’t you show them your new coloring book instead?” My parents were like most adults, who have an undying need to show everyone else how normal they are, so I assume that having their guests witness their child set up a torture chamber of a play, screaming maniacally with dismembered stuffed animals on ropes, might have come across as not normal.
The play was brilliant, my finest performance to date. I was beaming, and my audience sat transfixed and wide-eyed, as I fitfully screamed nonsensical jokes and flung my toys in bondage around the room. “How many trees does it take to screw in a lightbulb!? I don’t know!!!” My Little Pony both asked and answered herself, dangling from a string tied to her mane. “Knock knock!” legless Barbie would scream. “Who’s there?!” Rabbit’s head-popsicle stick would shriek, cotton stuffing spilling out of its cavernous mouth like foaming rabies. Teddy Ruxpin answered, but his head was half crushed due to an incident with a garage door and he no longer worked properly, unless I peeled his eyes back with my fingers, and pried his jaw open and closed. “It’s meeeee…..” Ruxpin exclaimed, in a low demonic voice that I mimicked from when his batteries ran low. I would like to add, that because I was a master of my craft, it was important for the puppeteer to remain unseen, and so I wore a black sheet over my face for the entirety of the performance.
For my grand finale, I took off running around the room, singing the Fraggle Rock theme song. The next thing I remember was laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling except I couldn’t see anything above me. My head felt cold and I had a sensation that I was sinking into a dark tunnel, like I was headed to the underground Fraggle lair. I heard my parents’ voices, but they sounded far away and distorted, like they were talking into a tin can telephone. Then everything went black.
I awoke in the hospital, fading in and out of consciousness. I was very, very sleepy, but I remember doctors and other adults yelling at me to wake up, and asking repeatedly what my name was, until it became very annoying and scary, when all I wanted to do was sleep. Every time I woke up, I wasn’t sure if I was really awake or not. I just remember waking up, over and over, but never falling asleep. The coldness in my head was something I had never experienced before or since, and can only be best described as if your head was a dark cave containing an icy lake inside, frosty and misty, dripping icicles that sent freezing shocks like lightning through your brain.
I awoke and then I awoke and then I woke up finally, but unsure if I was still asleep, and woke up again. This cycle went on for an eternity, and I had lived a dark eternity in this icy cave. When I would reach the light at the entrance, I would wake up in the cave again to tunnel my way out. There was something frantic and feverish in my memories, a mix of laughter and fun, and sheer terror. I was lost in myself and in those brief waking moments I was filled with terror, unable to differentiate between reality and dreams.
I learned a few days and a lifetime later, that I had Fraggle-danced all the way down the metal staircase in our house, and split my head open like a pumpkin. In the hospital, while they pieced back together my head, the doctors needed to wake me up pretty frequently so I didn’t slip into a coma. I didn’t know what a coma was then, but I knew it was a lot like sleep but also sort of like death, and I became very aware of how unaware I was when sleeping, and so I began to avoid it at all costs.
When I finally went home, there were bloodstains everywhere on the carpet, from my landing spot to a small dripping trail as I was carried out the door to the ambulance. My parents were preoccupied with me being in the hospital, so they had left my mess untouched. Parts of stuffed animals and broken toys lay strewn around the room, near a dried pool of blood. I felt that they had rebelled and attacked me in their mutiny. Fraggle Rock had forsaken me and stolen away my childhood, replacing it with anxiety of sleep and an association between muppets and blood and mayhem that I could not shake.