For the first twenty-nine years of my life outside the womb, the dark scared me.
It horrified me, actually. The dark was a physical terror inside my chest. A constrictive, panicked silent scream. The dark was a predator I struggled to escape from at any cost.
I slept with the lights on. With the television blaring. Sitting up with my back to the wall. Even then, I had to knock myself out with Benadryl and with wine to get any sleep.
Every night. For twenty-nine years.
Well, I did not drink wine as an infant, of course, but I learned soon enough – earlier than most, I’d hazard – how booze could keep the dark from ever finding me awake.
And this went on for twenty-nine years until this past Tuesday when I bolted upright in bed in the middle of the night and knew, quite suddenly, that the dark had finally caught me unprepared and all alone.
The power was out and there I was.
I nearly screamed.
I did not scream. Instead, I laid back and I looked up into the dark.
My room in the dark was not just a darker version of my usual room. Not just fuzzier around the edges than it was in the light. No, this was pitch. This was Nothingness. This was darkness so dark that my brain, out of pure frustration, I guess, manufactured inky black clouds to swirl across my vision.
I saw a jumble of faces. Wings. Claws. Tails. Then the dark began to form patterns – like a kind of texture, you know? And the patterns were leaves and waves and dancers. Bricks, then spiders, then lightning.
Before Tuesday, I’d never known there was a texture to the night. Nobody ever tells me these things. Has everyone else known all along about the texture of night… except for me?
Anyway, I laid there for a while and I really started to enjoy this anti-light show going on before me. The dark show, I called it. After a while, I even wondered why I had been so damn set on running from it for so long. I mean, for twenty-nine years, what had I believed the dark was hiding?
Because I’m okay with that. Really I am. Any of the above or all of the above: Y’all can come on out and we can watch the dark show together. We will reach out and we will grab the dark in our hands (or our paws or whatever it is you’ve got to grab with).
We will see what the dark feels like. What it tastes like.
I am nearly thirty years old and the dark still scares me. No, for me, the dark still hasn’t lost its edge. It’s just that since Tuesday, I am more fascinated by it now. It’s another world I can step into – right here and right now – and all I have to do is flip off the lights. Isn’t that amazing?
I looked the dark right in the eyes and I didn’t blink.
Well, you know what the internet meme says -- "Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies."ReplyDelete
If I have been missing out on cookies all of these years, I''m going to kick myself!Delete
Our newest resident in the house insists upon having lights on during the night. Efforts to avoid this have included a Himalayan salt ionizing lamp (which is adequate illumination for anything other than surgery) and still the kid pitches a bitch if a 60 watt bulb isn't glowing somewhere in her room. We sleep in a room across the hall from said kid, and because she won't allow her door to be closed at night AND prefers ours to be left open, too, we get all the light spillage. I haven't slept since the kid moved in, and that was in December of last year.ReplyDelete
I might as well have the Clockwork Orange guys pry my eyelids open for the night.
This is why some of us drink. To excess. Nightly.
My memory is a little fuzzy, but I seem to recall doing stuff like that when I was a kid. I had a brother who I put through a lot of crap, too.Delete
If it's any consolation, I feel sort of bad about all of it now!
Dark used to scare me too. But now with someone else to share the darkness with it's not so scary. Keeping a baseball bat under my bed also helps.ReplyDelete
When I share a bed with someone (which doesn't happen much), I always need to be on the side by the wall.Delete
On the off-chance that an ax murderer bursts in the door, I've practiced yelling, "Take her! Take her first!"
I'm a salty Dude and salty dudes do not fear the shadows of the night. However, for three days a year, I am afraid to leave the house. You see, it's Songkran the Thai New Year! When the good people of Thailand abandon themselves to a mad free-for-all orgy of throwing, squirting, splashing, heaving, hurling and dumping water on each other.ReplyDelete
BTW - thanks for doing that Facebook thing
It sounds like Thailand has its own version of "The Purge" every year. Or that thing in the Jeff Vandermeer books... I'm all for that, so long as I can hide in my reinforced bunker...Delete
The dark's not so bad once you get used to it. I write in the dark. Go out running in the dark. I even sleep in the dark. The sunlight? Now that's what'll get you. Darkness may be creepy, but it's never given anyone skin cancer.ReplyDelete
All valid points. I run at night, which is probably stupid, but I don't really like the kind of people who run during the day.Delete
I don't think I have ever tried writing in the dark. Well, i tried jotting down my dreams for a few weeks, but quit that when my writing was illegible and what i could read was stupid.
I was terrified of the dark when I was 7¾. We left for Germany to join my Father, Bull Meachum, in May of '59. Two nights before I took my very first plane ride from Nashville to Idlewild then on to Franfurt Am Main, with a two day stop over in Shannon Ireland .... two nights before we left ... My Mom and my Aunt were going to watch the original, Lon Chaney Jr. version, of The Wolf Man on SHOCK! Theater. I was sent upstairs to bed along with my two sisters and we were sternly admonished not to come downstairs until morning. I'm certain it was because I was told I'd get a whipping if I DID come down those stairs ... that down those stairs I went. Sneaky like. From the third stair down I could see the glow of the old round B&W teevee set, and if I sat very still on the very dark, FOURTH step down and looked through the bannister railing ... I could see as good as day, and they; with their backs to me, were watching the opening title and credits couldn't see me. How funny! I was laughing to myself "what a smart fellow I am! oh how dumb these AD-ults are. Ha ha." I fell asleep, there on that stair. I awoke to the crescendo of music as Larry Talbot and the Wolf were locked in mortal combat, my Mom and Aunt were screaming and hugging each other as popcorn flew everywhere and Talbot beat that monster to death with his Wolfhead cane. My eyes and ears were glued to that screen for the rest of the show. That movie scared the bejesus out of me ... and we were heading .... to Wolf Man land. To live. I didn't sleep at night for three and a half years after that night ... and was NEVER in the dark. I had several TL-122s available and plenty of army batteries. I spent most nights under a sheet tent reading comic books. Or watching from the fourth floor window of Post housing there in Baumholder looking for, and expecting any minute that I would be attacked and eaten alive by,.... The Wolf Man. My vigilance paid off, I lived long enough to make my escape from Wolf Man Land, and I got my first good night's sleep three and a half years later when we moved to South Carolina - where there are NO(!) flipping wolves. Slept like a baby from then on. until a certain movie by George A. Romero came out. Oh sure I'd heard of zombies before; barely moving animated corpses incapable of actually CATCHING me. See, that's what scared me about that Wolf Man guy, He was quick! Damn quick! Frankenstein? I wasn't scared of no Frankenstein. Big footed leg draggin arm wavin' turtle. Can't catch ME! but that Wolf Man? better watch out! Don't go to sleep.ReplyDelete
Those new zombies, though, could ... RUN! and they ate ... BRAINS!?!?? here we go again .... where did I put all those TL-122s?
I don't know whether movies ever hit me like that. My dad had a VHS copy of some TV version of The Martian Chronicles that had a... bleeding Jesus walking into a camp on the surface of Mars, and that scared me for some reason.Delete
There was also a gargoyle movie I saw that gave me nightmares.
I should probably watch a Lon Chaney movie before I die, huh?
also, too ... have you ever had a haint on ya'? s' happened more than a couple'a times. Scaaaaaaare ME!Delete
btw - thanx for the heads up on that googely translatererator thingy. I ordered something IN France to be delivered to a French address using that application. It IZ ... the shiz! Now that they've TAKEN the order, I hope DELIVERY of that item doesn't turn out like the HOLDING part of Seinfeld's Reservation.
they are ... French, after all.
The upside is that you'll be able to make fun of them if they mess things up because French people are one of only a few groups it's still okay to make fun of.Delete
It's mostly just the French, bald people, and...
Well, that's it. Just the French and bald people.
My package was delivered today without a problem! Vive les Français! and that googely translatererator thingy ......Delete
meant to add ... I hope you have become a nyctophiliac with your new found courage ....Delete
This blog has so many practical uses and benefits readers in so many ways, I'm getting sort of choked up.Delete
"Dracula, Prince of Darkness" was the scariest thing I saw as a child (well, I saw my older sister shaving her legs one night, but we're talking movies here) but that paled next to "The Exorcist" and the guilt-riddled Catholic altar boy teenager I was at the time. I still think that movie is scary. I'm sixty fucking years old, and that movie still scares me. And I don't even remember TL-122s, other than having one as a Boy Scout... flashing out Morse Code signals to other kids.ReplyDelete
The Shining is pretty scary, too. It's like The Exorcist in that you realize early on that there are no guarantees in this movie. Everything could end up in a worst case scenario.Delete
The dark has always been my friend, we have had several adventures together.Trips to the loo, stepping on the cat, getting dressed into new and strange fashions never seen before, the list goes on & on....ReplyDelete
Haha. Hi, David!Delete
I look forward to exciting new adventures in the dark like that, now that I've pretty much gotten past the whole 29-year mortal fear thing.
As long as I am armed ("That's not a knife. THIS is a knife!") or feeling really strong (it's been a long time since then) I am comfortable in the dark. There are no scary people nearby because I live in the boonies, but there are wolves and bears and deer that crash through the woods and make weird noises. I am careful with Mandi, my little dog (or Wolf Bait as I sometimes call her) and keep a close eye on her if we are out in the dark. Sometimes the quiet that comes with the dark is deafening. Sensory overload usually gets me eventually.ReplyDelete
Wolves and bears are rational fears!Delete
Of course, being alone with your thoughts can be pretty overwhelming, too...
I find the only reason to be afraid of the dark is because it potentially hides PEOPLE.ReplyDelete
I've thought about that, too. When I was homeless, the risk of a real person attacking me in my sleep was real. But this fear is something more primal.Delete
Like I said above - maybe I just don't want to be alone with my thoughts for too long. Being alone with one's thoughts can be pretty damn scary.
I'm alone with my thoughts awake or sleeping - I seem to never tire of terrorising myself :-(Delete
I don't know how I manage to terrorize myself. I mean, my life isn't that bad. Plus I have no real emotions, so that helps, too!Delete
What about Tarab? When I was a kid I used to have a recurring dream *only when I was sick* of falling down the face of a very very high building at night with no lights anywhere. Just rows of dark windows set in an almost lightless wall. I always woke just before I hit bottom but the feeling of falling was very real.ReplyDelete
I moved this comment over from facebook because I was so glad someone mentioned Tarab!Delete
I believe that the Tarab thing/sleep paralysis dating back to my childhood is probably a big part of the reason I am afraid of the dark. But there's so much cool terrain to be explored with sleep - lucid dreaming and so on - that it pisses me off in a way that I have been so scared of it for so long!
Katy. OK, it was the Creature of the Black Lagoon for me. And this Voodoo movie wherein a fake alligator ate this woman's head. Seen at the drive-in movie one summer as we sneaked from home and under the fence at the Tumbleweed Drive-n. Couldn't hear a word of the dialog, only the screams from the cars. I slept standing up in my closet for a week.ReplyDelete
I have never seen Creature from the Black lagoon. Any of them 9there was more than one movie, right?).Delete
My brother used to have a foot tall Creature from the Black Lagoon figure in his room, though. My mom called it his "Sleestak."
You might be able to find one of those Creature from the Black Lagoon figures at a local retail store like, oh, I don't know.... Walmart, maybe.
I'm not sure what the relevance of this is here. However, the version of this song that matters is the one with the old dude on oxygen. Really. Look it up. He rocks harder than Chris Martin.Delete
It's the hardest thing in the world, to stare up at the ceiling in the dark in the middle of the night.ReplyDelete
Those thoughts are scary. They'll kill you.
Maybe that's it. Those thoughts will climb up from under the bed and nab me every time...Delete
It is interesting to me that you write about the texture of the night. And now you have to hear more about why!ReplyDelete
My parents were artists. My dad was a painter and my mother was a potter. One day I went out to my dad's studio and he was putting white paint on a white canvas with a pallet knife. He did the entire painting in white oils paints and used the knife to change the texture. The result was a study of texture and the painting would change as the light on it changed and the shadows of the impasto work changed with the light. It wound up being my second favorite painting of his of all time.
Although your study of texture is dark and mine was white the lesson is the same. Fan-fucking-tastic.
Hi, tnkerr! First of all, I'm rather honored to have my writing compared to your dad's art.Delete
It's weird: As I get older, I notice things like textures more. I guess I was in too big of a rush when I was young to sit back and take in things like that. I am looking forward to aging to see how much deeper I can see into things!