Mama never understood why I was scared of the dark.
I would cry and beg her to leave the hall light on and my door cracked. She humored me until I was ten. Then she sated firmly that I was almost a teenager and needed to get over my childish fear.
I try not to hold it against her.
The first nights after this enforced policy were the worst. I would lie in my bed and stare wide eyed at my ceiling until the morning sun lit up my bedroom.
Mama would get onto me about staying up and send me off to school. When my friends would ask me why I was so tired, I'd send them a practiced sheepish smile and reply, "Just couldn't sleep."
My friends were never the kind who could see beyond my mask. That's alright, I tried real hard not to see past theirs.
Most people don't understand that the dark is alive. It's the whispers in the shadows. It's when the hairs on the back of your neck stood up. It's the chill that went up your spine. It had eyes and ears. It doesn't need a hand to touch your soul.
The darkness liked to humor me. I could hear its laughter when I kept a lamp on all night. I could see it send me a little wink before it slithered into the corners. I don't know why I could notice this. Maybe I was cursed. Maybe the fates marked me for damnation before I even drew my first breath. Whatever it is, I'm stuck living with the consequences.
I was born and raised in a little town in Louisiana. I grew up surrounded by ghost stories and wives tales. Warnings not to go to far into woods, not to play in the abandon houses that I lived near, not to tempt fate. Papaw used to tell me to pay attention to my senses. That the human body could sense danger you couldn't see. Papaw wasn't afraid of the dark like me, but I noticed he tried not to look to deep into it.
Maybe I got my fear from my Daddy. A man I don't know very well since he died when I was four. Mama told me he didn't like the dark, that he had nightmares. She said it was because he fought in a war. I never told Mama that he probably knew what the darkness was. It thrives in bloodshed and thirsts for suffering. War is nothing but a playground for it.
My family aren't strictly Christians, though most of us believe. Mama tried real hard to keep us in church. I'm grateful, because the only thing the dark fears is the light. It keeps the shadows on the edges.
Never completely gone though, darkness has its purpose in the world.
Sometimes even that isn't enough. I try not to think of those nights. Where the darkness caresses my face like my Mama did when I was sick as a child. It whispers it's lies in my ear. Sometimes, on a particular bad day, it whispers the truth.
I can do nothing but put my earphones in and try to drown out the noise. I read to try to ignore the touches. I try not look in the corners to see the smile. God I hate the smile. Like I'm its pet and I've done something cute. It patronizes me with my helplessness.
Sometimes it doesn't bother to whisper at all.
"I've always existed. The universe was dark before it was light. There's a balance, sweet child. I can never conquer that light and it can never conquer me. But that doesn't mean I can't have my fun."
It'll say it with its beautiful voice. The scariest thing about the dark is that it's beautiful. A terrible beauty, but beautiful all the same.
There's this phrase, "And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee." I read it somewhere, in my attempts to ignore my fear. It struck a particular cord in me. It made me wonder if that's what happened. If somewhere along the way I stared too long at the darkness, so it stared back. Maybe it saw something interesting. So it keeps coming back.
I cry sometimes. Great gasping sobs. When it feels like the darkness is smothering me. It caresses my face and whispers, "There's no need for tears my sweet child." The comfort always carries an edge. It enjoys my pain, there's no doubt, but it likes to play with my mind.
One day I'll break. I'll turn and accept its comfort. It'll touch my soul and taint it and I'll love it. That's only way this will ever end. The darkness is not a demon. It's a spectrum. There's no way to exorcise it. It'll frown and retreat to the edges. But it always comes back.
I've always been afraid of the darkness. Mama never understood why.