Fear of the Dark

I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Of course, they say all children are, but I think it was more than that with me, and it never stopped. I guess it’s because deep down I’ve always known the darkness would get me eventually.

Now I’m grown up, and it’s about to happen. I can feel it on my heels, gaining on me, following me wherever I go. It’s getting darker all the time. About a year ago was when it started. My worst fears made real by a doctor in a white coat. “In plain English it means: you’ll go blind” he said. “There’s nothing we can do. Don’t be afraid, it’s not the end of the world. You will adapt, your other senses will take over.” But I am afraid. I’m afraid of the dark.

So now I’m standing here, on that bridge, and there’s a shadow darkening the lights of the street lamps, a dark haze between me and the skyline beyond that channel. Like a screen of dark, oily smoke it gets lighter sometimes, fooling me into believing I still can see clearly, only to thicken again, smothering my glimmer of hope. It’s like one of those nightmares, you turn on the light, but nothing changes. It’s still too dark to see what’s creeping up on you out of the shadows. I look down into the dark, swirling waters, and I wonder. I wonder if it hurts to drown in saltwater. I mean, think about it logically. It hurts like crazy to get tap water in your eyes, but saltwater is called eyedrops. It hurts to snort tap water up your nose, but doing it with saltwater is a remedy for pain. Maybe lungs aren’t that different?
“But you’re afraid of the dark.” a pleasant voice behind me says. “And it’s really, really dark down there.” He’s right, of course. It is indeed. I turn around slowly. I can make out the stranger pretty well. He seems to be emitting a faint, greenish-white glow. Or maybe it’s something behind him. I sigh. “True,”  I say, “but what are my options? It’ll be very dark for me for a much longer time if I stay. ” He smiles. “We can help you. We can make the darkness go away, you’ll never have to worry about it anymore. Just come with me.” and he turns and starts walking away. I hesitate only for a fraction of a second. There’s no contest, no choice. I follow this glowing angel into the intense white light that is coming towards us.

When I come to for a bit I’m strapped to a stretcher, gliding through long, white hallways, on and on, and the light is all around. There are strangers, they’re talking in a language I don’t understand, and they all glow. Even the walls seem to glow, and most of all the ceiling. There are all kinds of sounds. It’s like a hospital. Like a spaceship.

I regain consciousness again, lying in a rather uncomfortable bed, and the first thing I notice is that I can see. I see everything. Even though the blinds are drawn, even though it is night outside the window, I see everything, down to the fly on the wall. And everything is glowing in that bluish-greenish light, eery and beautiful. I guess he kept his word. I’m cured. No more darkness. I sigh relieved and close my eyes.

Nothing changes.

The light’s still there. I still see the room. I still see the fly. I open my eyes again. No change. I find my right hand and put it up to my face. My face, in fact my whole head, seems swollen, and there are bandages, like I’ve had an operation. But my eyes are still there, intact. My eyelids are there, and they move when I blink. So what the hell is going on?!  “We let you keep those.” the voice says besides me. I didn’t see him come in. Maybe he’s been there all along. “Even if they’re technically useless. We thought the others might think you weird without them.” It hurts to turn my head. The stranger is smiling at me. I can see him clearly now, and he’s emitting a strong glow. “What did you do to me?” I ask.”Why can’t I close my eyes?” “Oh, you still can”, he says, “they just aren’t connected to your brain anymore. We put in diodes, all over your head. A far superior technology. They catch all the wavelengths that were visible to you before, but also a lot more. You’ll notice over time, as your brain adapts, you’ll ‘see’ more and more. Most of those wavelengths aren’t blocked as easily as what you call visible light either, so this is way more useful then your old system was. You’ll see. Way, way better.” I try to imagine, and it does sound amazing. Finally I ask: “How do I switch it off?” He laughs out loud. Then he sees my face. “Why on earth would you want to switch it off?? The more input, the better! Your ears don’t have an off-switch, right? Neither does your nose, or your sense of touch! So why would you want to switch off your most important sense?”

Because I can’t sleep. Because I can’t get any rest. It’s been five weeks, and my world’s just gotten brighter and brighter. Colors I’ve never even imagined before, but sunshine I can’t stand anymore, it fries my brain. The day is unbearable, and the night is glowing in a fireworks of wavelengths, no matter where I am. I can’t go near fuseboxes or power outlets, not even to speak of the streetcar’s cables in front of my bedroom. I’ve tried wrapping shawls around my head, I’ve tried aluminum foil, I’ve tried putting pillows and blankets over me, but nothing helps. Actually, the damn things even glow themselves. It’s hopeless. It’s torture.

Janice came to visit me the other day. Or, rather, one of them, pretending to be her. I know, because it was glowing in their color. I can see that now. I can see everything. I see so much more than I ever wanted to. The stranger pretending to be Janice acted like it didn’t believe a word I said. “That’s just your brain hallucinating.” it said. “You’re almost blind now, so it’s making up stuff. Because you’re afraid of the dark.”

But I’m not. I’m standing on that bridge again, looking down into those dark, dark swirling waters. There’s almost no light coming from them, none of the hectic, flashing glare of all the world around me. I see the faint reddish glow of a jellyfish drifting by, and even that looks rather peaceful, pulsating very slowly, fading away into the deep. I still don’t know if it hurts to drown in saltwater. I hope it doesn’t.

(soundtrack: Gothminister “Darkside”)


17 thoughts on “Fear of the Dark

  1. Rhissanna says:

    Oh my gosh! This is brilliant! (no pun intended, honest) Just brilliant! Wonderfully creepy! Thank you so much.

  2. Witchy J says:

    A modern fable, teaching the lesson that too much light isn’t the good gift it’s made out to be. We all need that dark corner to retreat to and find some rest and peace at times. Wonderful story telling.

  3. Oh my goodness! This is terrifying!! We ask/wish for certain things without knowing what it would mean to have them, and when we do, BOOM! we burn. Poor girl. Poor, poor girl 😦

  4. Oona says:

    goosebums, you are terrifying – and I love it!

  5. ankalaetha says:

    thanks everyone! 🙂
    I edited two small mistakes today (hrm, no, rivers aren’t saltwater where I live, either). If anyone finds any more, I always apprechiate a hint.

  6. Narrator says:

    A genuinely unpleasant and scary tale. Thought provoking and creepy in ways I didn’t expect. Well done!

  7. Oma Linda says:

    Oh my goodness…..this was a truly terrifying tale. We must always be careful what we wish for…there are always consequences to everything.. But this, oh my. Very Good/Very Scary
    Thanks, Oma Linda

    • ankalaetha says:

      Yeah, I think the consequences in this case weren’t really fair – but it was really meant well by the strangers… (that’s maybe be most scary thing about it)

  8. Sabine Osman says:

    Great story! And a really great idea. 🙂

  9. Das ist sehr, sehr gut.

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