The Darknesses

When I was a child I was afraid of the dark, but not just any old dark. When the lights went out I wasn’t filled with dread. Instead I was afraid of a very specific kind of darkness. That special kind of darkness that lives only beneath the bed of a child. The kind that waits, and breathes and listens.

When it was time for bed I would stand at my light switch, situated exactly 6 feet, 3.65 inches and 10 full steps from the safety of my bed. I would ready myself like an Olympic gymnast before the next event. As soon as the room went dark I bounded and vaulted with perfect grace into the waiting heap of sheets and pillows. Had the lights been on to witness my feat any present judge would be forced to have awarded me with at least a 9.5/10.

As it is well known, and stated clearly in the Handbook of Rules and Regulations Applying to Mythical Monsters and Scary Sleuths, once your feet are tucked deep inside the safety of a blanket – you’re officially safe. The Darkness, of course, is still there, but you are tucked away from its grasp. All it can do is lay in wait for another chance, maybe tomorrow, when you might fail to stick the landing quite as expertly.

But what do the Darknesses to when the children are gone? They can’t stay put while they escape to summer camps, sleep overs and family vacations. Instead they make their ways to their local meeting hall.

It’s always one of those gorgeous old Victorian homes on outskirts of every suburb. There they stand, huge and foreboding, but empty and forgotten all the same. The state of their disrepair and the thought of every utility bill makes parents shudder when they drive by and their kids point to the house and ask why no one lives there. Inside, between furniture coated in three decades of dust, corners stuffed with cobwebs and a solitary mirror stained and worn in all the right ways to make it more beautiful than it ever was in its previous life, the Darknesses gather.

There are plenty of rooms for them to pick from, but they of course prefer the master bedroom. In the middle there’s a massive four poster bed, what were once ornate and deep, velvety bed curtains hang in tattered, moth eaten shreds. The lack of electricity and pesky nightlights pleases them, now they can gather and talk.

They talk of all the children they saw grow into adults, whose own children they then saw grow. They would tell each other of all the dreams they saw over all these years, especially the ones based on a horror movie and a scary story the children snuck glances at. Of seeing little feet grow larger, and small thin limbs grow to long and shapely ones. How the toys would always eventually migrate from the room, and how nice it was each time their bed was upgraded.

The cribs were the worst, there was no storage and barely the room to lay during daytime. And you really only ever saw their parents’ feet, that were once so small. But how wonderful when a crib became a twin, a twin became a full, and if they were truly lucky, when a full become a queen. When this happened they gained room to stretch and relax, and every now and then a very interesting book would make its way down there. All the Darknesses were quite fond of H.P. Lovecraft. His childhood Darkness always had the best stories to tell at these meetings, the ones that even little Howard lost in the realm of his own dreams.

They talk about how these days’ children seemed to be much less fearful of them. This was good, in its own way, the Darknesses don’t necessarily enjoy inspiring fear in their children, but did it mean they were being forgotten? They feared, each secretly so as not to have to utter it aloud, of being relegated to the list of other creatures and tales that languished without human thoughts and fears to keep them around.

Like poor Spring-Heeled Jack. Jack once kept millions of children awake far past their bed times, staring sleepily out their windows to catch a glimpse of his storied figure run across a rooftop, or sliding down a drain pipe to fade into an alleyway. He ran from town to town, scurrying through the night with boundless abandon always knowing where he was needed.

But then one day all the children’s children’s children grew up, and he was slowly forgotten about. Children no longer gathered in schoolyards in circles to whisper his name in broad daylight. For a long time, he still wandered the sleepy towns and cities, but no one looked for him. Slowly he grew thin and tired, his eyes that once glowed (though they glowed a deep blue, not the rumored red), burned out aand went dull. Eventually he ceased his wandering and another day was simply gone. And there was no one to tell them to where he went.

“But surely you can’t be rid of all the Darknesses?”

“Can we be sure?” A Darkness that sat on the dusty bed asked nervously. The thought that they could vanish, too, silenced the room.

“But who then will watch over them?” One said.

With that the sun began to break the horizon and many went home, hoping to see those little feet.

Magic: The Segregated Gathering

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I’m a nerd. I don’t say that because I think it’s cool, it’s just a statement, an item on a list of items that make up me. I love comics, I can spend an entire day playing Magic: The Gathering and I’ve seen the Original Trilogy more times than I can remember. I once won a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit before anyone else had a chance to take a turn, I’ve even thought about putting that on my resume.

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January’s Shadow

January was a hard month.

Nearly 42 inches of snow fell on the city I live in, coupled with dangerous temperatures I was forced to spend too many of the those 31 days confined to my home – surrounded by a feet deep, white expanse. This alongside the other challenges and stresses in my life have launched me into something of a slump.

I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life. It is an unwelcome guest that settles deep into the mind’s darkest rooms. There is a constant exhaustion that can’t be assigned any cause – but it’s there, and it’s real, and it keeps you fearful of facing the day before noon. As night settles on the world that old, familiar darkness settles in too. These times are the hardest.

January saw a lot of darkness, but there was also light, there is always light.

The joy in writing, in creating, simply isn’t there right now – so I will save that light and think on it a little while longer. I’ll try and cast it into those dark rooms, where I’m sure to find something beautiful.

The Art of Becoming a Necessary Evil

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In medicine, professionals walk into people’s lives when we are needed. Our patients are usually not happy we’re there, that we’re needed at all. We try to help them through the darkest and scariest, sometimes the last, days of their lives – and we’re asked not to form a relationship with them. When they leave our care, we are highly discouraged from maintaining contact – most times with the hint of termination hanging in the air.

Some people are angry at their diagnosis and they focus that anger onto us – unconsciously placing a faint sense of blame onto our impersonally clothed shoulders. We’re viewed as rude, ‘too busy to care’ and only in it for the money, as if our pockets are growing fat with every 10 dollar aspirin. We are often understaffed and sleep deprived, rushing to do all the necessary procedures and dressing changes, evaluations and so on. We scarf down half of a dry sandwich for lunch to get back to our patients, where we’re met with their anger for their wait. A wait they perceive has been prolonged by a lengthy coffee break, full of laughs and joviality. Sleep deprivation is mistaken for apathy. I found this thing I identified so strongly with myself, a love for my fellow man, a desire to help, was being lost. It was invisible to the very people I was trying to care for. I was becoming ‘a necessary evil’ and I couldn’t handle it.

The beauty in life became muted. My coworkers, the hardened veterans of the field who’d seen, heard and smelled it all, told me to soldier on. “You get used to it,” or “It gets better.” The same shit they tell you in high school. I would think about the brevity of life often and I would panic, thinking about spending the better part of mine ‘muted.’

As a creative individual I feared losing that creativity. I spend most nights pestered by insomnia, my faithful friend. Passing the hours reading, drawing, painting, sewing, knitting or writing. I bleed with a desire to share something with the world, something beautiful and worthwhile, pure in a way I could never be. Something that touches someone. At the time, I wasn’t making any progress toward that.

I couldn’t continue. I am not made of the same enduring and devoted stuff that composed my coworkers, the longer I waited the more apparent it became. I want to see all the good that I can in every person and situation around me, and when I find it I want to hold on to it.

The Library

Finishing a book is more bitter than it is sweet. Especially when it’s a book that you only get to read once, a book that when picked up again is never the same. The feeling isn’t there, and there’s dust on the paintings. There are some books that can be revisited, though. And instead of finding dust, you find the paintings with more detail than before, brighter and more alive. These books are very rare, I only know of 3.

I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house growing up – where I was afforded a lot of free time. I’m a natural loner, so that time was spent in solitude. By 11 I had my own bike and I was a nearly permanent resident of the library at the end of the street.

There was a small teen section situated near the front. The only thing that said “Teen” about it were the red and yellow bean bags, and candy colored spines of young adult literature. But it was comfortable and usually empty, and it became something like my solitary summer clubhouse. The summer I turned 12 my grandfather took me to get my very own library card, meaning I could use the computers and take the books home with me. Before then I had simply read as far as I could and bookmarked it before placing it back in its place, hoping no one came along to check it out. Usually they didn’t, sometimes they did.

Books remained a huge part of my life from there on out. That library, over the course of 6 or better school vacations, heavily shaped the person I became. I experienced so many emotions for the first time inside those walls, with those books and the people that coursed around me unlocking them. I dreamed and imagined, learned and experienced loss. I discovered comic books and Isaac Asimov, I felt the sadness of Hemingway and the light of Ray Bradbury.

After coming back to Michigan I went to find the library vacant and alone, with plywood pressed against its windows and the book return slot taped shut, a poorly bandaged wound. It was closed after the construction of a new, gaudy multimillion dollar library a mile or so away. All good things must come to end, and some endings are particularly bitter – especially when you can never open the book again.