By Eric Highers
Darkness…it terrified me. I recall being younger, desperately running through the house, leaping onto my bed as all the lights went out, for fear that something known would seize me. I was afraid of what I thought were demons and ghosts, their presence felt, hiding in the closet and in the dark corners full of shadows, scheming to scare my soul right out of my body or eat away at my small limbs. I imagined wrinkly hands attached to small bodies with small sharp-pointed teeth gnawing gently at my toes and hips, eventually making way to the bones. Bones, those ivory structures that are often used to discern the future or the truth.
As I have grown, I have developed a precious understanding that those scary, monstrous beings resting their faces in the dark are not necessarily there, but they’re very real. Most importantly they never really wanted to eat me. They held my hand at night when I cried away into the pillow, hoping the pain of rejection and isolation would stop. They gave me wings when I rode my bike outside to catch my breath and plan my escape. They would egg me on as I would stare full face into the moon, imagining my body would grow like the Hulk as a result of the super powers embedded in the crescent milky structure that beamed across the sky. The monsters at night held my tongue and wrapped their legs around my waist when my palm ventured south toward my groin to ignite a sense of ecstasy, controlling all of my thoughts and dreams. Shiver. Quake. Moan. Roar. Nash your teeth, they said. You’re one of us.
At night, my speed felt faster. When the sun hunkered off into the horizon and the pinks, purples and yellows filled the sky, I ran to sweat it out. I ran to feel something in my body break. I ran to intensify my legs, to let it all go. When the night crept up and seized me, my bold breath bursted forth, like a dragon unleashing all its fury on a town that never stood a chance. The hairs on my legs stood erect and stretched longer than they should have. I moved with swiftness of a wolf, and I grunted like a bear. I became the beast that I wanted to be. I felt the impossible become possible, and I ran four miles instead of three. I felt I ran so fast that I broke through the sound barrier, the stress of life, and found indiscernible blocks of houses and garden trinkets blurring into one black oil painting smudged finely beside me.
As I grew even older, I noticed the unthinkable becomes the imaginable in the dark. There, I often find myself loosing control, loosing all sense of place and sanity. My body moves however it wants to. I expect the beasts panting heavily in the bushes to be doing the same. Maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re wrapping themselves with the fur of another and sinking their fangs into their hosts. As I approach the dance floor all I see are fury friends marking their territory. Claiming their prey with their eyes, their desires lurking behind their smiles and perfectly quaffed manes, they try to call out to each other, howling at the moon and the music. At least in the dark we can pretend to miss the movements that are so clearly about seduction, licking our lips, hungry to devour. Here the shadows play on our face, and our twirling spines lined with glued spikes and hairspray fall gently on each cheek as we press them together while dripping with beads of sweat. Soak it up, they say, the beat and the night.
It’s ironic that electricity is best seen in the dark. Is it that it becomes clearer? That jolt and sensation only imaginable when everything else disappears? Maybe it appears when two monsters decide to grab their faces and smash them together. I remember his face well, and his perfectly sculpted chest pressing on mine. His cave was smothered in darkness, the only presence of light was emanating from his television set with a delicate, soft glow. This time, instead of leaping to the bed, I traversed the edges with confidence and grace. We’re home. In the darkness, his back was to the television set, creating a halo around his fury frame, reminding me that, again, I was in the presence of holiness. Slowly, I willingly let him take his time, inching me toward the top of his bed, while the gradient hues of blue and black moved around his arms and his phosphorescent sheets. Holding onto his back, my nails grew longer and dug into his scaly skin. I recall feeling his breath on my hips, his tongue on my toes. Then, there was a jolt that I remember feeling so deeply, I felt it all in my bones. Again, my dragon’s breath released itself, and I became the beast I always wanted. After these moments, I’m only terrified of the dark when I am walking with its back against me. Facing it head on, I can see that it’s the canister that holds my friends who touch my bones.
Things become clearer in the dark. Things become stronger in the dark. Things feel more alive in the dark. Things move faster in the dark. The darkness gives us permission to push past the limits of our imagination and usher in another reality. Or maybe, the darkness holds the reality we already knew existed. I don’t know if it holds the whole truth, but I do know that we are often afraid of that which is true. So, obviously, there is definitely some of it creeping around these dark parts.