Let me tell you something about me; I have a pretty unreasonable fear of the dark. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, and I know it’s pretty silly to be an adult who still hates venturing into the darkness, but it’s true. My mind finds it incredibly easy to populate my head with thoughts of unspeakable horrors that reside in the dark, just outside my field of vision - and of course, in the absolute darkness, that field of vision is essentially non-existent - and so I simply freeze at the edge of that black, inscrutable existence, and try my best to not think about what might be in there.
You could argue that there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s simply a psychological feature passed down through generations of humans, reaching far back to ages when the dark was something you had to actively avoid, because it was highly possible - some would say even unavoidable - that there was a very hungry, very dangerous predator out there waiting for you to step into their territory and become dinner. But, no one really wants to think that they were born with caveman sensibilities, right?
So, that’s why one night, as I lay in bed alone with half my room buried in that absolute, unrelenting blackness, I decided to try something out.
"Hello?" I said, and felt immediately rather foolish about it. I know nothing’s going to answer me. it’s just me in the room, right? Who the hell is going to-
Wait, what was that?
"Um, is anybody here? Hello?" I said again, my voice slightly quavering in fear. My mind raced as I tried to think, did I lock the front door this morning? What about the windows? Oh shitshitshitshit-
"Calm down, it’s only me."
It would not be an exaggeration if I said that the voice snaked its way into my ears. It felt cold and slithering, and I shivered in bed as I heard it, traveling through my auditory cavities with ease.
"W-Who are you?"
A laugh. No. A chuckle. As if I was asking the silliest question in the world, and for a moment, I did feel quite stupid.
"Come on now, you know who this is."
"How could I possibly know? You’re a guy hiding in my house - no - in my ownroom! Now tell me who you are, or I’ll call the cops right now!”
An empty promise. I was too frozen in fear to even move in my bed, let alone get out of it to call someone.
Another chuckle. Whoever it was, it seemed like they were calling my bluff.Dammit.
"Relax." The voice said, in a manner that made me do anything but relax. "You don’t have anything to worry about. I just felt like being polite."
"Polite? What the hell are you talking about?"
"Well, you did say hello. I was just answering you.”
"I was - Never mind what I was doing, who the hell are you?!"
"You know who I am. You were just greeting me back there!"
"Yes. I am the darkness that resides in your room."
At that point, my feeling of growing stupidity and fear was high enough to overcome my catatonic state, and so I jumped out of bed and rushed to the light switch, flipping it.
But there was no one there. No one in the room but me.
But that’s impossible! I heard that voice! It was right there!
After spending what seemed like an hour turning my room upside down in search of this inhumanly fast interloper, I came to the conclusion that I was completely insane. The house was entirely empty, somehow.
Note to self: book an appointment with your psychiatrist first thing tomorrow. Holy shit.
I managed to convince myself to get back to bed and try to get some sleep. After all, my boss won’t be too impressed when I tell him I stayed up all night because I was imagining things in bed. So, I turned off the lights and slid uncomfortably back into bed. I paused, waiting to hear anything at all.
Nope. Nothing. Must have been-
"Do you believe me now?"
With a decidedly effeminate cry, I lunged out of bed and turned on the lights again, and with an equally effeminate cry, I realized that there was still no one standing in the corner from which the voice came. I flicked the light off.
The voice was yelling now, and if I thought it sounded creepy before, now the eeriness had given way to complete and utter horror. I backed away and slammed into the wall behind me, wishing it would swallow me where I stood.
The voice cleared its throat. “Sorry about that outburst. It was just getting a bit too distressing to travel back and forth every time you flicked that damn switch.”
"Oh god. What are you?"
"I already told you! I am the flipping darkness that lives in your flipping room."
"But, how? That doesn’t make any sense."
"Does everything about your life make sense?"
The voice did have a point here, and it seemed like it realized it too. “Now, could you please get back to bed? I’d rather not feel responsible for you missing work tomorrow.”
"You know about my work?"
"I hear what goes on inside your head too, and frankly, you should be ashamed. But, since I help fuel some of these thoughts, I’ll shoulder the blame…or at least a part of it."
Feeling thoroughly embarrassed, I trudged back to my bed. I lay in it, wide awake, unsure of what I ought to do. Should I try to go to sleep? How can I, knowing that there’s something standing right there, looking at me?
"Actually, I’m in more of a floating position. Standing would be somewhat tedious."
Oh shit, right, it can hear my thoughts.
"And stop calling me ‘it’. I’m a man, much like you."
"You are? But, I can’t even see you. How can I tell?"
"You can see me. This is what I look like.”
"But that’s not what a man usually looks like…uh, darkness."
Another chuckle. “And who exactly decided that men should look one way or another? You humans are so funny sometimes; you establish these standards and rules, seemingly out of nowhere, then abide by them in some pathetic attempt to force your world to make sense. Well, guess what, sometimes the world doesn’t care much for those rules.”
"This would all be so much easier if you just told me what you are."
"No. I mean, yes. Sorry, but it’s not the easiest thing to process right now. You understand."
"Indeed." A pause. "Well, let’s put it this way. You know the darkness you see everywhere? When the sun sets, or when you turn off the light, or when you put your hand in front of a candle and make those silly shapes? All those are me. Well, not me. Just, like me. We are the dark.”
"Are you serious?"
"I know, right?"
"So, you just…sit there and watch me all night?"
"Of course not! That would be creepy and very unprofessional."
"Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you."
"I understand. Just, the idea that I would - no, it doesn’t brook even repeating."
"So, what do you do then?"
"Well, I personally like to read. So, while you go on your merry adventure to the land of sleep, I get to catch up on my favorite novels. I’m almost done withThe Infinite Jest, if you’ll believe me. very proud of that one, I am.”
"You live here then?"
"You could say so in a sense, yes."
"But, where do you go when I turn the lights on?"
"Ah, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?"
"Come on. Tell me!"
"Well, you’ve taken to this ‘talking to the darkness in your room’ rather fast. I’m actually somewhat surprised. But, fact remains, you have work tomorrow. Time for you to go to bed."
"No buts, regardless of how much I like them."
Exasperatedly, I lay back down in bed and closed my eyes.
"You expect me to just go to bed with you sitting there?"
"I told you, I’m floating. And yes, you’ll manage just fine."
I felt reassured by that confirmation, ridiculous as that sounds. So, I fell silent, and tried to go to sleep.
But I couldn’t. Something felt wrong.
"Darkness? Are you there?" I called out, tentatively.
"Always." Came the snark, humorous reply.
"Well, good night then."
I could almost swear I could hear the grin in its voice.