Dark Matter

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of the dark.

Nope.  That sentence isn’t quite right.

For as long as I can remember… I’ve been afraid of what’s hiding out there in the dark.

The unknown.

When I was a little girl, I used to sleep with my feet on the pillow, and my head at the foot of the bed – UNDER the covers.  Because my brother once told me that it confused the monsters under the bed, and then they couldn’t drag you under there with them. 

He also used to delight in turning off the lights when I got either half-way up or half-way down a flight of stairs, so I was stuck – in the middle – in the dark – and was paralyzed with fear, screaming for my mom or dad to come rescue me.  He got in trouble for that many times, but kept it up until we were teenagers, and I popped him in the mouth once for it. 

Did you know that braces will turn the inside of someone’s lip into so much hamburger when you hit them in their closed mouth with your fist?  Hunh, ‘magine that.

Anyway – even today, I don’t like to be in total darkness, without some source of light, even a small source, like a lighter, or a flashlight, or night-light.  Even just the blinking lights on my tv, and computer are soothing, in that they help me orient myself in my surroundings in the deepest recesses of night.

When I was little, I simply said I was scared of the dark.  Because it was in the dark, that all the bad things happened, it seemed.  And all of the scariest stories happened after the lights went out. 

Now, I know that it’s not the darkness itself, and it’s not even really the things that could possibly be out there in the darkness that gets to me.  And the paralyzing fear I felt as a child, is more of a chill up my spine, maybe a crawly sensation on the back of my neck, now.

It’s the  lack of control that really irks me and gets my heart racing.

Because, in the dark, someone can sneak up on you.  There are no real shadows traipsing along in front of them to give them away.  Sounds are magnified in the dark, so every leaf that skitters across the sidewalk sounds like someone shuffling down the street, and I turn to look.  You can’t see well in the dark, you strain your eyes, try to peer silently around corners; hold your breath, even, to try to hear the smallest whispers.  It’s anxiety-inducing for me, because my senses are dulled in some ways, and heightened in others.

Even right this minute – I’m sitting in my living room, on a sofa in front of a dark picture window.  And I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever I hear a sound outside that seems to be near the front walk.  I sat here on purpose, to test myself, and to stretch myself.  Because I hate letting fear get the better of me.

I mostly have this fear of the darkness, and what lurks within it, whipped.  I don’t become that paralyzed, terrified child anymore when I go to the basement, without using the lights.  I slept in the basement bedroom for almost 2 months, in almost near-perfect blackness, broken only by the glow-in-the-dark paint on the walls and stars stuck to the ceiling.  I can go outside, without a flashlight, to fetch the mail, take a walk, talk on the phone to friends late at night, without feeling like I’m about to be yanked under my vehicle or rushed by some homicidal maniac.

But, I continue to push my own boundaries, my own comfort levels, just to see how much farther I have till I can truly say that I no longer fear the absence of light.

Because I’m a control junkie.  I have to conquer the things that frighten me… uh… to a certain extent, anyway.  There are things that I’m afraid of, that I don’t think I’ll ever conquer.  But that’s not what I’m talking about today.

I think that’s one of the reasons why I like to write a lot of “dark and moody” stories, horror, etc.  If it scares me, I want to put it down on paper, get it “out and gone”, so to speak.  I also like to watch a lot of horror movies, and read scary stories.  Stephen King and Dean Koontz are 2 of my favorite spooky authors, because they can really bring the creepy. 

And, watching scary movies and reading spooky fiction, help me to desensitize myself to that which scares me.  “Flooding” is the official term, I guess.  You take all you can handle of what makes you the most afraid, and then toss on a little more, till you’re about to scream….. then you back off, just a little, catch your breath, and dive back into it for more adrenaline.  You’re supposed to continue this process until you see that there really is nothing to fear out there, and your body loses it’s need for the flight/fight response every time you encounter that which sets off your emotional response.

And now, it’s officially Friday.  Midnight.  The “Witching Hour”, or so they call it.  So, this witch is off, to wander down the darkened hallway (with a tiny LED motion-sensitive nightlight about halfway for late-night bathroom breaks), and cuddle up in my comfortably-shadowed bedroom for some sleep.

The darkness – is useful, in it’s place.  And I’m learning to not let it matter so much in the places it doesn’t need to. 

Maybe I’ll take my friend’s suggestion next, and write a horror story, in the dark, with only the glow of my computer screen to light my way.  *Shivers*  Uh, maybe not just yet….. I’ll work on it.