It was late. I think it was about midnight when I finished work. I closed my laptop lid, my mind still full of images of car dashboards. I am a designer and my job is to be creative. Well, not really. My job is to give executives options, and I work for a wannabe Steve Jobs who wants to revolutionize the car industry.
But enough about that. It was midnight when I finished, the house was dark. I never got around to turning the lights on, having worked all day. I was sitting in the kitchen, the half-eaten frozen dinner still in front of me, all around me dark. I turned on the light over the kitchen table and it became a bright island in the night, but it also made me see even less of my surroundings. The light sometimes blinds us. I wondered about that for a minute and tried to think of a way to put it on a car dashboard.
Then I got up and debated whether I should go straight to bed or take a shower first. I took a step away from the light, and almost felt an irrational fear of the dark. Almost. Not like a real fear, but rather a memory of fear. A primal, primitive part of me yelled “No, don’t go in there. There are monsters in the dark.” I snickered. I had not been afraid for years now, not since I was a child.
I walked across the living room. I knew where everything was, so I did not stumble or trip, but I wondered why it was so dark. There were street lights outside, would they not provide at least some light? Outside the windows it was almost black. And inside was even worse, I could barely make out the frame of the stairway. But I pushed on and made it a point not to turn on the lights. I wanted to show that primal, primitive part of me that he was not the boss. Nope. Not the boss of me.
I finally reached the stairs when heard a creak coming from the top of it.
There was nobody else there. There could not have been. It was probably the house settling. I put my foot on the first step and I heard a creak again, right after the one I made. I could not see anything up above, just a wall of black at the top of the stairs. I took another step. Another creak. One more? I took one more step and heard another creak right after the one I made, as if somebody was climbing down to meet me, mimicking my every move. I took another step, hoping I could see more as I moved up. The other person should be down five steps by now and I was expecting to see something, but it was as if the wall of dark was moving down the stairs as I was moving up.
I took one more step. Silence for a second. Then a creak.
I panicked and ran down the stairs, and flicked the light switch. The lights came on immediately, filling the place with searing brightness.
I stood by the switch for a long, long moment with my head down, breathing uneasily. I was too afraid to look up. I listened, but there was nothing. As if there was nobody there. But I knew there was. There had to be.
I mustered all my courage and looked up the stairs. The top of the stairway was empty, mocking me with its emptiness. There was nothing there, no danger, no monster, no serial killer, not even a burglar.
I walked up the stairs. The hallway was a little dark, all the doors were closed. The light coming from downstairs was warm, but up here there were some cold dark corners and I did not want to turn the lights on and see they were empty. Not this time. The primal, primitive part of me would not get its satisfaction.
I moved forward, towards my room, having decided I was going straight to bed. I reached for the doorknob, swung the door open, and just stood there. It was pitch black. I could not see even the outline of my window. My room was just black darkness. For all I knew, it could have been a doorway into an endless abyss of nothing.
I listened. It took me a while to realize what I was hearing. It was heavy breathing. My own. I decided I needed light after all. I would just turn on all the lights in the room and go to sleep with all of them on. Nobody had to know. It would be my little secret.
I reached inside and onto the wall by the door, trying to find the light switch. I moved my hand up a little, until it got too high. I must have misjudged, it had to be lower, so I reached down. And down. And down. It was nowhere to be found. I began to wonder about the surface of my wallpaper, I never knew it was so rigid.
And then somebody touched my hand.
I ran downstairs to where the lights were. I turned on all the lights in the living room, the kitchen, the porch. I sat on the couch watching the top of the stairs. Then I wrapped myself in a blanket. Then I fell asleep.
I woke up on my couch the next morning and everything was okay. There was light coming from outside, it was a beautiful day. I got out of the house that day and worked in the office. Then came back home and had a normal evening. Then another day and another evening. nothing suspicious, nothing supernatural. I got on with my life and never found out whether something happened that night, or whether it was a weird dream.
Years later, I am not even afraid of the dark. I fill my house with light and with people, and laughter, and music. Not to chase away the darkness, but because I want to. I am a creature of the light. We all are, ever since we leave the dark of the womb to first gaze at the sun. I am a happy human being. Whole in myself and a friend to others.
But sometimes, when I am alone, I realize I am never really alone. None of us are.