Dusk – a time when the darkness bleeds into the day like dark ink poured slowly into a glass of clear water. The moon hangs in the sky, a clear crescent, tilted slightly. If you look long enough, you can glimpse the dark part of the moon too, the part on which the sun does not shine. If someone could attach a handle to the crescent, it would be a deep spoon that you could drink soup from. Closer to you, a tree, robbed of its leaves for this year, rises out of the darkness near the ground. Its branches, many arms that give rise to many fingers, most of them twisted in strange ways, hang dark against the blue sky. Around you, under the deep sky, there is a silence, a hint of expectation, as the world waits for the darkness to win out.
There is a form rising from the ground shrouded in darkness. It lay buried under the tree during the day, and now, at dusk, it wakes. At first, it is a small mound. You watch it carefully, startled by the unexpected motion under the tree. The mound grows, straightens, becomes taller. Its silhouette is a human’s. A neck is lifted sinuously from a chest. A head is raised, chin pointing at the horizon, to look up at the moon. There is a light like the crescent’s behind dark eyes. But this is a form that was buried, and now it has arisen; is that light in its eyes the crescent reflected in darkness, like the crescent itself reflects the sun? With its lifted head, it resembles a strange creature drinking in the wind, and it stares at the moon fixedly from beneath the twisted branches of the tree. It stares and stares and is still for so long that you begin to think you imagined it rising from the ground. Was it present under that tree, staring at the moon, all along? The light reaches no part of its body. You wonder briefly what its skin looks like. But as it continues staring at the crescent painted in the sky, you begin to feel like you are dreaming.
Your first encounter with fear was when you found yourself alive. You were a somebody. How can a nobody be a somebody? You had choices you could make to select the paths you could go down. And you knew there were dark paths that you could never return from. The fear that you could inadvertently lead yourself off onto the dark paths consumed you. It was like the excruciating moment in a story when the characters must reach a place of safety before sunset. But somehow they fall asleep and the sun sets on them. Then horrors come to life.
You too wanted to stare at the moon; that’s why you left the yellow lights and found a place of quiet. You didn’t want to be dragged from the magic of the dusk by walking feet and talking voices. But now you’re trapped in a dream. You wanted silence. You wanted to admire beauty and let it soak into you, in the hope that you could turn out something beautiful too. But now you’re dreaming, dreaming, and it doesn’t seem to end. You’re afraid to make a movement, draw a breath or bend your straining neck. You’re afraid to think. You’re afraid of existing. The waiting has grown so long and heavy that you’re beginning to wish the creature would turn its head and look at you. You want the blue darkness of the dusk to end and night to fall. But time seems to stand still.
You ventured carelessly out of the safety of the cages built to hold the night out. You wondered why mankind ever built those cages, when it could have frozen to death sleeping under the stars. You wondered what lay in the night and why dusk feels so heavy with expectation of the dark. You wondered and wondered. Well, here is an answer to your wondering.
The windows emanating light grow dark, and the tall buildings begin to crumble slowly. The crescent has not moved an inch, you swear, and the star hanging at the tip of the bare branch, like a strange tiny flower of light, remains there still. The buildings, the buildings so solid and heavy, pressing hard onto the earth, squat and ugly, so graceless when compared to this dark bare tree, crumble. But there is a grace in crumbling noiselessly. The ground seems to swallow them, opens up beneath them, and draws them into a dark mouth. The earth, which lay so solid and lifeless beneath your feet, suddenly moves all over, and little things rise and rise from it. They grow, and they stretch toward the dark blue sky. There is a chill in the wind. You feel it in the air in your nostrils and on your face. The tree branches shift in the air. The new trees, also devoid of leaves, shift upward. Your eyes return, and that creature stands, staring… at you.
You thought the night was tamed because someone placed street lamps along the roads. You thought the silence, the darkness was dispelled when you and the others laughed in the yellow light of the cages while the dark looked in through the closed windows. You didn’t realize that your laughter had a hysterical edge and your eyes shifted like a horse’s whenever you tried to look at the dark window. But something, some terrified thing inside you screamed to see the darkness grinning at you from beyond the fragile glass of the window. You stopped looking. You convinced yourself that the night was tamed… that the darkness could no longer affect you, no longer turn you into a screaming thoughtless voice. And so you lived, you and your hysterical laughter in your cages of light.
But what of the dark places? They do not go away just because you do not look. What of the emptiness in the night beyond the light of the street lamp? What of the silence that swallows laughter like a dark pool of water swallowing a stone thrown into it? What of the trees standing like soldiers, guarding something in the dark, staring forbiddingly down at you? What of the moon shining through these bare, twisted branches? What of that star at the tip of the branch, resting like a strange flower? You do not see them, you do not know them, and you think you are safe. But the earth is dark and cold. There is no light or laughter in the dark.