What Hides in the Dark

Ethan Pierce

"Howl"

Stetson Rolling

From the very beginning of human existence, we have been afraid of the dark. The Bible personified the dark as the location of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The Quran called it “ice-cold and burning despair,” and even the Greeks feared the shadows, creating the god of darkness, Erebus, to honor the mysterious power of the dark. These ancient civilizations understood the primordial omnipotence of the dark. They recognized what lurked in the shadows was something beyond their knowledge and comprehension. 

 

I had never planned to begin my woodland experience in the dark, but the night had begun earlier than I expected. I thought to myself, “This is nothing. You have been in these woods before. You don’t need anything.” With this false sense of hubris, I started my journey, bringing only my phone and a tattered winter coat. As I walked down the trail, my feet did not recognize the once well-beaten path. It was as if the grass had grown hands, grabbing my boots and pulling me down to their level. Nevertheless, I kept on, determined to beat the darkness and show my mastery of the shadows.

 

With each step I took, the darker it became, until the moon was no longer able to keep me company. Pitch black, my eyes began to play tricks. To the right of me ran a creek, brush on both sides of its bank. Water from melting snow and rain had filled the once dry, dead creek bed. I continued down the groove when I heard a violent thrashing within the creek’s icy waters. I found a clearing in the vegetation and dared to take a peek. I saw nothing.

 

Disappointed, I hung my head, but as I did, something caught my eye. Water vapor, like wisps of old memories, rose above the water line and hung at eye level. At that moment, the moon shot through a crack in the clouds, giving form to the fog. Suddenly, faceless, featureless figures appeared, hovering over the water. I bolted out of there, stumbling through the overgrowth and mud. Finally, I came to a stop. Terrified, I plopped myself down underneath a lonely tree on the edge of the woods and started observing nature. 

 

By building a makeshift mat of grass and sticks, I kept myself busy. I made sure the grass circling the tree hid me, but at that point, no patch of grass was dense enough. A single bird flew back and forth from the tree which I was camped, crying a lonesome cry.  Each time he left, the longer it took him to get back, until he never did, leaving me to my thoughts.

 

Suddenly, the wind began to pick up. She ran through the trees, calling upon me. She seemed to tango with the darkness, inviting his icy cold grip upon her waist. Then a coyote began his distinctive nightly ritual. It started with a low groan and grew into a high-pitched yip that all his brethren responded to as if to say, “the meal is ready.” Unarmed, unwitted, and utterly vulnerable, the self-torturing of my mind began. The voices emanated from inside, coaxing me back to the clearing. Like the voices of the Sirens preying on unsuspecting sailors, I wanted to listen. I wanted to obey. On the edge of my sanity, I tiptoed as the voices grew stronger and stronger, luring me into its sinister grasp. Every inch of my body wanted to listen. It itched to be compliant. But my mind wouldn’t give ground. My brain went into overdrive, finally snapping me back to reality. Petrified, I hauled back up the path, jumped in my truck, and whipped out of the old country driveway, without taking a single glance back. 

 

Darkness is yet to be understood. Yes, we have been able to harness it, diminish it, and weaken it, but its true form is yet to be caged. One cannot find true darkness out in the world; it only hides within the farthest corners of the minds of men. 

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