Three Reasons to Be Afraid of the Dark
1070 words long
They'd have to be very good reasons. Wizards aren't generally afraid of anything... right?
Notes from the author:
There's this concept among some creatives--especially those who've found Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way of use to their practice--of "filling the well." To be able to create art, the theory goes, you have to seek out the raw materials of art: evocative images, turns of phrase, connections between smells and memory, the physical sensations of emotions. To create experiences for others, you have to have experiences to draw from.
But the very experience of creating art can be itself an act of filling the well. It can't be the only act, but it is an act. Experiences aren't just episodes you propel your body through. They're also adventures your mind has. The monster in your dream may not be "real," it can't truly hurt you, but the experience of being chased by a monster in your dreams is a real experience. The racing of your heart, the shortness of your breath, the panic that narrows your mind to a single dreadful focus, that's real. So is the smell of the beast's breath as it looms above you, ready to pounce.
The dreams created in your head when you write a story or read one are no less real experiences. I'd wager none of us have seen a real, live twelve-year-old glow in the dark. And yet watching Marissa read herself to sleep--or even being Marissa, as the line between third and first persons is a blurry one in dreams--is a real experience I've had now, and maybe you will too.
The Wizard Marissa, famed and feared by the age of twenty-five, was cripplingly afraid of the dark when she was twelve. Not many people know this. But if they'd think a moment, they would not be surprised. Power is so often acquired in the overcoming of fear, and sometimes in failing to overcome it.
Twelve was also the age at which Marissa made three terrifying discoveries. The first, and the least terrifying (though no terrors seem "least" anything at the time), was that she was going to be a wizard when she grew up.
It happened at bedtime, on a night like any other. Marissa was taking her usual five minutes to convince herself to turn out the light. This shamed her deeply. All her friends seemed to have outgrown their night terrors years ago. It seemed unfair that the dark should still hold nasty secrets and shadowy monsters for her. Every night she closed her eyes tight and told herself that, if she were asleep by the time the monsters pounced--and they would pounce, sooner or later--maybe it would hurt less. Every night she hummed little songs in her head and told herself stories, just to distract herself enough to get to sleep. Every night she had to trick herself into turning off the light.
But this night, when the light went out, she found that she was glowing in the dark.
A soft luminescence radiated from her skin. It was the color of mist, and barely brighter than those neon sticks the neighborhood kids got on Halloween. Dim though it was, it was enough. It sent the monsters away.
That was discovery number one.
At first, Marissa loved it. She wasn't scared anymore. She needn't cower under the covers or inside the space behind her eyelids. She stayed up late now with her eyes wide open, roaming her transformed house. Nighttime, the undiscovered country, was at last hers to explore.
But it was her explorations that turned the miracle into a curse....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for January 9, 2015. The fictionette appears in its entirety (1070 words) at Patreon and is available to all Patrons pledging at least $1/month.
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