Are you a religious person?
Well, maybe not religious, but superstitious.
Do you remember how when you were a child, you used to be afraid of the dark? How you refused to enter a dark room, even to get your favourite toy, but if you absolutely had to, you’d leave the door open and edge along the walls where the light still fell on you from the bulbs in the living room?
And how you were convinced there was something terrible hiding in the darkness, and if you ever entered a dark room, it would slam the door shut, and then sneak up behind you and catch you—
Have you ever wondered why every human child is afraid of the dark?
Because it’s true. No matter where you’re born, what language you speak, what culture you follow, how rich or poor you are—when you’re children, you’re all afraid of the dark.
Perhaps there’s something in your racial memory that compels humans to be wary of the darkness. Some animal instinct, supressed by your layers of civilisation, that tells you—don’t go into the darkness. You won’t come back out.
You know that cliché you read in cheap thriller novels; ‘the night swallowed him whole’?
That isn’t just a pretty turn of phrase.
The darkness is hungry.
There is a Sun god, and a Moon god, gods for all the elements; Varuna and Pavan and Agni—but there is no god of darkness.
There is no god of darkness because it has never needed to be called into being; the darkness always was, and it always will be.
Darkness was what was there before everything; before the universe, before creation, before even the gods. Before someone said, ‘Let there be light,’ there was only darkness.
The dark is old, and it is powerful.
The dark has no need of a form, it is everywhere, behind your eyes when you close them, under your bed, in the deserted alleys down a side road where a man lurks, waiting for a lone woman to walk by so he can drag her into the dark.
There is a darkness in him, too, and those are the kinds of victims the dark truly enjoys. One of its own. It swallows him, bit by bit, calling to him from inside his own heart, until one day it overtakes him completely and there is nothing left in him but darkness.
Eventually, someone will let some light into him.
Usually by filling him with holes so that the light can shine through.
If that comes at the end of a knife or at the pull of a trigger, the dark doesn’t care any more, because by then, it will have already left him and found a new victim.
By now you may be thinking that the dark only hunts for bad people, for murderers and rapists and pedophiles, liars and cheats and adulterers.
But the truth is this: you’re not safe, either.
You see, the dark doesn’t care about whether you’re good, or evil. The darkness just is. It eats when it is hungry, without thought for its meal, just as you don’t wonder about the moral attitudes of the chicken or the pork you eat.
And isn’t that just terrifying? The idea that the world truly is random, that all your good deeds won’t save you from the consuming darkness, that there is nothing you can do, because you can never fully get rid of the darkness.
You may lie to yourself to get through the days, but when the noises in the night don’t let you sleep, you know the truth.
Children are taught that the discovery of fire by Early Man was a happy accident, a way for him to cook his meals instead of having them raw, and this was one of the triggers that caused evolution to leap forward.
That’s not entirely true.
Early Man discovered fire because he was desperately searching for something that could defeat me, to have some protection against the darkness. The only reason you’ve evolved enough to be able to read this on a computer screen now is because the fire—the light—kept me at bay long enough.
You may have grown up and become an adult, but in some corner of your heart, you still fear the darkness. You still fear me.
Because whenever you’ve looked into the dark spaces under your bed and behind the attic doors, you’ve had the unsettling feeling that something was looking back at you.
And sometimes you think you’ve seen eyes gleaming at you from the darkness as you drive down deserted roads.
And you still hide under the covers when you hear strange noises in the night.
It won’t do you any good, you know. The darkness is everywhere, even under your blanket when you close your eyes, ignore your pounding heart and tell yourself you heard nothing.
That’s usually the moment that people remember their gods. In their moment of fear.
Are you a religious person?
It helps if you are.
Well, for you, obviously. I don’t need any help.
Image from Morguefile, with thanks.
A/N: Indian mythology does not actually have a god of darkness. Or of light.
-Nyctophobia, is, of course, fear of the dark, or the night.
-Many thanks for reading, all comments and thoughts are very welcome.
-If you liked this story, please share it with your friends! =)
[music| Set Fire to the Rain: Adele]