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The Absence of Light MAG
If there had been any light, even a speck, you might have been able to glimpse the form of a boy sitting next to the refrigerator in the basement.
As it was, it was black as sin, and the hours stretched long. Time wastes away in the dark.
The boy had nothing to do except lean against the gently humming refrigerator and try to dream with his eyes open. But nothing came. So he stared at the darkness, his mind blank.
Darkness is subtle. It creeps. It crawls; fills in the lines, the wrinkles in the fabric of space. It is where the means meet the end, where everything stops, and where life begins. It collects in corners like dust, and is released like silent tsunamis with the flick of a switch.
It is death.
It is birth.
It is boredom.
The boy's eyes were dry. He had found quickly that crying in the dark just made him cry more.
In the dark, he couldn't tell how big the room was. He knew, of course. He had been down here before. It was his house.
He had hidden behind the furnace in the corner, though not too close to its heat. He had set up armies of toy soldiers on the floor. He had conquered Waterloo. Defeated the British at Yorktown. Stormed Iwo Jima.
All on the floor of the basement.
The basement was his friend, the darkness his enemy.
He remembered suddenly the rough hands of his parents, shaking him awake.
Hurry! Hurry! They had said. To the basement, quickly!
He followed them. Through the hallways. Down the stairs. The door was open, the steps led downward.
He turned on the light, only to have his dad quickly flick it off.
No! No light, he said.
But, the last word.
The last word he had spoken.
A conjunction, something told him, you learned that in school.
Not a complete sentence.
No main idea.
He went numbly down the stairs, turned and caught one last glimpse.
His father telling him, Stay down there until we come and get you.
Then, as an afterthought, only to himself, You'll be safe in the dark.
All this happened quickly. In a heartbeat. Like the tick of a grandfather clock, letting you know that hardly any time has passed, yet prolonged with a loud commanding tick.
His father glancing over his shoulder. Fear. Black, dark fear, resonating on his face. Like a shadow over the dark side of the moon.
The ten-year-old boy had never seen anything quite like the look on his father's face. More than fear.
Then the door slammed shut, and there was silence.
For a while.
For a long while.
But, with the tick of a grandfather clock, that changed.
From upstairs there came footsteps.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
They were big, heavy footsteps.
He could hear the footsteps above his head, and in the darkness, the suffocating, claustrophobic darkness, he felt as if they were walking on him.
He hugged himself, and tried to draw into a tiny, round ball.
He heard the clunks become distant.
They stopped at the top of the basement stairs.
The door stayed closed. And in the darkness, he heard a sniffing sound. Like a large, shaggy dog was smelling the basement door, rubbing its big, sand-papery nose against the wooden panels.
Then it stopped.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
The footsteps faded away, like the volume slowly being turned down on a radio.
He listened for a long
At least he thought it was. Time passes differently when you are scared, alone, and in the dark.
He wondered if he should feel his way upstairs. He wondered if he should yell for his parents. He felt like crying, but he couldn't. It was as if he had used up all his tears.
So, since all the crying he had done before had worn him out and because he had nothing better to do, he fell asleep.
It is so dark, he thought. I wonder if I will even have to close my eyes.
But he was asleep before he could find out.
He awoke suddenly, blinking.
The basement door was open.
From where he was sitting he couldn't see who was standing in the doorway. He couldn't see anything except the little bit of light, which seemed so bright to him.
The voice was spoken as if from the end of a tunnel.
Hey, I know you're down here!
The voice seemed friendly.
It's all right. It's safe now.
Come on …, the voice said coaxingly.
Slowly, cautiously, the boy stood up and walked toward the door.
He hesitated, looking at the silhouette in the doorway.
Then, his back to the darkness, he stepped into the light.