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Darkness and Shadows

There is a time when men cast no shadows. In the evening , after the sun has set but before the light fades completely, the world stands out in a sharpness and clarity misleading to those who do not know of the coming darkness.

There is a peacefulness in that time, when the creatures of the day retreat to safety and those of night have yet to emerge. This time belongs to the ghosts of the past, who, visiting again the world they once knew, depart their attics and spirit-dwellings to wander. Humanity treads here also, bravely or foolishly ignoring the last warnings of the dying day. But if the workings of humanity were to be silenced, no sounds would remain except the rustling of the wind and the fleeing footsteps of the shadows.

Even those flighty figures - hazy, distorted reflections of ourselves - know when they have outstayed their welcome. Shadows: insubstantial, invulnerable. Yet each evening they flee westward with the setting sun, staying within the safety and warmth of the light while their solid portions remain to fend off the darkness.

Humans will never rule the night. As the darkness closes over the planet, we lose our grip, our power to control our surroundings. We can light our candles, shine our torches, point our lanterns out into the night, but we cannot drive away the blackness. It is an invincible force that surrounds the universe, waiting for each source of radiance to be extinguished. Light is only temporary; darkness, once established, is eternal.

It is the darkness that changes the world. Not physically: our constructions remain the same, as do the land and the people upon it. The distortion is much more intangible, more insidious than a simple transmutation of matter. The transformation is one of the mind and the soul. Our fears come out to play at night. Our mental state alters, as does our perception of our surroundings. The dangers of the world increase, and the beasts hidden behind the human form emerge.

Perhaps the shadows are not our reflection; perhaps they are the soul and we their images. Without them, we lose our humanity, become like the animals we were in ages past. The fear returns. So, too, the feeling of being hunted, the violence, and the evil in our beings.

The night belongs to murderers and thieves. It is the realm of the vampire, the werewolf, ghosts and witches. The lunatic and his namesake moon belong here, as do monsters under the bed and the things that go bump in the night. The land of nightmares awaits humanity with open arms, and we foolishly meet its embrace, all the while feeling a foreboding sense of dread that we will never see the light again.

It is not the beasts, real or imaginary, that frighten us, however. No, it is a far more horrifying thing that chills our hearts and causes our breath to catch. It is a truth we all know but none have come to accept. Within us all there is a monster: a stalker, a rapist, a murderer or even more vile creatures whose natures it is best not to contemplate. As the darkness surges forth, so do our inner demons. Each night we fight to keep them in check, but we realize the time may come when we fail: when our sanity goes the way of our shadows. Then we will finally become that from which we have hidden and run blindly, and that against which we have fought, and lost ourselves in sleep to guard against.

And that is what we fear the most. To one day awaken to life as something we have condemned and see no harm in the change. Nothing compares to the fear and revulsion a human being feels at the thought of being subverted to the point that he no longer realizes he is a victim of subversion. Darkness instigates this process. It misleads, misinforms, alters our reality to create other than what was. Once the fatal step is made in believing the lies of the night, it is far too late. A hold on the mind is formed, one that cannot be broken, one that continues to spread.

Beware the night; its tricks, its lies. It is a time better left to the moon, the unknown, the vampire. Shun the night, and rejoice at shadow's return each morn.

Author's Note: This is, without a doubt, the coolest thing I have ever written. I did this while still in high school—a flash of inspiration that just knocked me over, and next thing I knew I had a mood piece. Nothing like it has happened to me since, to my great disappointment. Still, reading this always gives me hope that in the future the muses will grace me again with their presence.

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