The darkness does not come without a price.
The freedom, the boundless plains that lay before you under the glorious light of the stars costs you. Today, I tell you my story.
The light, I admit, is fun at certain moments. There are stolen treasures, glittering under the sun. There is laughter with friends, jokes with family, secrets whispered underneath oak trees with joy... But the dark. In the dark, you can become, you can create and live and exist in ways you never have.
I used to be light, I stayed where it was safe, travelled along the streets with a polite manner and soft words that no one could mistake. The dark was too dangerous. It will steal you, I was warned, It will take your soul and leave you clawing for a way out. These warnings, as vague as they were, convinced me. I would not go, I would not be pushed into darkness. Nothing lied out there except death and disappointment. The difference between choice and force is who decides. I fell into line with the wrong people. At least, that what my family said. But I think they were right for the time. They introduced me to the dark. I was unwilling, terrified of the monsters I heard of. My life was dictated by the warnings of others, lived by the fears that resided deep in my bones, in my being.
They forced me.
At first, it began with small ventures into the dark with friends, laughing under the moonlight, saying things with loud voices and humor laced through our words like malice through a villain's smile. Shouting and weaving throughout the trees with daring eyes and confident feet. We were invincible, we thought. We were the night.
Everything and everywhere.
All at once.
We did not care of our curfews and our muddied clothing and our lost trinkets, because what's a little loss over hours of fun? Hours of memories, of joyous play. It is nothing. With time, we realized that the dark could be our little secret. Mysteries shoved into a cabinet meant only for dusk. No one knew except us. That we would sneak away, hiding in the cover of night, talking to the ghosts and stars and meteors.
The dark is one of the most accepting things in the world.
Its humid thickness where broken dreams and shattered hearts lie among the answered prayers and sweet, still memories. We shared our pain and heartache with the winding roots of trees, the cool, quiet breeze.
The world is ours! We would scream into the night, laughing until our sides ached. Yelling until our throats burned with thirst.
Let's stay forever!
Those words, spoken from childish immaturity, were lies that we desperately wanted to believe, lies we told each other while leaping through fields of poppies. It was nothing we could not handle. We could return to our families in the morning, our frames sagging with the exhaustion of endless games, but our eyes bright with excitement. Our lies would stay there, they would not hurt anyone, they would not touch another soul besides those we breathed them into. Another night of fun. Another day of routine. It seemed like a perfect deal: we gave up nothing in return for everything.
As we aged, we grew more bold, more foolhardy one could say. We began telling outlandish stories to the darkness, because who could the darkness tell? Surely not our parents. We spoke of stolen kisses behind the shrubs, of unknown touches that would undoubtedly get us in trouble. But the dark did not tell. Our stories, our memories, our hopes, our fears, our hearts. The dark does not care for anything except the soul. The soul that lies beneath the flesh, the bones, the heart and the lungs. The night was where we spilled the things the darkness did not want, and gave the dark a glimpse of our soul. For we were still too wary to give it our entire soul. The dark is a greedy thing. It is why the dark spreads the night as far as it can, drinking up the lies and the arguments and the fractured families, the broken children, the betrayed friends. We could not trust the dark, but we could not hide from it.
We kept ourselves under tight leash, no matter how loose and wild we were. Our souls were the one thing it could not have.
The dark did not like that.
So, the dark stopped time. The seconds did not pass, the moon did not shift in the sky. This was a memory we would have forever. We whispered of how amazing it was to have witnessed such a sight, to be able to tell our mothers and fathers, our siblings. Still foolish, still confused and stupid. We murmured more. Our ventures were unheard of, meant to be eccentric and different. We were proof that the dark changes people. The dark is a good thing, we would argue, the dark cannot hurt you. And then the hours passed, the memory now a fear, sweating tremors falling down our skin, eyes wide.
We were not children, we would not let a few passing minutes damage our pride.
It is okay, we told ourselves.
Nothing will hurt us.
We are overreacting.
Calm down, it's just a little darkness.
Then we heard the noises: the howls and the screams.
The dark, I realized belatedly, has a dark side.
We ran, legs pumping with adrenaline and hope and fear. Hope to escape. Fear we would not. Slowly, we all stopped running. It had been hours. Hours. Too caught up to realize the passage of time, too conceited to think that we could walk between times, between light and dark, between memories. And we had not seen a glimmer of day, a bit of sunlight. We were certainly senseless, rather daft for not once expecting the dark to retaliate. This, I told myself, is the offer, the deal. Did we want to stay here, to live our lives here?
No. One says.
No. Another chimes in.
No. A shaky reply.
This was not force, this was me, making my choice.
I drew stares. They all gaped at me, shocked but not surprised. Out of all of us, I loved the dark the most. I loved the power I had over myself. I would not be drawn back to the light. They will steal you, the dark whispered to me, covering me like a warm blanket, they will eat your soul and leave you a lifeless machine. The dark had a voice like silk, a smell like honey. I gravitated towards it like a ravenous fly. I could not disagree with him. I had been living in the light too long.
The price, you ask?
My friends. My family.
My friends left me in the clutches of darkness, afraid and scarred from their hurried descent. They chose the life of practicalities and deadlines. I chose the one of empty promises and full, fantastic nights. They simply did not know how it felt to have the darkness fill your belly with butterflies, to want to eat the stars and touch the moon. To grasp the cosmos by its knees.
I have not seen my family in ages, decades maybe? I don't know. The moon has not moved in days. Months? Years? What's a little lost time over a lifetime of freedom? I spend my nights dancing under the moon with newfound friends, we never tire of the stars, we never tire of the party.
Though, I suppose they were right.
The hours we spent felt shorter each night, for each hour is merely sixty minutes. Each minute is merely sixty seconds. Each second is a moment you will never get back, never fix, never re-do. I often think of the warnings I was given.
It will steal your soul, they told me. It will leave you broken.
I sit here now, writing to you. I want you to know that the warnings are true. The dark has stolen my soul. But being empty feels much better than being full. My head is empty but my heart is bare, dreaming, wishing for more. But was this not what I always wanted? The raw emotions, the feeling of knowing myself inside and out. My body does not know the light anymore, it only knows the freedom and the flowing secrets and the soft, gentle grazes of the darkness. And I feel something I have not known how to name for days. Months? Years?
It is comfort.
It will steal your soul, but leave you in comfort.
Yes. That sounds right.