We all describe certain things as ‘dark’. Dark hair, dark eyes, a dark alleyway. But how dark is dark? Is it that blue sheen of a raven’s wing? Is it the alluring intensity of a chocolate brown gaze, or the chilling fear of the shadowy unknown?
Recently, I had an experience that changed my perspective on the parameters of darkness. In my everyday life, I live in an everyday sort of house. Not big, not small, with all the usual conveniences of modern day living. Water, heat, electricity. I have neighbours, and streetlights, and traffic on the road outside most times of the day or night. I am used to it and I actually quite like it.
But I also like my writer’s retreat in rural France, where although I have water, heat, and electricity (most of the time) I don’t have neighbours, streetlights, or traffic on the road very often at all. And it was while I was there that I discovered my new perspective on the varying degrees of darkness.
I had stayed inside writing all day. The tail end of some storm or other keeping me closeted. Oscar, or Gertrude, or Helena? I cannot remember which entity had caused such windy wrath, but I sat safe, warm, and content as I watched the clouds race, trees sway and leaves scurry over the ground. I had eaten my dinner, and drunk my wine, and already yawned several times when the lights flickered.
It was an odd occurrence, since the commune went on underground cabling a few years ago, and I furrowed my brow as the lights remained constant once again. Must have been my overactive imagination. I had been writing about a dark and stormy night only a few hours earlier. Ten thousand words in a day. A tiring total that had made my eyes water and my brain weak. Definitely time for bed.
I closed the shutters over my bedroom window, and turned off the lights. Sleep came easily and I soon found myself on the arm of my latest handsome hero, huge bouquet of red roses in hand as he swept me off in his deep blue Sikorsky-S92 Executive.
Gorgeous! Romantic! Thrilling!
But our journey to my latest happy ever after was rudely interrupted by a worrying bang. The rotor blades stopped whirling and the helicopter descended far too rapidly for comfort.
As all damsels in distress should, I chucked my roses from my lap, let out an ear-splitting scream, and before my hero could die in a dashing attempt to save me – and his rather lovely helicopter! – with my heart thumping wildly, I promptly woke up.
Or had I?
My bedroom was pitch black. I leaned over and scrabbled around for the lamp switch. A click in the silence surrounding me. And nothing happened. It remained just as inky. I blinked. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was so dark that for a moment I wondered if I was still dreaming. Complete and utter blackness engulfed me. There wasn’t a pinprick of light.
Now unlike some poor souls, I am not like the woman in my dreams (though I confess that I have never been put to the test in an about to crash helicopter.) I am usually the hardy type. Certainly not afraid of the dark. I was not outside in a barren wasteland filled with man eating animals, or demon vampires waiting to strike. There was nothing in my dark bedroom that wasn’t there in the daylight. So I slid my feet out of my bed, stood up, and reached out again, my fingertips drifting along the wall as I felt for the main light switch. Another ominous, and equally futile, click.
And then a strange thing happened. I turned around and couldn’t tell exactly where I was. The bed should have been on my left and the door on my right. I took a step and groped for the door handle only succeeding in stubbing my toe on what I imagined was the leg of my bed. I cursed and hopped about, and promptly tripped over what was obviously a discarded trainer. Stupid woman! I made a mental note to put them on my shoe rack another night! My knee hit solid wood. Okay, so although I now had both a sore toe and bruised leg, I also knew where I was. In front of my pine ottoman. There’s always a silver lining!
I stuck out my hand again… And promtly broke several fingernails on the door which appeared to be at least three feet closer than I originally thought. This was becoming ridiculous. I had to still be dreaming. Nowhere could be this dark. I’m not blind and I wasn’t in a cave or a mineshaft. I tried blinking again.
But by now I was totally confused.
I couldn’t even decide if my eyes were open or not. Only one way to tell. I lifted my hand and stuck a fingertip on my eyeball. Ouch! Okay, so my eyes were open. And I was still in the dark! Total darkness. Unbelievably disorientating blackness. I had never ‘seen’ anything like it. In normal circumstances, even when you close your eyes, there is something there. Greyness, shadows, flickers of awareness, but this was all consuming, completely baffling, impenetrable and utterly mystifying nothingness.
And then, just as I was about to attempt to relocate my bed, clearly the safest place for me, my lamp came on. And the main light. Power cut over and everything glaringly obvious. I blinked several times, purple orbs dancing, interrupting my view of my room. I stood staring about. Had it really been that dark only a few seconds before?
I flicked the switch on the wall and left myself in the warm comforting glow of my beside lamp. I crawled back into bed and rolled over, reaching out. But I hesitated. That kind of ‘dark’ had actually been scary, so confusing that I could actually feel the beat of my heart.
I looked at the lamp and wondered. Did I dare switch off the light?
(And as a note, those epic 10,000 words written in a day, part of Scarred Perceptions, are coming soon! SCARRED SERIES – http://bit.ly/1WWYmxj )