horrors in my lifetime

nothing that i’ve ever posted has evoked more “#body horror tw” tags in my lifetime than Lil Benny

does this look like the face of horror

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so, spirit phone is really good

i wanted to draw something more for it but with school all i really had time for were some quick sharpie doodles. these were still really fun to make tho! & i might have some time later on to do a more finished piece!

lifetime achievement award is is based on @prof-byona ’s design & spiral of ants is based on @scrambled-greggs design! 

What I Want is Wrong

All my life I’ve been told that what I want is wrong.  

My earliest memory is wanting to be a boy.  You’re too pretty to be a boy, my teacher said.  My school made me stop sitting with the boys in the cafeteria.  I had to sit with the girls, whose interests I didn’t share.  For my ninth birthday I wanted a snake and a football.  No one said, “That’s great!”  Everyone said, “Why?”

My orthodontist is the only person to ever honor my childhood request to be called “Fred.” To this day, he still does it (not that I see him much), and to this day I am grateful.

I don’t want to be a boy anymore (I don’t think), but there is plenty else the world has told me I have been wrong to want.  

In high school I wanted to go to an Ivy League university or a college in a city.  No you don’t, people told me.  You want a school that’s not a “pressure cooker.”  You want a school with a campus.   Do I?

In (my small, rural) college my professors told me that smart people want to go to graduate school.  I applied, but said I didn’t want to study Chinese politics.  I wanted to study “pure” international relations.  You’re wrong, they told me.  The China angle will get you in.  

It did.

I tried for years in graduate school to not study Chinese politics.  I proposed other dissertation topics.  No, they said.  The China angle will get you a job.  I wrote a dissertation on China.  I got a postdoc based on that dissertation.  I got a faculty job in China.

I spent a decade in academia trying to convince myself I liked it.  The lifestyle didn’t suit me, but everyone told me it was the greatest profession in the world.  You want this, they said, something else is just getting in the way.  

I went to therapy to figure out why my brain was wrong.  Why didn’t I want what I so obviously should want?  Why can’t I commit?  We never considered maybe I didn’t want to.

The rest of the world wasn’t alone in conspiring against my wants: my brain learned to chime in against itself.  My first life choice was between soccer or ballet (yes, I’ve led a privileged life).  I chose soccer because it was what boys want.  I chose wrong.  I fucking love ballet.  I learned: Don’t trust what you want.  And: I am horrible at soccer.

In seventh grade I switched math classes and my friend got mad at me for leaving her behind.  I learned: Do not exert your will on the Universe or people will be upset with you.  I did not learn: math.

That year I also developed anorexia, which is a lifetime sport of denying yourself not just wants but needs.  Then – and now as I write this – my body is hungry.  My brain says: No you’re not.  Right, I’m not.

Succeeding at an eating disorder takes much more than willpower.  It takes convincing yourself you truly do not want what you want.  You take your want, crush it into a tiny ball until you can’t see it or feel it, and then shove it deep down, where it dissolves into your body, the last bit of nutrient you get: your dying want, as it is absorbed into your stomach alongside zero calorie pickle juice (don’t worry, I don’t drink that anymore – mercifully, they invented kombucha).

Listen to your gut, people say.  Oh, darling: I shut that down in 1997.

There was something I wanted once: To be a circus performer.  I almost didn’t move to that job in China because I wanted to do circus in New York.  But I did, because I was supposed to want the best job in the world.  I cried the whole way there.  I felt like an outcast until a circus moved to Shanghai and found me.  For 16 months I loved it and it loved me.  

The circus closed and I was left with nothing. 

There was something else I wanted, secretly. I barely even admitted it to myself.  There was a man I met in Shanghai who lived in New York.  We met right when I moved to China – even before the circus.  He went back to New York, and I watched the back of his head disappear as his taxi drove to the airport.  I wanted to run after him, fly back with him that second, build a life with him.  And maybe do some circus while I was there.

Instead, I stood, heart beating in the Beijing sun, fists clenched, repeating to myself: You don’t want those things.  You want to be a professor in China.  You want.  You want.  You want.

And so I was, for three years.

Except for the circus months, I was unhappy.  I wanted to stop being a professor.   I wanted to live in New York.  I wanted to be with that man.

One day, in a moment of strength (or was it desperation?), I acted on all three of those things at once.

I have them now.

Yet, I wake up every day still empty.

Getting the external scaffolding of your life right is no help if there’s no one on the inside.

I want.

I find I cannot complete that sentence.

I have a smattering of jobs and activities.  I’ve lost interest in circus.  The man and I live together and love each other.  I love New York City.  Or, I try to remember how I used to love it.  Some days it feels exhilarating.  Most it feels like prison. 

I want.

To my horror, I have realized that a lifetime of shutting down my wants has not only left me with no capacity to listen to or trust what I want – but that there’s no want even there.  It’s not like my want is a tiny flame that needs encouragement.  It’s that the flame went out long ago.

I want.

What do I want?

I want to want.  I want to remember who Andrea was before I shut her up.  I want to tell whatever desire it was that was inside me when I was a little girl – that it’s ok to grow back.  That it’s safe now.  That wants are ok.  That as long as what you want doesn’t hurt other people, it’s a good thing to want.  Listen to it.  Let it grow.

I am not the only person to be told what to want.  Humans have made a sport of telling each other what to want since we first learned we could.

And I know my version of it is mild compared to many – maybe your parents demand you go to Princeton and be a lawyer, lest you be disowned – or you’re forbidden from going to school past third grade because you’re a girl.  My share in this game of being told what to want has actually been quite light.

But even that is part of the narrative my brain tells me to shut my desires up.  Just because I have great privilege to be able to even think about what I want doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to want.  We all deserve to want.  It’s all we get, really.

Here’s what I want.  To tell other children and adults out there now: You there.  With the sheepish desires and the questions and the “who am I to demand something for myself….?”.  Yes, you.  

It’s ok.  

You’re ok.

Stand up straight.  Proclaim what you want.  Do it.  Keep wanting it.

How?

Ask somebody else.

Fig. 1.  Here’s what I really want are some higher resolution photos.

One Night

“No parties.” My mom’s voice shrilled through my cell phone. I could hear my father in the background trying to calm her down. “And I’ve taken note of all the alcohol in the cupboard.” 

“Mom, you guys are gone for just one night. I’ll be fine, I’m just going to watch some Netflix and go to bed.” I double checked the lock on the front door. “Besides, I don’t have any friends here to party with and why would I touch your alcohol when I could just buy some good shit with my fake I.D.?”

Briar-” 

“I’m joking, mom. I don’t have a fake.” I stifled a laugh. “Lighten up, I’m going to be twenty-one in two months, anyway.” I closed the garage door. “Besides, tonight’s your night, have fun with dad and get laid.”

Briar Autumn-

“Goodnight, honey!” I heard my father’s voice before the line went dead. 

It’d been six months since my parents had the ability to spend time alone together. First, my father had to travel over seas for work. Then, before my father even returned, my mother had to fly up to Canada to intreview…someone, I don’t quite remember, someone important. I had been busy with finals at the time. I merely remember father returning home to a short handwritten note from my mother. 

“Gone to Canada, call whenever you get home. xoxo” 

He had called me while fuming with anger. He had expected to return and spend a few days off from work with mom. She ended up coming back a month later. I asked them on multiple occasions if they were having problems, but they denied it. The dreadful weight was lifted from my shoulders the moment my mother had dialed me up begging for me to watch the house while they went on a date night; compared to her recent behavior, however, I would’ve thought she had called me while drunk. But that’s just how she is, ever changing. 

I plopped down onto the nostalgic sofa that my parents had purchased before I was born and flipped on the flat screen television. The couch, stained with years of accidents and activities, stood out like a sore thumb in the overly modern styled living room. It was the only thing in the house that hadn’t been replaced or upgraded. I wouldn’t let them get rid of it. 

Futurama blared from the expensive surround sound speakers, occasionally shaking the walls and pulling my attention from the show. I knew better, after having watched dozens of horror movies in my lifetime, than to watch anything scary while home alone. I wasn’t going to submit myself to the nightmares or the sleepless night. Especially since I didn’t know the house like I used to, with rooms having been rearranged, I was at a disadvantage. It was like I was in a foreign place. A foreign place that merely had the title of home and nothing else. 

The faintest creaking of the floorboards behind me sent chills down my spine. I turned around without thinking, without even wondering if there was someone there or if it had been the house settling. No one was there but my heart told me otherwise. My heart raced faster than I’d ever felt it, faster than after I attempted to run for the first time in years, faster than when I had to reenact a kiss scene with my crush, faster than during an anxiety attack. Someone had been there, someone had been watching me. 

I kept the show on and leaped to my feet. If there was someone in the house I didn’t want to give them the advantage of being able to hear my movements. As unknown as the house might’ve been, I still knew where the kitchen and the bathrooms were. I knew where the window was that I could open and meet a sturdy tree branch. I knew how to survive, well enough. 

I switched on every light I passed as I searched the house. I had started in the kitchen, taking a steak knife in my hand for protection, before moving onto the rest of the house. I climbed the stairs carefully, toes as close to the next step as possible to prevent creaking; I was taking all precautions. 

Every room had come up empty but was left illuminated by different styles of lamps and hanging lights. There wasn’t a single closet or corner that was shadowed, and that’s how I liked it. The lights, the simple LED lights that made me wonder how much my parents had spent on them, made me feel safe. Like there was a forcefield around me protecting me from the harsh darkness. 

I was in bed by midnight, Futurama was off and my towel was hanging on the back of the door drying. I was curled up in my old room, glancing around at its disappearance. It had been turned into the guest room. There wasn’t a single trace that this had been my room, that I had lost my virginity there, that I had ripped a baby tooth out with the classic doorknob and floss trick with my closet, that my friends and I had attempted to sneak out one night and I had broken my arm; it had all been erased. 

All the lights in my room- the guest room- had been left on. I had kept all the other lights on too. I drifted off to sleep easier than I had expected; I thanked the poor placement of the streetlight outside my dorm room back at University. I closed my eyes taking in the scent of the floral sheets that had replaced my Spider-Man ones. They smelled like musty linen that had been kept in a basement for too long. 

“I want these.” I pointed at the brightly colored Spider-Man sheets in the kid’s department at Target. “C’mon, mom. It’s my bed, no one’s going to see them but me.”

“Those are meant for little boys, Briar.” She scrolled through her Blackberry. “Let’s get you a nice pink set.”

“Did you just say I couldn’t buy these sheets because they’re meant for little boys?” I raised an eyebrow at her. “Did you just gender sheets?” 

“Briar…” She pushed her glasses up onto her head. “That’s not what I meant. You’re an adult now, you should have classy sheets.”

“I find Peter Parker classy.” I spat back. 

“Who?” Pure confusion contorted her face. 

“Jesus…” I sighed. “Listen, I’m getting these sheets regardless of what you want, alright? That’s one of the perks of having a job.” 

“Fucking…” My mom pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fine. Get the damn sheets.” 

I turned and reached for them and stopped. I pulled my hand back and held it to my chest. Anxiety washed over me as I stared at the empty space; they had been there seconds before and no one had come down the aisle. I swallowed hard and cleared my throat. I clamped my eyes shut and took a deep breath. It was still empty when my eyes had opened. 

I turned back towards my mom to ask what was going on when I found her gone as well. Everything behind me had begun to crumble as smoke poured in. I covered my mouth and narrowed my eyes as I struggled to see; my chest ached as I breathed in the deadly smoke. I opened my mouth to call for her, to call for my father, to call for anyone, but a strained squeak was the only sound I could muster. I collapsed to my knees and clutched my throat; my entire chest burned and my vision threatened to dissipate. My vision tunneled and I fell forward onto my stomach. Footsteps echoed around me and a sharp pain centered in my back. It felt like, whatever it was, had targeted my heart. An indescribable pain erupted in my body as what felt like a vine of thorns enclosed my heart and ripped it from me without hesitation. 

“Fuck!” I sat up in complete darkness, sweat coating my body and drenching the sheets. I turned and reached for the lamp and froze. 

The lights had been on when I had fallen asleep. Every single light. I could see the lights shining in outside my room and I knew the power hadn’t gone out. My fingers trembled as they brushed the ridged knob next to the light bulb and the hairs on the back of my neck stood. 

“Oh god…” 

An ice cold breath of air hit my face and I whimpered in fear. It brushed a few small strands of hair from my face and filled my nostrils with the smell of rotten eggs. My mouth dropped open and a tear slipped down my cheek. I sat completely motionless as I peered into the darkness in front of me. There was no one there, not anyone visible. I tried to reason with myself, that I was still dreaming or that I was just imagining the situation. I forced myself to relax and closed my mouth, clenching my teeth with all my might. 

I felt the floor against my face before the searing pain down my back. I could feel five sharpened things draw blood as they ripped the fabric from my shirt and the skin from my back. I managed a scream and crawled towards my closed door to escape. I could hear the footsteps follow me and the fainted sound of laughter.

I was three feet from my door when I watched it fly open. A person stood under the frame in all black, a hood hiding their face. I didn’t have to see their eyes to know they were looking down at me. The familiar smell of smoke coated their clothing and they dropped down into a squat. They held an open bottle of vodka in their hand as they lowered their face to my own. A devilish smile grew on their lips and they exposed their blood-stained shark-like teeth to me. They swirled the liquid as they studied my face and the situation at hand. 

Their free hand gripped my chin and yanked me up to their eyes. They were as black as the night with no sense of trust or safety. They licked their teeth before letting out a booming laugh. My body shook with fear as my brain struggled to process what was happening. They dropped my head and my chin slammed to the floor; I could taste iron in my mouth.

Their eyes burned into my own as they turned the bottle over and poured its contents onto my back. I screamed and writhed in pain as the alcohol entered the massive wounds. They smashed the bottle against my head before returning to their feet. They spoke before they left; their voice rattled every bone in my body.

“Wake up.”

I found myself in the living room. Netflix was still open and my back seemed completely unharmed. My chest ached and I clutched over my heart. The feeling of someone watching me was still there but it was less intimidating. A small black slip of paper on the white coffee table caught my gaze. I reached for it with a shaking hand and turned it over.

“It only takes one night to kill you.”

karnilla74  asked:

What did the Guardian article even mean with whole "Post-Horror" movies anyway?

The basic idea was ‘common people’ aren’t appreciating good horror films when they come out. And that’s because they aren’t really horror films, they’re ‘post horror’.

There’s even a weird slight against Get Out and Split in the article. Too many people like them and post horror needs to fight these stupid movies. Get Out panders to the mainstream? Since when?

‘Post horror’ is anything the author likes, ‘horror’ is what the rest of the dumb people go to the cinema to see.

The funny thing is that we see this reaction from middle class critics every time a good horror film comes out. In my lifetime at least I’ve seen it happen with Silence of the Lambs, Ringu and Let The Right One In. It’s so predictable. Genre gatekeeers are bad enough, but gatekeepers that exist outside of the fanbase? They’re even worse.

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uh oh doodle post yall know what that means (it means im posting finished stuff tomorrow)

(laa, mingray, and neilathotep designs by @prof-byona !

indie cindy and claude designs by @ghost-lesbian !

white bread boyfriend and consumer whore designs by @eviltwin76 !)

Me: *hears skittering noises in the ceiling*

Brain: *instead of thinking logically that there might be a mouse, immediately thinks of every horror movie I saw in my lifetime.*

Me: Thanks :’))))

Dear Young Readers of Tumblr

Attn: young readers of tarot, runes, past lives, if you are a psychic or medium offering readings through developed gifts…

Hello!

You are all beautiful and amazing and full of love. It is not my intention to refute your obvious giving natures nor is it my intention to be harmful or mean in any way towards you. Your work is completely okay. Your beliefs are completely okay. I am an older, experienced person in the field and I am just here to offer a few words of advice to you.
Let me not be inscrutable.
I see that some of you may make mistakes here and there (who doesn’t?) but it is imperative that you know the things I am about to tell you so you do not unintentionally hurt those that come to you for guidance and help. You may need to know these things for yourselves too.

1. Please, PLEASE do not use Ouija boards or advise anyone to use Ouija boards. They are extremely difficult to use properly, and even then, you must be skilled and experienced when you use them. These are not toys, they are gates to negative vortexes. My sister’s friend is living a horror story, a lifetime of haunting regret, because of a Ouija board. Be careful!
2. Do your research. What comes from spirit is wonderful. Spirit often uses the knowledge you’ve acquired in this lifetime to reveal to you the messages that they have. Learn, read, experience, expand your horizons. Formulate beliefs, methods, synergy. It will help you in your readings.
3. It is highly unlikely that you or the the people you read or the people you meet or the people in the country next to yours are the reincarnation of any celebrities. Let’s face it, readers that say those things to clients are usually deemed charlatans. Although I believe in past lives, and I believe we all have had many incarnations, the likelihood of meeting and knowing someone who carries within their human vessel the spirit of Janis Joplin is far fetched to say the least. (Btdubs, according to Sylvia Browne, Janis won’t incarnate again until the 2020’s. Sylvia was renowned and I still take what she said with a grain of salt.)
4. Do not mingle with evil spirits. I am even going to go as far as to say: do not mingle with earthbound energies, because they are lowly, their purpose is not to do anything but drain you. You might say, “but I can help them.” Sure, you can help them without communicating with them. Use salt or sage and tell them to go into the light. Lather, rinse, repeat. To rehabilitate a soul is to walk a dangerous ground. The spirits of sociopathic serial killers should not be co-mingling with the living, nor attaching themselves to you, so you may need to stop that before you get hurt and deceived. You cannot do anything for anyone, except, perhaps, lead them to help themselves. That is all we can really do for others, living or dead. Other than that, spirit guides, angels, spirits of the light - these are examples of those that you can commune with. Don’t get me started on creatures of different realms (i.e the fae, et’s, etc.) but let me say this: there is a duality in nature as in all things, good and evil, dark and light. Please don’t learn the hard way by jumping into realms without knowing. Sometimes we cannot come back from “the hard way” when it comes to darkly energy of which we know little.
5. I feel a lot of you already know how to protect yourselves. I don’t really need to say it, but I will throw it in anyway because it’s major. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or you don’t know how to protect yourself, then learn. Read, read, read. See what is out there in the many books floating around in the world. What resonates with you is what is right. Always know that.
6. Always, ALWAYS ask for verification from any entity. You have to identify what you’re working with. You’re asked for proof that you drive and you give a license - ask for proof from spirit before commencement. Ask for proof from any creature. You’re allowed. You have to know what you are working with, you can’t just allow anything to traipse on in.

*some of you who read this that follow me may be personally affected by the examples and names used in the aforementioned. This is because I was personally affected by what I saw on your blogs. I want you to be safe and that is my only desire in writing this.
Never give up.

I’m 38.

I want to drop a little perspective on you.  Not to tell you how far we have to go, but to give you hope that we can get there if we keep fighting.

When I was a kid attending public school in Oklahoma, there was no open LGBTQ presence in schools, kids would get beat up and bullied for even seeming too gay or saying too many suspiciously sympathetic things, if someone called your favorite band member gay you yelled at them until they took back the deadly insult instead of yelling at them because there’s nothing wrong with being gay in the first place.  Anything other than heterosexuality was never talked about in any sex ed course I took – and I went through school before sex ed was driven out, so I did have some classes.  AIDS was something that only gay people, sex workers, and drug addicts had to worry about, and they deserved it for being depraved, irresponsible, etc.  No teacher, no other child ever said anything to challenge homophobic jokes made in class.  Gay men were assumed to be pedophiles.  No adult ever openly expressed approval for same-sex relationships or transgender people in my presence.  Fuck, transgender people barely existed in the collective consciousness except as sideshow-freak-level curiosities, there to be gawked at and made fun of.  And attacked.  Like, physically.  Same as now, only I never heard a word of outcry.  Laverne Cox?  Caitlyn Jenner?  Oh, fuck no, that would never have happened, not ever.

I’m not saying things are perfect.  That things aren’t still hard for LGBTQ people in school, at work, in every facet of life.  Things are fucking broken and discrimination kills so many of us even now.

I’m not saying we can stop fighting.  The only reason this has happened is because we refused to stop fighting.  And you younger people were an enormous part of that.

I’m not saying there’s not still tremendous risks facing LGBTQ people.  There is so much out there trying to hurt us, I know there is and we need to get up tomorrow morning and fight for the next victory, and the next, because this is nowhere close to over.

I’m not saying school isn’t still a hellish place for many of you, because I know it is.

I’m just saying that despite our individual struggles and horrors and failures, we have come a long, long way.

Within my lifetime we have seen gay marriage go from something so ridiculously unlikely nobody even made jokes about it to … well … what we have seen today with a Supreme Court ruling that has made this a reality suddenly accessible to people who had to hide in the closet when I was a kid.  This would have been unthinkable in my childhood.  There were words for other sexual and gender identities besides “gay/lesbian/bisexual/homosexual/transgender” but these weren’t common knowledge, and there was no internet AT ALL, so we had no way to find one another.

I just want to say that if we’ve come this far in my lifetime, if fucking Oklahoma can sign on for gay marriage before it hits nationwide, folks, we can go twice as far in your lifetime.  Keep fighting, and do not for one moment believe that it’s not possible to make change happen.

If you keep at it, the tide will turn and keep turning.  The old farts fucking up our lives and yelling at us all for doing it wrong will fucking die and you have a chance to raise up a new crop of lawmakers – hell, you will raise and teach a new crop of children – who respect human love and human life in a way that my parents’ generation and a good chunk of my own simply did not.

Keep kicking ass.  Don’t ever stop.  Because this is real now.  And the rest of it can be – and has to be – made real.

For all of us who didn’t live to see this day because of what we were, who died of violence or illness or suicide or simply old age before being able to see the tide begin to turn; for all of us who are fighting to find ourselves now in a world that at least has words for what we are, for those of us too young to even speak, all the kids growing up into the world we are trying to make,  we have to fight.

And I’ve seen it change so much I have no doubt we can win.

As a child I loved looking through our family photo albums. I adore history and always have, and those pictures represented my family’s place in history, my place in history. There was the album of my mother’s childhood, the album of pictures Great Uncle Natie  (who died before I was born) took during World War 2 while he was stationed in Tahiti, there were pictures of my parents before their divorce, on and on. My two favorites were the two oldest, pictures from about the turn of the century through the 1930s. I was always afraid I’d damage the photos, they looked so old and crinkled. My mother would sit with me as I went through one of the albums and point out the people - my grandmother (who also died before I was born) as a young woman, my great grandparents, their parents, and great uncles and great aunts, some I knew, some I didn’t. Then there was the other album. We would turn the pages but my mom wouldn’t tell me who any of the people were. My grandmother never found the strength to label them, and my mom didn’t know any of their names. All Jews, like the rest of us, but unlike my ancestors who immigrated to the US and took up residence on the Lower East Side of New York City, these were all the relatives who stayed in Europe. Every single one died in World War 2, in the Holocaust, in the gas chambers or shot by Nazi bullets or starved or, or, or. When my grandfather died five years ago, the last living person who knew who they were died also. They’re nameless, now, forever nameless.

But I’ll show that album to my children anyway. Even when I was little I knew why they were dead, I knew why we didn’t know their names. I grew up with the Holocaust as a living reality. Every year at Hebrew School survivors would come and talk to us. My grandfather, a veteran who was at first refused when he tried to enlist because he wore glasses, had argued his way into the army with his college education because he’d heard what was happening to Jews in Europe and he couldn’t stay safe at home knowing how others suffered. It meant so much to him that he left my pregnant grandmother. He didn’t meet my mother until she was two years old, though he bought her baby dresses in Paris - another family memento my mother has lovingly preserved. Yet, despite his devotion to serving and fighting, by the time he got home he was a pacifist and, I think - though he never told me so - an atheist. It wasn’t until a few months before he died that I found out even part of why. He was always closed mouthed about his service - even though he wasn’t on the front lines it was obvious he’d “seen things.” At the age of 92 he turned to me and said solemnly, “I was at Dachau when it was liberated.”

I think that would make a pacifist and an atheist out of the most devoted believer.

Yet, despite all of that, I remember reading Night in school and, for the first time, profoundly understanding as I never had before what happened to my family members, what horrors they had suffered, and how they died. When it was assigned I sneered with the arrogance of a middle schooler - I know this stuff, I don’t need to read it, it’s so short, what can it have to say that’s worth knowing that I don’t already know?

I cried all the way through. I’ve never been the same since.

Elie Wiesel has died. One by one, the people who remember these horrible things, who survived these horrors, are passing on. Within my lifetime there will be no one left alive to speak of the Holocaust from personal experience. My son will almost certainly never meet a survivor. But we cannot forget, we cannot let the world forget what happened in the Holocaust - to Jews, to Romani, to LGBT people, to the disabled, to every victim. We cannot let people doubt. We cannot let the world move on. We cannot make the complacent mistake of thinking it will never happen again. It is for us, the next generations, to keep these memories alive. It is for us to MAKE SURE it never happens again.

My children will read Night.

I hope yours will, too.

Nyx

I’ve always been a night person.

Even as a small child, I can still remember my stepmother affectionately referring to me as ‘her little night owl’ when she’d wake up to use the bathroom and find light pouring out from beneath my doorframe. This natural tendency towards the nocturnal wasn’t particularly enjoyable during the school year, especially as I entered high school and was expected to reach my bus stop by 6AM sharp. For somebody who got their second wind at around 11PM, it was incredibly hard to convince my brain to wind down and go to sleep rather than stay up all night going on my favorite internet forums, working on my old-school Geocities-hosted blog, or chatting the night away with internet friends I’d made on the other side of the globe. Many nights, I’d end up netting only one or two hours of sleep – if at all. High school was little more than a blur of drowsy days and nerdy nights, yet somehow I still managed to successfully graduate on time.

After I moved on to college, my devotion to the night became easier. Online courses had just become commonplace, so I managed to take almost my entire courseload via the web. I got a job stocking a nearby grocery store overnight, and daylight became less and less of a familiar sight for me.

When you live your entire life in the dark, it ceases to frighten you. My friends would ask me how I could manage to walk my dog at 4am without any fear, or if I didn’t get a little spooked by how quiet my dorms and apartment buildings always were as I went about my daily business. For me, the answer was always the same: I wasn’t scared at all. This might sound odd, but the best allegory that I can think of is that warm, cozy, yet closed off feeling one gets during a snowstorm. You’re inside, safe and warm, though admittedly cut off from the world. Living almost entirely at night is similar; I find it so familiar and easy, but I’m still aware that my city is almost entirely asleep when I’m awake. I’m somewhat isolated, yes, but it’s a comfortable solitude, not a painful loneliness.

I’m explaining this to you so that you understand just how serious what I’m about to tell you is. I’m not the kind of person who hears bumps in the night or sees monsters in shadows. The nighttime is my natural habitat, and I have always felt secure. So when I tell you that tonight, the darkness has managed to make me experience fear like no other, you should realize how unnatural that is.

~~~

It started like any normal day – er, night – for me. I woke up around 10PM and got my coffee perking. Seemingly fitting with my preference for night over day, I also favor incredibly dark coffee. The blend I made today was called Eclipse; both appropriate for its color as well as seeming like a strange portent to what would come later.

As I was frying up some bacon and eggs to go with my coffee, a loud crash from my living room rang through my apartment. It was followed by a strange crunching sound, and then a long, drawn-out creak. I almost dropped the pepper mill that I’d been holding, before coming to my senses and peeking around the corner into the living room.

It was, of course, completely empty. I live alone (well, except for my dog, who was currently perched on his dog bed in the kitchen and cocking his head back and forth at the noise) and keep my doors and windows locked at all times, and furthermore my apartment is what is called “shotgun” style – the front door and back door directly face each other, with the kitchen as the link between them. If anyone had come inside, they would have had to march right past my breakfast preparations. I can be spacey sometimes, sure, but even I would have noticed that!

As I peered around the room, attempting to figure out what could have fallen and broken and caused the mysterious noise, I felt the strangest sensation. It was as if someone had just brushed past me. I’m sure that sounds incredibly by-rote ghost story league, but it wasn’t the cold and clammy touch that most people claim to feel. This was… pleasantly warm, and the touch felt as if someone was gently rubbing the most luxurious, plush velvet across my cheek. It was a strange conflict in emotions; the logical side of my brain was terrified by the combination of inexplicable noises and now a seemingly ghostly presence, yet something about the touch felt so wonderful and safe – it was somehow nostalgic, actually. Like all the good times I’d had staying up way too late and having fun during high school, the pleasure of a nighttime stroll with only my dog and my thoughts as company, the perversely satisfied feeling of seeing my neighbors having to scrape nighttime frost off their cars in the morning while I was winding down my day and only had to worry about which book to curl up with in bed – somehow, this one touch embodied all those emotions at once. I was struck momentarily dumb as my brain tried to work out exactly how to feel, but before I’d fully decided one way or the other, I found myself turning around.

The room behind me – where the presence had seemingly been heading – seemed empty upon first glance, but something was definitely off. It took me a moment of staring to realize it, but when I did, a sharp spike of terror pierced all my previously confused feelings.

My window was open, and the curtains were fluttering gently in the night breeze. This would be unusual in and of itself, but that wasn’t the part that had shocked me.

Not only were my normally robin’s egg blue curtains suddenly some new shade that seemed somehow darker than black, but when I looked past them out the window – the moon was gone.

The sky was a complete and impenetrable inky black. No moonlight, streetlights, or even the light from within my apartment seemed to be reaching the world outside. The hazy moon that had been present when I’d awoken had either somehow disappeared or been completely eclipsed; the security light that tends to go off if you even so much as look in the direction of the apartment building opposite mine wasn’t activating even when I rushed to the window and tried to squint through the darkness. It was so completely black that I couldn’t even make out anything beyond my window.

For the first time in my life, I experienced true terror. What was going on? How could this possibly be explained? Was the world ending? Was this some strange new war weapon, a black fog of chemicals that dulled the senses? I was coming up with mountains of strange scenarios, each just as improbable as the next, yet none managed to be stranger than what I was actually seeing.

That’s when I saw it. The slightest flutter of movement – a ripple in the obsidian blackness outside. If I could see, it would have been right next to the gardens that surround the mailboxes. Those gardens are a bit of a labor of love for the apartment complex’s groundskeeper; not a day goes by that he isn’t out there doing some mulching, pruning, or planting. When he met me and learned about my nocturnal lifestyle, he took it upon himself to add some night-blooming jasmine to the gardens so that I would have something lovely to see when checking my mail in the middle of the night. Actually, now that I was thinking about it, the shimmer of movement was right around the jasmine!

Before I could even understand why, I was out my front door and gliding down the stairs to the ground floor. I felt consumed by a desire – no, a need – to understand what was going on, and I suspected that the disturbance in the force – so to speak – was my quickest avenue to getting answers.

Just as I approached the area where the jasmine should be, I suddenly realized just how foolhardy I’d been, rushing out into the black. I considered turning back, but then decided that as the entity had been in my apartment already, I probably was just as safe out here as I was inside. I heard a faint woof, and looked back to see my dog trotting up to me, tail wagging. That was a comfort, I decided. He was usually quite vigilant; if he was acting normal and unfazed, perhaps there truly wasn’t any danger.

I crouched down, feeling around, trying to find the jasmine. I can’t explain why, but for some reason I just knew that I needed one of the blossoms. After a few failed attempts (and some thorn pricks from a nearby rose bush), my hand came upon one of the in-bloom flowers. I snapped it off its stem and held it up to my face, inhaling the scent.

That’s when it happened.

Starting from the bloom that I was holding in my hand, what I can only describe as a dark light began to glow. Imagine a paper lantern, but with all the paper completely black; or perhaps a black light in an already pitch dark room. The light – for lack of a better term, I’ll just call it a light – engulfed the area, and I could faintly see the outlines and shapes of my surroundings. Gardens, mailboxes, unlit streetlamps –

– and the form of a woman, only a few feet in front of me.

I’d love to be able to describe her in detail to you, you know, “she was incredibly beautiful and had lips like luscious fruit and eyes that glowed like precious gems” or whatever, but… I couldn’t see any features. It was more as if she was simply darkness taking the form of a woman; I could see the faint outline of an evening gown, heels, and long hair in some sort of updo, but that was was it. There seemed to be a slight, hazy, purple-black mist radiating off of her as well – leaving absolutely no question that whatever this woman was, she could not possibly be human.

I didn’t know what to do. I stood, frozen, gaping at this mysterious entity, desperately trying to think of how to react. My stupor came to a quick end as my dog decided to take action before I did – he moved in an instant and bounded over to the smokey shape before I could hold him back. All the horror movies and stories that I’d absorbed over my lifetime flashed through my mind, and I reached out to try and protect my faithful companion from the doom that he had almost certainly earned. While the woman-thing wasn’t displaying any open aggression at the moment, this couldn’t end well.

Then the unthinkable – or rather, the completely unpredictable – happened. The darkness reached out an elegant hand and simply placed it on my dog’s head, just as I would to acknowledge him when he was sitting quietly by as we watched television or something. The form and canine both stayed still for a moment, as if somehow communing, and then my dog gave a happy yip and took off into the darkness. I was stunned but relieved, and this strange event managed to break me out of my shock enough to speak – even if it was nothing more than a strangled “eh?” sound.

The shadow laughed, a deep, throaty chuckle that gave me the same odd feeling of being caressed by velvet as the presence in my apartment. It dawned on me that this woman-shade, then, must have been the one who had passed by me earlier. Was this all just a ruse to get me out here? The noises in my empty apartment, the brief touch, the sheer strangeness outside – it suddenly all seemed very calculated. Rather than being put at ease by the laugh and the seemingly friendly treatment of my dog, I felt myself become even more anxious. What was going on? What was this thing, and what did she – it? – want from me?

I gathered up all my courage and decided to ask, as I was getting the distinct impression that this entity was waiting on me for some reason. If I didn’t say something soon, my heart might give out before we stopped staring at each other. But for all my resolve, I could only manage to stutter out one single word:

“…What…”

The darkness moved like liquid mercury, slipping immediately to my side. Those elegant shadow-hands once again reached out, this time to gently cup my face. When the answer came, I heard it both out loud and deep within my brain, as if the shade was speaking to all of my senses at once. It was an incredibly unsettling feeling, but not more so than the answer I received.

“You don’t understand yet? Small one, we have lived as close as lovers for your entire life. Your companion knew me from the moment I arrived, and greeted me as such. Do you truly not recognize me?”

At that moment, I once again felt that rush of nighttime nostalgia – the constant awareness and acceptance of my solitude, the joy of utter freedom borne of having the night to myself, the warmth and comfort of normal nightly habits, the rush of fondness I felt as I talked to far-flung friends by the glow of a monitor, the quiet companionship as I walked under the stars with my dog… it was just like before. This time, I understood what the velvety touch was trying to convey. I looked at the mist-woman and saw the relationship that I’d been cultivating my entire life; because what did I love more than the night itself?

“Ah. You see now,” the voice echoed. “You are correct. I am night itself; I am the one who you have dedicated your entire life to serving. I have come, dear one, to collect what is mine by right.”

Wait a minute, I found myself thinking at the voice. I don’t understand what you mean by that. Collect what is yours? Serve you? You’re making it sound like I’m some sort of sacrifice in an ancient cult to Nyx or something – I cut myself off and tried to think through the increasingly foggy, sleepy feeling that was encroaching upon my brain. Whether it was from her touch or from that increasingly heavy, sweet smell in the air, I was starting to feel a bit drugged. Everything’s trying to make me feel at ease and safe, but I can’t shake this deep, cold fear at the bottom of my stomach. Something isn’t right, but all I can sense is the thick floral scent and I’m starting to feel that pleasantly drowsy sensation you get from too many antihistamines and when did I get on my bed? But I’m in my pajamas and my dog is curled up next to me and the heater is on and it’s so warm and cozy and I’m just so sleepy and maybe just a nice nap in these dark velvet blankets will help me remember… because I’m trying to remember something… and that jasmine incense sure is nice and everything is so

comfortable

easy

sleepy

as I snuggled into the covers, I felt something fall from my outstretched hand.

~~~

And suddenly, here I am. I’m wide awake and aware that I’m outside, almost completely enveloped in shadow. The jasmine-lantern is on the ground at my feet, and it seems that dropping it has broken the spell. I scramble backwards, kicking pointlessly at the wisps of black smoke that are still curling around my legs.

“Tch, such a rebellious child,” I hear Nyx’s voice, but this time it’s not in my head, she’s speaking out loud. “I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting you to resist; after all, you worship me with every facet of your life. It’s only natural that you return to me. Why do you fight?”

I sense true puzzlement in her question, not malice.I shake my head.

“I… it’s true that I’ve enjoyed living with you, but that’s just it: I’ve enjoyed living. I don’t understand, why are you trying to take me? What prompted this? I… I don’t want to die!” I shout the last part, trembling as I realize just how truthful my plea just now was. Oh, God, please let me survive this.

Nyx examines my face and, somehow, I get the feeling that she is frowning at me.

“But it’s impossible, dear one. You belong to me. I’ve left too much of a mark on you; can you even remember the last time that you saw daylight?”

I shake my head. It’s true; it’s probably been years since I’ve seen the sunshine and I never found it particularly troubling. That’s what Vitamin D supplements are for, right?

“It has been precisely three years that you’ve lived in complete darkness. Three years that you’ve dedicated yourself completely to me, forsaking Hemera in every way. You’ve reveled in my presence these past three years; I have felt your adoration calling to me. You’ve even presented me with flowers from my own domain as an offering,” she stated as she paused to pluck one of the jasmine blossoms.  I watched her raise the flower up to her face and smiled as she inhaled its heady, thick floral scent. After a moment, she lowered the petals and continued:

“Tonight is the night that I am allowed to officially claim you as my child and take you home. You’re saying that you did not intentionally follow this rite? I’m sorry to say, but it cannot be reversed now. As I’ve said, you are mine, and I have come to collect what belongs to me.”

I’m so focused on her words, that I don’t even realize at first that Nyx has, once again, begun to envelop me in her shadows. I let out a small gasp and turn to run, only to have my arm gripped by a wreath of black mist.

“You still do not understand, child. It’s not a matter of some malevolent desire on my part; I simply cannot allow you to remain on this plane for fear of what will become of you. You are mine, and this means that you will cease to exist if you allow Hemera’s Day to catch you. If you want to be saved, you must allow me to take you. There is no alternative.”

I am chilled to the bone by her words. If she’s saying what I think she’s saying… I am in an impossible situation. It’s either allow her to “collect” me – and seemingly let my individual consciousness slip away, if what happened before was any indication – or cease to exist entirely once dawn’s light hits.

“In my embrace, it’s true that you will cease to be an individual entity. You will become the night itself. Is this truly so bad? Is it really worse than the decay that will meet you when Hemera awakens?”

It’s hard to accept. Part of what I loved about being alone at night was the sheer freedom I often felt; total self-reliance and the lack of normal societal demands left me feeling more alive than I can properly explain. And now my choices are to either completely lose my self and become… well, part of Nyx’s shadows, I assume… or to cease existing entirely. Is there even any difference between the two? At least if I die by day, I’ll still be myself at the end… if I let Nyx take me, will I even know if I die? It’s just so unknown, and that scares me.

Nyx speaks her next words softly. “Small one, as a boon for your years of love, I will offer you the choice. Come to me of your own free will, or allow the day to be your end. This is my mercy to you. I warn you, though: Hemera approaches. You have but a few minutes to decide.”

As she says this, I see the faintest glimmer of light on the horizon. Nyx speaks the truth. Dawn is coming, and I have only a few moments left.

I feel the tears begin to fall, and a wisp of satiny smoke whisks them away, then quickly recedes, as if Nyx is a mother trying to decide between consoling her weeping child or letting them handle their sorrow as an adult.

In some form or another, I am about to die.

I raise my eyes and attempt a determined nod. I will face this with all the strength that a human can muster.

My decision has been made. I know that I don’t have to bother vocalizing it. I’m dealing with goddesses, after all. I’m sure they can sense the resolve in my heart.

Nyx smiles, and I reach my end.

This is my gesture of solidarity with those around the world who get beaten with the white end of the short stick, with the American sickness oozing its white pus in Ferguson, ever since our forefathers began to enslave people and create this broken system of unequal horror. I want to die when I think that in my lifetime, I will never see the end of racist misery, religious destruction and ecological evisceration. In case you didn’t know…