In the dark, I often sit. I am not Poe; I do not do this to fulfill some ridiculous idiom of moody sullenness. No, the dark is not dark to me. It is alive and glowing. It falls in shades of gray and gloom, but moves and twitches like a butterfly. It dances in the wind, it sings like the sunset. It is every inch as stunning as the day.
But only to me and mine.
Human sight is myopic, and this is no mere metaphor. You see so very little of your world, and to you that must needs be all there is. Rarely do you give a thought that the universe or the immutable changeable infinitudes of time have anything else to offer. It is not known, and therefore it does not exist.
As I stare into the dark, I feel very very old. Ancient. But what am I saying? What does that mean to you?
It is with regret and something akin to sadness that I look upon my most fervent readers and realize how very young they are. Too young. Young enough to not fully grasp the sting of mortality. You know that death is death, but you stare at it from far away, and cannot fully see it, and so, nay…tis not so. It will not happen.
I bear you no ill will. Your time will come, soon enough that I need not hurry it, and when it does, I will still be here. I will be here, staring into the dark, watching the night things come to life, their eyes seeing as mine do, their nights vivid and churning.
I will be here. Again and again. Over and over. Me.
And to what end? What purpose is there in this? I hear the words of my friends in my thoughts — Porter with his “What else will we do?” Rebecca with her “But you can!” and yet, here I am, and when they are silent…
It will echo in my head. It will play in this dark like a phonograph.
In my time, I cannot count how many I have watched come and go, but there they are, and endless chain of them, and not a one remembered. When I stare into the dark and let my thoughts wander, I see them. This moment, a skein of long hair washed in a pond, the soft hum of a song as she dips her ankles in. She does not see me, and I find her captivating. She goes about her task, and I mine, and now she is a rotting corpse, and here am I, still staring into the moonlight. He drags his horse by the halter, hitting it with a switch he’s but just cut from a tree. He snarls at it, as it snorts and struggles with its swayed back. It is not long for this world, and yet, he carries on, unabashed. I grit my teeth as he wanders by, and wonder what hellish family he returns to. It matters not. They are all dead. That child there, she plays with her wooden dove. She wears a bonnet two sizes too large. She curtsies a homespun dress with a bit of fine edging her mother stole from the rubbish. She drinks dirty water from a bucket and dips her face into it. I worry after her skinny arms. It does not matter, for she too is gone. No one ever learned her name. Not even me.
Much has been asked of me. Many have wondered about my extremes. “What is the worst thing you have seen? What is the worst you have done?” You are all so intent to wallow in muck, because you do not know how truly terrible it can be. I will tell you, if you like, but do not think to come to me when it happens, and you realize the full weight of what I have been saying all along.
The worst I have ever seen. The worst I have ever done. That is simple. I have forgotten.
Humans mourn the names they know. They cannot do anything else. If they mourned all that came before, they would waste away in the oppressive misery of it. But here I am, staring into the dark, singing their requiem with no voice, no words. It is a chain of faces without context, without lineage. To you, these people, these unknown multitudes are but the piles of dirt you must clamor over to catch the next Pokemon. To me they are real. To me, they are still alive, and yet, I know they are not.
When food is scarce, time pitches violently, and my footing slips. I stagger in it, and find that I am not always aware of the era. You find it humorous when I talk of shoveling coal into a burner, or nibbing quills, or stamping paving stones. You find it endearing when I talk of the mundanity that has come and gone, but to me those were the routines and habits of an age that is dead but still living in my breast, it is the conditioning of old. When I am hungry, it returns to me, and I awake with a corpse and a set of fully wound pocket watches, a heart in my jaw to the light of dimmed kerosene lamps, a head in a pot beside a fully kneaded loaf of bread I do not remember having lain by.
These are chains. This is purgatory. I am imprisoned in this repetition.
What is it like to be old? It is very like being young, save that one is maliciously afflicted with perspective. Like leprosy, it chips at you, until you can no longer rush into the fray with a grim smile and a cry of “havoc”. Pieces fall away, as you look around in a daze and wonder why everything has changed when you have not.
You are entertained when I grasp at slang, clutch at memes, wonder aloud at the truly strange and disorienting splendor of the ever-changing flood of information that washes over me every single day. You stare at your screen and chuckle that I should be dazzled by you. It fills you with a sense of importance.
And here I sit, staring into the dark, learning your face as I have every other, inscribing your unutterable name on that list that no one shall ever read.
Here I am. And the dark is alive.