Friday, September 18, 2015
And God said , Let there be light: and there was light. (#FlashFictionFriday*)
Darkness. He was not fond of darkness. The mention of a “deep” didn’t help.
Even now at 12,nearly 13, he was intensely scared of the dark, an ailment others, including his family, took advantage of, turning off the lights when he was in the basement, and similar pranks. They howled with laughter while he fought back tears as his heart beat manically.
But the worst times were when he was in his bed in his dark room at night and he had to pee. This required getting out of bed alone and putting his feet over the edge into the living inkiness seething invisibly all over the floor.
A kind of black fog of terror.
Despite endless counter-arguments, he was certain that when the lights went out, “they” who had been there in an alternate dimension, hiding in the light, took on corporeal existence. This form clearly included teeth. Sharp, pointed, flesh-seeking teeth. He read a lot of science fiction and he knew.
He shivered thinking about it. Or was it from the need to pee? Either way, chills spilled down his not-quite-a-child’s spine.
Filled with dread but more filled with the pressure of need, he always managed to get to the bathroom and back in one piece. He was certain there were numerous close calls having felt the brush of claws and heard the horrid breathing of “them” as he scrambled back to bed.
He tried hard not to think about those.
What he thought about a lot was the upcoming campout. His first.
He was excited. He loved tents and was always building them out of the random tarps his dad kept in the basement “for emergencies.” No situation beyond tent-building ever arose so he couldn’t imagine what his dad had in mind.
There were few things better than being inside a tent. A crafted shape of protection defying the formless void with imagination and creation.
On the day of the campout, as the sun set, Sam’s anxieties grew. What he hadn’t counted on was the darkness.
The camp site was well outside of the comfortable town with its streetlights and the warm glow oozing from friendly houses. In town, a definite non-void, ambient light kept the dark eternally at bay. Except during storms. Then it got iffy battling the darkness with weak-batteried flashlights and shivering candles.
The trees that thickly edged the open areas where the tents were pitched blocked the distant, dim starlight. He realized on his first moonless night of camping under the stars that the darkness would be near total.
The tent to which he was assigned, an old floorless military style mini-house, was furthest from the latrine. While there was the advantage of being away from the odor, it was a small trek to reach it. And there were spiders in every corner.
The latrine was a small room of hobbled-together rough-sawn, weathered planks, propped over a deep hole in the ground. Inside was a built-in wood bench with two butt holes cut out and old toilet seats attached. It faced away from the campsite toward the black woods where who knew what was watching, unseen.
He emptied his bladder at dusk while there was just enough grey light to maneuver without a flashlight.
Everyone hit the sack after the campfires went cold. It was late.
He shared the tent with five other boys, each burrowed into various styles of sleeping bags plopped on mushy air mattresses or nothing but a plastic ground cover.
He was in the corner that pointed toward the heart of the camp site.
He lay there as the others fell asleep, one by one, their breathing becoming steady and shallow. Outside the blackness of the tent, the insects sang furiously.
He was used to their songs since he lived near a small woods. From a safe distance, their lullabies oozed through his screened windows and lulled him to sleep on warm nights.
This was different. The distance was near, there were no screened windows, and the sound of the chirping and clicks and whistles and other noises he had no words for were nearly deafening. At least at first.
Soon his ears adjusted as he was able to sort through the din and identify the individual songs with which he was familiar.
He relaxed, breathing in the fresh sweet green-tasting night air, but could not sleep. He was excited with veins full of adrenaline.
His first camp out!!!
And then he felt it. The need from below beginning to press into his awareness. His bladder was reaching capacity. And the latrine was way over on the other side of the site.
He prayed desperately for the fluids of his body to just evaporate. He clenched his mind tight trying to will away the pressing sensation. All to no avail. It grew. He really needed to go.
Sam felt around for his small flashlight and his shoes, burrowed deeper into his sleeping bag, turned on the light and put on his shoes. All the while drubbing up his courage. The moving around only served to increase the urgency of needing to go.
He turned off the flashlight, crawled on top of his bag, screwed up his nerve, with flashlight at the ready, closed his eyes in one last prayer, and then lifted the flap of the tent.
He gasped. His heart beat more quickly.
It wasn’t dark!
Stunned, filled with a degree of awe he’d never before experienced, Sam stepped out of the tent, moved to the middle of the clearing, and, standing open-mouthed, slowly turned and stared in wonder at the amazing sight.
What had been dark and menacing trees were now densely covered with lightning bugs. It was as if the stars of the universe had gathered in their camp site.
There was no place, no gap of darkness, where the bugs did not glow and blink.
The wonder of his heart supplanted the fear of his imagination and without thinking of the darkness, he walked confidently to the latrine, was relieved, and then again stood watch outside his tent, grinning, singing in his head along with the insect chorus, until he was too tired to do anything else but cocoon himself in his warm flannel-lined sleeping bag and dream through to the dawn.
* It’s flash fiction Friday! (To learn more about FFF, click here and scroll down.)
Flash fiction is nothing more or less than a very, very short short story. This one is over 1000 words and a bit rough; I banged it out this morning, although some elements have been hanging around in my head for awhile. What do you think? What was your experience like the first time you went camping with friends? Share your thoughts in the comments!