Shadows and Light is short story written by Tim Clark and shared with The Ugly Writers under the theme Master of my Fate, Captain of my Soul for January
Light comes in layers. Bright, revealing, glare that cast shadows. Shadows that seem even darker because of the light. Shadows that hide everything we ever imagined or were afraid to imagine.
Loud, yellow, light, the kind that reveals flaws. The kind of light that makes you think about the choices you made. It magnifies defects, it shines on the imperfections, making even tiny flaws seem enormous. Light can show us things we don’t want to see, and we never want to share.
There is the smaller, distant light that hints at salvation. It offers a thin ray of hope when times are tough. Light at the end of the tunnel kind of light. It comes from the manufactured promises of a lost generation. It could have been any generation. All of them have been left at the alter in one way or another. “Surely,” they can all say to themselves, “things haven’t always been this bad.” And they are right, and they are wrong. Things have always been this bad, and things have always been better, and things have always been worse. It’s the circle of life.
The old adage, “don’t go toward the light,” rips at our most ancient shame, fear of the darkness. We’re afraid of the dark because there are too many questions, maybe even worse, too many answers. Questions may haunt you but, it’s the answers that terrify you.
It’s never a clear line between dark and light, lines of gray, murky, indistinct pockets of dread. There is an old belief that fear has an odor, pungent and raw.
Once, when I was young, for a reason I can’t remember, I walked across an old cemetery at night. It was one of those you see on the side of county roads. Surrounded by a barbed wire fence, cornfields on three sides, with a swinging aluminum gate, facing the road. I was driving, just trying to remember what life was about. I hadn’t seen a car for hours. I was stoned. I decided to walk through the graveyard.
It was quiet, even the bugs paid their respects. I remember thinking how easy it was, no problem. I walked from the gate, around the left side to the back, and when I reached the back fence, directly across from the gate I turned to look out at the corn. It was right there, next to the fence. It rustled softly, quiet murmurs, centuries of regret, whispering, I stood there listening, trying to pick out voices, words, until I thought I heard my name, I decided to leave. I walked, with more purpose than I want to admit, across the short breadth of the graveyard. I remember the slick, damp weeds that grew between the plots, in uneven, undulating waves. It seemed so natural, almost a painting, or an Ansel Adams print. More than anything, I remember the shadows, they moved, and grew, and were black, they were more than black, they emanated blackness, they swallowed light. And I remember the smell, fear, and dread, mixed with decay and death. Sometimes, on bad nights, when sleep won’t come, I can still smell it.
I never know which is worse, light, or dark. They both have shadows. They both reveal things we might not want to see, and cover things we need to look at. Worse than that, though, they both make us look at ourselves in a way we aren’t always comfortable with. Either way we just keep going, from light to dark and back again, and we call it life.