I was walking the smaller badly behaved dog the other day, and the sun was shining brightly in the late-afternoon sky. The dog’s shadow appeared elongated and malevolent beside him as he trotted happily ahead, a dark flat misshapen twin. A monster twin, with the taut length of the dog’s leash shadowed above the monster’s body, a leash which extended from the dog’s harness in real life but appeared to extend directly from the monster’s body in shadow form.
A monster tethered to the light.
We walked along, the dog and the monster and I.
I often walk with monsters.
Monsters live in my sleeping vision. Monsters walk with me. Monsters turn to me. Monsters reach for me from the past with shadowed elongated malevolent hands.
It occurred to me as I was walking the dog that perhaps the monsters of my dreams are only shadows. Perhaps my unconscious mind takes out bits and pieces of memory and walks with them for a while. Perhaps, as I sleep, I work to integrate these memories. Perhaps I work to accept.
Perhaps the memories themselves are quite small and static.
I hold them in my sleeping hands and run my fingers over their dreamed contours, and then, wanting to understand, I hold them up before my sleeping eyes.
Shine a light.
Shadows are formed. Elongated and misshapen, filled with apparent malevolence, the shadows twist and lurch before my eyes as I hold the memories high and turn them this way and that. My unconscious recoils in fear from what a moment before was only a handful of the past, but which now reanimates and takes form and reaches for me.
In my dreams, the past reaches for me.
Except what if it does not?
What if I have misunderstood?
What if the terrifying monsters of my dreams are only shadows cast by the light that is mine?
What if what appears to be the reach of nightmare is instead the shadowed reach of my own arms?
What if everything is an extension of me?
What if I am the light as well as the darkness?
What if the monsters are tethered to the light?
All me . . .
She finishes unpacking her bags, hands me the flashlight, “Turned out I didn’t really need this.”
I take it from her, feel its heft against my palm, “I’ll put it in the garage. Unless you want to keep it?”
“Nah. The thing is? When you shine a light in the darkness, it makes weird shadows. The shadows are scarier than the darkness. When I had to go out at night, I just stood for a moment and let my eyes get used to the dark as it really was. I prefer things as they really are.”
I stand for a moment, considering her words.
I too prefer things as they really are.
I put the flashlight in the garage, and then I stand in the darkness of that space.
Allow my eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness.
I run my fingers over the contours of memory.
Now something less.
I reach for them.