What We Fear in the Dark

 

When the lights go out

children scream, naturally.

It’s an instinct, I think.

Something inherent then reinforced,

 

A fear of the darkness

develops while we’re young.

Spin in a circle thirteen times

in front of a mirror and say

 

Her name: Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary!

we chanted as children. In the pitch

we’d flick the lights, peer above the sink

where a face is reflected, crying red tears—

 

Perhaps it was our own

we saw drenched in imagined blood,

but to us at the time, it was her, certainly,

the Nocturnal Woman behind the glass.

 

In the drip of the sink was

the drip of her blood and 

the drip of our tears when her face

appeared, an apparition in our dreams.

 

A poltergeist in the morning murk,

the assumed mother to any motherless

sound, birthing the noises in our minds

and abandoning them for us to rear.

 

And we do. We coddle them, hold them

near; give them names to make ourselves

less afraid: the racoon scavenger in the bin, a breeze

rustling the holly bush, Frankie the apartment ghost.

 

Before we enter a room, we reach our hand in first

sliding up and down the wall, fumbling for a switch

or a button, a knob, a dimmer slide, something

to reveal what hides beyond the threshold. 

Reluctantly, we slip our arm in further

above the wrist, past the elbow through the frame

until we find it and assure ourselves that nothing’s there. 

Never was. Of course. We knew it all along. 

 

But still, like children, when the power goes out,

or someone leans against a lightswitch, or a bulb busts,

pops and smokes, tension rises in our necks at the darkness

uncontrolled. What is it? What’s happening?

When will our power return?


 

Rebekah Comer is a teacher and writer from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She earned her Bachelor's in Secondary English Education from Mississippi State University in 2019. When Rebekah is not trying to convince 12-year-olds that books are cool, she can be found thrifting, completing puzzles, making TikToks, and watching re-runs of The Bachelorette. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @rebacomer.