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.