As a child, until his late teens, Peter had been terrified of the darkness. Even now, as a 24 year old man, he would sometimes wake and survey the shadows in the corner of his room, unsure what was real and what was not. Somewhere between asleep and awake, between the worlds of his own mind and that of ours, he would be certain he was not alone. Certain that something had crept from another realm into his bedroom. He felt it feeding off his fear, widening its jaws inches from his face, extending its demon-tongue to lap the cold sweat from his forehead. When those lucid seconds were over, and his eyes were open and he knew he was awake, he would breathe again. He would put a light on, the brilliance flooding the room, reuniting shadows with the objects that had cast them.
To be told he was going blind, and would be blind in a matter of months, a medical absolute, was enough for Peter to crumble. He sat on a bench outside the hospital for a number of hours, staring into space, trying to process thoughts that were beyond comprehension. He was someone who blinked and had vision either side of that blink. The thought of anything else was too much. He imagined how he would forget the faces of his parents and his girlfriend. He considered no longer knowing colour. He thought of everything he loved and how it looked and how it would all be lost. Then he thought of the darkness. The rolling, deep darkness. Darkness that would be with him until he died, and after he died.
He thought of them. The things that had seconds to get from the corner of the room to his ribcage and face. The creatures that would scurry under his bed as his eyes opened and the light went on. He thought of how they had probably heard the news already, how they might be lining up in hungry, excited numbers behind his eyelids, counting the days to when nothing would stop them being all around him. Did time burn at the same rate in their world? Were months to him mere minutes to them?
People of all shapes and sizes came out of the hospital door. Ambulances and taxis. He continued to stare into space, unblinking. He looked down as his shoes. Scuffs on brown leather. Worn rubber. Frayed edges of brown laces.
Later that night, he lay on his bed and listened to Gustav Mahler’s 5th Symphony, eyes shut, with the light on. The light shone through his eyelids and changed absolute black to a warm amber darkness, a safe darkness. “Soon” said a voice behind his eyes, in a language thought dead for thousands of years. “Soon”.