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Don't Be So Afraid of the Dark

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I'm going to start out by saying this is probably something I should apologize for. I should, but I'm not going to. My reasons for this are justified, and you'll probably agree with me too once you've read what I have to say.

Now don't roll your eyes and assume this is another story where I'm passing along "the monster" from my own head into yours. It's really very simple. I am getting very tired. I've been awake the last few days and I need to go to sleep. And in order to get to sleep, I have to explain something to you. Not some vague, undefined 'you,' but you. The person reading this story. The very literal, and very real "you." I need your help, and you're going to help me by continuing to read this.

I've been giving some thought to monster stories, and stumbled across something that I find interesting. What are (arguably) the most common themes in monster stories? Darkness, and light. The monsters find you in the darkness, they lurk in the darkness, they live and breed in the darkness. The darkness is their element, it allows them to hunt us down. Sure, most of these stories are just jokes and scary stories written for the sake of reading in the dark, but a few of them are real. You never hear how real because when things go bad, there's no one to tell us about it. You expect a victim of the slenderman to escape and conveniently come back here to warn us all? You think the police are going to report supernatural causes when they find a body torn apart when there are plenty of bears in the woods? The only way to know which stories are real are to get caught up in their retellings. It happens, this I promise you.

Then there's the light. The escape route, the safe place, the weapon to fight back the evil. The antithesis of the darkness, the light is the one place where the monsters can't get to us. Some may use light as a way to surprise or shock us, but no one gets killed by the wendigo on a sunny afternoon. The light is safe, and there are infinite examples to support this. Take this website. The light letters distract us from the black abyss of the background. Don't dismiss this either, it may be easier to read white text on a black background, but if you're staring at the white letters you're not looking into the background. And you don't have to read every story on this wikia to start seeing faces where there are none. I can't prove that things are looking out at you as you read this, but just take comfort knowing that if they were, you were looking at the white text instead.

Do me a favor and uncurl your legs. Sit comfortably. Lean in a little bit. You're still shaken from your last story, maybe you're "cold." You're not afraid, you just really like making yourself as small as possible as you read. Well don't do that. Trust me, you're safer if you're closer to the light of the screen. It's not just keeping the darkness at bay, but you'll see what I mean soon. And keep reading.

So there's light and dark, you're wondering. What's the big deal? Am I going to tell you to reread the letters of each line for a quick scare? Don't let your eyes wander, I didn't write anything. This isn't that kind of story.

This is the kind of story where I help you see a pattern. Humans are afraid of the dark for a reason. With the absence of light, we're easy prey. We'll never see a threat coming. We sleep at night hoping that in the morning any danger will have passed us by. Not knowing means having no reason to be afraid. We're still vulnerable when we sleep, but awareness of a threat really makes the threat worse in my experience.

Now think about this. There are not many stories in which a monster attacks someone who never knew about it. There are some, but none of them are true. But the true stories share a few common themes of their own. The monsters can only find you if you know about them. And the more you know about them, the more danger you will be in. When has there ever been an ancient scroll that struck you dead after reading the first line? You have to read the whole thing before you're in any danger. You're only stalked by a ghost after listening to their whispers and figuring out what they're saying, if you ignore them they can only annoy you. The old doll only steals your soul after you've learned about its gruesome origins. There are a million examples. The point is that knowing about the monster allows it to find you. It makes you a target.

Now I got to thinking about this. Monsters are all denizens of the darkness, but what would it take for a monster to exist in light? It's not the dark that kills you, it's the fact that you can't see them coming. And it is very possible to be blinded by light. Who's to say there can't be a monster that strikes you down the moment your eyes are blinded with sun spots after you, say, happen to stare at the bright flashing reflection of a fast moving car? Or see the reflection of the sun in a distant window? Or stare at a lightbulb. Monsters rarely attack from the side, and even from the back. They like it when you know they're there. They come from the front, so you can see their twisted form before you die. And for that, you have to be unable to see them.

There's another common element. Monsters are fast. They can be slow when they want to, but they are generally very quick. It could be coincidence that so many are bony thin and limber. Or it could be an advantageous design. Fast monsters hunt, and fat (if any) monsters have to trap. If our light monster was real, it would have to be fast. And difficult to see. Camouflage is easy in the dark, but in the day time? What would a monster of the light look like? I felt that natural colors would be the most likely. Invisibility doesn't seem plausible, even by monster standards, and a chameleon effect wouldn't work at high speeds. If you got a good look at a light monster, I bet it would be tan. And very, very thin. Like a stick bug.

Now you're probably not interested in my brainstorming. Or maybe you are. I don't care which is true, I just need you to keep reading a little bit longer. You're not in danger, and nothing is on its way to your house. If it is, it's probably something you already did, not me. Trust me, we're nearly there and I'm very tired.

There's one more major theme that monsters have in common. Think again to how they pick their prey. You have to know about them before they can be a threat to you. They aren't like normal predators, and they can't just sneak up on anyone. For this, we are lucky. Even more so, we are lucky because we love to spread these stories around. It's not just fun, you are compelled to sit here and read these. There is a reason, deep down in the most basic part of your brain, that you come to read these stories.

Here we must imagine a moth. One moth, against a monster owl. When the owl needs to pick its food, it has only one moth to chose from. If the moth doesn't want to die, it has to find other moths to distract the owl. So the moth informs another moth of the monster owl, and in this way their chances of death went down from 100% to 50%. The first moth is no longer the only target, and the second moth won't be the only target if (when) he discovers how the first moth died. If the word spreads enough, then all the moths will only have a very small chance of being singled out of the crowd to become a meal. Safety in numbers. That's why you come here and read these stories, because by adding yourself to the lottery you make it just a little safer for everyone else. We've always been big on working together as a species. Which is why I'm glad you're still reading.

You may be getting an idea of where I'm going with this. By now you're actually helping me a lot, but I need to explain just a little bit more before I can rest.

I have been awake for the past few days because I don't think it's safe for me to fall asleep at any time of day. At night I've felt uneasy. Total darkness holds something lying in wait for me, and every one of my instincts tells me that it isn't safe. I sit before the light of my computer screen and I think, I run these little intellectual exercises to stay awake and in the process I stumbled across an idea with more truth than I knew. And for the past few days, I've been noticing some strange things. Fast blurs of motion in the side of my vision. Too fast to follow. I don't think I'm meant to see them, and I think I know why I see them anyways. Any predator that becomes too efficient faces extinction. If the owl eats all the moths, it will starve. Hell, the only reason Ebola hasn't become a global threat is because it kills its victims too quickly for them to spread the virus very far.

So our efficient predator no longer has a pool of prey to chose from. Any time new prey is discovered, it is killed before it can spread the word to others. The predator is weak, and it's getting desperate. It can't keep up like it used to but it is still very hungry.

So I think now you can guess why I should apologize here. But I don't think I'm doing anything that I'm not meant to do. You can't develop many defenses against a truly efficient predator, even though we've tried. We're fast, we're strong, and we're smart. The only thing the moth can do is increase the size of his flock as much as possible and hope probability does not show him favor. And right now I am part of a very small flock. But I think by now, you know enough. My chances should be going down now (or going up, depending on how you look at it).

I am going to take my chances and get some sleep. It's getting bright outside, but if I rest up now I can make it through another night safely. You shouldn't need to worry anyways, but if you see things in the corner of your eyes then... I'd suggest you try not to look at anything too bright, you don't want to be blinded by sunspots before you can spread the word and make the group a little bigger. See you in the evening. I hope.

Oh, and just in case you get the chance, let me know what color it is.

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