23. Nina

Chapter 22

Nina

The dark isn’t any more dangerous than the light is.

It’s just the street. The street is full of things and intents. They look through themselves, stretching and wavering, filling the darkness like a membrane, and find the skittering things, the impermanent things inside them – the houses and the pets and cars and the people, and some of them weren’t people but just masses and shapes. Like him. Like him in the dark, his body and mind. He covers the neighborhood and the world outside of it. Everywhere but the light – half the world and more. He isn’t in the dark; the dark is him, and when you are in the dark you are inside him as well. You can look around the neighborhood that was a part of the night time, and count the not-quite-people you see.

This shape is eyes and teeth and noise, felt gravel and iron filings, magnets and buzzing insects. It smells like sewage, like rotting, spindled colors, and it devours you from the outside in. Jars of rain, butterflies, stencils with their wings glued on, ice picks shoved under toenails; the little sadist and his toys, playing gentle rhythms with hammering limbs.

This one is slow and lumbering, charging like Thursday, sharp but dim. You’ll be safe if you keep a mirror with you. Reflections confuse it. Carry thumbtacks, too.

This shape waits to fall in love, flailing like a hurricane; trapped; trapped, with desert fingers and no hands.

This one is curious; picks apart and see what’s there – finds things, finds things, takes things. Daffodils and dead dogs, wood carvings and children and screwdrivers and spiders. Stay away from the trees.

This one is every scar you’ve ever had, made of rusted edges of swing-set nails, slicing thighs and thumbs. It is as big as the sky, made of red licorice. It will offer you your favorite treat on a winter day. Take its offer, but remember to keep your shadow in front of you. Watch its eyes; feed them if they’re hungry.

This shape is the charred rocks at the end of the road, with foliage and shoelaces from last summer. It is only a place, a little plot of land with a plaster mask, waiting for stumbling tsunami girls, holding its breath to blow out the candle.

This one is the moment right before dark, when your mother calls you home. It will give you refuge if you ask politely; keep you safe for a favor and a good memory. Perhaps the little boy you used to play with will be there, right where you left him when you were eleven.

This shape is a box of fingers and feathers: a spinning top scrawled with pencil etchings. You will never see the inside until it envelopes you. It likes the warm corner of your kitchen where the heating vent is. When your throat itches or your clock screams “tick” or “tock,” there it is, behind the nearest door, waiting for you to blink.

This shape is a woman all alone. She is not a spider but a web, and her fingers stretch a long way. She keeps you tired and confused and listless while she wraps around you and stretches you to death without you noticing. Her house is where ghosts are made. This is important: she won’t kill you, but can’t stop you from dying. Stay away from the color blue and heavy doors with locks like the jaws of life. Stay away, stay away. If you don’t there’s nothing you can do.

This one is paranoia, nighttime, shadows, after the sitter has fallen asleep but before your parents return from the movies. They will find your bed empty if they remember to check on you before morning.

This shape is a man, ice-and-angry, shadow in a suit, with ragged coins jangling in his pockets. He hums to himself, and you will too. He is not to be trusted. Too tall and too thin and too many teeth. If you run, he will find you, and take you, and play with you, and you will love him forever.

He stole something from his home, and now he can never go back again. But he doesn’t mind that very much.

The world and the streets inside it are very strange.

Strange and threatening and sometimes a little beautiful.

The children run inside them. They feel their steps and the echoes they make. The streets are not safe. The inside of the house is not safe. But we live here anyway, so all we can do is make the best of it.

– March 20th, 2006

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Chapter 24

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