Twilit Illusions

By Fujimi [不死身]

There are nights when the wolves are silent, only the moon howls.

George Carlin

The wind wafted across my face from the window, making my face even more numb and my arms prickle. Absentmindedly, I rose from my mattress on the floor and went to close the window. I'd had enough of the frozen feeling and now just wanted the warmth that the house held with all other windows closed tightly ever since the warnings of winter had come a fortnight earlier.

Gently, I pushed the frame back down to the bottom of the sill, trying to make it not squeak like it does sometimes when the springs rub against the rubber of the sill too forcefully. I didn't want anybody in the house to be awakened by the sound and didn't want the silence be penetrated by my own selfishness of wanting the window opened then closed in the first place. As I pushed, it only made a dull sound of discontent before it connected with the bottom, and I latched the two pieces of the window in place using the lock in the middle.

The darkness of the nighttime held my interest for a while as I looked toward the sky. There was no moon out tonight; there were no stars. Just clouds covering up the light that people dote upon. Thinking vaguely, I decided that I liked the dark more. It made everything else disappear for the time being, and it made everything fall into a slumber that I could never quite grasp at. That's why I liked it so much: It was as alone as I was. It made it seem as though being alone was not such a bad thing as people made it out to be.

As I turned away from the window, I decided that I would go join the darkness so that it wouldn't be alone either. It helps if something knows what you are and doesn't push you away. Turning silently and walking as I had learnt to do so in childhood, I grabbed the door's handle whilst slowly pushing in the lock so that when it popped out and unlocked my door, it wouldn't make a sound that would reverberate throughout the house. Then, I slinked out and snuck down the stairs just as quietly, making sure to place my feet on the sides instead of down the middle, because some of them—I had never memorized which, no matter how many times I walked down—squeaked when you put weight directly on them.

As I padded through the kitchen and then out the front door—which I also had to open slowly, for it had the same problem as my window—I glanced imperceptibly at every room, making sure that there were no new things that had appeared while I was in my room. Sometimes, when my parents came home from wherever they disappeared to during the day, they left bills and such on the kitchen counters, and I would always read them if they were new to find out what troubles any of us inside the house were always causing them. Concluding that there was nothing I hadn't read previously, I continued on my venture and stepped into the winter air, making sure to close the door completely so that none of the frigid air would come in and inconvenience the people sleeping.

The outside welcomed me like I thought it would. As I sat in the front porch steps with my knees drawn up to my chest and my forearms resting over them and hanging loosely, the air blew across my face sharper than it had in my room. I almost grinned but instead was keen to just let it be and sit there, watching to see if anything would move and penetrate the silence Nature held in its clutches. It was a different kind of silence than that in the house. Inside, the silence was heavier, and it trampled the insides of my shoulders and churned my stomach until I had to listen to my music before it let up enough to where I wouldn't feel so nauseous. The silence inside held the tension and the weight of the people. The outside, however, was freer because there was more space. I liked the outside much better.

Mentally sighing, I laid my head to rest against the porch's banister, making sure that there were no spiders there, as I didn't want them to freak out when something all of a sudden intruded on their constant watch for food and bite me in confusion. There were none, though, so I let my head relax for a moment.

Then, I heard the almost-silent footsteps of someone who hadn't trained as much in keeping silent as I had. My body tensed up by itself, even though I knew that there was no need. Only one other person roamed the night as I did around here. Finally, the footsteps reached the porch, and the person sat down beside me – never looking at me – as I observed him out of the corner of my eye.

Then, the silence was only slightly disrupted as, "You were late tonight," was murmured.

I felt my eyes crinkle themselves upwards as I responded silently to the familiar greeting. Another breeze wafted over us—this one gentle and slightly warm despite the supposed winter reputation for coolness—as we sat, eyes never wavering from their set point off into the distance, just enjoying the serenity of the night.

It had always been like this. When I discovered the nighttime for the first time long ago and my mind responded with jubilance that I hadn't known much before then, I had sat out on the front porch while everyone else was in their forgetful rest inside. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, which wasn't really surprising in itself – having not many moments to choose from – but somehow, the knowledge that I was alone with only Nature by my side made me feel more complete than when I listened to music. The stillness that entrances you, keeps your mind occupied, and keeps your thoughts from drifting to the memories of the past; right then, it's just you and the sky that sometimes held stars and a moon that was never meant to be contaminated by people.

Regardless of however comforting the blanket of the night can be, though, and no matter how it can make your mind feel complete, it still drains your soul and makes it ache with loneliness. However much you can depend on the same things being there night after night – the same animals that just mind their own business of finding food; the clouds, and stars, and the moon, even if you can't always see them – it can be one of the most isolated times. Nothing is there for you; everything surrounds you but nothing is there for you. That thought alone can make most people want to sleep away the night in blissful oblivion, so that they can be surrounded by the lively day that the sun shines through and when the clouds are white and fluffy instead of black and blue.

I knew that this was the reason the both of us met up every night. It was a tradition that had started about a month after my mind had started to bypass my body and sleep no longer came to me at night. The month after I decided that I didn't need the day, only twilight. The first nights out there had heightened my paranoia before I realized that nothing would jump out and attack me because I was a part of the night while sitting here. Nothing is quite as alarming when you understand it.

We had met when there were no moon or stars. The black clouds had overtaken the sky; no light was allowed to shine. My body had begun to relax and I'd closed my eyes, letting the blissful take over my mind, when I heard the unsheltered footsteps. I suppose he hadn't wanted to frighten me, for there was no person who would stumble about that loud at night. Sitting up straight, I had looked about me before spotting the glob of night that was moving toward me. I was about to run – silently – back inside, before I recognized who it was and stayed frozen, curious what it could be that had a person trudging so loudly in the middle of the night toward me. Plopping down beside me and staring straight ahead, I had peered suspiciously at him out of the corners of my eyes.

We stayed in the same position until he tilted his head downward and closed his eyes. Then, he said, "You came out later tonight than before," without looking up.

I had blinked in surprise then shrunk in repulsion at myself for not having noticed if someone was watching or not. What if one of the people in the house had awoken because I was always too loud and noticed? Cursing myself, I clenched my jaw and didn't reply. The person grinned like he knew what I was thinking and added "Don't worry. No one else's noticed. I just did because you're like me."

Carefully, and with a steady watch to his face, I asked, "How so?"

Opening his eyes once more, he lifted his head and gazed back, his eyes scrunched upward like he was laughing silently. I unconsciously lowered my face into a glare, but he just gazed right back with the same face. I didn't affect him at all like I did others. He didn't reprimand me for sitting out in the ice air – it was unusually chilly for autumn then – then say that I should go back inside and sleep like a normal person. He didn't stare at me like I was crazy for liking the night, for not slumbering in oblivion, making sure the darkness never touched me. He just eyed back, shrugged, looked back into the sky, and said, "You like the moon better than the sun, right? It's the same."

I turned my face back towards where the moon should've been. Distractedly, lost in thought at this notion, I replied, "Yeah . . . I guess so." He had turned back to face me for a minute before going back to his own mind-dreams, letting the world fall into its own paces around him, just as I did. Ergo, we would sit there for the hours of the night while the bats and spiders and owls looked for food to sustain them and the dogs and cats and house pets slept the darkness away, letting the loneliness be less suffocating for each other.

We never spoke, never made polite conversation, never had an uncomfortable silence hanging over us in the air, never spoke outside of the nighttime, never made eye contact with the exception of the time we met, never made ourselves be friends. We were just there, making each other's souls ache less, making the silence humming in our ears ring not as loudly, because someone was there. Someone like me, someone like him. We were both a part of society that none wanted to acknowledge – people who live at night, who embrace the darkness to pacify their minds.

The darkness is something to run from; monsters live in the dark and the "evil people" come and take you under the cover of the night. The sun disappears and the comforting blue dissipates and all of a sudden everything is dark. An enigma, some unsolvable puzzle; things hide in the dark, inexplicable things. So the people in the house and all around slumber away the confusion and mystifying things and only come to alertness when they can see everything – because bad things aren't supposed to happen during the day.

But we knew that this wasn't true. Through no communication – another thing people can't understand – we knew that the nightfall was the time when everything settled down. When things no longer had to bustle about to keep up with the tide, no longer had to try and suck up all the dark so the monsters wouldn't come out. No, nightfall was when peacefulness reigned. And as long as people never understood that, it would stay that way. As long as they never understood that black doesn't mean horrible and bright doesn't mean untroubled, then they wouldn't try to overtake the night as they had the day. They wouldn't stampede over it and leave it there to die, festering in its own wound inflicted by people who didn't understand, who tried to solve the mystery by invading it.

As long as they didn't understand, the darkness would belong to those animals that aren't accepted by the population; it would belong to those that don't try to understand it by plundering it rather just accepting that they are unable to comprehend and just leaving it at that. Just letting things be what they wished and not trying to figure out the know, the how, the way, the why, the reasons for the sun leaving them with this moon that they couldn't quite figure out why was always there – even during their precious day – so they had to go trample on it to explain its purpose.

They would sleep, and it would disappear because they couldn't see it; that would be that. No clumsy interpretations, nothing. They couldn't see it, therefore it didn't exist; only for a little bit maybe, while preparing for bed, or while having the electric, superficial light on, letting that drain out any spark of darkness. It didn't exist at all for the people inside the house.

Only for us.

When the sky would begin to change to a lighter blue color, we would depart, never saying anything. I would go silently back inside, carefully opening the door so that it didn't squeak, never turning around to see where he would go back to.

Once inside my room, I would lay down on my mattress, put on my headphones, and play my music, letting that replace the night, eventually falling into darkness. The rays of the sun made small lines across the carpet of the floor, coming in through the closed blinds as I closed my eyes and sucked in a deep breath, letting the pain hold my stomach for a moment before oblivion caught me, and I let the night of my own mind overtake the opening day.

23 September 2006