I’ve never been afraid of the dark. As a child I waited impatiently, tucked under white blankets in my bunk bed, for my parents to switch off the lights. At age four, lights out meant watching plastic fish and sparkling seaweed dance in the deep artificial glow of my night light. When I tucked a lost tooth under my pillow at age eight, lights out meant waiting excitedly for the twinkle of the tooth fairy to arrive at the edge of my bookshelf. And in my teenage years, lights out was an invitation to dream. I taught myself to lucid dream by switching my bedroom light on and off repeatedly and noticing the way nothing changed from dark to light: the furniture remained still, and only the mosquito net hanging from the ceiling moved with the wind from the fan. Articles I read claimed that in a dream state, if I switched the light back on, my setting would change: I would no longer be in my room, and instead be transported to another world. This is how I knew I was dreaming. Darkness leaves me in constant anticipation.
In J.K. Rowlings, “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Dumbledore says to Harry, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” after taking him through a portal into the depths of his memory. Only in experiencing darkness, it seems, do we learn what it means to see clearly in the light. To notice. How do moments of darkness make us feel? And what can we find in them when we decide to turn the light back on.
Theo Merrill describes an obscure and extreme kind of intimacy found in the howling and chanting that echos into the night, as crowds of people attend “Fight Club” on the grass of Yampa field. He shares the perspective of a student who found fighting as a means of discovering himself and intensifying his connection to the people and world around him. Zac Schulman pulls an incredibly moving, sensitive, and intimate story out of the privacy of his grandmother's phone calls. He keeps the light shining on an unimaginable holocaust survival story from his family history, a series of events where his relatives continued to fight, against all odds, for their survival in the name of love, and life. And Courtney Knerr takes us deep underground, asking her reader to consider the moment of their death by shedding light on the many ways we can decompose without causing detriment to our planet.
As Harry Potter conjures the patronus charm in the middle of the night, causing an enormous and blinding light to reflect off the surface of the lake like fire, he is momentarily blinded, before suddenly the glow from his wand transforms into the shape of his father. The darkness makes us look for light, it reveals our most unconscious desires and deepest wonderings, and reminds us how much there is to see.
With this issue, our last issue of the year, we leave you, reader, to look differently at your stories, your death, your relationships. We encourage you to cast your own light into the shadows, and notice all that has been hiding within them.
We’re turning the lights out. Until August.
Becca Stine (And the rest of the Cipher Staff)
Lights Out Issue | May 2019