When night falls, only a thin glaze of light remains. The land becomes dystopian. I sense monsters in the blackest shadows. They lurk behind the curtains, around the wall, in the bushes, and under the bed. At any moment, a mangled arm could reach out and take me away. Beneath the dark skies, places that I think I know well become nearly unrecognizable. Every landmark seems to be in a different spot, and North feels more like Northwest. I am not welcome. But in my house, the place I call home, I could never mistake my dark hallway as any other. My home is always my home, no matter how different it looks. My home is always safe even in the absence of light.
Until I was 8 years old, I lived in a big brick house in Illinois that was overall more valuable than the house I live in now. However, not all of it was my home. The basement was hostile territory. I would not dare enter without a healthy phalanx of light surrounding me. Down there during the day, I would build long winding train tracks on the floor and explore impossible worlds in video games. I would laugh and play, but I knew that I was only a guest. I wasn’t welcome after dark. While the rest of the house accepted me and even protected me, the basement kept a standing army of ghouls to keep me out and haunt me in my recurring nightmares. I cannot count how many nights my soul was dragged down those stairs to a torturous boiler room.
My current house felt unsettling for a while too. When the lights went off, I would jump to my bed for safety–only those warm blankets felt safe. The rest of my room was frightening and unfamiliar. The little flashing green light―was it really a harmless electronic? An inexplicable bump in the night―I threw myself under the covers. It took time for my fears to subside. Gradually, I accepted the house and the house accepted me.
Fear cannot challenge me here. When doubts or monsters creep into my mind, my home comforts me. Even in the grayscale of low light, my alarm clock is still light blue. In the stillness of night, the light footsteps of my cat Derwood find their way up to my head. The kitchen, with its cold floor and inhuman sounds persisting while others sleep, is still welcoming. The light on the oven reveals a tin of cookies on the counter and an unwashed tea-steeper still full of oolong. I am safe here. Darkness holds no power over my home.