What is it we truly all dread? Every one of us?
It is the dark.
Not just the absence of light. The absence of all. Milton describes the darkness, the cold of Pandemonium, of Hell itself, as the absence of God’s love and light. There’s no stabbing or fire or demons doing creative things to your nethers using a cocktail fork. No more eternal torment than that absence is required.
I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe in the devil. But I believe in the dark.
I feel it now. Desolate. Oppressive.
Not the darkness of your bathroom at night. Not the darkness of the beautiful caves, even with a flashlight off. Not darkness at noon. Not the darkness of a black steer’s tuckus on a moonless night.
The darkness of space. Fathomless, unending, quiet darkness.
Science fiction movies have taught us that space is exciting. Teeming with alien life. And even on the rare occasions you’re missing out in laser battles, there’s a handy asteroid field to have to adeptly navigate.
You know the average space between actual asteroids in an actual asteroid field?
Fucking miles!! Hundreds of thousands, to be exact. Three or four times the distance from here to our moon.
Asteroids don’t bounce off eachother like pinballs. They’d have combined and become at least a shitty, lumpy planetoid given a couple billion years. No. They’re effectively grains of space sand and if you seen one… it’s not like you’ve seen them all, but any others… you’ll probably need a telescope.
And aliens… look up the Fermi Paradox on your own time. The short form: they probably killed themselves like we’re about to.
So… the dark of infinite space.
It weighs down on us all sometimes.
It’s weighing down on me now.
When I woke up in an empty bed. When I reached out for my beloved wife, who is on the other side of our relatively tiny, yet vast world, and touched only air and a flattened, still-made side of the bed.
It is still only 5:30, around when I usually wake and think optimistically about the coming break of dawn through our windows. But it all just seemed like that space between asteroids.
The horrible, crushing loneliness of deep space. Of nothing. Just me, my breath, and my thoughts.
Of absolute darkness. The absence of… anything.
Or, at least, it was.
Then Marvin, sensing I was up, came padding up from the foot of the bed to scream in my face, sit on my chest; and nibble on my Van Dyke through to my chin.
And which made me laugh. And pet him while he purred softly.