Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
There’s a lot to be said for the feeling of security granted by street lighting. Not overlooking the fact that its arrival heralded mankind moving from a lifestyle largely governed by the availability of daylight or men with flame-in-hand.
Flame. It’s insidious. Inconstant. A wavering light that moves the shadows about. When you’re dependent on shadow, not knowing where the bloody things are going to be from one moment to the next is a real pain in the butt. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I don’t even know where the bit of me you’d call my butt would be. Don’t need to.
So, here I am, one of the longer-lived predators of this fine planet, doing rather nicely off the new upright-walking types who seem to be losing their fur in most places. Then one of you bright-eyed bipeds goes and makes the connection between spark and flame. That tore it. Nearly three millennia of you lot making your way through the dark by whatever fashionable form of flame-in-hand you could come up with.
It wasn’t all bad. Some sections of your population preferred unwavering light, using reflective surfaces to stabilise their moving flames. Wonderful! Fixed shadows and darkness once again. Many a troupe of you, huddling about a motley fire, gazing longingly toward the big house with its bright windows, had no idea your ‘poor’ state meant we passed you by on the way to feeding on those in that big house.
The ever-changing light you so love, the heart of the fire, is what we can’t adapt to. Our changeable, light-hating forms cannot move quick enough to avoid injury or death as what was a shadow we could flit through becomes lit, while what had been deadly bright becomes the dark we need. Maddening. I’ve lost so many friends.
Then streetlights appeared. Flames on poles, of all things. As they got better and more widely used, you left your flame-in-hand behind. Became reliant on the lights on top of the poles. By doing that, you made us new lurking grounds.
The brighter the light becomes, the stronger the shadows. That dark hides us. That dark is us. The reason why some of you walk into the dark and don’t come out? Is us.
What are we?
I don’t know. You don’t have the science or the superstition to make the right words. But, since I’m borrowing one of your languages for a while, I’ll try –
Waiting for your lights to go out.