When I was small, I was drawn to ghost stories. Like a moth to a flame, you might say, since I inevitably scared myself up-all-night silly—to my parents’ chagrin. Every oddly shaped lump of laundry, every bit of bric-a-brac would metamorphose into something terrifying, as soon as the lights went out. Nowadays, I’ve gotten a little better at not letting my imagination completely carry me off, but also, and more importantly, I’m the one in charge of the light switch.
I’m still a moth to that flame sometimes, though.
Like the time (when I was not-so-small), that I sat down in the cozy late afternoon sunlight to play a bit of Resident Evil, and became so engrossed in the dark and scary digital world that I didn’t notice the light slipping stealthily out of the room. The very real room. Where I was sitting. Until I suddenly realized that I was sitting in the dark, with zombies, and the nearest light switch was yards away, across what was sure to be zombie-infested darkness.
Just imagine if there was no light switch.
I know, no light switch, no Resident Evil, you say. We’re somewhat distanced today from the coming of night, but imagination is still with us. We can still imagine what it would be like to have every day slide inexorably, inevitably into darkness. Once, we lived our lives in that balance, in the struggle between Light and Dark, Life and Death, Summer and Winter, and we planted Halloween at the crossroads.
Halloween is a celebration of imagination, and we often share that imagination by telling each other stories. We’ve always been telling stories for Halloween—stories about the future, and the past. About who we are and who we want to be.
But especially stories about what we’re afraid of.
Recently, author Neil Gaiman (someone who knows about imagination) proposed that we make it a formal, informal tradition— that we give each other scary books, the week of or on Halloween.
This is a tradition that I will be happy to leave a light on for.