Sam's Little Larks
ABYSS SAM and SPIRIT SAM are walking in the graveyard.
ABYSS SAM: Fall is my favorite part of the year. Everything is dying. People drive up from Connecticut to celebrate death, taking pictures of the chlorophyll breaking down and the suicide plunges of hundreds of little leaves. People put skeletons in their yards, bony fingers shaking at you, warning you, “There’s one of me inside of you! Better be careful or I’ll escape!” Everyone is winterizing, convinced that the death of the grass and trees might be the death of them too, half-hoping it might be, half-hoping they might be a leaf and turn red then brown then fall to the ground to writhe and wither and crack under the eventual snowdrifts, forgotten from the world and compost by the spring.
SPIRIT SAM: Oh.
ABYSS: You know, people don’t spend enough time thinking about darkness. They use florescent lamps and fire in their places to try to ward off the shadow void that will take us all. They even put candles in the scooped-out craniums of pumpkins, pretending that even fruit have some sort of inner light they want to spread to the world. But that’s a fallacy. Everything is dark on the inside and everything will be dark on the outside, too, when the days get short and the nights smother the happiness you thought you would always have. But the fact is that you were made in darkness and you’ll die in darkness. Darkness is the only truth you can ever know.
ABYSS: Oh, I know. You’re going to say we evolved past that. You’re going to say that darkness was a truth only before we rubbed some sticks together and learned what is flame. You’re going to say that we’re all natural bearers of light, that we once were light ourselves, starlight that’s fallen down around us and been absorbed so we do have some shine ourselves. But we don’t. What do you see when you close your eyes?
SPIRIT: I don’t know. Red sometimes, I guess, and little bursts of whatever that’s called, light basically.
ABYSS: You see darkness.
SPIRIT: Well, only because my eyes are closed. But I try to see the light, even when —
ABYSS: There is no light.
SPIRIT: What about the sun?
ABYSS: A lie.
ABYSS: A construct.
SPIRIT: Well, how about that moon?
They are both enraptured for a moment, staring through trees to that impossibly familiar, great shining orb.
SPIRIT: Even here, walking without any streetlights, we’re not falling over gravestones or tripping over ourselves, are we? Our eyes adjust, and even in the darkest places, they find the light.
ABYSS: Have you ever been in a mine?
SPIRIT: Yeah, once. I hated it.
ABYSS: I’m going to live in a mine. I’m not going to bring a headlamp.
SPIRIT: That sounds awfully depressing.
ABYSS: Of course it’s depressing. That’s why I want it. We are all abysses. I, for one, actually acknowledge it. I want to live in it.
SPIRIT: What about light you can’t see?
ABYSS: There’s no light we can’t see. There’s only darkness that we haven’t met yet.
SPIRIT: Well, I mean, what about the stars? Right now, that huge moon kind of shadows some of the stars behind it because it’s so big and bright and close and they’re further away, as persistent but not as powerful. They’re there. You know they are because you see them on nights when there isn’t a moon.
ABYSS: I don’t see the point.
SPIRIT: Nor do you see the light! Because it’s light that you have to look for, and sometimes not even literal light but, like, metaphysical light. Or spiritual light.
ABYSS: That’s daft.
SPIRIT: It’s not! It’s all we can do to combat, you know, the abyss. And that’s what this season is. We’re not supposed to be threatened by skeletons. We’re supposed to see them as a promise, an eventuality that’s even a little hopeful. They tell us that we go on, at least structurally.
ABYSS: We end. Everything ends. And then there’s only darkness.
SPIRIT: What about haunted houses?
ABYSS: Darkness that you pay for.
SPIRIT: But they end, too, don’t they! The point of haunted houses isn’t to frighten us or tuck us away in the dark. The point of haunted houses is that we eventually walk out of them, the glow of an exit sign and brightly lit parking lots. It’s nothing but a reminder and a brief one at that, a little suggestion of what life would be if everything were horrible.
ABYSS: It is horrible.
SPIRIT: No it’s not! No sensible parent would ever let their kid dress up as a ghoul or goblin if the point were that they would forever be ghouls. The point is that they, like the trees, can die for a little while and then be revived.
ABYSS: They should stay dead.
SPIRIT: What a horrible thing to wish! That would totally deny the power of the cycle!
ABYSS: I think everything should die in the winter.
SPIRIT: Everyone does, a little bit, but not forever! It gets reborn! Do you know about the Changing Woman? (ABYSS grunts inconclusively) No? The Changing Woman is a Navajo myth, a woman who lives like trees and who cycles like the seasons. She is born in the spring, is youth in the summer, becomes frail in fall and dies in the winter.
SPIRIT: Yes, good! Because she is reborn in the spring! She comes back! She, like all things, never ends. She just passes her spirit to the next season, the next sunny day, the next light that is strong enough to cut through the abyss —
ABYSS abruptly falls into a freshly dug grave. There is a long pause.
SPIRIT: Are… are you okay?
ABYSS: Never been better.
SPIRIT: Do you need some help?
ABYSS: I’ll be fine.
SPIRIT: I’ll check on you in the morning?
ABYSS: Don’t. I like it here. Happy Halloween.