Dispatches from the desk #3: There are streetlights in my mind

The cast is/are (depending on US/UK usage) currently lurking in a ruined cellar in the dark. This creates problems. I always forget how dark it is. Partially this is because I write so much about shapeshifters, demons, and others who can (oh so conveniently) see in the dark — night is not a problem for the Blackdog or Moth or Mikki (or Torrie, or Rookfeather, or of course Maurey and Nethin, who are Nightwalkers) — but mostly it’s because for the last dozen years I’ve been living in town. It’s never dark here.

I grew up in a rural village and used to walk at night in the pasture. It was dark, with the faint pinkish glow of the city on the eastern horizon. I knew the ditches and the brooks, the trees, the stones and the cracks in the stone; I never actually fell into deep water or ran face-first into a hawthorn. (Cowpats, however …) The sky was black, black, black, thick with stars, and the Milky Way arched overhead as a river of faintly glowing mist. Now I live in town, and the night is a sort of pinky-orange. I can walk around my very cluttered house in the dark with the curtains drawn, because so much light leaks in there’s no need for nightlights. I take Mister Wicked out for a very early morning walk, and at this time of the year that means it’s still night-dark. We mostly meet up with a friend to walk in a park-like area where there are no streetlights, but there’s still so much light that one has a good sense of where everything is. The dogs all have blinking red LED collars, which are actually a clipped-together pair of cyclists’ armbands from Mountain Equipment Co-op. They’re very good for letting cars see that the dog-walker is there, but not really illumination for walking, and yet, it’s only the deep ruts in the lanes that take the foot by surprise; all the other obstacles are clearly visible. It’s also easy to see where the other dog-walker is, his posture, his gestures, all those things one writes about without thinking. And yet, really, when it’s actually dark, an observer wouldn’t see all that. Even moonlight, unless there’s snow to reflect it, doesn’t light up the night very much, though a full moon and snow makes for a very bright and beautiful night. It’s really hard to remember how dark true night is, when the cloudy night sky one sees all the time is a sort of murky pinkish and an unclouded one a muted dark with faint and scattered stars, only the planets burning bright.

I need to go back and revise my cellar, remembering that my five fugitives in the dark can’t see one another.


About K.V. Johansen

The author of Blackdog, The Leopard, The Lady, and Gods of Nabban, epic fantasies from Pyr, I also write for teens and children, including the "Torrie", "Warlocks of Talverdin", and "Cassandra Virus" series, and the "Pippin and Mabel" picture books, as well as a couple of short story collections and two works of adult literary criticism on the history of children's fantasy literature. I have a Master's degree in Mediaeval Studies, and read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and history. Blog at thewildforest.wordpress.com
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