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Heather Graham

It was a dark and stormy night...

by Heather Graham


It was a dark and stormy night . . .

Um. Such words immediately invoke the knowledge that something is going to happen. Something frightening.

Why?

Because, whether we wish to believe it or not, we're all victims of our own minds, our distant and shared genetic pasts, and, quite frankly, to one degree or another, we can all be mental cases, animals with instincts that we can't quite deny. And, of course, there's that something inside of us . . .

We love a good fright. One in the world of fantasy, of course. Sometimes fear, in just the right dose, can be absolutely delicious.

As rational, mature adults, we're taught that we shouldn't be afraid of the dark. And yet, a fear of darkness is as basic and primeval as any fear we might face. And with good reason. Years ago, while our cave-people ancestors were fighting to survive, darkness held a virtual plethora of very real dangers. As to the rain? Storms made the very heavens shake, thunder seemed to be the voice of a furious god, and lightning could strike like an angry arrow, bringing death and destruction, and if not, one hell of an impressive show! What man would not fear the fury of those who reigned in a different world, and who had the kind of power to make man, earth, and even the sky, tremble as well?

To this day, we instinctively fear darkness because it can hide so very much. And because we fear the darkness and the creatures that might lurk within it, a setting at night will always make the skin crawl a bit. We know that any manner of creature might leap from night and shadows.

Just as we historically fear darkness, throughout the ages, we have feared the entities that are cloaked within its folds. As human beings, with our thumbs, forefingers, and most importantly, immense brains (relatively!), we are always seeking for answers, explanations. From the beginning of time, man has looked for deeper meaning, he has found gods and goddesses, and naturally, a way to explain evil, pain, and death, as well. Just as our religious beliefs are varied and profound, so are our beliefs in all other matters of what goes on beyond the realm of what the eye can see-or science yet explain.

Long before Bram Stoker penned Dracula, ancient peoples in the Near East feared the lamia-bloodsucking harpies that attacked infants and children and drank their blood. Then there was Lilith, possibly Adam's first wife, and possibly an entity that stirred human imagination and tempted and haunted man years before the Old Testament was written-wherever she actually emerged, she was evil. Gorgeous and evil, a succubus, a female demon, luring men to their doom. In dozens of legends, from dozens of societies, we have met the vampire-the creature of doom who survives in his own, icy, death-cold existence through the warmth and life of the blood of others. Nosferatu was a creepy, scary being . . . as was Stoker's original Dracula. In more recent years . . . well, if you're going to get bitten, a vampire such as that portrayed by Chris Sarandon in Fright Night might certainly explain the lure to allow lips-and teeth-near neck!

Werewolves, shapeshifters, and men who perhaps bear mortal form by day and are monsters by night do more than draw upon ancient legends and fears. They are actually part of all of us, the absolutely classic fight between good and evil within our own souls, totally exemplified in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Such stories may be as old as time, but they still have the same remarkable draw-can good win out over evil. Even more classic-can the true love of a good man or woman reach out to goodness within another, and quell the evil that haunts us all?

Whatever the demon, the beast, the creature, therein lies the fight! Good against evil.

These days, we've done an incredible job modifying the fight. A vampire is a bloodsucker-but then, George Hamilton's vampire visited blood banks and rather than lose her man, his beloved became a vampire as well, flying off into the sunset with him.

Ann Rice created one of the classis scenes of all times when her vampire couldn't quite kill a human being-but managed to munch down on a pair of obnoxious little dogs!

Whatever our creature may be, we're seeking the humanity within it-and heck, there are those that are just pure evil, and must, of course, be destroyed.

Not quite the same substance as creatures are ghosts. Talk about "dark" and "stormy." Throw in a cemetery at night as well, and . . . whew!

Truthfully, I don't know my own feelings. I can't actually say that I believe, but then again, I'm not so sure that I don't. If there is life after death, then, indeed, the realm of possibilities is endless. In my particular experience, I lost my father when I was twenty. I was devastated, and miserable, and hated everyone who had made it past his age. Certainly, I was a totally wretched child, leaving my mother to deal with me as well as her loss. But it went on and on-I really wanted to die myself. Then I had a dream, and I was with him in that dream. I knew he was dead, but he kept telling me that he was fine. We were driving around Arizona-where I'd never been at the time, and he was impatient with my concern for him, telling me to pay attention to the wonderful new sights I was seeing.

After that, I began to heal. And sometimes I wonder if he came back?

He wouldn't do so in the flesh. Knowing that I'm your basic coward, he'd know that I'd have a heart attack on the spot. But maybe . . . he was a ghost. Scientists might say that it was my mind, busy with survival, trying to get on. Still . . . I wonder.

I was alone with my father-in-law when he went into a coma just an hour or so before he died. He'd been sleeping, he sat up suddenly, stared across the room, and saw something. I'd swear it, a thousand times over. I jumped up to see what he saw. He fell back and never woke again. He was deeply religious, and I believe that he saw some entity . . . someone, something, gentle and kind, come to bring him home. Again, the logical mind might say that his brain was malfunctioning in the final moments. I know it was more than that. So . . .

What I love is all that might be. Exploring the realms that we can't really touch, don't really know. After writing vampire stories, I received lots of strange questions, such as-are you a Satanist. Actually, I see myself as not a good, but a very decent, Roman Catholic. Also, my Mom was born in Dublin. I was brought up with the very real conception that banshees and leprechauns do exist.

Maybe they do . . . and maybe they're just the wonder and fantasy of the human mind. Whatever may be true, I am one of those people who simply loves a good story that begins in any manner or fashion of . . .

It was a dark and stormy night!

 

© Heather Graham Pozzessere 2003

 





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