Dedication: For Robin Williams and anyone else who has spent time in the Dark. If only we could spend time there together, then perhaps it wouldn’t be so very lonely.

When we were young, my brother was a voracious reader. He was particularly enamored with a set of books by Susan Cooper called The Dark is Rising. His passion for the series never inspired me to read it. As a child I was far too captivated by my own imagination to dawdle in other people’s stories, but I was intrigued by the title.

The Dark. It’s Rising.

That simple phrase caused my mind to conjure chilling images of being swallowed up, slowly by the heavy, powerful and ominous blackness of the Dark. Creepy. Unstoppable. Unrelenting.

As a child, this was a spine-tingling thrill. Fodder for the play-acting my friend and I staged in the town cemetery. But now, thirty-some years later, I still hold those evil, consuming images in my mind. I’ve never read any of Ms. Cooper’s books. Perhaps, if I had cracked one, sunk into its pages, some of my fear of The Dark would’ve dissipated.

Instead, “The Dark is Rising” has become a morbidly accurate description of the slow, terrifying descent into depression.

I know it well. Depression. And when it comes calling it does indeed creep, like a fog around your ankles, rising up until it slowly swallows you in a hazy blackness, a darkness that is impossible to shake or escape from. Once the Darkness has risen, it coils itself so tightly around you that anything outside your shroud is too far away to touch.

There is nothing, nowhere, no one to reach out to.

You would think, with experience, I would be able to sense the approach of the fog. That I might sense it skittering toward me on the horizon, like a storm about to break. But time and time again, I’d foolishly try to convince myself that the chill I feel is simply a bad day. Ugly weather that will pass with time. But a bad day turns into a bad week and an aching wells up inside my chest, an emptiness starts to throb with hunger in the depths of my stomach. While I’ve been looking the other way, trying to distract myself with the shiny objects of daily life, it grabs me. The Dark. It seizes me by the neck and I am suddenly, naively, surprised to discover that I am choking.

Of course, no one can save you.

They can’t see the sinuous fingers that are wrapped around your neck. To others, you still seem fine. Normal. The Happy Ones may even mistakenly think you are one of them. But they don’t know. Even the most intuitive of the Others, the ones who know you are not your usual self, think you’re simply having a bad day. But a bad day is a stubbed toe followed by a flat tire and a missed deadline. This is not a bad day. This is a slow murder of the soul, self-inflicted and agonizing.

The Dark rises higher, flooding into your open, gasping mouth. It seeps into your eyes and ears until it is all you see, all you hear. Its bitterness overtakes your mouth, spoiling your taste for anything. Any light that manages to break through this drape of blackness hurts, like a sharp cut of brightness that your senses are too delicate to receive. The light only serves as a reminder of how deeply buried you have become. It is a vanishing point on a distant horizon, and on that horizon are all the Others, with their stupid smiles and petty problems. With their hair appointments and playdates and grocery store runs. You want to shout at them, “Why bother? There’s only more and more and more of the same, and it isn’t enough. It’s not enough to create meaning. There is no meaning.” Dirty laundry never truly gets clean. The fridge cannot stay full. Hair grows and time passes and all the while your comings and goings and busy doings are futile. Entropic. Pointless.

You will have to do it all over again, and what ever comes of any of it anyway?

But they can’t hear you out on the horizon. They are swept into the piercing, shining light. You squint into it, trying to make some meaningful contact, but it hurts too much. So you turn in. You surrender. You wrap yourself in the darkness like a wool cloak and you allow yourself to sink further into the cold, bitter black and let it bat at your organs, your soul, your heart.

The Dark. It has a voice. The Dark wants to let you in on a secret only you can know. That you are nothing. Worse than nothing. You are an abuser of resources and space. You are a trickster who has fooled the Horizon Dwellersinto thinking you are real. That you are a person too. But you’re not. So stop.

Just stop the pretending and relent.

Sink further down into the mire and muck – the residue of every evil thing that has been said to you, about you, by you – a thick, bubbling pool of the greatest fears you have ever had about yourself.

The more you listen to the Dark, the more it becomes your friend. A great protector. The Dark can save you from the lies and the pretenses of the Happy Ones. The notion of normal and all the chores that come with that burden.

“Why bother?” the Dark asks.

And you can’t think of a single reason.