Guided at Night by Factory Lights
Part One of The White Darkness series
A Prequel to The Tragic Beauty series
"This is a photograph of a person having a good time.
This is the kind of time you will never have."
And thus began the journey into white darkness.
Miles knew that his father was not quite right in the head. Throughout his childhood he had seen his father wear different faces. Sometimes he was like an ancient sage, passing wisdom on to his son. At other times he ran around in a blind panic, screaming at inanimate objects and cursing the existence of the sun. There was the calm father, the loving father, the pensive father, the angry father, and the father that crawled into a fetal position and sobbed like an infant for hours. This was the man who raised Miles and raised him alone after his mother had been inadvertently struck by a city bus that for some reason was maintaining speeds in excess of fifty miles per hour through busy city streets.
At a time when most of Miles' peers were celebrating a period of great transition, he was discovering white darkness. He had just graduated from high school. His fellow graduates were preparing for college, the military, or for aimlessly wandering the streets hoping to make enough money pumping gas to buy cigarettes and beer. Miles could not share in their joy. He spent the morning after graduation cleaning blood off the shower walls. His father, bored with his usual evening activity of wandering the dark roads behind the riverfront factories, had tried to kill himself with a busted safety razor. He perceived Miles' graduation as proof that there was an all-consuming force out to get him and that he was no longer safe leaving the house. As Miles dragged his father from the bathroom, the power failed and threw the house into darkness. It became so dark that everything Miles saw turned absolute white, bright enough to blind him.
Miles spent a week with his father after the events of that day. He oversaw his stay in the emergency room and then in the psychiatric ward. The day before his release, Miles' father told him something he would never forget.
"I'm not crazy, son.
It is just that they don't see as much as I see.
The darkness is so white once you have stood inside it.
Then you realize it isn't darkness at all, but something else."
It was the moment at which Miles began to rethink all his theories about his father. The man he believed to be crazy, mad beyond anyone's power to recall, came into a new light. The nature of his madness, perhaps, was no more than the inability of the world around him to see what he saw. Miles found himself down on the banks of the city reservoir contemplating the nature of life and all its interweaving threads. Was it indeed possible that his father was too sane? Such a thing could be far more dangerous than having a head full of mixed nuts and loose screws. Such a thing could be very dangerous just trying to comprehend.
Long summer days became moon drenched summer nights where the heat dissipated but the humidity hung in the air like melting candle wax dripping through a kitchen faucet. Miles closed his eyes to the stars and reopened them to a blinding light. It took a moment for him to focus, but when he did, he stared out across the water at the opposite shore. A woman holding a baby was standing there, staring back at Miles. She was standing at the water's edge, looking as if she might at any moment walk into the reservoir. After a moment, she stepped back and walked down a trail leading to a picnic area. Miles thought to follow her, but his body was quite happy to remain seated in a position of contemplation.
"Anyone could die in the next five minutes without upsetting the balance of the world."
The first time Miles heard the voice it spoke those words. Detached and ethereal, it spoke clearly and without accent or emotion. It felt like someone was placing a cracker on his tongue during a ritualistic communion. It caused him to stand, not out of fear or because it startled him, but because it gave him the impetus to move forward.
In the darkness of night, Miles could see more clearly than in the light of day. He felt himself more energized and alive. This was the time he could walk several miles through the woods without worrying about human contact. To Miles there was no sight more upsetting than that of a family enjoying an afternoon picnic amid the tranquility of the forest.
"She never walks alone."
Miles had walked the full length of Reservoir Road to reach his quiet spot amongst the trees. Regardless, he instead marched quietly towards the parking area adjacent to the picnic grounds. No car approached, and no sound of ignition disturbed the night. The young woman and her child could not have wandered far. The night told Miles he needed to see her. If nothing else, he needed to memorize her face and feel some degree of her sorrow. The night told him she was unhappy. It told him there were pieces of life he could help place in their rightful positions in the grand puzzle that held it all together. He was not yet sure he could agree to believe, but life at the moment offered him no more enticing possibilities.
There was another flash of light and it left Miles momentarily blinded. He looked up at the mountain that rose up behind the reservoir and smiled. His father had been, at times, obsessed with the mountain and in the past had taken Miles on frequent climbing expeditions. It was the only time they really became close. It was the only time that Miles could trust his father to be a complete and reliable individual. At least complete and reliable in the way society measured such things. He would not let the mountain beat him, for he believed the mountain to house great secrets. That obsession was stronger than any of his other compulsions or frailties. The mountain was Miles' mother in many ways, the great love of his father, and the place where he was raised in safety and security.
Miles' father was half Cherokee and half Jamaican. His mother was the product of a spoils of war pairing in post-World War II Japan. As far as the history of how his parents met and came together, there were no clues anywhere, not even in the kitchen cookie jar. It was in that jar where Miles' father kept his wedding ring and a crisp hundred dollar bill. Nothing else was allowed inside the cookie jar and those two items were never allowed to leave. Miles respected that. It had been a central theme of his childhood. The cookie jar had its own mysticism.
"Stop following me."
The voice of the woman startled Miles in ways the voice of the forest was incapable of. Miles turned towards the source of the voice. As expected, it was the woman and the baby he had seen from across the reservoir. Those waters were clear and tranquil. This woman was a river that churned up sediment at every turn.
"Usually there is no one here at this time of night.
I was concerned."
Miles told her.
"Don't be. You never saw me. I was never here. Someday your concern will cost you more than you can afford."
On to Part Two: Shadow of a Doubt