Thursday, 9 July 2015

Monsters In the Dark

We all remember our monsters in the darkness, the ones which hid under our beds and in our closets.  The things we can't see are always more terrifying than the ones we confront and understand.  People who use fear to manipulate us are always deliberately vague about the consequences of the terrors they are invoking, it allows the listener to fill in the blanks with their own anxieties.

I've always found knowledge easier to deal with than uncertainty, even if it ended up being bad news.  But there comes a point where the knowledge becomes a burden all on its own.  In the graphic novel, Midnight Nation, there is a point where one of the characters is tortured by being made aware of all the misery and horror in the world for a few terrifying seconds.

How would someone cope with that kind of knowledge?  If reliable and powerful psychic powers truly existed, then the people with them would learn all sorts of things that we usually aren't faced with.  They would be inadvertent witnesses to the horrors which can behind a pleasant façade.  This is one of the origins for my hero, Michael, in Revelations.  As a psychometrist who can pick up secrets and emotions through touching people and objects, he'd have to deal with knowing about affairs, heartbreak, lies, and treachery.

I did some research into people who work with the darkest part of human reality, the investigators who search out abusive crimes and the workers who try to put communities back together after war and genocide.  I wanted to know how they cope with having seen the incredible depth of human imagination put to figuring out ways to hurt and destroy.  There's a very high turnover in these fields as people reach the limits of what they can cope with, but there's also a common theme of focusing on how they can help.  That's what allows them to keep going day after day.

I needed to find a way for Michael to use his gifts to help and I found the inspiration to make him a child therapist, one who helped children who couldn't speak for themselves.  He uses his gift to shine a light into their darkness and help them to defeat their own monsters.

There are true horrors in this world, but I believe that they always seem bigger in the darkness.  Knowing the truth is like flipping on the switch in the closet.  Maybe there will be something hiding there, maybe there won't.  But once it's seen, it can be fought and defeated.  Being forced to see all the horror in the world might be a form of torture, but it would also bring a certain level of perspective.  All the petty things we tend to flail ourselves with would be revealed as surface issues.

There are monsters in the dark, but they are rarer than we fear.  And they can all be made smaller with a  little illumination.

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