A dark tale of... Oh, I Shouldn't Spoil It
It was a dark, dark day in the dark, dark forest. And, in the middle of the dark, dark forest, there was a dark, dark house. At the front of the dark, dark house, there was a dark, dark entrance. Through the dark, dark entrance, there was a dark, dark lobby. At the far side of the dark, dark lobby, there was a dark, dark staircase. And at the top of the dark, dark staircase, there was a dark, dark passage. At the end of the dark, dark passage, there was a dark, dark door. And the dark, dark door led into a dark, dark room. In the dark, dark room, there was a dark, dark closet. And in the dark, dark closet, there was...
Nothing. I really am terribly sorry to disappoint you in this way but the closet was completely empty. Although it was dark - there is no contesting that. But no skeletons, no secret doors to other worlds, no fur coats, not even the mouse that inhabited the dark, dark drawer that the children's story led to in that book I used to read to my offspring when they were young. And much of the impact of that story was in the reading aloud. Or, better still, aloud to begin with but becoming quieter and slower with each succeeding "dark, dark" until the scare of the loud "THERE WAS A MOUSE!" at the end. Children do love a good fright, after all. There is, no doubt, a long and interesting discussion in that but it would be even more of a digression than this brief explanation, I think.
So we should return to the dark, dark closet in its glorious emptiness. Of course, you have only my word for this dearth of interesting contents and it may well be that I have missed something in my haste to find out where this tale is going. It was dark (very dark, in fact) you will remember and it would be easy enough to miss some small object that gives the lie to my bold assertion of emptiness. If we had thought to bring a flashlight with us, we might remedy the situation very easily. Since we did not, however, there remains only a recourse to the light switch in hopeful essay.
Now, it may seem unlikely that an empty (and dark) house should have electricity, indeed, that the owner would have forgotten to inform the utilities of his imminent departure and that they should turn off the power therefore, but the flicking of the switch reveals immediately that there is power and, as a result, light. Perhaps the owner met some misadventure on a journey far from home and was never able to return to switch the lights on and off ever again. Or maybe he departed in haste with weightier matters than utilities on his mind. It is even possible that he simply forgot to inform the electricity company. Any number of explanations occur but the fact remains that the light is now on and the room is no longer dark, dark.
Nor is the closet and, with our enhanced ability to inspect it, we are able to confirm that it is indeed empty, void and bereft of contents. It is only as we turn our heads to reverse out of the closet that we notice something that might have some interest after all. There are initials inscribed on the inside of the closet door.
There are two letters, somewhat shakily scratched into the wood and they have the required dots to indicate that they are initials and not some weird and obscure word in a foreign language. "A.Q." they announce, a statement quite enigmatic in its simplicity. Someone, at some time and age, has made a bid for immortality in this inscription, it seems.
But it is that "Q" that catches the eye and begs explanation. There must be hundreds of first names that begin with the letter A but Q is a mighty strange opening to a surname. Quirky, in fact. The mind begins its wandering and we discover that it would fit rather nicely with H. Rider Haggard's hero, Allan Quatermain; indeed, the A gives weight to the theory. But was Quatermain ever in New England? I think not - or, if so, H. Rider omitted to mention it.
So we proceed to more mundane suggestions - Adam Quincy, for instance. And that is annoying, since it was Quincy Adams, wasn't it? Alec Quasimodo, Arnold Quark (famous physicist and discoverer of the particle named in his honor), Ahmed Quigley, Alejandro Quissnitch, Alice Quagmire (to extend the issue with females), Albert Quip (well known wit of his day), Alfreda Quince (famed horticulturist of the 18th Century), Agamemnon Quaff (the town drunk), oh, the possibilities multiply into infinity. I am staggered as they proceed into the distance like mirror images of mirror images of themselves. Most likely we will never unravel this particular mystery and must turn to other matters.
Why inscribe initials on the inside of a closet, for instance? As limited are the chances of fame in the inscription of so truncated a message as initials, the positioning inside a closet seems a handicap too great to be overcome. An act of defiance, therefore - a child's refusal to bow before the authority that decrees "No graffiti!" Hidden but existent, even so. Yes, that must be it.
So we are left with a vague picture coalescing out of the emptiness. A child, furtive but intensely furious at some injustice, scraping at the inside of his closet in the dark of night, proudly asserting his identity in this forbidden deed.
And this is what we remember from our visit to the dark, dark house. No thoughts of the gloomy lobby or the spooky staircase, the lowering corridor or the dim room disturb our experience of this moment and place. Only this child making his first expression of individuality stays with us. A memory to combine and mingle with our own vague memories of unavenged slights and unfair sentences from our dark and misty childhoods. For a moment, the pain returns, the cause forgotten but the railing at injustice oh so well remembered.
Word Count: 1,040
I have done some research (thanks, Google) lately on the book I read to my children and which forms the spur to the first paragraph of this tale. I have not been able to find the author of that particular book but it turns out that it is just one of many that are based on an old traditional tale. One version of the originating story has several verses, each of which ends in a surprising discovery. This comforts me in that I no longer have to feel even slightly guilty at having borrowed the opening paragraph. Since the author is not known, there is no way I can give proper attribution.