A lot of us are afraid of the dark, including. But I’m far more afraid around midnight, the so-called Witching Hour, than at 4:30 a.m., when I wake up and crawl out of bed.
Is this a phobia — or common sense?
Spend time lying in bed at night, feeling drowsy but not exhausted, and then open the window.
Lie there comfortably on a mild evening, and listen to the sounds you hear from outside.
Some time later, wake up in the very early morning, maybe around 4 o’clock or so. Do the same thing. Lie there in the darkness, still drowsy but no longer asleep, and listen to the sounds from your open window.
Stare out into the darkness.
Night darkness, it seems to me, is radically different from morning darkness.
Is There a Good and Bad Darkness?
In the hours after the sun finally sets, a feeling overcomes me that I can never quite shake. Lying on the couch, I can glance out my living room window but no longer make out much of what’s out there.
The darkness engulfs the outside world beyond my window panes, and it’s easy to pick up on the fact that something is happening out there.
Cars roll by. Then the other sounds intrude – the dog that barks, for example. You glance up at the window, see the dark silhouette of two people – or is it more than that? – walking their pets.
The world is moving ahead, regardless of the darkness.
Morning darkness is different. As you lie in bed early in the morning, it feels more …. enchanting. The darkness still blocks so much of what’s out there from your vision, but now there’s a distinct stillness to the world. You can instinctively sense that nothing much is going on out there.
It’s not that there is complete silence. Every morning around 4:30, I hear the whistle of the trains that go by.
The sound doesn’t wake me – it’s too far off in the distance to be that loud, and instead it’s like a gentle, soft reminder that the morning is coming up, and the sun will rise in a few hours. I would sleep through it, except I’m a morning person and not a late sleeper.
And it’s not that nothing is happening in the morning hours. In my neighborhood, the occasional car drives by at 4:30 in the morning. Joggers run past my home. A stray cat comes by, knowing this is when I get up, and always eager for a morning meal.
There is movement, there is activity; people are starting their day.
And yet I can watch the morning darkness and feel a sense of calmness, of serenity.
What’s Unsettling about Witching Hour Darkness?
I don’t feel that way at night.
Part of that, I suppose, is the uneasy feeling that the blackness that covers the world is the perfect cover for those who ….
…. shall we say, are up to no good?
Are there those who thrive in the darkness, the cover for what they do that is anti-social, that is threatening, that is dangerous?
Are they more likely to be out there in the initial hours of the darkness, leading up to midnight?
No one can claim mornings are a time when the worst among us finally sleep. There have been a number of local hotels and convenience stores in Central Florida that have been robbed, at gunpoint, in the early hours of the morning, usually between 4 and 5 a.m. Obviously, somebody believes they are less likely to be caught when committing crimes at this time.
Night sounds can be entrancing, or annoying, or ominous.
I love the train whistle at 4:30 a.m.
I hate when I notice the persistent ticking of the alarm clock.
I love my cat purring happily next to me.
And then there are those sounds that you simply can’t pinpoint. What exactly was that clunk, that clang – not a car, clearly not a person outside, not a bit recognizable at first?
So okay …. what was it? Did the sound come from inside the house, or outside?
It’s too dark in the bedroom to just sit up and notice what it was.
It’s a mystery now.
I hate evening darkness.
It’s only when I open my eyes, early in the morning, that I feel a sense of peace, at last.
When I was a child growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts, I lived in a home built in the 1850s, pre-Civil War, in a very historic section of the city. For a number of years, my bedroom was in a spacious room in the attic, which included a small closet with a door leading into the rest of the third floor.
And to this day, I’ll never forget the moment I was lying in bed, and woke up in the middle of the night from deep sleep, and glanced up in that dark room.
That’s when I saw it: a man standing right outside that closet. I saw him crystal clear.
And within a few seconds, he was gone.
Since that day, I’ve felt amply convinced that I have very good reason to be afraid of the dark — particularly since the darkness provides some degree of cover for what it is you’re afraid of.
Go bravely into the darkness, my friends. Because chances are, there is something in there that you need to be fearful of.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.