Another Your Story submission coming to you, this time from the lovely Jennifer K. Marsh. She writes inspiring and heartfelt posts on her blog that I encourage you to go read. She’s also written a wonderful book that I also recommend you read!
This story is full of darkness and of light, and is a powerfully personal tale of what it means to find hope. For every adventure has its darkest hour and every hero must endure the hardships placed upon her. I have hopes that this story will find a special place in someone’s heart.
As always, do leave a kind comment! I’m sure Jenny would love to hear what you think. Enjoy :)
Lights in the Dark
“The concept of lights in the dark has always been beautiful and infinitely precious to me. Indeed, it is still – and forever will be – what makes my heart beat, and why I can make it through the grimmest of times. Ever since conscious memory has been within my capabilities, I have been in love with the night sky, and one of my favourite sights as a little girl was a black river sparkling in the moonlight.
Due to this love I have of lights in the dark, I have, therefore, always been enchanted by the thought of seeing fireflies. They are living lights in the dark that fly, like stardust floating before you. Bioluminescence. How mesmerising. For so many years I have yearned to see a firefly with my own eyes. Maybe someday…
But what does this have to do with the adventure that is my life? Well… My whole adventure has been about finding the lights, seeing the lights, feeling the lights in any darkness thrown my way.
Throughout my teenage years, I was in a very dark place – and that’s putting it lightly (pun not intended). Sometimes, whenever I think back to that phase of my life, I struggle to believe that I could have once been so unbelievably wounded an individual. But, alas, I was – and some may argue I still am. Do you ever truly heal from such unbearable pain? Every single day I used to come home from school and cry in my bedroom until the evening, desperately fighting away the temptation to stab myself in the leg with scissors, or climbing out my bedroom window to run away, and often I skulked out to drown my sorrows with alcohol or let the essence of my inner demons coil around the smoke I inhaled. However, for the most part, I did very well at fighting away such temptations and refraining to meet with friends to do stupid things by distracting myself with activities within my bedroom:
- I had a keyboard. I used to sit crossed-legged on the floor (because I didn’t have a stand), and I taught myself how to play it. Night after night, I did not stop until I had taught myself. And then I taught myself how to read sheet music. Every night, in the low light, I would practice and play until my fingers hurt, until my shoulders ached from stooping over it due to sitting on the floor. But that was okay; it distracted me from the pain within myself from which I could not escape. It was something positive. The white keys shone light amid the night. And now I have the skill of playing the piano with me forevermore, purely because I sought for something to brighten the darkness.
- I had a little, mirrored disco ball which hung above my bed. I cannot remember for the life of me where this came from, though… I think it might have been a present from when I was a kid. At night, I often used to sit on my bed with the lights off, shining my portable book light up at this disco ball as it hung above me. Countless squares of reflected light beamed across the entirety of my room. It was beautiful to behold. And then I’d stand up to spin the disco ball with my hand, letting it twirl madly on its thread, before sitting back down and shining the light up at it again. The light zoomed around me, encircling in a blur, as though I was falling and spinning through a distant galaxy of stars. I used to sit there for hours doing that. It made me see light in my dark, dark room. I still have this little disco ball. I cannot bring myself to part with it.
- I used to write or doodle ghoulish things, or incredibly deep things, such as the following (which I happened to stumble across in the bottom of a drawer only the other day – and I know it was from this time because, strangely, I had dated it):
How does one express an emotion they cannot articulate into words? Their mind becomes a mass of emptiness that engulfs them in a sense of unfulfillment as they wander the trails of life lost and alone. Their soul, their spirit, is crying out in a plea for help, but the body only manages a few forlorn tears. These tears hold each word the tongue cannot bear to speak, nor the mind to think.
And I also found this one (not dated, but I just knew…):
With every light must be a shadow,
With every rise must be a fall,
And now I spend my life letting go
Of the love I used to know.
But with every night shines a bright star,
And with every fall we stand again.
May the grace of high fill me
And take me back to then…
When I could love.
They were heavy words I bore with my pen. But writing out my emotions was (is) a release for me, for I am a mute when it comes to expressing how I feel. Always have been, always will be. But I can talk with the pen in my hand. Writing what I did let my feelings come out in a healthy way, rather than allowing myself to spiral deeper in desolation due to my moronic and sinful behaviour. Writing like this helped me feel the light within my own, terribly dark, heart.
But sometimes, when the night-time fell, I used to venture outside into the garden, for my love of nature and the night beckoned so. I lay on the grass, feeling its damp chill seep through to my skin and I drew in deep, heavy breaths of the cold air, for I was addicted to the sensation of it crystallising in my lungs, and as I lay there on my back, still and silent, I stared up at the dark sky who stared back down at me with innumerable silver eyes. They were such a comfort to me, the little diamond pinpricks up in a midnight robe. Or maybe they were more like shattered particles of ice glistening in the moonlight. I could smell the frost on the breeze blend with the earthy grass rising up, luring in the shadows that encased me in a darkly comforting embrace. I often used to lie there while listening to music on my MP3 – electronic/hardcore/dance/trance/whatever-you-want-to-call-it music, which I reserved specifically for these times, alone and despairing. Darren Styles and Ultrabeat were particular favourites of mine.
While lying there, listening to my music which made me feel so wonderfully detached, I always found myself thinking about The Lion King.
“Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down at us from those stars. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.”
Perhaps the stars really are eyes, I thought. Maybe we are forever watched over. What if every star we see is the light of an angel trying to guide us safely through the night? Is what I see the shining light in their eyes? Deeply breathing, the condensation of my breath curled up and away from me. I used to wonder where those little wisps went: did the breath-essence of my soul dissipate beyond a veil to join the sky above, or did it merely drift away into black nothingness? Would my soul be forgiven by the stars, by the King of Kings? Is He even there?
Time went by, and my situation got no better. If anything, it got worse. I stayed in my seemingly never-ending spiral of desolation and self-destruction, and I could not get out. I did even more moronic acts, and I was glad to, because I wanted to hurt and I wanted to hurt others – such was the malignant state of my mind at the time. School life got worse in every possible respect. Tears, rage, screaming, hatred. Why did no one help me? How more obvious could I have made it that I was dying? And then I came home at the end of the day to a home life which had also got worse. I could not cope. Was home not supposed to be my refuge? More tears. More rage. More screaming. Why was I alive? I didn’t want to be. I wished I wasn’t. It became even harder to fight back certain temptations, yet still I managed to prevail mostly… Somehow. I ever continued to play the keyboard, spin my disco ball, write, and stare at the night sky. I ever continued seeking my lights in the dark.
I was still in my teen years when Owl City’s song ‘Fireflies’ struck the world in a lightning buzz. Who doesn’t know this song? I first heard it on the radio, I believe, while skulking in my room early one morning. I liked it. And so, I put it on my MP3 player (I still used my ancient MP3 in 2009, yes. I am not high-tech). I remember the first time I listened to it lying out in my night-time garden. And that’s when I fell in love. It made such an impact on me while I lay out beneath the night. Such a beautiful impact.
‘You would not believe your eyes if ten million fireflies lit up the world as I fell asleep
‘Cause they’d fill the open air and leave teardrops everywhere
You’d think me rude but I would just stand and stare’
I thought of The Lion King again – as usual when I was under the stars – but this time I found myself thinking of another scene:
“They’re fireflies – fireflies that got stuck up in that big, blueish-black thing.”
What a gorgeous thought it is to think that the stars are little fireflies; what a gorgeous thought it is to think that the lights we see in the dark night sky are alive, just like us. Are they sad to be stuck there? I thought. Maybe they are. Maybe their teardrops are the early morning dew. I always found it humbling and wonder-striking to stare into the starry sky, for who can say how far away the stars truly are? What an infinite open space the sky is. And there I was, an insignificant spec in the universe, lying upon the Earth which is also an insignificant spec. But there I was, in existence amid this infinite space, even though I didn’t want to be. There I was. Perhaps, at the end of the day, the stars are merely “balls of gas burning billions of miles away”, but that in itself is still a beautiful thing. They burn, and in the meantime, they light up Earth’s night, all so insignificant little specs like myself can look up and fall away from reality in a desperate bid for hope.
‘I’d get a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs
As they tried to me how to dance’
But looking at those firefly stars was so moving for me. The light from those stars reached out and took my soul by the hand, bringing it into some form of life by rousing my spirits to dance. They can show me how, I thought. The stars are always there, each and every night. With their light, could they teach me how to stand again? And then would they show me how to walk, and run, and dance? I may feel alone and lost and worthless and hopeless and lifeless, but the stars have always been there for me. Aren’t they angel eyes? Don’t they watch over me?
‘The disco ball is just hanging by a thread’
Maybe the moon is a disco ball and the stars are actually the dots of reflected light. Maybe the firefly stars dance because the disco ball moon twirls for them. Maybe the disco ball moon makes the trapped fireflies smile through their tears. And there was no reason why I couldn’t smile through my tears. So I did just that. Listening to ‘Fireflies’ that night made me cry so much, but I smiled through my misty eyes, for I was seeing the most beautiful lights in the dark, and I knew I would always see those lights, so long as I remembered they were there. And how could I possibly forget when all you see when you look up into the night sky are angel eyes, and fireflies, and the disco ball moon?
Is the King of Kings even there? Of course He is. He is the brightest light of them all. He is the shining light in every angel eye. He is the light shining upon the disco ball moon so the endless galaxies can spin with reflected stars. He is every firefly.
These days, whenever I hear the bleeps and bloops that is ‘Fireflies’, I often have to force back a wave of emotion. I am taken back to that place in my old garden, beneath the night and the stars, and I can feel the cold air seeping through to my bones and smell the biting chill as it fills my lungs. I love that feeling. I love to be reminded that I can make it through any darkness thrown my way.
And, goodness, have I had some bitter-black darkness.
A little more time went by after ‘Fireflies’, and the story of ‘Ilimoskus’ came to me; still being in my teens, darkness continued to consume me as I planned it all. But I was still in love with my lights in the dark, too. My fireflies. There is a creature in the Ilimoskus world which I created specifically inspired by all I have mentioned in this post… These creatures have two names – a formal and informal one: the informal name is dandleflee; the formal name is flamodanba, which means ‘small sun’.
Flamodanba are essentially floating balls of fire, around the size of a golf ball. They are gentle, delicate and sensitive, and they are deeply loved and treasured. They are somewhat mystifying creatures, as when they are not present there is no possible evidence of their whereabouts, or even their existence. They are known to appear when being of assistance by offering their bright light: when one is lost and in need of guidance; when one is troubled and in need of hope; or when one feels empty and in need of warmth. There is also the belief that they are lucky: if one tells a flamodanba their hopes and dreams when it is near them, they will come true. Since they are such sensitive creatures, they are easily disconcerted and discontented, and when this happens they explode into sparks with a bang and vanish. No one knows how they disappear, and even less so where they go. One must be very careful not to upset them. Very little is actually known about these creatures, but it is said they cannot die. They are one of the most mystical and magical creatures in the Ilimoskus world.
‘Deesophe followed Urall’s hand, and not too high up, her eyes met a quartet of flamodanba whirling around one another, swirling and twirling. Dancing. “Aviib!” she exclaimed. “Why, it looks like they’re dancing! I’ve never seen anything like it before!”’ – Ilimoskus: Times of Old, chpt. 23, pg. 264
My flamodanba dance, just like the firefly stars. And their light will never die.
If ever you find yourself trapped in the grasp of the deathly shadows, I urge you, please, to see and feel your lights. Whatever they may be. Seek them, and they will be found. Do not be overcome. Even in darkness there is light. The night sky is living proof of this.
And your imagination and creativity can make those lights even brighter.”