Afraid of the Dark
The Sick Day Issue

Afraid of the Dark

To defeat my fear, I went to the Swedish province of Småland and lived in a secluded hut in the forest for three weeks.
2016 oktober 17, 9:20am

This story appeared in the October issue of VICE magazine.

I've always been afraid of the dark but, rationally, I know there's nothing dangerous about it. To defeat my fear, I'm going to look it square in the eyes.

Last fall, I went to the Swedish province of Småland and lived in a secluded hut in the forest for three weeks. From here, I ventured out into the dark.

FEAR

I arrive at the hut and then decide to confront my fear by walking to the nearest neighbour one kilometre away. The sun sets without me noticing and I'm forced to walk home in pitch-black darkness. My heart is thumping, my knees weaken and a knot forms in the pit of my stomach. During the next couple of days, I can't open the door to let the darkness in. I barricade myself in the house. I lie in bed hating myself for coming up here in the first place.

EXPOSURE

I start going out early in the morning instead of late at night. Meeting the light rather than watching it fade somehow feels different. I have to push myself. Two days later, I venture out into the night for the first time. I build a fire in the twilight and sit there until I am completely immersed in darkness. The flames quickly die out. Only the embers are left, and I sit there, even though I am scared. I've spent the daylight reading and here, in the darkness, I attempt to recall Hemingway's Paris and Fitzgerald's parties.

SURMOUNTING

I face the forest without a torch. With it on, I'm only able to see its cone of light. If I walk with no light, I can see the road in front of me. I get better at controlling my fear. I swim in a small lake under moonlight. I swim out to where my feet can't reach the bottom. I master my fear.

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