A Moment of Brightness in the Dark

Figure sitting in front of bright swirling smokeHave you ever wondered what ghosts are, really? It’s easy to say things like ‘unquiet souls’ and ‘memories of the past’, but then, why do we so often portray them as bright, glowing things?

A floating white sheet. A headless man limned with green fire, a black-haired girl in a brilliant white nightdress…

Lights in darkness, leaping up to say boo. Why? Is it just because the brightness stands out? Something sudden and different? A shock?

I’ve heard it said that stories tell us how we expect the world to work, that they follow familiar patterns. Maybe it’s half true. But what would be the joy in a tale that went: I got up, I ate some yoghurt, and I sat in front of a computer, and drank some coffee and ate some other things through the day, and eventually I went to bed?


No, we want stories that take the everyday and give it a good shake. That jam a stick into the spokes of our wheels. Or someone’s wheels, anyway. The girl who’s walked the same path a hundred times one day meets a wolf. The screen a man has watched in safety for so many hours becomes a portal to something dark and dangerous. The person you thought was a trusted friend… turns out to be neither.

And we learn that the world is not always quite what we thought it was. It’s a darker place. A more complicated place. Different shades of shadow. Sometimes, in fact, there’s precious little light.

And in all this, here we are seeing ghosts as bright, glowing things. Moments of brightness in a dark world.

All of which begs the question…

Should I trust the ghost, do you think?

Author’s notes
A tiny ghostly thing for Halloween.
By the way, this year, PseudoPod has created a special, one-off original drama for Halloween called The Witching Hour. Do listen. We promise you, it’s true.

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© Kat Day 2021