The fog was weighing down heavily on the little town of Ypsilanti.
The people of Ypsilanti had been taught, by now, not to linger on the streets after dark and to do their business in daylight whenever possible. They knew that when dusk swept across the streets to rinse out the last rays of sunshine from the roof tops and darkness came to stay, nothing good would come of it, and that it was best to shut them out – both dusk and darkness. To light the fires in their hearths, and light the lamps in their rooms, to make the candles burn bright, soon to cut through the creeping fog with their illuminated windows, softly, softly, and let darkness be what it was; shapeless and far away. At least as far as possible.
But there was a boy named Verner who was not afraid of the darkness and that was for one simple reason only, which was that he had not yet been taught to be. And so he went on his nightly rounds through the deserted town, with his own little candle to light the way and he went to find out things you could not find out in daylight, such as: the sound of an owl’s hoot, the sight of Tynelaw river by night when the water glittered, the feeling one gets from watching lit windows in the distance and, perhaps, seeing figures move behind them from time to time, and, perhaps, imagining the people living there being warm and cosy, the shape of the moon which changes from night to night, up close, through the crowns of the trees, the warmth that spreads in one’s fingers after a long journey in the nightly cold. All these things, Verner went to find out on his nightly walks around the empty town and he did not understand why his parents and his teachers and his friends, most of all, told him not to go again, not to tempt the darkness and to be a good boy now.
But he loved the outside and he loved to walk, and he loved the town by night and so he continued to creep outside after everyone in the house had already fallen asleep, his parents and his little sister Frida and his grandmother Rosalyn. And thus he made the darkness his friend, molded it with the warmth of his candle and the tips of his fingers into something which one need not be afraid of. And the people of the town of Ypsilanti started to notice the boy Verner walking the cobbled alleyways in the dark, and they loved to see the glow of his candle dancing on the wall of the neighbour’s house, and day by the day, the light from his candle seemed to grow brighter and seemed to chase away an inch more of darkness. And one Sunday night, the boy Verner was not alone; his father and mother, his sister and grandmother, had come with him to listen with him to the owl’s hoot and see the Tynelaw river glittering by night, and their neighbours watched them and suddenly could find not a single reason to stay inside on such a beautiful night as this, and one by one they joined the boy Verner and his father and mother and his sister and grandmother, and they formed a throng of people walking through the town and out towards the river and the more they were, the more the people watching from the safety of their warm kitchens wanted to join them, too, until almost the whole town was following the boy Verner.
And when they heard the owl’s hooting and saw the Tynelaw river’s glittering, they could not remember why they had ever been afraid of the dark.