Lost in the Dark

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Kenya Jayne Washington shivered and stamped the snow off her boots. She was standing in the dark basement of the Pattersons’ flower shop. Aunt Rose had told her Mike was down here somewhere. The tall, brick building was very old, and the basement seemed to go on forever. It was full of little rooms, twisted hallways, funny smells, and of course, lots of junk. Most of the kids liked it. Kenya had been here several times over the summer, but this was the first time she’d ever come alone. She couldn’t believe Mike could find his way around, but he always seemed to know just where he was.

“Mike? Where are you?” she called into the darkness. She hoped she didn’t sound nervous. There was only one thing she didn’t like about this place, and she’d always kept it a secret. “Turn the light on!”

“Over here,” Mike’s voice called back. Kenya saw a light go on. He seemed to be at the very farthest end of the basement.

Kenya took a deep breath and walked toward the light. Was this what caves were like? “What are you doing?” she called, just to make Mike talk to her.

“I’m looking for a box of games,” Mike called. He sounded a little closer.

Holding her breath, Kenya hurried around two corners and into a room full of boxes. Stepping into the light, she could breathe again. “Why are they down here if you still want them?”

“We put them away during the summer. I play outside during the summer, but now that winter’s come, we want to play games and I can’t figure out where I put them.” Mike ran his hands along a stack of boxes that were labeled in raised letters made of a thick layer of paint. “You sound like you’re shivering.”

“It’s freezing!” Kenya said. “Even in here I’m still cold. You should see the storm outside. I’m sure the snow is almost a foot deep already. If I had known how fast it was going to pile up, I wouldn’t have come. I should call my parents.”

Mike fished in one of the boxes. “Here they are! I knew they were in this room. Could you help me get this box out?”

Kenya started to cross the room, then let out a scream. She heard Mike drop something. “What?” he gasped, startled.

“The lights!” Kenya wailed. “The lights went out!”

“Oh. Probably snow on a power line somewhere. You made me drop a whole box of papers.”

Standing frozen in the middle of the room, Kenya could hear him picking up papers. No doubt he was putting them neatly in the box, not even caring about the darkness. Trying to breathe instead of scream, Kenya raised her hands in front of her face. She couldn’t see them at all. Not a bit! Biting her lip, she stretched out her arms. She couldn’t feel anything, either. It felt as if the room was a mile wide, and she was stuck in the middle of it, with no way out. She gritted her teeth, trying not to imagine the black, empty space growing, stretching out on all sides of her forever.

“Kenya? Are you OK? You sound funny.” Mike sounded perfectly normal.

Kenya tried hard to sound normal too, but her voice wobbled out of control, and she knew she was going to cry. “Mike? I—I’m scared.”

“Scared?” Mike’s voice came closer. “Of what?”

Kenya hated to admit it. She felt like such a baby! Nobody knew she still had to have a night light. “I’m afraid of the dark and it’s so dark down here. It’s black, black, and cold—” She screamed again, louder this time, when something brushed against her.

“Kenya!” It was Mike, and he was grabbing her, finding her hands. Kenya clutched at him, gulping back tears. “It’s OK,” Mike was saying. “I’m here. Hold my hand. I’ll lead you out.”

He started to move, but Kenya pulled at him in a panic. “No! No, I can’t walk—I can’t see! Mike!”

Mike stopped. “You don’t have to see to walk, Kenya,” he said calmly. “Pretend it’s blind man’s bluff and we’re in the park.”

“It’s not the same!” Kenya panted frantically. “I can see light through a blindfold. I’ve never ever been anyplace black like this! I’m so scared!” She could feel the tears burning her cold cheeks. It was the most embarrassing moment of her life.

Mike was silent for a minute. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I didn’t know. I’ve heard of people being afraid of the dark, of course, but I never understood.”

For a second, Kenya forgot her fear a little as she thought about Mike instead of about herself. Was it always like this for him? Kenya was horrified. She had wondered what it was like to be blind, but she had never imagined anything so awful as this black hole of nothingness. How did he survive?

“Let’s pray,” Mike suggested. His hands were warm on hers. “Dear Jesus, Kenya and I know that You are always with us. We know that You can guide us out of here and that You can help Kenya not be afraid. Help me to lead her, Jesus, and help us not to stumble or fall or hurt ourselves. Amen. Now come on, Kenya. You can walk. Trust me. Hold my hand. I know my way around down here, you know that. Come on.”

Gritting her teeth and hanging on to Mike so tightly he would probably have bruises, Kenya slid her feet a little along the invisible floor. Mike kept up a comforting chatter as, step by slow step, they made their way to where he said, “Here, Kenya. Here’s the doorframe.” He guided her hand to the wall, and she grabbed it thankfully.

“Now we go this way,” Mike said. Slowly, as if they were in one of those nightmares where you can hardly move, they made their way down the endless hallway. Clinging to Mike with one hand and to the wall with the other, Kenya tried to slow her breathing. She sounded like a dog panting on a hot July day. At least she wasn’t crying anymore. Would they ever get anywhere?

She gasped when she thought she saw a light.

“Mike? Kenya?” called a voice in the blackness. The light flashed again. It was Mr. Patterson!

“Here!” Kenya shrieked. She saw the light swing around a corner not too far away, and Mike’s dad appeared. Kenya had never been so glad to see anybody. She had never been so glad to see, period!

“Hey, you two. You OK?”

“Fine,” Kenya said breathlessly. “Mike led me. He’s a great guide. I didn’t even stumble. And he helped me not be so afraid.”

Mike laughed. “The blind leading the blind. But I still didn’t get my games!”

Kenya laughed too and felt a little better. She even went back into the darkness with Mr. Patterson and Mike to get the box of games. They let her hold the flashlight.

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