"A Walk in the Dark": A Short Story by Marguerite Devine-Mraz '17

Author's note: My intent with this short story was to try to go deeper into the mind of a Japanese-American citizen and try to imagine what life was like for them in the years following the war. My painting was Fox and Charlie Chan. I chose this picture because when I first saw it, I was drawn to the face and how many different things could be interpreted from the man’s expression. I used the idea of conflicting emotion to get an idea for my story and I also liked how the painting used dark colors, maybe to show internal conflict. I slowly came up with my idea of a man walking in the dark.

A man walked alone in the dark. It was the kind of dark that seemed to surround everything; it was endless. The streetlights offered no light, only metal poles loomed above the street and no longer had a purpose. The lights had been turned off because the city was not able to keep them on, at least in this neighborhood, and no matter how much the residents complained and begged for light, the city did nothing. So they all walked in the dark.

The man was making his way home. He was returning from another day of work, which consisted of supporting his superiors, even if they were crazy. He was supposed to be loyal. He always aimed to please, because if one could please, then they could be accepted. A thought that was almost always present was the thought to please. If they were pleased by my work, then I could be accepted. These thoughts constantly swirled his brain.

As he walked through the darkness, his thoughts wandered; from how delicious the coffee was that morning to how he cannot wait to read the newspaper when he gets home. His thoughts wandered for a reason, he was bothered by the dark but it did not scare him. It was the thought of what could be behind the darkness that caused him to be wary and cautious whenever he was out at night. He was paranoid in the dark because he never had a way of knowing what it was hiding. He felt that he could never be too careful. The darkness had a way of enveloping everything around it and he could always feel it around him. He was a naturally cautious man but you would not be able to tell if he was with others. When he was with his co-workers or out with friends he acted freely and was able to relax. He was, at those moments, content and carefree. He felt like he was safe when he was surrounded by people. When he was with others he felt no urge to feel paranoid.

However, when he walked in the dark, his mind was always playing tricks on him. As he would walk, he might think that he had heard someone behind him. He would hear footsteps or the sound of a door slamming, a sound that would echo through the streets. What he heard would always vary, and would cause him to stiffen and jump, and then turn about sharply to see who was there. He never found anyone. Somewhere deep in his mind he knew that no one was there. He would tell himself every time he heard something. Why would there be anyone about on a dark street in this area of town? This area was a neighborhood that most people stayed away from simply because of who lived there. The residents were not dangerous but people still stayed away for one reason or another.

It was the “oriental” area of town; there were a variety of nationalities but the city had pushed them all into the same category, as well as the same neighborhood. Many white people stayed away because it was not “proper” or “socially acceptable” to be seen there. He knew that it was all related to the war which had ended several year ago but he still could not comprehend why he, and the others, were still being blamed and shunned for what had occurred.

When the man was out during the day, on his own, he was never bothered by anyone. He was treated normally and with respect. He did his best to present himself in a way that eased people’s paranoia. His strategy worked, people would breeze past him and go about their day and would not give him any notice, just like every other person who they passed. However, on his way home, as the people vanished, he gradually became more and more uneasy. He would be surrounded by the dark with no sign of light. Every walk home was always the same. He was annoyed with himself, he knew his fear was irrational, and yet, he was so sure he had reason to be cautious. And so he asked himself why anyone would want to attack him in his own neighborhood? He belonged there. He repeated this question to himself every day. He was never able to come up with an answer that satisfied his fears. He reasoned that it was because of the darkness that constantly surrounded him on his walks. Despite the imaginary fears that lurked in the dark, he continued to walk.