When the lights go out


word by Josh Elyea

colour by Jason Middlebrook

What do you do when the lights have gone out? 

You take a walk. Not outside, where the autumn has turned leaves red and a familiar chill has crept into the Montreal wind, but rather inside: you take a walk through the desolate hallways of the mind. It’s best to ignore the part of your consciousness that tells you this is just your mind imagining itself – you can’t know what the inside of your head looks like – and continue to press deeper into the increasingly detailed world of your brain.

The further you walk, the more you notice the darkness; it’s not apparent at first, but before long you can’t help but see that in all these rooms, in all these wrinkles and rooms and chambers and palaces and dungeons that are dedicated to the things you cherish, the lights are out.

After wandering the halls for a while, you begin to wonder whether your brain works the way it used to; you find yourself pondering whether  these rooms can still light up in the way they did when you were young, when things were simple and you didn’t feel so used and so jaded.

You might make an effort to stop in each of these rooms and flick the small switch that hangs precariously on the darkly-papered walls; you might find yourself taking note of which lights shine bright and which bulbs now seem dim, and what this says about how you value the things stored in each room.

You’ll wonder what all this has to do with your addiction to entertainment, and whether there’s irony to be found in the fact that the room dedicated to Friends shines brighter than the room dedicated to your friends. This might be coincidental, but you can’t really know because you’ve never taken the time to understand irony.

You’ll begin to wonder where all the colours of your mind went, and what it says about you as a person that you don’t even have the requisite neuroelectricity to power the bulbs in the rooms you deem essential, those dedicated to creativity and personal fitness and Bob fucking Dylan.

You’ll ignore the advice of the people closest to you,  who tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and focus on getting ahead by doing what you can. You’ll try and tell them it isn’t as simple as flicking a switch; by this point, you despise the colours of your mind, and you’re used to life without the lights on.

It’ll start small. You’ll find a room, somewhere deep in the right hemisphere of your brain, where a bright yellow light burns from behind a tightly locked door. Inside will be a book or a movie or a song, maybe even a person  or a pill that’ll walk with you, to remind you that there’s still vivid colour to be found, if you only take the time to turn on the lights.*


See more art by Jason Middlebrook