XV.

“Freedom!” cried Anastasia Swallow. “All the ill and the oppressed, you have been kept in this life-sapping darkness for days, and it has been gradually draining your energy for the use of these evil holes in the atmosphere, these shadows. But a shadow is merely a phantom that is an effect of the blocking of the sunlight. Rise up, one and all, because we can defeat these phantoms. What happens when you shine a light on a shadow? It vanishes, because it is just a trick of the light, and merely a deceptive fantasy conjured up in your eyes. Do not be afraid of these phantoms. They hold no danger to you unless you erect an altar to them in your heart and are falsely convinced of their reality. All you who crave freedom and life; we can defeat these shadows with light!”

And Anastasia pulled from her pocket a small cracked torch. She should have remembered it before. Now she held it up triumphantly, as the Statue of Liberty in New York holds up its own torch in glory and victory. Then she found the switch, praying to every god and spirit she had ever heard of that it worked, and pressed down firmly.

A beam of yellow light lit up the cavern, and Anastasia heard a shriek of rage. In the blessed ray of light a dark black shadow contracted and melted into the air.

Anastasia, trying to ignore the little heaps of clothes lying round about, shone it around, and a thousand shrieks erupted into the atmosphere as a thousand black punctures in the universe dissolved in the torchlight. A thousand piles of rags cheered with almost the last of their breath, and a thousand echoes bounced off the cavern walls and applauded along with them. A thousand ghosts cried out soundlessly in chorus, for in the past few weeks a thousand weak unsupported bodies had been entirely drained of their energy, and a thousand living breathing people had died here in the stone-cold life-sapping evil of the underground chamber. A thousand beams of light reflected from the rough rock walls and bathed the grotto in a dim yellow light, eliminating the evil, cleansing the chill, lighting the darkness.

Oh, light! Light defeats darkness and despair and death. Light is life. Light is hope. Light is freedom. Shine a light on your rankling visions and they will be exposed and will vanish from your ivory nightmares, for they are the non-existent evil. The real evil is the horror and the fear inside your heart that you must hold onto because you have not found light. You are deceived and the darkness deceives you. But the light sets you free.

The End

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