A child catching a Frisbee runs into the shadows, uncaring, and vanishes completely. They come back, screaming at their friend for such a terrible throw. While everyone is focused on this activity, the swing sets disappear. No one knows about it until a child rears back for their first go and is pulled into the darkness. They immediately return, not high in the air, but getting close. Did no one see that? You did, and are curious. That curiosity drives you to get off the bench and walk around. Very soon, the sky is black. Yet the playground is still bathed in sun. A dog catches a ball with an impressive vertical leap. Only its hindquarters and wagging, fuzzy tail can be seen until it comes down. The shadows have taken over all sides. The ball thrower nor the dog can be seen anymore. You can no longer ignore what is happening.
However, the children are oblivious. Those poor souls- or are they? Listen. They continue to laugh and play, the ice cream man continues his monotonous song, the dogs continue to bark. One even brushes against you and you can feel their fur against your legs. Looking down, you can see the sun reflecting off its shiny white fur. It runs and leaves woodchips in its wake. The shadows are visibly spreading with a speed you can no longer ignore. You lift your hand in front of your face, the age old maiden’s tale of facing the darkness with no fear. You have no wrist and most of your palm is gone. Only your fingers float, bright in the dark.
A girl screams directly ahead. You approach and see her. The darkness is kind enough, but she runs towards it, oblivious. Pink shirt, blue-jean shorts, pigtails, all attached to muddy white tennis shoes. The girl runs across the metal equipment clangclangclangclangclang! She reaches the slide as the shadows seep behind her. She slides down, a shrieking. She is so close all you can see is her face. The sweaty dirty blonde hair, a little bit of ice cream sandwich on corner of her lip, the adorable dimples. Nothing. You feel her hit your body. You feel the woodchips dig into your arms. You feel the air pushed out of your lungs. You feel pressure on your chest as she stands up to get away. You hear her mother yell at her to be more careful. You hear her yell, “Sorry, you shoulda moved!” You smell her sweat; and the breath of a dog coming over to lick your face. You taste a little blood because you accidentally bit your lip on the way down.
During training week at Camp Dogwood we were showed the five videos that inspired this horror story. Three visitors came by to tell me and my coworkers what the blind experience. After the video we were given practice with canes and waved them from side to side in the Cates Room. And then most of us were blindfolded. Some were given painted goggles that simulated the more common visual impairments. Those who could see even a little gave me (blindfolded) and the others guidance back to our dorms. Afterwards, we walked back with the roles switched so I was in goggles and others were blindfolded. We made our way to lunch and were blindfolded again. All of the counselors ate lunch without being able to really see anything.
Initially the exercise was fun. However, during the video, I was terrified and I could not find out why until almost two weeks later. The hopelessness of these visual impairments is drastic. There is almost nothing that can be done for most of them. And one of the woman, hers was the most frightening. She woke up one morning as a teenager and could not see a thing.
I have 20/20 vision. Without a sensory deprivation chamber I will never be truly blind. While blindfolded, I could still see the ground directly below my feet, or the food on my plate. Or I could be sneaky enough to just take my blindfold off for a moment. Others cannot ever peek under the blindfold or take it off. The darkness will not let them.
After almost two weeks of being a counselor and seeing a lot of visual impairment, a new light has dawned on me. I thought I was a critical thinker enough to realize it sooner, but apparently not. A lot of the people we have at camp are just the same as they ever were. As far as I can tell many of our campers have always been as cheerful as they are now. Shadows sucked them in and never let go, but there is still hope after the fact. Glasses, laser eye surgery, and camps like Dogwood can give them somewhere to go. They may not be able to see the beauty I see but they intrinsically know, after the initial terror, that the world around them is still the same. Blindness can change lives for sure but it is not over. Humans are fighting creatures and if there is an opportunity or chance to make our lives better, even after the shadows take everything away, we will take it.