For about a couple of months now I’ve been seeing a strange magenta light at the back of the yard. They seem like they could be leftover holiday lights that someone hasn’t bothered to take down but I only started seeing them after the new year. There used to be a lot of trees beyond our back fence and, beyond that, a house about the same size as ours that I could hardly see. In the winter when the trees were bare and the weeds dry and dead there’d be a faint glimmer of yellow lights, but that was all. Then someone bought that house, cut down most of the trees and bulldozed the house. They replaced it with a big white McMansion that, as far as I know, is still empty. Maybe the construction isn’t finished. Maybe it’s overpriced. Maybe both. All I really know is that at night it’s dark. I thought that strange magenta light must be shining through from the other side of the street the McMansion faces.
It comes and goes too. Some nights it’s there, some nights it isn’t. It’s a mystery and the other night, to see if I could solve it, or at least make it a little less mysterious, I went up to the fence and looked through to see what I could see. The trees are starting to get leafy, tufts of wild onion are sprouting all over the yard, and the weeds are raising their heads. If I didn’t look now I might not have another chance until late next fall. It might be gone by then.
As I got closer I could see it wasn’t just one light but two, side by side. That set me thinking about something completely unrelated. One of the most common tropes in all of horror is the pair of glowing eyes. It’s not limited to horror, either. Sometimes you find it in, well, horror-comedy—the image of someone out in the woods whose campfire goes out revealing countless numbers of glowing eyes around them is, depending on your context, pretty funny. A pair of eyes moving around in an otherwise black void is also popular animation shorthand for people lost in the dark. It was popular in Scooby Doo, and also Danger Mouse—the British version, not the Netflix reboot–because it’s cheaper and easier to animate a couple of floating white circles than a whole character.
Most of the time, though, glowing eyes are terrifying. Imagine looking out your window at night and seeing a pair of eyes staring back at you, suspended, possibly, in some tenebrous creature. And if you want to raise the level of terror imagine you’re on the second floor. They’re frightening because we know instinctively they’re unnatural. Bioluminescence is common in nature, especially in the benthic regions of the ocean, but eyes only glow with reflected light.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like the right time of year for such spooky speculations but then I started thinking that spring can be a scary time of year. Fall has its share of ghosts and goblins, it’s the time of the harvest and the beginning of the end of the old year, but spring is its mirror image, and a strange beast of its own. Things start to wake up. Bare ground grows green, sometimes overnight. We could see straight through the trees. Now clusters of leaves block the view.
At the fence I realized the two lights were shining from a window in the big white house, the one that’s still, as far as I know, empty. There are no other signs of life there.
At least not that I can see.