There's a lot to say about the last story in the collection, so I'm going to break this up into two entries this time around.
First off, the Twilight Zone influence is alive and well on this story. When I was a kid, I remember that Channel 46 (then an independent station, now Atlanta's CBS affiliate) would show TZ reruns every weeknight at 11 PM. I was in my early teens before I was ever allowed to sit up to watch them, and then only on Friday nights or during summer vacation. However, that never stopped me from reading the tantalizing one-sentence blurbs for them in the TV Guide (back when that publication was still the size of a Reader's Digest). The descriptions never failed to tickle my imagination, and I can remember some of them to this day. "A hospitalized woman waits to see if surgeons have been able to repair her disfigured face" ("The Eye of the Beholder"). "An Army major, a clown, a ballerina, a bagpipe player, and a hobo try to find escape from their mysterious cylindrical prison" ("Five Characters in Search of an Exit").
Then there was this one: "On the morning when a condemned man is to be hanged, townspeople wonder why the sun has not yet risen." That description was for an episode entitled "I Am the Night--Color Me Black," maybe not the best TZ, but certainly not the worst, either. At any rate, the connotations of that one-sentence synopsis bounced around in my brain for years, finally forming the seeds for "Darkest Before Dawn."
Zero Hour as a whole is dedicated to my wife, Cindy, but this individual story is dedicated to my father, the late Robert M. Setzer, also known as "Bob" or "Shooter." He was a fan of Westerns, particularly those featuring John Wayne. For years, the easiest gift idea for his birthday or Christmas consisted of presenting him with a new Wayne movie for his collection. Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic, ultimately resulting in his passing in 2009 due to liver cirrhosis. Because this story was set in the Old West--and because one character's drinking plays a pivotal role in the unfolding of events--dedicating this story to his memory seemed natural. On a happier note, my father did receive Christ as his Savior two weeks before he passed away.
Part Two will take a closer look at the Christian themes that entered into "Darkest Before Dawn." Until then, remember Philippians 4:13.--SMS