Writing Prompt: You live in an alternate universe where a person’s worst fear becomes a tangible threat in the dark. The rich possess ever-illuminated mansions while the poor conserve power for the dreaded night hours. Just as the sun is setting, your entire town’s power grid fails.
What waits in the dark?
A voice screams laughter throughout the city, and the eternal night descends.
“The lights!” a sickening thought shared aloud by every mouth around. The power had failed, and their nightmares were waking.
Joseph had been in the bathroom when the lights failed, a razor pressed to his throat, half a beard shaven off. He froze, already the stagnant air was rising, the shadows pealing together some foul unreality.
Eyes drawn into the mirror, its sheen offering barely enough light to see by, Joseph could make out the conjuring of a figure behind him. His heart began to pang within his chest, painfully loud in the deathly silence. But it wasn’t just what lurked behind that struck fear deep within his soul. It was the mirror itself, the soft surface of silky white, changing his own face of horror into a menacing grimace. He watched the phantom raise its hand, his hand, and press the razor blade against the bulging Adam’s apple of his neck.
“Sh*t.” blood trickled down from his neck as the blade snagged his skin. Joseph threw the razor down and the mirror snarled. Quickly, with eyes drawn closed, he turned into the conjured beast behind him, and ran.
There’s still time. He thought, clambering for a torch, a match, a candle. Still time before this unreality takes hold. But already the lurking demons of the mind were hard at work, his torch was lost – stolen – the candles stood without so much as a thread of wick to burn – cut loose – but wait… the matches! Joseph threw himself into the kitchen, rummaging through each and every door, all the while consciously aware of what was forming up behind him. Don’t think about it. Pretend it’s not there. It was said that focusing on your fear gave it strength, and gave it power.
Heavy breath abated the silence, a sound like talons tapping glass crept across the floor. Closer. Joseph searched the draws, but found was no sign of the matches. A chill tickled at his spine, the hairs of his neck stood on end, he felt the gentle clasping of fingers round his ankles, drawing
hands into fists that were ready to pull him freely to that deepest pitch of black that held his fears.
You’re not real. He argued, trying to deny the creeping hiss of an unseen, lolling tongue.
Oh, but I am. The shadows whispered.
With a heavy hand Joseph was dragged down onto his knees, his head ricocheting off the counter top. His heart swelled and his body screamed in pain and in fear of what was next to come…
Light! A flash from the corner of the room, a torch looking in through a window, and the shadowed creature was gone. His head thudding, blood spilling from his ear, Joseph began to run, waving frantically at the figure in the window. But they disappeared, and the dark returned just as he reached the front door of his home. He could here the lolling tongue, the tapping of the talons, the whisper of reality.
Real is what’s real and I’m coming!
Joseph threw himself out and into the dark, slamming shut the door behind him, searching for they that had come with the light.
He saw a child cross-legged and huddled in the road. He thought of shouting at them, urging them to run. But the dark will hear me first.
It was already too late. Out from the cracks of the pavement there rose thin, insectile legs that held up a body born to life from the shrouds of the night. An eight legged apparition hounded down the young boy, festering jaws dripping acid. The boy screamed as his skin began burn beneath the hot touch of what wasn’t truly there. Those clattering jaws unhinged, and piece by piece the boy was eagerly consumed until only the shadow of what was remained.
Joseph could see others, drawn by the boy’s screaming, spawn one and all of the deepest recesses of the mind. Then in a flash he saw the light, the saviour, his saviour, the torch. He dared to speak out, “Wait!” he cried and lunged after the fleeing figure.
Behind him, in the wake of his home, disappointed shrieks of shadow called out in union. We will find you, Joseph. You can’t run forever.
It felt like a lifetime of horror, chasing down they who held the torch. He passed not a single other stable source of light as he followed the orb in the not so far distance. Every street lamp stood dead in gloom, looming now like scythes in the bleak black of the World, Death’s own servants ready to fall down and chop of your head. Each house he passed was cloaked in midnight, screams hailing the streets as unthinkable terrors digested those that had birthed them.
Too many times Joseph had happened to see what shouldn’t be seen;
He watched a clown with rotting skin bludgeon a woman half to death in the streets, all whilst her husband watched, held back by chains.
He saw a pack of rabid hounds with foaming jaws devour a family in hot seconds of boiling blood.
He witnessed a doll’s eyes begin to flicker with life as its limbs wrapped tight around the child who’d sought comfort in its being. The child’s parents suffered, too. Prisoners in a hellish game, one forced to watch the senseless torment of the other…
There were horrors far greater than these that even Joseph dared not look upon, horrors he omitted from his mind.
It isn’t real. He pleaded. It’s play pretend… it isn’t real.
Oh, but it is.
Joseph caught the fleeing figure in a fit of heavy breathing, bent double at her knees, tucked away in the wake of an alley. An awful place to hide when horrors roam the streets. But she had the light! The blessed light of life. A torch. Safety. The woman had spied Joseph and made again to run away. She was scared of him.
Without thinking he grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking her madly, “Why are you running?”
“We’re all running.” she cried, tears filling her eyes, “There’s nothing left to do but run. We can’t hope to help to each other. I’m sorry.”
“Nonsense! I won’t have it. Damn these silly games.” Joseph’s hands grew tighter on the woman. Her eyes rolled back in fear, she dropped the torch and with a click the lights went out.
“Please, Gods no. Just leave me alone!” the woman pleaded. She’d seen something in the face of her attacker.
“I want to help you.” Joseph growled, his hands rising from her shoulders to her neck, “I want to help you…” he rang her dry until lifeless fell her body with a sudden thud. Joseph dropped to his knees, searching for the torch, mindless of the woman he’d killed bare handed.
Then he felt it, the shadow climbing up within the alley, the prickle of hairs, the tapping of talons.
You can run, but you can’t run forever. The darkness hissed, and then smiled.
Fear stuck a hand through his heart.
“You’re not real.” Joseph whimpered.
Oh, but I am.
Copyright © K R Perry 2019