Darker than the Shadows

The forest was as quiet as a graveyard after the sun has set. Only the occasional sound of the whispering wind could be heard above the silence. To her it should have seemed a peaceful place with a silent, tranquil aura. But it wasn’t.

She stared around her, frantically turning this way and that, peering wildly into the trees around her. They were moving, closing in on her, trying to crush her. She had to escape before they trapped her in their branches and squeezed the life from her. Then she ran, her breath a ragged gasp in her throat. A single word pulsed through her mind again and again.

Escape, escape, escape. It was the only option. It loomed over her, absorbing her like a dark obsession.

Her foot caught on a tree root and she hit the ground with a dull thump. She scrabbled on the forest floor, her crazed mind desperately scrabbling for the reason why she was suddenly on the ground. Someone must have grabbed at her! Her eyes darted about, deliriously trying to find her assailant. Then her insane mind saw the dark shapes that moved among the trees. They had returned.

She wrenched herself up and began to dart through the woods once more. Now she saw the dark shapes moving in the shadows. They were behind her, above her, around her! They were blacker than the night they hid in, but their eyes glittered maliciously in the gloom. Their only purpose was to catch her, but now the thought that raged through her mind was more determined than the last.

I will escape, I will escape I will escape!

And so she ran even faster. Suddenly one of the shadowy figures sprang in front of her, hissing darkly. Turning from the grotesque form she took off in another direction, madly searching for something—anything!—to save her. If only the light would come, then the shapes would melt away into nothing and their hissing and shrieking would no longer fill her head.

She dashed onward, searching for the light. But her desperate eyes missed the low hanging branch in her path. She collided with it, collapsing to the ground. The pain and the shock of what had happened washed over her, and she blacked out.

Now she was lying in an unnamed blackness, a place that was nowhere and that contained nothing. She tried to call out, but her cry stuck inside her throat and would not issue forth. She gasped, drawing in one ragged breath after another. She had to move, to escape all darkness forever and find the light. But she didn’t rise. She simply lay there, trying to remember how to move and what moving was like. It was then that the shadows returned.

They scuttled through the nothingness, still darker than the shadows around them. Their hisses sounded like an abstract sound of laughter. Their eyes seemed to sparkle with a kind of gleeful hatred as they leapt upon her. She tried to scream once, move, but the sound would not come. She tried to struggle, to move, to get away! But all motion was beyond her.

The black shadows dragged at her, trying to pull her into further darkness. Then, massing together, they lifted her. She was rising, higher and higher above the blackness. Could the shapes be taking her to the light?

Then they dropped her.

She fell like a stone crashing downward to what lay beneath her. But what was beneath her? Nothing! She fell faster and faster until she thought she would never stop. She was sure that she would die this way, ever falling farther and farther into the blackness. She flailed wildly, trying to find something to stop this terrible downward plunge. She wanted to cry out for it all to stop, but the breath caught once more in her throat. Then she gave up. She would never stop falling. She would plummet farther and farther into she fell right out of existence, and everything would disappear.

Suddenly, she on what what seemed to be a marble floor. But instead of the sickening crash that should have come after her drop, she touched down lightly on the snow white marble. She stood, staring about her once more. There was nothing around her, save the pure white floor beneath her and yet more darkness surrounding her. Suddenly she caught sight of a pale, white light drifting toward her. Then another appeared beside it. And yet more around that. Soon the pale lights were circling her, inching closer ever so slowly.

At the sight of any other light, she would have been filled with joy. But this strange light she met with only perplexity. The whiteness of the light was unsettling. It was cold, colder even then the darknesses she had suffered. This was not the light that was going to save her.

As she stared, transfixed by the icy luminescence, each light began slowly to change. They all morphed slowly until each had taken the shape of the child. The rags they wore contrasted slightly luminescent glow out lining them. Each face was more palid than the floor beneath them, but it was their eyes that shocked her the most.

Every child had fixed its raven black eyes upon her, and their stares bore down. Their shadowy faces held no expression, only a drab, blank stare. Then, as one, they smiled. But their smiles contained no joy, no happiness. Each smile had but one purpose: to mock her. Their black eyes seemed to drill straight into her as they advanced.

There was nowhere to go. The children were surrounding her, closing in on her from all directions. At the same moment they all raised their hands, reaching for her. Closer and closer they came, moving at a maddeningly slow rate. Just before their icy fingers touched her, she screamed.

Suddenly she was lying once more on the floor of the forest, her heart thumping at an alarming rate. Her scream still hung in the air, echoing through the trees. Then it passed away into the darkness, and all was silent in the forest once more. She stood slowly, gazing around her into the shadows. Then, her heart still thrashing rapidly against her chest, she took off again into the woods.





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