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The Black Woman

Down in the farthest depths of a pine-tree wood, a small bog was bubbling. No one was around to watch such an occurrence. Every human but one in a ten-mile radius was asleep, as three in the morning was a sensible time to do so. All but one were dreaming comfortably in their warm, clean beds, far from the danger lurking in the woods, unaware of what could possibly be forming at the surface of the bog. Very few had ever been out in the forest that far, and those who had had never noticed anything special about the bog. Tonight, though, everything was changing.

The stars, those innumerable silver specks of light in the sky that formed patterns to those with imaginative minds, were the only silent observers as she arose from the bog, her form insubstantial and bodiless, but her mind sharp all the same. Crisp white steam swirled around her as well, the black wraith who crept on invisible feet and made sloshing sounds as she transcended the boundaries of the bog and crawled onto hard shore. She did not move quickly; rather, she merely drifted through the air, borne by the wind. She had no reason for hurrying. Indeed, she had all the time in the world, because she knew that he would be awake tonight, the only one who still remembered, the only one who was still afraid. His fear was not irrational, but she was indifferent to it. He feared, and so she had to come to stop it.

Several miles away from the forest, a young man sat in the middle of the main room of a house with all its lights blazing in every window, his eyes and ears alert and watchful for everything that was going on around him. He glanced obsessively up at the video cameras he had set up in each of the four corners of the room, his mind consumed by paranoia. There were more video cameras in the rest of the house, four for each room, even the miniscule closets. His skeleton hands lit another cigarette, and a tremor rocked through his body as he raised it to his thin, parched lips. He was exhausted, bone-tired and so sick of this, this watching and waiting, having to sit in one place and not sleep for days. Sleep deprivation or starvation will kill me before she does, his weary mind mused. Aloud, he said nothing. All that passed from his lips was the smoke from the cigarette he had just lit. Burnt out butts from others like it were littered on the floor all around him.

He was so very terrified and so very tired of being terrified. What was he waiting for anymore? There was no stopping her, and he knew it. What did he think he could gain by this vigil? He had already seen her with his own eyes. He knew that she distorted video and photography. What was the point of this whole charade, then? Was he a masochist? Did he want to torture his body and soul at once by deluding himself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, he could stop her? Wasn’t he effectively hastening his own death? She knew that he was here. But there was no way to prove that… But she had to know. She had to hear his heartbeat, even all the way out in that thick forest. She was waiting just as he was, the latter dreading and the former relishing the time when they would meet again. Unbeknownst to him, the time was sooner to come than expected.

The creak of a floorboard directly behind him. He forced himself not to turn around. The near-inaudible tapping at the window. The whisper that, though quiet, filled his head completely.

David…

Your time has come, David .

The papery voice blocked out all other sounds from his ears, though his sense of hearing had heightened so much over the past few days that he was trained to pick up the sound of a feather dropping gently to the ground. His fingers unconsciously tightened around the metal cigarette lighter that he held in both hands, gripping it until his knuckles were white. He craned his stiff neck ever so slowly around to see an inky black mist swirling about outside the window, blotting out the stars in the sky and the tips of the trees. His eyes widened, but still he did not let a word pass his lips.

David, the voice sighed. You can’t hide forever, David.

A terrible, sickly-sweet smell leaked into the room and wafted across his nose, making him cringe. His body tightened, and it was only by clutching the cigarette in his teeth and inhaling that he stopped himself from retching.

Come to me, David, the voice intoned huskily. Come outside and play.

“Never on my life, you old hag,” he muttered hoarsely between his teeth.

Outside, the pitch-black smog could be perceived as to have surrounded the entire house. The front door began to rattle, and he trained his gray eyes on it, squeezing the cigarette lighter even harder. He would not get up from the floor. He would not say another word. But his soul was full of fear, every nerve screaming at him to run!

Underneath the crack in the door, steam began slowly sifting into the house. Soon the black fog came to follow it, pouring endlessly into the main room, and still he sat and did nothing, and still his mind berated himself for it. He didn’t want her to materialize… he didn’t want to see her for the last time… But his body now felt frozen, as if he had literally forgotten how to move a muscle. The black fog continued to pour into the room, spreading out to cover the entire floor and ceiling. He was lost inside of the smoke, unable to see a thing. It was only when lightning began to crackle and flash around the edges that he finally regained his power of speech, though not his mobility.

“Please, please, no! I can’t take this anymore! I can’t!” He flung up his arms, the cigarette falling from his open mouth. “Please, don’t do this to me! Please don’t…”

There was no response to his desperate cry, and with a few more flashes of lightning she materialized inside of the dark cloud. Like the past few meetings he had had with her, horror controlled every part of his mind, and yet at the same time he was riveted in place, staring violently at her with utter fascination. She was nowhere near an “old hag.” She was slender, dainty, and unclothed, her entire body composed of the black fog. Her face was shrouded in the darkness, but he only needed to take one look at her dark body to know that she was the most beautiful creature to have ever walked the face of the Earth. He was consumed, as always, with the desire to take her in his arms, to simply stroke her long flowing hair… But if his hand had had the power to move, it would have slipped right through her body. And yet he still wanted her with every fiber of himself.

“I don’t care that you’ve come for me,” he whispered. “I don’t care what the hell happens tonight. I don’t care about dying, or any of that…” His body was convulsed with shudders, and his voice slid up an octave as he spoke the next sentence. “If you’d just let me touch you first!”

She shook her misty head, and his heart was broken. Her leg came forward to balance herself, toes pointed outward, and it was torture for him to be able to do nothing but sit there and know that if he could move, he wouldn’t even be able to touch what was sure to be velvet-soft, silk-smooth skin…

Your time has come, David, she said to him, and he thought for a hopeful second that he detected sadness in her voice. I have been waiting for a long time now. All the rest but you are dead. Come to me.

He tried to speak, but as soon as he opened his mouth the black fog began to climb down his throat, choking him. The loveliest woman he had ever laid eyes on disappeared, was swallowed back up into the fog. He found suddenly that he had regained his ability to move freely and his hands flew to his mouth, tearing at the fog as it glided down his throat. But it was no use, for his hands sailed straight through the fog, no matter how hard the blow he delivered was. Unable to breathe, and in agony, he leapt to his feet, just as the fog began to rotate around him. The world became very dark and dizzy, but he held on to his consciousness for as long as he could, stumbling about and trying to make it to the door, whichever way the door was… The sight of his hands splayed out in front of him stopped in his tracks. The skin on his hands had turned pallid white and was oozing off of his bones, like wax from a melting candle. There was no visible blood beneath the skin. He raised his hands in horror and looked down at the rest of his body. His clothing seemed to have disintegrated, and all that remained were the gooey gobs of flesh that trickled down his body onto the floor, eating wide holes in the wood as if they were acidic. He screamed, and the scream was clogged by the black mist that devoured his soul from the inside. Falling to the floor, his loose grip on consciousness finally slipped away, until all that was left was a pile of dust where a man had once been.




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