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Darkest Shadow

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The thick tolling of the ancient grandfather clock sent a strong, forceful reverberation through the mansion, giving the middle-aged man sitting in the living room a start. After glancing curiously at his watch he sat up from his leather claw-backed chair and strode over to the still chiming clock. His features twisted into a puzzled mask as he saw that his watch read 9:43 while the aged clock gave its eleventh ding.
Figuring the old clunker was losing its luster, the man leisurely strolled back to his chair. Settling into the fine leather, the man put his elbows on his knees and began watching the flames in the fireplace before him. So intently was he watching the crackling flames softly licking and lapping at the glass containing it, much like how ocean water delicately caresses the sand before it slides ever so gently back, the sea yet again claiming it as its own.
So many conflicting emotions were flickering across his ordinary face, each attempting to stake a claim to his completely indiscernibly plain features. His indecisive emotions were caused by the memory of a young girl sitting by a gently breathing lake.
A soft smile parted her delicate lips and brought a slight flush to her youthful cheeks. The bright rays of the sun that slid through the canopy of leaves bounced off the small lake in front of her and found themselves caught in her golden hair. As the sun danced in her hair, it wound its way to her eyes where it mingled with their soft blue hue. He was just beginning to get lost in the sweet memory when something caught his attention.
It started softly, the lightest tickle of the ear, a barely registered prickle on his senses. It was so faint, in fact, that if he hadn’t caught the flash of color out of the corner of his eye he never would have known her presence. But when the delicate cloth of her nightgown caught his attention, he tore his dry eyes away from the mesmerizing fire licking the smoldering wood.
She was young, no older than seven and was silently curled into herself in the corner of the green papered room. Rather shaken from her presence, the man lifted his frail frame from the chair and hesitantly shuffled over to stand in front of the girl. She had her forehead placed on her drawn up knees and was sitting there, not moving a muscle.
A tendril of fear threaded its way into his stomach and into his chest, wrapping its sticky, clammy claws around his heart and making it jack hammer out of control. He wiped his sweat accumulating hands on his pants, getting rid of the moisture there and then brought his hands up to his face to adjust his wire frames that were sliding down the bridge of his nose.
The tiny figure five feet in front him that was causing his painful heart palpitations began to slowly rock back and forth. The man quickly glanced around the room, wondering where this girl could have come from and debated whether or not to call the police or something. But then the girl stopped rocking just as abruptly as she had started and lifted her head up off her knees.
The man couldn’t breathe. Oxygen refused to circulate in his lungs and he was frantic for something, anything that would prove to him this wasn’t happening right now. The fire suddenly went out, the caged flames set free to disappear from the room like he so desperately wanted to. As soon as the flames died out, the room felt as if it were plunged into a chilling ice bath and an arctic mist drifted up his body, causing a ripple effect of goose bumps to appear along the length of his exposed skin.
He could recognize her mop of golden curls anywhere, the way her sweet face transformed when she smiled and the way her eyes lit up when she laughed. He could remember the feel of her petal soft skin against his own and how her sweet scent would envelope his senses when he held her close.
Her faint voice interrupted the deafening silence in the freezing room, “Don’t you love me daddy?”
He gazed into her eyes and immediately was unsettled with their intensity. With fear driving his train of thought, he fought for control of the reigns as he failed to come up with a response. His glasses began to glide on a bead of sweat down the bridge of his nose and he used his unsteady hand to prop them back into place.
In the blink of an eye, his daughter was on her feet and pure rage lit up her small face. She shook with barely restrained anger as she screeched, “WHY COULDN’T YOU LOVE ME?”
Her entire face began to transform in front of his eyes. Her still open mouth began to elongate and, to his horror, her jaw seemed to come unhinged as it continued to stretch to become a terrorizing black hole of nothing. Her tiny teeth were now the size of his fingers and they looked decayed and rotten, glazed and dripping a yellow liquid he knew had to be poisonous.
The precious blue of her eyes were entirely ingested by a darkness so complete, it disturbed him to his very core and her skin had taken on the dull, yellow color only the dead could achieve. As she had started to mutate in front of him, the man had begun to frantically move his feet backwards, desperate to get away from this creature.
The girl who used to be his lovely daughter shuffled forward with purpose, taking her now shriveled hands to her head and viciously ripping out chunks over her beautiful hair until there was nothing left but chunks of hair and raw, exposed scalp. His back hit the wall and he dug his nails into the decorative wood paneling hoping to bring himself out of this nightmare.
Before he knew it she had jumped on top of him and was grasping his head in her skeletal hands. He gasped at the stench of her breath. It was unlike anything he had ever smelt before, it was as if she had swallowed a corpse that had been rotting away under a summer sun and now it was trapped under her tongue, distributing its vile scent to his nostrils.
He began to try and fight her off but she was so surprisingly strong that his attempts to get her demonic body off of him were feeble at best. A forked tongue squirmed inside her mouth like a worm as she released an earth shattering shriek into his ear and then brought her enormous incisors down onto his neck. She tore into his neck with her dripping teeth and immediately his body felt like it was loaded with lead and his ceased to see.
He was with the young girl again, his daughter, by the wind rippled lake. She was happily laughing at a couple of shiny scaled fish leaping in and out of the water in graceful arcs. She looked so carefree; her shoulders empty of the weight of responsibility. She glanced at him then, the sun’s rays making her eyes sparkle, and he was suddenly filled with hatred for the sweet, innocent girl in front of him. He hated the way the sun seemed to make her eyes glisten like precious jewels.
He hated how her laugh sounded like delicate wind chimes clinking off of each other in a distant breeze. He hated how she didn’t have a care in the world. He hated her for the innocence and the purity she stood for. He hated the girl sitting in front of him with every fiber in his body, hated her for reasons he could not explain. He hated the way she now lay motionless by his feet, her lips a ghastly blue from lack of oxygen how her wet hair dampened the earth around her. But of one thing he was certain, he loved the way her eyes no longer reflected the light of the sun.
The man was brought back to the here and now, his nightmare cut to an abrupt end. His veins were laced with fear, but also understanding, as he stared up into his daughter’s black, depthless eyes and gaping hole of a mouth. He understood why she was here and why what was about to happen needed to be done.
She brought her open mouth down to his chest and leeched away any warmth that had been left in his heartless body and without his consent he was again plunged into damp darkness.
He gasped for air as his eyes popped open. The man was sitting in his leather claw-backed chair, the smell of rich, fine leather pouring over his body. He sat up more fully and listened as the sound of the ancient clock ticked away behind him. The room was now warm with life and the fire was roaring away, once again put back into its cage. He sat there for a moment, silently letting his tired eyes roam around the room. There was not a one thing out of place, not a single tear in the flooring or any trace of blood on the walls, nor was there a piece of furniture shifted from its perch. His heart was once again beating away in his chest and his hands were no longer slick with moisture. An innocent onlooker would never have known the true horrors that had gone on that night, never have guessed that his dead child, the child he so viciously took from this world, had come back to life and tore away his very soul, leaving an aching vacancy in his body. As he gazed into the crackling fire watching the flames dance to an unvoiced tune, the man told himself it was a dream, a figment of his imagination. But the blood on his neck told a different story.




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