The night was cold, dark, and uninviting.
Mr. Timens had been on a train for over an hour after a very late night at work in the city – work Timens had to complete in order to make some much-needed money. Tired, and with briefcase in hand, he started his daily walk home from the station. He had never seen such darkness around him before, having made the trip only in daylight in the past. The trees were shrouded in black, and the houses down the lane were ensnared by shadows, save for lone stretches of bright moonlight, dimly illuminating the silent street. The oaks and elms were now grotesque in nature, shed in a new light – that of darkness – as gnarled creatures of the night. They watched him as he slowly made his way down the windy road, with the houses, silent spectators as they were, watching on.
He walked steadily, then swiftly, then almost at a jog, when he started to lose his breath. He stopped. All eyes were on him, as all of nature was still, seeing if he had the courage to continue. It was 2:55 a.m. – five minutes until the devil’s hour, as he knew it as – the hour evil was most powerful, or so he feared. And the man was afraid. Time was now approaching that ill-fated hour – the hour that he had known for years to be the time when you had right to be afraid, when your inner demons would taunt you and wrench you with guilt. Toting his case, and with a great intake of air, he continued, inching his way down the street, making no hurry to escape from the clutches of the impending 3:00 hour. A slight wind interrupted the quiet, and the trees silently whispered amongst themselves tales of other men like he, who had made the same fateful journey. A gloomy, dimly lit orange street lamp invited him at the end of the road, near his home.
The man was overwhelmed with conflicted emotions – he knew that the thirty seconds until his watch would tick at three would be all too quick for him, for he was afraid of seeking whatever warm comfort the light could offer, out of fear that it was a terrible trick. Yet, he sought solace through whatever reassurance the dim light could offer him. He approached the light, and continued his journey, until there were but five seconds left until …
The ghostly gusts had ceased. His pulse echoed through the darkness, and his eyes suddenly widened. The blood drained from his face as he looked with horror at the startlingly sinister spectacle before him. He was not alone. Another man was sitting on the bench under the streetlight, dressed in black, covered in darkness – a darkness not even the light could penetrate. The man who was fear had now met the man who was darkness.
“That’s a large briefcase you have there,” said the man in the darkness sitting on the bench. Mr. Timens was shaking. Cold sweat was condensing on his forehead. His body trembled at the sight of the man, the man who knew ... “What’s inside?” inquired the man in the darkness, referring to the briefcase. The man in question didn’t respond. Instead, tears rolled from his eyes, slowly travelling down his face, as he knew that this man on the bench knew what he had done. His heart was beating faster. “Are you sorry?” asked the man in darkness. Mr. Timens gradually started to weep, silently crying. The night watched on as he nodded, tears falling from his eyes. It was a subtle nod – so slight it was hardly noticeable. The man in darkness was still. He then grinned, revealing sharp teeth as white as light, as bright as the moon – a mysterious gleam. The man in darkness abruptly broke the silence, and said, “You are not forgiven.” Mr. Timens began to tremor vigorously, and started to choke. He felt the air compress around his throat as if two strong hands were strangling him, tightening their grip around his neck. He struggled to breathe, and he was slowly asphyxiated. A violent wind suddenly picked up, and the trees laughed at him as they danced in the breeze. He shut his eyes and hoped for it to end – for all of it to be over.
* * * * *
Mr. Timens awoke from his unconsciousness, lying on the street, and, slowly raising his head, he found no man sitting on the bench and felt no hands around his neck. He then noticed his phone, lying on the ground next to him, with the screen facing up. It dimly showed a call log. Squinting, he noticed three digits had been entered and a call was made. Rolling over on the ground, too tired to get up, he saw the black briefcase on the other side of him, left undisturbed. The trees were no longer gnarled monsters of the night, and the moon was brighter than ever before, with the hint of dawn at the edge of the horizon. The earth stood still. Mr. Timens then put his hands around his throat, and felt the indent of two large hands.
Suddenly, his eyes caught sight of bright flashes of red and blue lights in the distance. The lights approached the end of the road, the road that no longer seemed windy and twisted – the road that did not seem dark and dangerous anymore. Two cars pulled up beside him, and, for the first time in a long time, he felt different, changed as if he were born a new man again. For once, he had hope.