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Author's note: I wrote this story one day when I wanted to see what I could do with the idea of the "darkness" around us. It plays tricks on our minds; sometimes those tricks will be real.
Peter Lester stared at a blank ceiling. It seemed to be one of the brightest things he had seen in his entire adult life, even though it was in the pitch dark. He was surprised at how silly it was that the idea of no light was dark. He had imagined what it would be like to be in a place that was actually dark. He had, of course, been in places where the light had never reached. People like his brothers would lock him in the basement for joy. Every once in awhile his father would do the same, but for different reasons. That’s also the kind of place where he was at that very moment; Just a small room where dark couldn’t reach.
But peter always imagined someplace different. He was used to these dark rooms. He always knew that there was some light on the other side. He always imagined a place where there was no light whatsoever, even beyond its walls.
The thought gave him a chill and he rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. He rolled on his side and turned on the lamp that was sitting on his night stand. The sudden burst of light scolded his eyes but then soon faded. He squinted and looked around the room. It was more of a search. He didn’t know what he was looking for but whatever it was he didn’t find it.
The room was dead silent. The only thing audible was the faint sizzle coming from a Pepsi can next to his radio. The peculiar combination of air and carbon reacting fascinated him. He would pop a can open as a kid and listen to the strange noise right before his father smacked him in the back of his head and called him a moron for it.
That sound slightly bothered him now, so he sat up in the bed, grabbed the can and chugged the rest of it. He smacked his lips together, sighed a happy, delighted, satisfied sigh, looked around the room, then he saw his waste basket and tossed the can toward it. It rimmed the edge and then rolled in. He shot his fists up in accomplishment and whispered achievement.
Right at the moment he “hoorayed,” thunder struck and a loud crack followed shortly afterwards. Almost instantaneously the lights went out. Everything was dark and quiet. Not even the moon was out to say goodnight to the town. The only sound at the moment was coming from the pitter-patter of raindrops against the window.
Pete sat frozen in place. The darkness was all too sudden, it eerily displeased him. He barely felt safe at all. Especially knowing he was alone. Living three miles from the nearest truck stop wasn’t the most reassuring thing in the world. He lived alone in a small house surrounded by farmland all around. The only thing anyone could hear would be a gunshot, and with his senile neighbors, he wasn’t sure they would give a care in the world that anything may have happened.
He turned his head quickly to the window. His eyes moved quicker than his head and they reached there first. He wasn’t sure, of course, that it was the window, but he could only guess. Another bolt of lightning flashed and quickly layered his room with a purple haze. A frightening crack seemed to rumble through everything. It shot a cold bullet down his collar which made him stiffen up straight.
Pete, for the short amount of time there was light, saw the fields of corn beyond the thin natural border of trees surrounding his property. Everything seemed so . . . pretty; peaceful. It was like watching an old black and white film. Just everything is purple in this one. Then he remembered something. Something from a time known as ago. Something he didn’t want to remember. It came as quick as the lightning had then vanished in his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut. He broke out of his frozen stance and quickly stood up. As the lightning flashed, he could not only feel but he could also see the beads of sweat rolling down his palms. He noticed this and then wiped them on the sides of his pants.
Another deafening crack outside; Purple haze.
The lightning made his skin look like a demonic pillow of hair.
“Oh no, I have to hurry,” he said in a voice that was so scared and frantic sounding that it struck more fear in to his already disbelieving heart.
Each time the lightning flashed he spun around in his position as if he were looking for some important artifact. But after promptly eye-searching, he moved towards his dresser on the far side of the room, closer to the window. Lightning flashed and this time it was a bright blue color. It seemed quite peculiar that that’d happened.
Thunder smashed Thor’s hammer, demolishing the silent air.
It seemed even more peculiar. It was like listening to a group of lions fighting each other over some dead carcass. One at a time, each lion faces off in the wild, defending themselves in the dark gloom, with a rainy storm around them. Their soppy hair whipping around and each one bellowing though the sky, blood dripping form claws and fangs. But yet, there was one other thing. He thought it was odd. The lightning sounded just as he had imagined the brutal and grueling scene to be. It was too close. He could hear everything—even the tearing of flesh from the bones of the dead.
That lightning was no ordinary lightning.
“I’ve got to get out of here,” he said. He reached the dresser and pulled open the upper right hand drawer. He fumbled around some socks clumsily and hit something that was solid and cold. It was his keys. He grabbed them and slammed the drawer. He stuffed the keys in his pocket.
Thunder before lightning . . ? It struck again.
He jumped back, alarmed, and quickly looked at the window that was allowing this angry thunderstorm to intrude his home. He gasped for a few breaths then turned and made his way for the door. The handle was cold. Really cold. He felt like he had just stuck his hand right into an icebox. “You can’t stop me,” he said. “Nuh-uh. Not this time.” He twisted the handle and without pulling it the door swung open, knocking him on his back. A gush of wind swooped in and blew his hair back and made him squint.
The hallway was slightly dark. It may have been pitch black if it weren’t for the back-up generators that lit them. They were cheap and only made the lights flicker spasmodically. The wind stopped but almost didn’t feel that way. He stood up and walked into the hallway treacherously. A man noticed his hysteria and calmly walked to him.
“Hey, buddy. You’re going to have to take the stairs if you want to get down there.” He spoke with a peaceful elegance.
Pete looked up and jumped back as if his life was threatened. He saw the man who was standing only a few feet behind him down the hall. “You’re not real . . .” Pete said, eyes wide.
The man stared blankly confused, lifeless. His pale lips opened, “The elevator’s out.”
Elevator? What elevator? Pete felt suddenly dizzy.
“Where are you headed in such a hurry?”
Pete stood in horror and disbelief. He was petrified and couldn’t say another word.
“Okay,” the fancy man said. “Just don’t hurt yourself.”
“Yeah,” Pete said quietly. His mind recoiled from his comatose stance and he darted down the hall. He turned his head and looked while running and the man was glaring at him with a ghoulish grin stabbed to his face.
The old wooden house creaked and more thunder and lightning pounded on the world outside. The purple flash glittered down the stairs when he wearily trotted down each step. The stairs went down six steps then u-turned to the left and down another six steps. He nearly slipped on the last one but caught himself by grabbing onto the railing. The house was whispering to the cold September wind outside. He stopped suddenly, as if he had walked into a wall after the bottom step. His arm and leg hairs shot up in protest to the feeling of something.
Something. . .
He moved out of his stance and jogged to the telephone in the kitchen. The house suddenly looked old and moldy and gross to him in the dark. It was gloomy and bland, like old oatmeal. It had lost its beautiful feel many years before. In old pictures it looked like a happy and vibrant place. But over many years and a foreboding history, the house aged to a decrepit stain. As a great, great, grandson, he was looked at to manage it peacefully, or so he thought. It was his first week at the crumby old place and he was almost fed up with everything that happened there. This night he was sure he was going to spend the night in a motel.
He snatched the phone from the wall and punched in numbers. It rang for several seconds then abruptly stopped and the dead, monotonous ring of a disconnected line buzzed in his ear. He screamed a profanity and hung up the phone. He turned his gaze over to the window above the sink and thunder and lightning fired its rockets again. His face was glazed with a shiny new coat of purple for only a split second. Then another hammer of light smashed into one of the fields outside the window. It was clearly visible. It landed and lifted as quickly as a flash from a camera. It was farther out there, at least two or three football fields away. He moved closer to the window, very slowly. Another jolt crashed into the field. It looked like it was closer this time, but he wasn’t sure. The crack was loud and angry and made him flinch like a child does when someone jumps out behind a door with their scary mask on and the word “boo.” Pete reached the sink and grasped onto the edge of it and leaned over to get the closest view possible through the window.
Another one . . . that one closer. Then another.
Oh no, he thought, it’s coming straight for me.
The field of dark corn was slowly starting to catch ablaze in numerous spots. It was really scaring him now. The lightning moving closer to the house—
—and another crack, like a heavy hammer on wood—
—the fields on fire, and . . . something else. His hands suddenly felt cold and his shirt soppy. He looked down and saw—
His shirt was soaked with what looked like a greasy sludge. He looked at his hands and they were caked with heavy lumps of what looked like mud and . . . no, not mud—
It was crap! It was all over.
Pete looked in wide-eyed disgust and saw that the sink was overflowing with it. It was squirting from the faucet and pooping out of the drain in big chunky bubbles. Then it hit him. The smell. The terrible smell. It was nauseating. The flashes outside continued and went unnoticed by him. He was too distracted wiping his hands off on his shirt. The smell continued to worsen. It was a mixture of ammonia and feces and dead things. Going unnoticed by him again, the lightning struck, this time smacking a tree. The tree flashed in an instant then sparked up, igniting into a gigantic ball of fire that started spreading across the grass. Then another one, closer, probably only ten yards away. He finished cleaning his hands when a flash appeared that nearly blinded him. He fell back and tripped over a chair, and hit his head hard on the wall. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the burn in the back of his skull. He opened his eyes deliriously. Everything was blurry and doubled. He stood up and nearly fell back over from the disorientation. He leaned against the wall to catch his balance. His sight started slowly getting better when the house shook violently, confusing him and his eyesight once again. A splintering crack rumbled and echoed through the house. He saw a blast of demolished wood blow across the kitchen door in the hallway. The house shook angrily. A harrowing gust of wind flooded in that chilled him and knocked everything from the shelves and tipped over cabinets. Things started crashing and shattering. The air sounded like it was screaming at him.
Another splitting, head crunching snap hit the house. He got moving to the door across the room to the where the backyard was. Dishes flew out of the cabinets and silver-wear darted all around like shrapnel from a grenade. He picked up his pace to the door, ducking and crouching, and right before he got there a bright flash crashed in front of him, knocking him on his back. He rolled over and got on his hands and knew. A deep, seared hole ran from the ceiling to the pitch black basement. He sighed in relief and crawled around it, ducking as woodchips and glass rocketed their way around the house.
He grabbed the door knob and twisted and the door flung open and crashed in to the siding of the house. He stood up and turned and saw that the floorboards in the house had started crumbling in, crash landing on the cellar floor. He leapt like a frog out of the house and onto the back lawn. The landing was off just the slightest bit and he twisted his left leg and tumbled and rolled in the wet grass. Rain thudded on his body and it seemed to be cleaning him of the terrible filth that came from the kitchen sink. The grime and stink seemed to be worse out there with his eyes closed. His side hurt from the landing and he rolled over on his back to finally get a look at the drenched planet. The place around was quiet and layering second by second with a light patter of raindrops; on metal, thudding like a madman in a closet; on wood, a gentle tap of the footsteps of an assassin; on grass, like snakes rummaging through thickets of twigs and tangled vines; on leaves, disrupting slaps on the back; and on the house.
The house. Saying that in his head, Pete wondered if house should be capitalized or not. It felt like it was more of a proper noun than something simple like a shoe or fish tank. It was like thinking of calling his Aunt Jen aunt jen. The house gave out a vibe that it was someone rather than something. It was a thought that struck him subconsciously. He barely knew he was thinking of it. But he almost immediately found that he couldn’t keep thinking of this. The rain was now a small sound in the air. The shattering and crunching sound of the house behind him was all of a sudden the talk-of-the-town. It was demonic and angry. It sounded like a giant’s fists were tearing the place piece by piece. Or like a demolition derby where every car was some contraption of splintering wood.
He lifted his head up and looked at the old mess. It wobbled left and right just slightly. Two windows on the second floor exploded outward and glass glittered in the rain then fell to the earth. The house made a sound that, to any normal and psychologically unimpaired individual, sounded like a sad and dismal moan. It seemed to be alive, but dying. Lightning struck on the roof several times. The spots of impact exploded into a fiery mist. Pete would have screamed but he knew it would be a wasted effort and it might only begin to scare him more than he was already.
He quickly picked himself up and ran, almost tripping, around the side of the house. The cellar doors were flapping open and closed. They were beckoning him.
“NO!” he screamed.
The trees next to the house and surrounding him began to move, almost towards him, branches grabbing for human flesh. But that couldn’t have been possible. They were only being blown by the wind . . . right?
It didn’t seem to be true to him but it was. It couldn’t have been anything else but true! It wasn’t the trees that were coming for him, though. It was earth. The planet was turning for him, against him. Dear old Mother Nature didn’t want him around anymore. She was willing to shift her entire mass around just to get to him. He knew this was absurd, but he couldn’t help it. His almost too vivid of an imagination gave him the scariest ideas. He believed now that it must’ve been some kind of illusion to the eye because imaginations aren’t the real thing. They just aren’t. And what was happening surely was real. It was scary real. The darkness made it harder to believe it wasn’t real, or a dream. The weeds on the side of the wet, dusty, burning building started (or appeared to be) crawling, leaching up the side. This, all occurring in the darkest time of night, was happening while he drunkenly tripped his way to the front where he hoped he could reach his car.
He was too afraid to know what he was thinking. It was all too much for him to believe.
The car. Just get to the car!
He got there, finally. The door was unlocked, as he could remember leaving it that way, and he ripped it open and slid in. he was sopping wet and his side was partially stained green from his fall. He squirmed in the seat as he dug his hand into his pocket to get his keys. The house on the outside screeched and yelled. The front door blasted off and flipped violently into the front lawn. A puff of deadly fire spat out of the door’s mouth. Pete shoved his key into the ignition and twisted it. It chuckled and gargled then coughed and died.
“Come on, come on,” he was saying. “Come on!” His voice grew louder and much more audible as he kept trying the ignition. The car finally jumped and farted in a hurried wake-up.
“YES!” he said. He put the car in reverse just as the front half of the house crumpled and collapsed, revealing a burning and charred inside. He looked in the rearview mirror to see where the road was and anchored his foot to the gas pedal. Rain tapped on the car’s hood as he bounced out of the driveway and on to the street. The house’s second half began to fall backwards when he turned his head from the mess and put the car in drive and left the place, for good, he thought.
A few street lights here and there, some houses passing by. The car chugged along and the rain had subsided completely. The road was paved and new with bright passing yellow lines. The headlights gleamed down the road for ten minutes. He had made it to town in hopes that there was motel he could stay at. Carl’s Place, he found. It was eerily reminiscent of the motel in the film Psycho. He didn’t want to go anywhere else for he was far too tired for that and didn’t want to drive any further so he parked the car and went and signed his name up at the cashiers desk.
“You look awful,” the old, unshaven fat man said. His voice sounded like he used rocks for mouthwash. His white shirt seemed a bit cliché with the yellow stains on it.
“I feel about a million times worse,” Pete said.
“You got room B23 if ya’ want it. Twenty bucks a night. You plannin’ on stayin’ for more than a day?”
Pete handed him twenty dollars cash and the balding man gave him the key.
“You just holler if ya’ need anything. Your room is that-a-way.” He flicked his thumb out and pointed towards his left.
Pete got halfway out the door when the cashier asked: “You the boy that owns the Lester farm?”
Pete turned around hesitantly but not reluctantly. “Yes. Why?”
“That’s a great place,” the man said. “Great family and history. I was good friends with the daughter. Was that your mom?”
“No,” Pete said. “That must’ve been my aunt. I never really knew her.”
“Ah, that’s a dang shame. She was a good gal. What’re you doin’ up there? I thought she might have given the place to her kids.”
His questions didn’t seem pushy in much of any way. They were more curious and very interested than anything.
“She just left me the place in her will. I don’t know why.”
“Very weird if you ask me. Well, you go on now and get some rest. You look like you just made it out of Katrina alive.” That was a great exaggeration, but to Pete felt it was the closest to how he felt.
Pete felt like it was a dream. Everything. Like it wasn’t real. It all was, of course, and he knew it. He had felt the heat resonating from the house when it went down. He saw the trees and the cellar doors. They were all menacing creatures of the dark. Real. But in these terms, unreal. He laid on the bed staring at the ceiling with the bathroom lights on, hoping that they wouldn’t turn off. He started to feel sick. Morbidly sick. He didn’t sleep for almost the rest of the night.