Original Short Story: "An Interlude Before The Darkness" | Part 1

I wrote this short story sometime during my years in grad school at Texas Tech University. I figured I would drag it out from obscurity on my external disk drive for the public to read, for better or worse. It's not the greatest writing, but this story marks my first attempt at writing horror prose. Because of its length I am going to release it in two separate posts. Below is the first half, the second half will be published next Monday. I hope you enjoy it!

           The moonlight shot down through the window.  I remember cowering away from it as if I was allergic to its rays.  Truth be told, I think I just liked being in the darkness.  I felt comfortable being indistinguishable from that which could not be seen.  Maybe I was just afraid of what I would find if the light finally touched me.  Yet the fear of that actually happening felt so real and the starkness of the light against the black was so vivid, so real.  Why was I feeling this way?  Why did I abhor the light so much?  Just then a thought passed through my mind—

Snap!

            Here I was sitting in my car on the side of the highway in the middle of night.  I must have fallen asleep and just forgotten that I pulled over or I was sleep-driving. I heard about a guy that did that once, went from his house to his office, all while sleeping.  I can’t imagine what was going through his head, or what wasn’t.  I turned the ignition over and pulled back on the lonely, dark highway in the middle of nowhere. 

            Driving in such desolation forces me to think through the shit that has been going on of late, however, tonight seemed different.  It seemed to make my mind numb, make it not want to think about anything.  So I drove.  Letting the thuds of my tires going over the cracks in the highway occupy my mind.  Thud. Thud. Thud.  I was going to end up in the middle of the highway if that rhythm became too ingrained in my subconscious, so I turned the radio on.  Static.  Flipped from one station to the next.  Static.  Flipped a little further and finally came to a station playing an old tune from one of the pop greats of the 60s.  Oh well, it’s better than me and myself.  The twanging of the upbeat guitars along with the voices of a man and woman duo singing about being in love or some such feeling began ranging through my tinny speakers.  My eyes back on the road, foot heavy on the gas.  Where the hell am I going? 

            The radio began to garble as the voices distorted.  I looked down and shifted the tuner.  The same garbled voices on every station I switched to though the level of static was heavier on some.  The garble got louder and more united until it eventually became some kind of piercing electronic scream as if a woman was somehow piping her frenzy through electronic waves.  Louder and louder, quickly becoming a roar, I had to put my hands to my ears and that’s when I saw the form in the middle of the road.  Standing there, eyes piercing me.  I slammed on the breaks and twisted the wheel toward the ditch.  My car hit the ditch with a thud, bouncing me all over the place.  Then it stopped.

Snap!

            I put my hand on some kind of wood.  My hands were sweaty and slipping on that polished surface.  I looked up and saw the semblance of a man hung on a cross.  I looked around and saw a sea of pews, but no one in them.  I looked down and saw the foggy hand print where I had picked my hand up off of the wood pew.  What kind of nightmare or dream or whatever was I having?

            “Can I help you, son?”

            As I turned toward the voice, I came to an abrupt stop on a tall priest with the traditional garments.  A friendly, though concerned, smile on his lips. 

            “I am sorry, I actually don’t know what I am doing here” or did I?

            “This is the House of the Lord, you don’t necessarily have to have a reason for being here, but you seemed distraught.  Is everything alright?”

            “I must have fallen asleep because I remember having a dream or something, but it seemed so real.  I don’t know what is going on with me.”

            “Well, you know dreams have been known to be gateways to our subconscious.  Trying to tell us something, wake us up maybe,” he quipped.

            “Maybe so.  But I would hate to see what that dream was telling me.”  At that I gave a thin and weak smile.

            “You just never know.  And some dreams are meant to be unknown.  Well, if you will excuse me, I need to go put out those candles at the front of the altar.  I would be glad to talk with you after I take care of that if you need to.”

            “I appreciate that, Father.  I think I will just sit here for a bit and gain my bearings.”

            At that he placed his hand on my shoulder as he passed by and left toward the altar.  The stain glass windows were not emitting much light so it must be evening at least.  I watched the priest as he extinguished the variety of candles that were filling the sanctuary with flickering yellow light.  With each candle, the sanctuary became dimmer and dimmer.  The shadow on the sides of the vaulted ceiling seemed to engulf more with each candle being put out.  I watched it take place.  The shadow seemed to be flowing as if it was a living being not bound by the limitations of the light.  It shifted, almost lurched down the walls.  All parts of the shadow were doing it now.  They moved apart from the logical sequence that was to be expected.  The shadows then began to grow darker and moved independently from that of the main shadow.  They were almost creature-like, yet fluid., sliding down the walls and lurching across the floor of the altar.  I suddenly felt a pang of fear for myself and for the priest.  They were crawling toward him.  I stood up and I opened my mouth but no sound came out or at least none that I could account for.  Just then the Priest put out the largest candle and the sanctuary went dim.  I ran down the aisle toward the altar. 

            Screams moved through the darkness, bouncing off of the walls and ceilings.  Then came the gurgling, followed by a thud.  By the time I reached the altar, I tripped and fell on the steps separating the congregation from the altar.  I groped in the dark.  My hands reaching out feeling the rough carpet and then I felt it, a leg.  It was motionless.  I moved my way up his body and reached his head.  I dug through my pockets and found a lighter.  I struck it with my thumb and the flame burst into the air.  In the small portion of light emitted from the lighter, I saw what seemed like a black claw recede from the light, but it wasn’t exactly a claw, it’s shifting never allowed it to take on any certain form.  My heart began to thud, but before I drew the courage to move the light around, I saw him on the floor.  His face frozen in a state of shock and horror, it was contorted and his eyes were void.  I had never seen that amount of fright in a face before in my life.  A shiver ran down my…

            The lighter went out and darkness overcame me again.  “You can’t escape the darkness,” a raspy squeal projected into my ear.  I turned around to see what it was…

Snap!

            The light from the window had moved slightly with the rotation of the moon.  I was now free from being reached by it.  My corner had gotten darker.  I reveled in the darkness.  I looked at the light as it laid down what could have been a white portal to some other world on the floor.  Wait.  That wasn’t there before…that shouldn’t be there.  What is going on?  The crosshatches in the square of light became more and more apparent on the floor.  I shifted my gaze up to the window and noticed that there was some kind of barred covering on the window.  Why had I never noticed that before?  Surely it wasn’t there this whole time.  I would have noticed it.  My eyes held on the window, while my mind obsessed over the origins of the bars that were now present on it.  All of a sudden a thought jolted through my head and I understood…

Snap!

            I lifted my head up off of the steering wheel and felt something run down my head.  My fingers lightly grazed by forehead and revealed the red fluid that had made itself apparent.  I looked out of the windshield and saw nothing but waving wheat crops in the illumination of my headlights.  Slowly I my mind began to process why I was here.  There was a figure in the middle of the road.  I had to swerve to miss it.  I must have been unconscious.  That’s why I was having those odd visions.  Just then I realized that the thing I had seen might still be there.  I wrenched my body around in my seat peering through the back window.  There it was still standing there as if it hadn’t moved.  It was an incredibly dark figure against the night.  I opened the door and slowly got out and began to stumble over to the road.  As I got closer to it, I began to make out the form of a young boy.  I moved in front of him and bent down on my knees.

            “Are you alright? What the hell are you doing on the highway, I almost killed you!”  I restrained a scream in order to not alarm the kid.  The kid said nothing just looked off to the side without any interruption.  I shook him a little and asked him who he was.  Again nothing.  Why is he not responding to me?  Then a thought crossed my mind, I wondered if he was one of those kids with a disability, you know the ones that almost go off into their own worlds and you have to literally direct their attention to you.  Well, I suppose I could give it a shot.  I snapped my fingers in front of his face and spoke a little louder.  As I did this, I used my other hand to lightly push his head to where his eyes might be able to meet mine.  He still didn’t say anything but his eyes stayed on mine.  Shit! What the hell is going on!  I decided to see if my car would still start up and take him with me to the nearest town.  I pulled his arm lightly and he allowed me to lead him with little resistance.  I sat him in the passenger’s seat and slammed the door and moved around the car to the driver’s side.  I got myself in the driver’s seat and I turned the ignition and the car began to rumble.  Thankfully diving into the ditch didn’t do anything major.  I backed out of the ditch and headed down the highway once again.  Every once in a while I would peer over to the kid.  Nothing, he just stared ahead.  I caught a sign that said we were 80 miles away from the closest town.  Preparing myself for a long drive with a strange kid, I sat back in the seat and tried to relax.  My eyes were glued to the road when I heard a voice next to me say…

            “You can’t escape the darkness.”

Snap!

            The first thing I felt was the wind on my cheek.  I was standing on the sidewalk of a residential street looking at a house with dim lights on in one of the windows.  Seriously, what is going on?  How am I remembering all of these various visions?  They can’t all be real!  Why am I here?  I began to look around the street.  Looked like a middle class neighborhood with small houses and fairly groomed gardens.  There was something wrong though, I could feel it.  I remember someone once talking about the banality of evil and if evil was present then this would be the perfect place for it.  The sun was just below the horizon.  The sky was yellow and orange behind the roofs of the houses.  Just enough light to see the outlines of all the rooflines.  The house in front of me was one of the bigger houses in the neighborhood, it had two stories but it was fairly small even for a two story.  The roof was particularly steep and cast an ominous shadow, but that was probably just my imagination running off with me.  I was concentrating on the dim light in the second story window when I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye.  I turned my head in that direction and found nothing just a sea of brown shingles.

            I returned my gaze to the house that I was standing in front of when I heard a kind of deep cackle.  It sounded like it was all around me.  I turned all the way around and saw nothing.  The cackling was getting louder and louder.  Once again I caught a movement.  I looked in that direction and saw a dark slender figure on the roof of the house about 4 houses down from where I was.  Its form seemed to shift like it was constantly in flux.  It lurked and leapt from roof to roof, slinking across their surfaces as if it almost defied gravity.  It was like a weird smoke that took form after form.  Something in the back of my mind clicked and I realized that it was the same creature that was in the church in my vision or dream.  I froze and I watched it traverse each rooftop on its way to me.  The fear that it created in me was so powerful, I just wanted to run away.  It finally lurched across onto the roof in front of me, emitting the same cackle however it seemed to be deeper and more menacing.  It came up to the eve of the second story window and gracefully folded itself over the edge and began to slink down to the window.  No! God, No! I have to warn them!  I forced my anchored feet to move towards the door.  I beat on the door over and over again.

            “LET ME IN! THERE’S SOMETHING IN YOUR HOUSE!” I screamed into the wood grained door.  But no one answered so I went to the porch window and hit my elbow against the glass hard enough to shatter most of it and I crossed over into the living room.  There was a young girl on the phone screaming into the receiver and looking at me with fear.  I told her to stay there and that I was there to help.  I ran up the stairs and luckily there were only two doors and one was opened with the bathroom in full view.  I opened the door and the first thing I saw was the blowing pink curtains.  Oh God, this is a kid’s room! I turned my head towards the opposite wall and automatically fell to my knees in horror.  There in the corner was the little girl hanging from the ceiling with an extension cord around her neck.  That same contorted face of horror plagued her just like with the priest.  WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!!!!  I got up and ran down the stairs and heard some dishes crash from the kitchen.  I ran towards the kitchen and arrived in time to see the dark murky creature cut the young girl’s throat with a piece of broken porcelain.  The girl dropped to the floor and shook a little as she instantly got paler and paler.  The blood ran freely across the tile floor creating its own reflective surface.  The creature screamed at me in a raspy high pitched growl.  I stared at its head and for a moment I thought I saw a familiar face form in its dark smoky head, but before it could remind me of anything, it screamed again but this time it formed words in that horrible raspy screech. 

            It reared its head and screamed, “YOU CAN’T ESCAPE ME!”

Snap!