Posted by: lordkyler | April 11, 2014

Nightfall – Short Story

Men have always feared the dark. Night is the realm of monsters and vile deeds, darkness the cloak of deceit and treachery, blackness the very essence of danger and death. It is the palette of horror films, the backdrop of nightmares, the aura of fear. And yet, the night is just another time of day, darkness merely empty shadows. The world spins on, and a wide variety of creatures suited to the darkness go about their business. What man truly fears in the night is the darkness within themselves.

In the dark, men cannot see, and so they are anonymous. At night, men sleep, so those who stalk the midnight hour are given the cloak of secrecy, and power over those who slumber. Such things bring out the worst in men, and so they blamed the shadows for their sins.

Night and day were stronger then, darker and brighter each. The darkness spoke to some, who understood its power. They understood that the dark was neither good nor bad of itself, they understood the powers that came from the darkness; strength, secrets and silence. But they did not last long.

Long ago, the people came together, all those in the land we now call the Americas. The shamans and the warriors, the priests and the slaves, the kings and the housewives. They called themselves the people of the sun, and they drove out the darkness in a great crusade, slaying any who had known its touch. The darkness fled before them, coalescing as each follower perished, until at last all the children of shadow had been killed, and the darkness was trapped.

They could not destroy it, so they imprisoned it in special box. They built a special room deep underground, and laid curses and bindings on the place to last for a thousand years. They established a sect to guard the place. And then they returned to their homes and resumed their theft, lies and murder, happy in their knowledge that they had banished the evil shadow.

That was a thousand years and one week ago, and Dustin James had just opened the box.

•••

“This is amazing,” Dustin said. “You would not believe how cool this is.” Dustin was seated on a park bench in the lotus position, eyes closed. Eliza sat on the edge of the bench, as far away from her husband as she could manage while still sitting. She was wringing her hands together in quiet anxiety.

“This isn’t right,” she said. “Some things are meant to be hidden, you know?” Dustin didn’t answer. Eliza watched his eyes twitch back and forth beneath his eyelids, as if he were dreaming. She could only imagine what he was seeing.

Nothing had been the same after the fateful spelunking trip. After opening the box, all the lights they had carried were instantly extinguished, leaving the cave in absolute and utter darkness. After a moment of panic, they found that they could feel their surroundings, sense every part of the cave around them all at once, as surely as if they were touching it.

And then the whispers had come, whispers in the mind, the voices of those long dead, singing of the dark power they had known and the light that drove them to extinction. The voices echoed even in Eliza’s head even now. She would catch glimpses, now and then, of a time long ago and a place far away. Echoes of emotion would surge through her with the force of a tidal wave, only to evaporate a moment later; burning anger, drowning sorrow, soaring exultation. And always, always the siren song to embrace the shadow.

It was hard not too, in many ways. She could feel the power inside her, a caged panther waiting to burst free. Already she had had a taste of its power, the darksense that had allowed them to feel their way out of the cavern in the inky blackness, heightened senses, increased endurance, vivid dreams that allowed her to relive her past or wander in realms of pure imagination.

But she couldn’t embrace it completely as Dustin seemed to. Perhaps it was her natural timidity, perhaps apprehension of the unknown, or simple superstition. Whatever it was, she felt an uneasy thrill every time she thought of giving in. She would let Dustin lead the way as usual, and then, then perhaps she could follow.

Dustin shifted slightly beside her, breaking her out of her trance. Damn it, she had done it again. The darkness was insistent. She had begun to lose count of the times she had found herself snapping out of her internal struggle. If she gave herself any time to think, she would end up  in a private debate and before you knew it, half an hour had slipped by.

“Dustin,” she said. He grunted in acknowledgement. “Dustin, let’s go home and just do something normal for while, please? I’m going crazy here.”

With apparent reluctance, Dustin took a deep breath and wrenched his eyes open. Ever since pushing so far in the cavern, he had tried to listen to her more often, as difficult as it was with these newfound powers. He felt like a kid at Christmastime who’d just gotten everything on his list, up to and including the latest game console and F-15 fighter jet. He didn’t know what to play with first.

During the exodus from the cavern, Dustin had been too stunned by recent events and distracted by the whispers to speak. The car ride home had been a surreal experience, everything so normal outside and everything so strange within. When sleep finally came, he spent hours in strange dreams, speaking with ghosts, learning all he could about what had happened. By the next morning, he felt as though he had gained a thousand years of experience. But he sensed even that was a mere drop in the ocean compared to what lay ahead.

At Eliza’s insistence, he had gone slowly, trying to savor each new experience and learn as much as he could. He had tapped into the shadow’s strength until he could bench press nearly five hundred pounds. He had learned to summon darkness around him like a dark cloud, until he could blot out an entire room, leaving it pitch black.

Recently he had been practicing what the ancients called shadow sight. By closing his eyes and concentrating, he could sense anything that was happening in darkness or shadow. By now he could see nearly half a mile away. You wouldn’t believe what people do in the darkness.Some of it horrific, some of it surprising, much of it boring. And yet there were a few acts of such beauty and kindness that they brought tears to his eyes.

But Eliza was right, that had been enough, at least for today. He stood up and offered his hand to her. She took it, but with a bit more reluctance that he would have cared for. Together they walked to the place they had parked their Jeep. He produced the keys and started it, feeling the engine burst into life.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Can we just go get something to eat?” she said. Dustin didn’t know why she felt she had to phrase it as a question.

“Sure thing,” he replied. “Healthy or happy?”

A hint of a smile flickered at the corner of her mouth for a second, but quickly vanished. “Happy,” she said. “Somewhere loud and bright and upbeat.”

She wants to forget all of this, he realized. This is bothering her more than I thought. “McDonalds it is,” he said. He turned on the radio as they drove, making fun of the commercials, imitating the DJs, singing along with the music in ridiculous accents and styles. He was trying to cheer her up, trying too hard, honestly, but it seemed to be working, and when one of her favorite songs came on, she timidly joined him in the chorus and they made a duet of it.

He was in a natural high. Ever since the cavern, he had felt more alive than he ever had, and now he was in high spirits and a sort of giddy recklessness. He began to drive a bit more aggressively, with the sort of bravado he called driving “boldly;” taking corners faster, darting between traffic, running yellow lights. Eliza started to look worried, but he kept her distracted by playing his card for guaranteed laughter, an impersonation of Eliza’s aunt Phyllis.

They stopped at a red light, and made eye contact, and suddenly Dustin fell in love with her all over again. He leaned forward to kiss her, and she did the same. The second Dustin closed his eyes, the shadow world swam into view, like a photo negative with black and white reversed, only shadows visible against a background of blankness. Combined with the proprioception of the darksense, Dustin realized he could see perfectly. When the green light vanished from his view, he hit the gas, zooming forward.

Startled, Eliza tried to pull away, but he used his right hand to keep her there and steered with his left. “Don’t worry,” he whispered, “I’ve got this.” Without having to turn his head, he could see all around him, ghosts of cars and people rushing past like black x-rays, traced in the shadows they carried, by the darkness within them. He could see as Eliza panicked and pushed him away, but he kept his eyes closed and his head turned towards her.

It was a bad idea, and he knew it, but somehow he couldn’t resist weaving through the traffic. It was suddenly important to him that she understood what he could do. Eliza screamed and cursed at him for a few moments, but as the moments without a fiery death ticked on, she slowly calmed down, though he could practically feel the anger seething from her.

“Dustin,” she said, her voice as hard and sharp as flint, “stop it. Stop it now.”

“I think I’m actually driving better than I normally do,” he said, pushing it.

“Stop it or I swear I’ll jump out of the damn car.”

“I don’t think that would work out to well for you,” he said, but he opened his eyes anyway. The afternoon sun seemed blinding. “Listen, I think we need to-“

“All I wanted was a normal rest of the day,” Eliza interrupted. “And you couldn’t even give me that.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Oh, you’re sorry? You’re always sorry. You know its dangerous or stupid or mean, and you do it anyway, and then you’re sorry. I don’t think you’ve ever been truly sorry about anything. It’s just another scar, just another story.”

“I can’t-“

“You can’t help yourself, I know. Maybe if you thought about someone other than yourself once in a while you’d help them, huh?”

Dustin said nothing, and the two of them sat in silence for several minutes until they pulled up in the parking lot. Neither of them moved. She was right, he reflected, as usual, but he didn’t know how to help himself. He was about to say as much when to his surprise Eliza spoke first.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, you were right.”

“Doesn’t mean I needed to say it.”

“Somebody needed to.”

“It’s just… I’m scared, Dustin.” She looked up at him, eyes glistening with tears, and he suddenly felt her despair. “We’ve got something inside of of us that we don’t understand, and I don’t know what to do. I worry I’m possessed, for god’s sake…” She broke down sobbing.

He cradled her for a while, just holding her.

“You’re not possessed,” he said soothingly. “I don’t really understand it much more than you do, but I don’t think we have anything to fear. There’s nothing in the darkness but our own fears.”

She sobbed and laughed at the same time. “I’ve got plenty of those for the both of us.”

He laughed and hugged her all the tighter. Gradually her tears subsided. Looking her in the eyes, he spoke with a newfound conviction. “Baby, I don’t want to scare you. I think we’ve been given a great gift, and I don’t think we can ignore it. But as much as this excites me, I love you more. Tell you what. I’ll go get us something incredibly unhealthy, we’ll go home and watch a romantic comedy, have some friends over for drinks or something. Then tomorrow, we can talk this over and decide how we’re going to handle it. Deal?”

“You promise?”

“I promise. Nothing more until we both decide.”

“You have to give scout’s honor.” Dustin had a habit of taking some promises lightly, but scout’s honor was his inviolable oath.

“On my honor as a scout, and my love as your husband.”

She smiled sweetly, and though her eyes still red from crying, Dustin thought that that smile was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. “Extra pickles,” she said, and he grinned.

“As you wish, milady,” he said.

He left her in the car to compose herself while he bought their food. It was the lunch rush, sadly, and the lines were long, which gave him time to think. He was suddenly frightened. I have never seen her like this before, he thought. Not this worried during the layoff or this angry that time at her brother’s house or this scared, not even that time sky-diving. What if I had gone to far and she left me? The thought that she might leave him send a chill up his spine and twisted his gut. The thought scared him more than any high-risk activity he’d ever tried.

By the time he reached the front of the line, his appetite had vanished, but he ordered for himself anyway, so that Eliza wouldn’t wonder what was wrong. He was tempted to use his shadow sight to peek in the kitchens and see how long his order might take, but he resisted the urge. Nothing more until we talk about, he reminded himself.

Eventually, his order was completed. A young man with a mohawk and several tattoos  handed him the bags. As Dustin took the order, their fingers brushed, and Dustin suddenly recoiled, dropping the bags.

“You okay, dude?” the mohawk man drawled.

Dustin shook his head as if trying to cast off cobwebs. “Sorry,” he said slowly. “It was a little hot. I’ve been kind of out of it.” He was staring at his hands.

The cashier picked up the bags. “Not that hot,” he said skeptically.

“Don’t worry about it,” Dustin said. He snatched the bags and left, casting a suspicious glance over his shoulder at the tattooed man as he left. He walked back to his car in a daze and handed the bags to Eliza.

“Did you remember my pickles?”” she asked, sounding much more chipper. When Dustin didn’t respond, she poked him. “Dustin? Earth to Dustin.”

“He’s going to rob a gas station” Dustin said. “Tonight, at midnight.”

“What? Who?”

Dustin seemed to snap out of his trance. “One of the employees. When he gave me the stuff, I touched his hand, and all of a sudden I knew it. It’s like his secrets just revealed themselves to me.”

“You promised you wouldn’t use your powers!” Eliza shouted.

“I didn’t! Not on purpose, anyway! The secret was so strong it just jumped into me the second I touched him.” Eliza saw that he was telling the truth and sat quiet. This seemed to be the first time his powers had alarmed him. She could sympathize.

She was afraid to hear the answer, but she asked anyway. “What are you going to do about it?”

Dustin ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know. He doesn’t plan to hurt anybody, but he’s got a gun. I could tell the police, but they would ask too many questions we can’t answer.”

She knew what he was thinking. You want to stop him yourself. Just hang out at the gas station until he shows up and then stop him. You could do it easily. She knew how the idea would appeal to him, but she knew also that if he started he would never stop. The adventure and the obligation would be too great. And she knew just as strongly that she wasn’t ready for that, not yet at least, maybe not ever.

“So what will you do?” she asked again.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’d hate to sit by when I could stop it, but…” You promised not to.

“Maybe you could just leave an anonymous tip,” she said. “A cop car in the area could prevent it, and they wouldn’t know how you were.”

“I doubt anything’s truly anonymous these days. And besides, even if they took the warning seriously enough to send a car, he’ll just head to a different station. The guy is desperate.” She sat quietly and let him think. She didn’t know what to tell him either. As much as she disliked the idea of letting a crime go unpunished, she didn’t want him to go, although she could not have said whether it was due to need or selfishness.

“I guess I have no other option,” he said at last. “Let’s see if we can find a pay phone or something.”

They found a phone, and Dustin left a call, though he didn’t think they believed him. He didn’t know the man’s name, he refused to share his own information, and he couldn’t tell them how he’d come by the information. The wind was taken out of his sails, and though they went home and watched a movie and cooked dinner together, Eliza could tell his mind was elsewhere.

They went to bed. Night fell. And both of them lay awake, afraid of what what might happen next.

•••

Richard Lopez, known among the Warriors of the Sun as Xipil, The Noble One of Fire, spoke with all the fury implied by his name.

“For a thousand years our people have guarded the Heart of the Night, and now, when all is at it’s most vulnerable, you abandon your post?”

Ixtli cowered before the golden throne, bowing in terror. “My lord, we had received word of an impending attack by the Nightwalkers, and I felt it best to take my men to quell it.”

“A ruse!” yelled the Noble One. “The Dark can speak through the damned internet, you knew this as well as I! It created a distraction and lured in its chosen ones while you chased your own tail! And now that they have touched the Dark and escaped, you still cannot find them?”

“It is impossible to track them,” Ixtli whimpered. “The Darkness erased all of their digital tracks, and they have not shown themselves publicly as we had hoped.”

“You have failed in your sole duty, worm.” said Xipil. “No more shall your face see the sun, nor it yours.”

Ixtli recoiled and tried to run, but it was too late. Xipil arose from his throne, his white suit and gold jewelry gleaming, then glowing, then flaming. He lifted a hand, and light burst from his fingers like a laser, striking the unfortunate man and drowning him in flames. By the time Xipil had finished, there was little more than a pile of ashes where the guardsman had been.

The Man of Fire sat upon his Golden Throne and looked to each of his followers in turn. “Summon Xiuhcoatl, and all the Warriors of the Sun,” he said. “We will hide in plain sight, as we have ever done. The moment these children of shadow reveal themselves, we shall destroy them.” He tapped his staff on the floor. “The dawn shall rise, again to fight,” he began.

The rest of those assembled finished the mantra. “Shadows perish with the night.”

They finished together, calling on their powers. For a brief moment, the room shone like the sun itself. “Death to all that shun the light!”

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Hey! Great short stories! I’ve also nominated you for a Liebster Blog award, check it out: http://erynnwrites.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/the-liebster-blog-award/

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the stories! There’s more where that came from if you’re interested!

      • I’d love to see more! The Cavern and Nightfall really reminded me of the warring nature between Hylek and Krait from GW2 (I’m not sure why, but that’s what I thought of). Can’t wait to see where it goes, and anything else you write!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: