Short Story Part II: Darkness

Part of my own motivation to tell this story is to find the source of what makes a central character human. Any meaningful story always has a main protagonist that we can identify with in one way or another. Although their actions may be shrouded in controversy and morally grey, we can't help but empathize with their wants and desires. After all, it is our own imperfections that give us dimension and identifying such imperfections is what makes story characters human.

The following is a continuation of a short story I wrote some time ago. I will be releasing the story in chunks and if you missed the last segment, Part I: Sunset, the link should take you right there.



Part II: Darkness

The tree line faded as day’s death continued to blanket the earth. I’ve forgotten how to walk the trail line at night. Now, being trashed drunk all to hell, walking around in pitch-darkness was starting to look like a stupid idea. I was looking for a sprained ankle. Maybe, I was looking for worse.

As a kid, my brother Jesse and I would come up here on summers. We never really paid attention to the rules. My aunt would always get mad at us though. Kept yelling about not playing out by the shed near the woods after dark. She had it in her mind that something was in those woods, and the closer we’d got to the edge, the closer it would get from taking us. Jesse would never fall for it, but I wasn’t so sure.

Made it off the trail with nothing more than a stub toe. I walked back into the clearing, the lake house looked serene. There was a single light in the kitchen window. Angela stood at the sink, probably washing away today’s dinner. Her hairs in a ponytail; she only does that when she’s stressed.

I stop just a couple yards away from the back porch entrance. I look up and just let my mind wander into the night sky. It felt like we were so far from it, but like a giant web, it just sits there waiting to catch us.

I walked around the back end of the house. The cellar door was closed and locked. With the key in my back pocket, I took the padlock off the door.

The air was stale and the wooden stairs groaned loudly in anticipation of my weight. I still remember how Jesse standing at the cellar entrance. We use to play a game on who could stay down here the longest. I held the record.

“You have to go down farther! I can still see you”

“What are you talking about? You stood way closer last time. I can touch the pole.”

“No way! I thought the rule was that we can’t see our feet. I can still see your feet!”

“Fuck! Shit!”


I’d inch farther away from the light. I don’t know what kind of stuff my uncle stored down here. I think there was old furniture and family portraits from when they used to live in the city. He never liked us playing down here.

“Okay, start counting!”

“One…two…three…four…”

“I counted way faster than that!”

“Thirteen...fourteen…fifteen…”


I would feel my heart start to beat. All I could hear was the breath inside my head.

“Forty-six…forty-seven…forty-ei--”

Wham!

The cellar doors slammed shut. Pitch black.

“What the hell!!

“It wasn’t me! I swear…I didn’t…”

“Stop playing! For real!”

“The door’s stuck!!”

“Open it right now!”

“I’m getting uncle!”

“No, no, no, no. Don’t leave, please!”


His footsteps faded away, leaving me alone in the darkness. My heart felt like exploding in my chess. I told myself that everything was going to be fine, that it was all going to be okay. I didn’t really know how to lie to myself at the time.

Then it went silent. All sound, all movement, everything living on this planet disappeared. And that’s when I heard them for the first time.

“You need to go…”

The sound came, soft and cold. The darkness froze and the ground sank.

“To live, you have to leave us behind…”

The voice, like a frightened child.

“You need to leave us now…”


I was terrified. Afraid of what was breathing in the swallowing darkness, I slowly turned my head. Out of focus, the dim glow of a child. Sad and alone, it delivered its message. With unknown courage, I spoke.

“Where do I need to go?”

A sudden rush of air and fire flooded the room. The sky was brilliant as the earthly light illuminated the staircase around me. It was an image of a child, frozen in glory, but ever bearing the joy of good news. I heard his words in my mind.

“Do not be afraid. For we will watch over you.”

I didn’t know why, but I was at peace, hearing its song, locked in eternity.

David! What I tell you about playing down here,” my uncle bellowed.

“You could get hurt down here. You could have knocked something over and gotten crushed.”

Jesse was standing a couple feet behind my uncle. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it, really.”

I wanted to hurt him, but I said nothing.

I never did come back down here again. Kids and their imaginations, really. I kicked backed some more of that brown liquor. It wasn’t so crowded down here as it used to be. My aunt got sold most of their things, mostly after my uncle died. I think she couldn’t stand to look at it much afterwards. The only thing left was a couple of wine crates and his old workbench.

Underneath the workbench is a large, oak storage cabinet. I make my way to the workbench and with a loud screech; I slide the cabinet door open. The black duffel bag’s outline was sitting in the faint darkness, still there right where I left it. I unzip the bag open and searched through the green bricks of paper bills, just about fifty large, and a loaded 9mm right at the bottom. Angela didn’t want it in the house. I should have been more careful; didn’t have to be such a hard ass about it. I guess I’m trying to make this easy for her. I zip the bag back up and slide the cabinet door close.

And for a moment, I listened to the silence, unsure of what I should be listening for. The dark room held empty, revealing nothing. With a sigh, I pulled back the last drop of bourbon, then left the empty bottle on the workbench.

@alexantonio00

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