This is the first part of a multi-part short story I’m working on.
By Grant Baciocco
The door opened and Anthony looked out through the crack. It was night. Of course it was night, it was always night now.
He listened briefly for any sound. There was none. The trees had long since stopped making noise as they had stopped growing and so were bare of leaves.
He took a deep breath and then cinched the shoulder straps of his pack. It was secure. Another deep breath and he was out the door. He pulled the door tight behind him, quietly. Careful not to make any noise, to disturb the darkness. His key slid silently out of the bolt and he slipped it into his pocket. He turned, back towards the door and faced the night full on, took a deep breath and began walking. He walked with a slow, determined pace, doing what he could to make sure his footfalls didn’t make a sound. He kept a close watch, best he could on the ground, trying to avoid stepping on anything that would make any noise.
It had been six months since the darkness had begun to creep in here. Before that, the sky was a brilliant display of stars, moons and nearby planets. But six months ago he noticed the first corner of blackness that appeared in the East. Slowly swallowing the night sky.
The darkness was not a surprise. Several scientists had predicted this, before the war. They had said the darkness was a possible side effect be a result of the weapons used in the war. Though the scientists had predicted the darkness, they had not predicted that the weapons used in the Great Last War, would create a living darkness. Darkness that was mean, cruel and almost seemed full of vengeance. A darkness that existed to swallow everything whole.
This darkness moved. It moved slowly, but it moved. It also listened. This is why Anthony was treading so carefully in the dim sky light that was left. If he made a noise, any noise, the darkness would come for him. And then…well, it’s better if he didn’t think of that. He had a mission and it was vital for him, for his sanity, to complete that mission. But he had to be careful. He had to not alert the darkness to his presence.
He moved up the street. It was slow going, but, it had to be slow. His eyes, well adjusted by now, scanned the streets lined with vacant apartment buildings and storefronts, cars sitting unused and remembered when all these places were full of laughter. Full of love. Full of life. All that was gone. All that was left, as far as he could tell, was him and the darkness.
He realized as he continued forward that the dark was becoming lighter. Slivers of hints of just a microscopic more light were reaching his eyes. His pulse quickened, it made him want to run, but he didn’t dare. He kept his practiced paced as he past the old school and crossed the street into the park. He had to be more careful now as several of the trees had dropped whole limbs, making each footfall a possible noise making experience.
He slowed his pace and stepped carefully. Over and around the fallen debris. He remembered this park before the war. Families, couples, children playing. A respite in the noisy city. Now it was silent. The people gone. The squirrels, ducks and birds gone. No one worried if the park’s paths flooded anymore. No one cared if the gate on the dog park had been left open. There was no one left.
He had been down here before a week ago and had caught a glimpse of something while he’d been out for food, but the darkness had seemed extra sensitive that night. He wanted to make sure he could get to what he saw and back without the darkness closing in on him completely.
He had seen people get swallowed by the darkness. Once it had enveloped the sky it started moving down towards the surface. In those days the few people that remained just went about their scavenging. But on the first night it was found out that the darkness could overtake people, there was panic. And the panic made the darkness swell more and take more people. Anthony had just made it into his apartment before the darkness filled the street. The darkness slowly dripped onto people from the sky like hot tar and and then grew to overtook their whole body. They would scream until their their head was covered and they were gone. After the first time Anthony had seen it happen, he vowed it wouldn’t happen to him. A promise that was getting harder and harder to keep as they darkness was overtaking more things day by day and food was getting harder and harder to find. But he had ventured out this night to see if his eyes had been playing trick on him the other night.
He slowly worked his ways down the gentle slope of the park’s path. Careful that his shoes did not make noises on the pavement’s incline. He squinted in the darkness just as he had the other night and there, through the murk, he could just barely see it.
It was down by the water’s edge. Anthony could see it flickering faintly, but he was sure now. It was a light. A light in the darkness.
His heart raced, but he was measured and did not pick up his pace. He knew one false step would alert the darkness to his presence and it’d be over. He was further from his apartment than he’d been and if the darkness heard him, he wouldn’t be able to make it back before he was overtaken. As the minutes past, they brought him closer. The light got brighter as he came within one hundred yards of it. Seventy five yards. Fifty yards. Twenty five yards. Ten.
He could see it more clearly now. It was a ring of golden light. It was on the cement on walkway of a small bridge that traversed one of the tributaries of the creek. It was as if a golden ring of fire had been laid there. Shining, ignoring the dark, in fact, holding it off. Anthony could see now that the dark was actually being repelled by the light there. Pushed back. He had no idea what this ring of light was, but if it could repel the dark, he had to get closer.
He slowed his pace tremendously as he neared it. He got to his knees and crawled. Taking ten whole minutes to move just a couple feet. As he came right up to it he felt it was giving off heat. Not enough to burn, just enough to warm him. After living without electricity for so many months he smiled at the touch of the warmth against his face. He was now a foot away from the ring and saw that the dark was being pushed back enough that he could get to his feet. As he did and he looked down into the ring he saw, for the first time there was a small green circle of light in the middle of the large outer ring. He puzzled and looked down at it. Wondering it’s significance. Marveling at how whatever this thing was, this odd ring of light, it was pushing the darkness back.
Carefully he extended a finger and moved it towards the circle. The heat didn’t increase. It just felt warm. As his finger broke the circumference of the circle, he noticed the tip of his finger disappear.
He gasped in shock and quickly withdrew his finger which emerged from the light whole and intact. He instantly cursed himself. He’d made a noise. He had made a noise and the darkness heard him. All around him he could hear the darkness swelling. A low rumble filled the air. The darkness was pressing down on this spot. This tiny spot on a bridge where a circle of light, just big enough for maybe two people to stand in, was keeping it at bay. But with the rapid gathering of the darkness, how much longer would the darkness be held back?
Anthony looked around. The paths, normally flooded with water, were flooded with darkness. There was no way he could make a break for it. His choices became: Be swallowed by the darkness or step into the circle of light. He looked around, the park disappearing from his view as the darkness crept closer and closer to where he was.
He took a deep breath and stepped into the circle.
There was no noise. No heat. There was nothing but light. Light that bathed him. Surrounded him completely. He slammed his eyes shut. They hurt being subjected to such brightness after living in darkness for so long. His hands went to his eyes and held them shut until the pains subsided. He was warm. Not hot, but warm. It was nice.
Anthony slowly began to open his eyes. Timidly. Carefully. As he did, and his eyes adjusted he saw his feet. He was standing on pavement. As his eyes adjusted more, other things came into focus. He was on the bridge. The same bridge, but now colors began coming into view. Trees. The water. Ducks swimming nearby.
He smiled. He didn’t know where he was, but this was the park he remembered before the darkness. Behind him he heard some children laughing. He began to turn and as he did he realized someone was standing behind him. His eyes were still adjusting but he looked at the figure standing there, just feet from him.
“Hi.” She said.
Anthony smiled. He was no longer alone.