TW: Gore (a few descriptions of light gore)
Why are people afraid of the dark? Because things live in the dark. The darkness is its own world full of evil and monsters. You must think I’m a child, but have you been in the dark recently? Have you walked down your hallway at night, having that feeling that someone’s watching you? That flicker of movement in the corner of your eye? It’s not your mind playing tricks on you. No. It’s something much worse.
“Yes, sweetheart, I’m on my way home, I got stuck closing out the register…I’m in Macey’s parking garage right now…Yes, I’ll bring home something for dinner…I love you too. Okay. Bye.” I hung up my cell phone and continued walking towards my car. It was about 9:30 at night here in Manhattan. Luckily, spring had just arrived, so it wasn’t too cold out. However, everything in the vicinity was closed for the night, so it was rather desolate and quiet. For the city that never sleeps, it sure was fucking dark. I hated the dark. I never liked it, even now, as an adult. Especially in the city, where crime was high. But it wasn’t muggers or rapists that made me uncomfortable, it was the fact that I had no idea what was out there. And that was when my mind began to go into imagination mode. I’d create things in my head that would come out to get me and make myself paranoid. I shook my head. There was nothing out there.
I reached my car and took out my keys. Since I was broke at the moment, I couldn’t afford a newer car with the keys where you just press a button and the door unlocks. Nope, I was stuck with a 2006 Chevy Cobalt. It was a good car with good mileage and it got me to and from work every day. I dug my hand in my pocket and grabbed my keys. But when I pulled my hand out, my wallet decided to come along with it. It fell to the ground and I sighed. I bent over and picked it up. However, out of the corner of my eye, something moved. I quickly straightened up and spun around, trying to catch whatever it was I saw moving. Of course, there was nothing, but now I was uneasy. I turned back to my car and put the key in the door, the metal scraping against metal echoing through the silence of the night.
I spun around, trying to figure out who said my name. “Hello?” I called. “Who’s there?”
I got no response.
I let out a shaky breath and quickly got into my car. I put on my seatbelt, checking my mirrors for signs of movement. I shook my head. “Get it together, Jordan. No one’s there.” I pulled out of the parking garage and headed down 34th street.
I found a Chinese food restaurant down on 14 East. I found a parking spot a little way down the street. I sighed. Great. Out in the dark again. I got out of my car and walked down the sidewalk, the only illumination was from the street lamps lining the streets. I shivered, though it was 60 degrees outside. It suddenly felt like 30. “It’s just your head playing tricks on you,” I told myself.
“You can’t run, Jordan…” I spun around in a circle, looking for the source of the voice. This wasn’t funny anymore. Actually, it was never funny. Fuck, I hate the dark. I looked around and noticed something weird. The shadows seemed to be moving. They were swirling around, licking and flicking the air. I blinked, and they stopped. I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants and hurried over to the restaurant.
I placed my order and since it was only me and some drunk college kids, I was out quickly. As I headed to the door, I heard one of them call out to me. “Hey man,” said one of the boys, his words slurred. “There is some freaky shit going on outside, man. Some freaky. Shit.” I nodded to him and left. I headed down the sidewalk to my car, the streetlamps above me flickering. My heart started beating faster. I walked a little quicker, held my bags a little tighter.
“Jordan!” I yelped and turned around. Nothing. Whoever was out there was getting far too close for comfort. I ran to my car, not giving a shit about my seatbelt at this point. My tires screeched, disrupting the silence of the city and I sped off into the night.
“You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay…” I kept repeating those words to myself, hoping that if I said it enough, it’d be true. I kept glancing in my backseat, every now and then seeing the silhouette of a person. “There’s no one in your car but you, there’s no one in your car but you…” I was trembling now, my hand sliding down the steering wheel from the sweat. I swallowed hard. Only ten minutes left until I got home. Then I’d be safe with Sam, and we’d go to sleep together, safe. Safe.
I reached my apartment and dashed out of the car, slamming the door behind me. I locked the car door out of habit. Not even fear can mess up your brain’s routine.
Someone was whispering my name. I turned around for the billionth time that night and saw the shadows moving again. Only this time, they were coming towards me. I heard my name whispered over and over again. My heart skipped a beat as I ran up the stairs to my apartment door. I grabbed the doorknob and tried to turn it, but it was locked. “Shit,” I mumbled. I fumbled for my keys, looking back, again and again, each time the shadows getting closer, my name getting louder.
“JORDAN!!!” My heart was beating a mile a minute, my hands soaked in sweat. I got the key in and turned, the beautiful click the door being unlocked was music to my ears. I yanked the door open and slammed it shut, just in time. Breathing heavy, I walked up the stairs. I unlocked the door to my apartment and stopped in my tracks.
The lights were off.
It was pitch black.
It was dark.
“Sam?” I called out. No answer. I put the food on the kitchen counter and took off my shoes. “Sam?”
“Sam’s gone, Jordan.”
“No more Sammy!” Laughter filled my ears, but I couldn’t find the source. It grew louder and louder until the deafening noise was the only thing I heard.
“Stop…stop it…Leave me alone. STOP!”
“Jordan?” I looked up, tears streaming down my face. Sam was standing there, concerned. “Babe are you alright?”
“There’s someone in the apartment. Call the cops, now.”
“What? It’s just me. There’s no one else.”
“DO IT!” Sam flinched and went to grab the phone. Once it was done, I nodded approvingly. However, the laughter hadn’t stopped. Shaking, I went to turn on the lights. Once I flicked the switch, the bulb exploded, and once again, we were blanketed in darkness.
“No, no, no, no, NO!” I ran over and grabbed Sam by the shoulders. “We have to get out of here, we need to go find some light, quickly!”
“Jordan, what the hell is wrong with you? You’re freaking me out.”
“Light, we need light!”
“Jordan…Jordan…” I stiffened at the sound of the melodic voice. The Shadows. They found me. They were in my home. “We’re here, Jordan. We’re heeeeerreeeeee.”
“How did you find me!?!” I screamed. “Leave us alone!!!”
“Jordan, what the hell? Are you okay?” I turned to Sam.
“You can’t hear it? They’re calling me. They’re saying my name. They’re here.”
“Who’s here? What are you talking about?” I opened my mouth to further explain, but no noise came out. Instead, pitch black bugs came crawling out. My eyes widened, and I tried to scream, but I only spit up more bugs. Sam backed away from me.
“Jordan, what the fuck!?! I’m calling an ambulance!”
“JORDAN. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, JORDAN.” Tears streaming down my face, bugs crawling out of my mouth, I didn’t know what to do. The dark, it was the darkness doing this to me. I needed light, I NEEDED LIGHT.
I searched for a flashlight frantically, but I had trouble breathing, and my skin began to itch. I scratched it, but the sensation never went away.
“Hello? Yes, I need an ambulance, now.”
I looked down at my arm. There was something moving beneath my skin. I fell to my knees, gaging on the bugs. I scratched and scratched until my fingers were bloody. Suddenly, the skin on my arms ripped open, blood splattering everywhere, and tendrils made of shadows erupted from my flesh, swirling around. I screamed, choking on the bugs. Sam was staring at me terrified and not sure what to do.
I crawled over to Sam, shadows spewing from my arms, bugs pouring from my mouth. The last thing I remember before everything truly went black was the door bursting open, and light pouring in.
I opened my eyes. No bugs, no shadows, nothing. I looked around, confused. Where was I? White walls, and a single fluorescent light bulb. I tried to move, but my arms were restrained. I frowned and looked down. A…strait jacket? I tried to get out, struggling, but it was no use. I gave up and sighed.
Then it happened. The light began to flicker. My heart sped up and my mind began to spin. “No, please no…” Flicker, flicker, gone. The light, my only saving grace, was gone.
“Jordan…You can’t escape us Jordan…” I struggled, fighting against my restraints, screaming.
“HELP! PLEASE, SOMEONE HELP ME! THEY’VE COME BACK, THE DARKNESS IS BACK, HELP ME!!!” The shadows danced and lingered around my feet. Soon I couldn’t see my toes. Then my legs were gone. My torso was next, then my head. Next thing I knew I was shrouded in darkness once again.
I am alive. But every night, the darkness comes. Every night, I fight for my life, I scream for help, but no one comes. That’s the thing about the dark: you can’t see. And if you can’t see, you don’t know what’s truly happening. So, let me ask you again. Why are people afraid of the dark? It’s because the dark isn’t afraid of you.
Jamie Pierce (They/Them/Theirs) is a 19-year-old student currently attending SUNY Ulster as a fine arts major. They have plans to transfer to a four-year school and get their BFA in illustration with a minor in creative writing. Jamie has been writing and drawing since they were a young child. Creating art has always been their dream, whether the art is music, theatre, traditional, or writing. They are a storyteller first, human second. Jamie is an out agender person, currently residing in Upstate New York.