The light was fading from the world again, and Mark was afraid.
Consumed by his fear, he huddled under the blankets on his small bed, holding his pillow tightly over his head to block out the sounds he could hear coming from the closet on the other side of the room. Faint scratchings could be heard from inside the small space, constant and growing louder. He was certain that it was the darkness, come to claim him, to finally drag him off to the in-between place.
The place of everlasting night and terror, that his brother had told him about, just last week, when he finally gave up sleeping with a night-light. Josh had whispered to him, just before bed…
“Don’t open the closet, Markie… the Darkness lives there, and it’ll drag you in and Mom and Dad will never find you. Just like all those army men I know you took from me. Better be all covered up, so it can’t see you.”
And now, Josh was sleeping, on the other side of the nightstand, in his own small bed, snoring slightly, and a small smile curving his mouth.
Mark gasped and shuffled his blankets even tighter around himself as he heard a creak come from the closet, and noticed the doorknob, turning, ever so slightly. A whimper escaped from his mouth, as he pulled his hands back into his sleeves and completely shoved his head under the pillow, making sure that no skin, no part of him, was visible at all. You couldn’t underestimate the Darkness, it saw every little bit.
Mom and Dad had just told him that there was nothing to be afraid of, when he’d asked if he could sleep with them.
“You’re 9 now, Mark, and certainly old enough to sleep in your own bed. You got along just fine for the last couple of nights without the nightlight,” Dad had stated firmly. “You’ll be asleep in no time, and everything will be just as normal as it always is. The sun will come up at the same time, and you will still be here, lying in your bed, sleeping, when it’s time to get up. So off to bed with you, young man.”
Mom had tried, but still hadn’t understood the real scary stuff, “Mark, honey, there’s nothing to be afraid of in the dark. Your brother will be right there, and if you really need us, we’re just down the hall. Just cover up, snuggle into your pillow, and close your eyes. Before you know it, it’ll be time for breakfast, and you’ll be through another night.”
They didn’t get it.
Mark knew that there were scary things out there in the dark. He’d heard them, prowling around the outside of the house, tapping lightly at the window. Even if Dad had showed him that it was just the wind, blowing a tree branch up against the glass, Mark knew that there was someone out there, playing tricks. He’d seen the foggy breath of the horrible thing on the window, all yellow… not white like normal frost or fog, it stuck to the glass slightly, and in the morning, slid down it like grease, to pool on the window’s sill. But that was always explained away, and Mark was never believed.
The click of the door unlatching made Mark jump slightly, and he struggled hard to hold perfectly still. If he just looked like a lump, there under his blankets, the Darkness might pass him by, leave him be for the night.
Shuffling footsteps dragged slowly and quietly across the floor. Small clicks, and a scritch-scratch noise followed it, but Mark didn’t move, didn’t even hardly breathe.
Still, hold still, let it think you’re just laundry. Old socks, dirty sweater, torn shirt. Nothing to see, nothing you want…
A muffled THUMP hit the floor near Mark’s bed, and he quivered in fright, his breath stopped in his chest. Murmuring, and a tiny squeal, then quickly, the scratchings and dragging noises sped across the room, back toward the closet.
The closet door slammed shut once again, latch clicking tightly, and loudly to Mark’s overheated imagination.
Mark didn’t dare to peek, lying petrified and paralyzed under his blankets.
But he knew, that Josh wouldn’t tell stories to him anymore…. just before bed.
About the Darkness.
-Jan. 2, 2014