Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
During that uncanny hour when night and day become one, shadows crawl throughout the house searching for scraps of light to feast upon. The candle burning at my side casts a luminous dish upon my withered face- a feast to commemorate the splitting of this world. Where once my thoughts were fixated on days yet to come, now they desperately seek solace within the bittersweet memories of a bygone yesterday. How queer it is to lay upon this bed, with body worn and broken, knowing that at a moment’s rest, the grey-cowled specter of the end will come to greet me. Time has stripped me of my health and vigor, but I will not be consumed with ease. The shadows be damned! Let them starve another day! Sleep has called to me night after night, but I have yet to yield. Many would say I am mad for waging this war of attrition, but what do those fools know? What do the living know of the nightmares that lie in wait upon the horizon the separates waking life from dreamless infinity? They know nothing. I will continue this battle until I lose all sense and reason. Let those who seek to take this life from me rot within the crevices and corners of my crumbling domain.
Autumn’s whispers slip through the slightly opened window, beckoning the flame on my candle to dance. The shadows scatter in response, scuttling for purchase on the walls of my chamber. Their relentless desire to encroach upon all that I hold dear tethers them to me. Until their duty to their master is served and the light in my eyes has been torn out and devoured, they will persist. I pull up my covers, awkwardly aware of how childlike I must seem. Shame frightens me less tha—what was that!? A tap on my window. My heart gallops as I turn my head to look. Deep within my being, a deafening cry of mortal terror swells. It tries to break free but emerges as an impotent, almost silent, gasp. Perched upon the exterior windowsill was a horror beyond comprehension.
Two silver moons peered out at me with unwavering malice and disdain. Matted grey fur, illuminated by the twilight sky swayed ominously in the breeze. He has finally arrived. White panic drives me to act. I cross my arms, hands clutching my sides tightly. My voice returns. “You will not reap my soul!” The menace at my window did not waver. “Go away and leave me be!” The two round pits of mercury that were its eyes neither blinked nor looked away. Fear overtakes whatever strength I feigned to have and my voice becomes a murmur. “Please. I do not wish to go.” The wretched creature opens its mouth and lets out a deafening shriek. Tendrils scratch and tear as they work their way through my ear canals. The sharp discordant notes pierce my eardrums like jagged shards of glass. My covers flutter as I pull them over me. The candlelight flails frantically and the shadows rave.
The drumming of a heart reverberates throughout, gradually increasing in intensity. My temples throb with each thump as crimson magma courses wild and uncontrolled through my veins. With forehead damp with sweat, I lay completely submerged within my quilt. What am I to do now? That vile thing wishes to spirit me away! No, no, no! I will not let it. I must keep it out. The window, the cursed thing is still ajar! It needs to be shut. Clutching my chest in a futile attempt to calm the wild stampede inside, I pull off the comforter and will myself upright. The ruins that were once lithe and well-muscled legs tremble feebly as I slowly slide them off the bed. My feet hit the floor like wet rags and my bones rattle. The first step almost brings me to my knees but I manage to keep my balance. Fear and desperation propels me forward as I approach my destination. Upon arriving, I am struck by a nightmarish realization- the beast is nowhere to be seen. Outside, gnarled tree branches continue their somber waltz. I shut the window and turn to face the looming shadows that stretch out before me. My candle continues to burn, small and insignificant, amongst the all-encompassing pitch-black nothingness.
Silence echoes throughout the house. What used to be a place of familiarity and comfort, now looked very alien and perilous. I can feel his presence permeating the very air I breathe. This is no longer my home. He has taken it, just as he plans on taking me. There is no telling when or where he will appear again, but I will not stay to welcome him! With knees trembling, I struggle to my candle. Wax pooled below the diminished flame. This is the only weapon I have against the scavengers infesting my dwelling. Before the light is extinguished, I must be away from here. Candle in hand, I move towards the direction of my front door. With each step, sinister figures take form on the walls. No doubt they have come to mock me. Pestilence, smiling, jumps about with mischievous glee. What foul misdeeds he has done to me. To have been cursed with this bent and rotten body was the cruelest of tricks. “Damn you!” Each word uttered was strained under my labored breathing. I cannot stop now. Step by agonizing step, my salvation draws nearer. Another figure manifests in the dim light of my candle. My heart nearly stops at the sight of it. Elizabeth? “My dear Elizabeth. Oh, how can this be? I have not seen your face since my youth. That was so long ago. Why, you have not aged at all. How is this possible? I have- I have gotten so old, but you are still just as beautiful as I remember.” Tears full of pain and regret caress my lips. The shame of standing before her, withered and decrepit, was too much to bear.
Time is a blight upon man. What greater evil is there than to provide a person with the flame of life only to have them watch it slowly fade away as the years pass? How unfair it is to make a person strive to become whole, all the while pieces of them are chipped away by the ticking of a clock. It is maddening and utterly terrifying. But here was Elizabeth, eyes and hair like honey, and skin fair and untarnished. I reach out to her. I need to feel her. To take hold of her. To feel love and life again. Just then, the candle flickers for an instant. In that momentary darkness, something changed. Elizabeth still stood before me. However, her face- oh dear god- her face! The flesh had been peeled away revealing a hideous blackened skull. Maggots dripped like spittle from the tiny gaps between her cracked and decayed teeth. Empty eye sockets, lacking any indication of conscience or empathy, gazed at me. I clutch my chest in agony, heart attempting to burst through bone and flesh. The door! I turn and run. One leg after the other; one shallow breath after the next, I make it to the door. My violently shaking hand fumbles with the locks. A woman’s wail full of anguish stiffens the hairs on my neck, but I dare not look behind me. The final lock disengages. I have done it! I swing the door open and I see him- the pale glowing eyes, the silver fur. “Death”. The candle slips out of my hand as I sink to the floor. My heart grows silent. The small orange flame hits the ground and goes out.
CREDIT : Michael Abreu