A Darkness Within
Fiction by Alexander Z. Kautz
Awakened on the sixth day by the noon sun's burning glare, I shielded my eyes with a hand, groaning as I slowly moved from off the couch.
I paused while noticing the light of the lamp and realizing that the power must have come on shortly after I had passed out?
It was a great relief, as the thought of having to go down into that old basement alone, even during the day, still bothered me.
With the memory of the night's terrors still vivid within my mind, I found my way into the kitchen, took my morning medication and immediately sat down to compose my notes.
I wrote as though one still caught within a dream, the words coming without a single, interrupted thought. It were as though it was not even I who related the grim tale, but someone or some thing reaching from out of me.
When the telephone rang it broke me from out of that strange mesmeric state of which, dream-like, had held me captive, just sitting and staring at my notes.
It was Keiko and as I heard her loving voice within greeting, it seemed to drive all the darkness from out of my heart and soul.
"It's so good to hear your voice, darling." I sighed with the greatest of relief.
"I miss you so very much sweetheart." She blew kisses into the phone, asking,
"Is everything alright? You eating, taking your med's and taking it easy--like you promised?"
The words came slow as each thought, like a lead weight, seemed a great burden as I said,
"All is well dear--yes, as promised."
"Did I wake you dearest?" She seemed strangely suspicious.
"Oh--I was just sitting around. Day-dreaming--drifting," I looked around at the large kitchen window's. Squinting as my eyes became sensitive to the bright afternoon sunlight, saying,
"I'll be fine."
"I'm calling to give you some good news!" She became excited, saying,
"I will be catching a red-eye flight. So, I should be home in the morning, my love!"
"That's fabulous news sweetheart!" I hesitated in mid-sentence, dreading the conversation that would ensue upon her arrival and saying,
"I can't wait to see you--feel you in my arms again. It seems like forever."
"Tell me about it!" She groaned, saying,
"I will be home in the morning. So, please get some rest, you sound totally beat."
"I can't argue with you there honey." I winced with a sudden and sharp pain. A stiff neck from sleeping crooked, saying with a grunt,
"I'll make sure to rest up for when you come home."
"You better mister!" She chuckled, saying in a seductive tone,
"It’s been a lonely two weeks. We have some catching up to do."
"I'll go right to bed after you hang up!" I forced a laugh, saying,
"I'll need the energy."
"Please, take care of yourself dear." Her voice once more echoed with suspicion and something just short of fear as she said,
"I don't want to lose you. See you tomorrow. I love you, very much. See you soon."
"I love you too--don't worry dear. You won't lose me. See you soon." I listened as she hung up, the line humming as though she were a million miles away. And the way that I was feeling at that moment, she might as well have been...
Dinner had been quick and simple. A green salad, some hard boiled eggs a little cheese and a lot of imagination to force myself into assuming that this was truly a wonderful thing.
I had taken my evening heart medication and was in the process of making some Jasmine tea when I suddenly heard a strange knock?
I say strange because the source was not from any near-bye door, but rather something from beneath me?
Pausing to pinch my arm to be certain that I was indeed awake. Moved from my seat and slowly walking to the basement door, located to the rear of the kitchen, just stood there listening?
With my hand inches from the crystal door knob, I watched as the little hooked latch rattled within a cold gust.
Having never considered the security of the place. I now became painfully aware that should there ever be a reason to secure that basement door. That little hook and latch was nothing more than a way of keeping the door from swinging inward on a draft.
Why bother looking down there anyway? The sound had gone and by all accounts was likely nothing more than pressure within the old pipes or settling of the house?
Besides, nothing had ever happened there during the hours by day and it was still light out....
I had forgotten how quickly the darkness came in the winter months as turning to look out the window, now gazed into the dusk's final rays.
"Okay--it's getting dark." I cursed under my breath, speaking aloud while attempting to calm the increasing, pounding of my heart, said,
"There is nothing down there. Nothing wrong with this house. It's all the product of sleep deprivation and stress. Alright, those stories Linda told you didn't help anything. Or the graves in the backyard. But, the fact is--Andrew--there is nothing here to be afraid of but your own fear."
Reaching for the hook latch, I halted, putting a finger to my lips in thought and saying,
"Although, there really isn't any reason for me to go down there--alone, at night."
Making my way back to the table, I took both tea, notes and flashlight into the living room and making myself comfortable in the chair by the hearth.
This time, I had also stocked plenty of wood such as would easily last for several days. Within a moment of consideration, I also turned the chair from the hearth in such a way that I could easily see down the corridor with a single turn of my head.
As ridiculous as these precautions may have seemed at the time, regardless of anything else it offered a little comfort.
To pass the evening, I had decided upon doing the editing on the incomplete story, there-bye occupying both mind and time.
Preparing a pot of tea and building a cozy fire in the hearth, I made myself comfortable, focusing upon my notes.
Whether it had just been nightmares, sub-conscious images imagined through Linda's grim revelations or something actually existing within those shadows, it certainly felt real enough.
Deep down, I now believed that though invisible to the naked eye, somewhere within that dimension between sleeping and waking, existed a place where every nightmare ever imagined awaited us all.
Perhaps it was simply a matter of darkness and the power of fear which generated a key, opening a psychic gateway from our reality into that ethereal realm? Or maybe I was simply a victim of my own, over-active imagination?
With a yawn and little stretch, I placed down the pad and pen, settling back into the chair. Peering, dreaming into the warming glow of the flames.
It was the first and foremost, singular moment of real peace that I had felt since having entered the place.
Maybe after having realized that I was quite safe, as while awake, that I had allowed my defenses to drop, becoming rather secure in the fact that nothing could or would harm me while conscious.
Merely childish fears of which having followed me into adulthood, now taunted and tormented a tired and troubled mind.
The flames gently swayed, dancing as the embers hissed, crackled and occasionally spat. The night so very calm, so very quiet, so very still from all about me....
The long fingers of an ancient elm tapped gently upon the window pane in the cold November wind as settling peacefully, I closed my eyes by the fire's gentle glow.
Fatigued and fading, did I drift into silent slumber. The night's cool embrace carrying me off into an ocean of twilight and beyond to the realm of dreams and nightmares.
I felt as light as a feather, my mind drifting like the morning dew upon a gentle spring breeze. Downward, ever downward did I drift into a twilight world much the same as our own, but cast within light and shadow rather than wood and stone.
I knew this road, the hills and trees to a familiar place nestled among other old and fanciful homes.
I was now brought down by the night's calming breath. Through turret and roof did I sink and swim, traveling three stories down into that dark, old and large living room.
To the chair by the hearth did I finally come down to rest, but something seemed different? It appeared much older, darker than death.
And so did I ponder, had I traveled back in time to when the house had first been built?
Or had I? No... This was not the original house, but some kind of astral projection. An energy field representing the same place in a different dimension.
Dear God, this place was an ethereal plane, a manifestation of the energies, suffering, anger, a cumulative cesspool of pure evil...
I could sense it building up from all around me. The images of the people, the families as through time, the essence of their being like a video recording, repeated the horrible accidents, ghastly incidents over and over through all eternity!
This was it! This was the sickness, the cumulative negative energy, suffering, sickness and death that after every nightmarish event, now haunted, thrived in the house on Crowley Street!
"You!" A tall dark figure rushed from out of the corridor, fists balled in rage and shrieking in anger, pointed an accusing finger at me, bellowing,
"Damn you! Damn you all to hell!! My God--has forsaken me!" Jeremiah fell to his knees, pounding his fists upon the floors, the sound like thunder within my ears!
With wild dark and staring eyes, his pale, gaunt face twisted within bloodied and embittered rage, he wailed,
"My wife and children lay bleeding and dying! And all you offer me are false prayers, empty hopes which fall upon the deaf ears of an unmerciful God! Well I renounce God, I renounce the word and I damn you all! Be gone from this house before I kill you all with my bare hands!"
I trembled like a child before his seething and endless rage, attempting to climb from the chair and escape this madman's wrath, but could not!
And then from behind him they came! His wife, her sorrow filled face and white gown bloodied by the sickness! The children pale and deathly, a crimson mass, following in the shadows behind her!
"Death and damnation to all who enter this Godless place!" Jeremiah howled in defiance, throwing his arms and gaze into the heavens within judgement, he cried out,
"Damn you to hell! Death and damnation to all who dare enter into this place! This accursed pit--where my children drown and die in their own blood!"
Cringing as a sudden shadow storm began to rage all about me, I witnessed the Larson woman as shrieking with madness, she mercilessly drowned her children before hanging herself!
Their pale and bloated faces, bulging eyes and shrieks of terror burning into my memory!
Jeremiah stood tall in the darkness, a minstrel to the choir of hell that now played all around me in the form of death and disaster! His endless rage, fueling each horror more cruel than the last!
I saw his shadowy figure frighten young Angela Thornton as tumbling down the basement steps, a moment later she lay dead at the bottom. Her wide eyed staring gaze ripping through my soul as drifting within a crimson lake, the life ran, flowing from out of her!
The shadows wailed, the winds of Hell churned, icy, biting into my flesh and soul! There, amongst those churning mists did I witness six year old, Amanda McMurtry as a shadowy figure peered out from behind one of the ancient trees! It's evil reaching out, touching, panicking the child as she rode her bicycle out and directly behind her father's car!
"Nooooo! Stop!" I screamed as the car backed out and I sought to warn the poor soul!
"For the love of God! Stop--she's behind you!"
Helpless, did I stare in terror as my call's fell upon long dead and deaf ears! I watched in horror as the vehicle rolled back, the tire and heavy car rolling over, pinning and crushing the life from out of her little body!
The storm became filled with the screams of pain and anguish of both parents and victims alike! The sounds of which now drove me to certain madness! Above it all, booming like thunder came the voice of Jeremiah himself,
"Damn you! Damn you all to Hell! Death and damnation to all who dare enter into this place! This accursed pit where my children drown and die in their own blood!"
Helplessly I watched as that very same shadow hung above the choking form of poor old Carl Niemeyer. As lying in bed, terrified beyond his wits, his heart choked, sputtered and failed!
The storm howled with the mournful, eternal suffering voices of the dead! Black and churning, twisting as Jeremiah's cold, hateful stare turned upon me and pointing a long, bony finger, he wailed,
"Death and damnation to all who dare enter into this place!"
There was no escape! The only way out of the house was through that corridor to the front door!
I would not dare attempting to rush through the kitchen, down into the basement and out through the root cellar doors!
In a moment of sheer terror, I decided to make one last, desperate effort and within a burst of adrenaline, stormed the doorway! Barely slipping past the nightmarish things that now pursued me through the blackened corridor toward the front door!
The white veiled woman appeared before the doors with bloodied, outstretched arms, she shrieked while blocking my escape!
I spun to look back as they came! Oh my God! They were crawling, slithering and wailing as they slid through a thick mire of blackened, putrefaction as they came at me!
But there were so many, so many more! None of which had anything to do with the house itself? All the forms of children throughout an age and time unknown! How old and for how long had these grounds been cursed?
I turned to look upward and to the stairs as an enormous shadow of a man stood there. Tall, gaunt, grimacing and foul were the lines of which etched deeply within that face, were written by hate and timeless, unspeakable evil!
The master of the house, the monster responsible for the deaths of all the damned whose tormented souls eternally haunted this accursed place!
His pale face shone like the moon within twilight's end! Eyes blacker than night, he shrieked, his voice booming like thunder as he cried out,
"Damn you to Hell!"
It was then and there that I knew! Yes, I finally realized that this was by no means any man! But the very incarnation of the evil that had always presided over the place, having finally manifested within the house on Crowley Street!
Throwing myself backward, I cast my gaze away from the beast, praying, crying out aloud,
"Dear God in heaven! Have mercy--save me!"
That foul thing towered, a demon upon the steps, now bellowed, cursing, moving downward as it came for me! The ghastly, slithering and creeping death that gathered in the darkness all about me closing the circle!
Ever closer they reached out, clutching, clawing, hissing! Merely inches from me the oozing filth closed in all about me! The shadows blocking all light as into darkness did I now fall!
Suddenly as all hope failed, the front door burst open upon the powerful wind's of an electrical storm! And there within the light stood my sister as within her spring of youth! Shining with vitality, her wild eyes bright within the lightning she extended a hand toward me, crying out,
"Andrew! Take my hand!"
The hordes of Hell shrieking within that brilliant light, drew backward as within that fleeting moment, gathering what courage and strength remained to me, burst forth! Reaching outward and taking her hand, I was drawn out and cast from out of that blackened pit!
Veronica vanished into the light as rushing outward, I stumbled, falling down the front steps! Fighting for breath, I gasped, clambering to my feet and slipping downward, dropped to my knees!
There was a scream and I heard my name as through the brightness of day a figure approached! Grasping me tightly as within that moment, I looked into Keiko's wide and tear filled eyes as the darkness took me....
I had awakened in hospital suffering from only minor injuries. The doctor's had informed Keiko that under extreme duress I had suffered another minor cardiac event. Delusional at the end, if not for her swift actions within pulling me away from the place. I might have also fallen victim to the unexplained blaze that had utterly consumed the old house on Crowley Street.
Though the fire department had sifted the wreckage, they found neither sign of arson nor evidence of the original source of the fire. The final verdict in the cause was delegated as lightning and under an insurance clause, simply referred to as, an act of God.
The lot still stands empty today and though insurance paid for the loss, I retain ownership of the property. Surrounded now by a steel ten foot fence. The ground's within my mind, both condemned and damned, bare a certain, darkness within.
Standing with bowed head before my sister's grave my burden is lightened. As placing down the pink carnations that our mother had so dearly loved, I know that they now rest peacefully, together.
In those final moments before the world had faded, I knew within my heart that though we may not have been close in this world. In the end, love forgives and family is forever...