I sat upright, my dark bedroom spinning around me. Something had roused me from my disturbed sleep, and instinctively I could tell that it was something major. For a few seconds I let my mind wander back to my haunted dreams – but no, that was a place I didn’t want to go. He was long dead and I had washed my hands of any remorse. I turned my attention back towards the reason I had awoken so suddenly. A glance out my window revealed that several feet of fresh powder had fallen since the storm had started. Forcing on some clothes, I wondered blearily around my house, turning on lights, checking the stove, trying to locate the source of my disturbance. Finding nothing strange I leaned back on a wall and closed my eyes, letting my consciousness drain of thought; immediately I sensed it again, that strange sensation that roused me from slumber. It was coming from outside. I jammed my jacket on and opened the door.
I walked down the front steps, my boots leaving prints in the newly fallen snow. Glancing nervously around my yard I searched for whatever had woken me up so suddenly; but all I could hear was the gentle crunching of the ice under my feet, and all that moved were the wispy clouds of my own breath, suspended in the frigid night air. Something was horribly wrong, hideously out of place, but my tired eyes failed to detect anything through the darkness and my ears perceived nothing but the gentle moans of the drifting wind. Shivering, I stared off into the cold night, straining my eyes to see beyond the circle of warmth cast outward by the house; and it was as my vision swept the fringe of that gentle light that I discovered the grotesque oddity that had roused me from my bed.
When light is cast over a flat darkened field, one expects the intensity to diminish evenly with distance as the light rays are diffracted by particles in the air – in other words you can usually spot a soft gradation of dark to bright, with every shade of gray in between. However, the light from the porch lamp deemed to disobey this fundamental law. Close to the house the light seemed to behave normally, being brightest directly above the steps and gradually darkening as it travelled outwards, but thirty yards or so from the door it stopped abruptly. A blank, seemingly impenetrable wall of darkness encircled my house and no light, either cast from my porch lamp or streaming out of the windows, was able to illuminate anything beyond it. I began to suffer the optical illusion that my house was on top of a circular mesa, though I knew the ground around it was actually very level. This alerted me to another strange phenomenon: the usually brightly speckled night sky was devoid of moon and stars, nor was I able to see any lights from the neighboring houses or the freeway that ran close by my property.
My head felt dizzy and a feeling of vertigo set in, I appeared to be completely cocooned within a sphere of oblivion that cut off all lights and noise from beyond its dark borders. The pitch black sky was explainable, it was obvious a storm was brewing, but the lack of any visible houses, cars, or trees churned my stomach, and as my head spun I doubled over and vomited. I stayed bent, hands on my knees, trying to collect my nerves and calm myself. Unsteadily, I rose back to my feet and took another long look at my surroundings; I told myself that the nauseating darkness was merely a mirage, and to reinforce my courage (and even possibly dispel the illusion) I slowly began to walk towards the mysterious boundary, where the white snow bordered a black nothingness.
A strange fear gripped me as I crept closer to the edge of my vision; it was the same fear which had awoken me only minutes earlier. Foot by foot, step by step, I closed upon the stark line drawn across the lawn, with each inch the dread within my heart growing. The encapsulating darkness had an evil hunger to it; as I warily moved forward the void began to resemble a giant, indescribable maw, swallowing all of the earth before it, ravenous not for food, but something far more primitive and vile. Each footfall closer to the boundary seemed to take hours, but I doggedly maintained my pace, determined to shatter the illusion that had dropped me to my knees. At long last I finally stood before it, the tips of my boots barely over the dark threshold. Leaning forward I pressed my face through the invisible barrier, gasping as a cold wind washed over flesh. To my dismay I still couldn’t see anything; the other side of the barrier was like the unlit bottom of a cave, only green and blue phantom images flashing before my unseeing eyes. But, I did hear something.
A strange, muffled sound reached my ears. At first I wasn’t able to distinguish what it was, only discern that it was getting louder. Suddenly, recognizing the series of slaps and thumps, a new terror gripped my heart. I stumbled away from the black wall, petrified by what sounded like a huge four legged creature bounding through the snowdrifts towards me from beyond the void. My feet refused to move, my eyes remained locked upon the dark border as the footfalls came closer.
But just as I was expecting the creature to come charging out of the oblivion and bare its horrible form, it stopped. Behind the curtain of black I heard a strange snuffling, accompanied by a scraping that cast clouds of white snow out of the darkness and into the light. My frozen muscles started to unknot themselves; perhaps the mysterious creature was a dog or pig. Breath returned to my empty lungs and my chattering teeth slackened. But just as I began to relax I heard an awful noise that sent me scurrying back into the house, bolting the door as soon as it was shut.
Just beyond the reach of light, shrouded by that mysterious darkness, the creature had gurgled.
When I was finally able to compose myself I set off through my house, locking all of the windows and doors and drawing the shades shut. Once every opening in the house had been latched shut, and the burbling coming from across the yard could no longer be heard, I collapsed on my bed and stared at the shadows etched across the dark ceiling. I thought that I had moved beyond the day of the funeral, I thought I had gotten rid of these visions months ago, but now I lay sleepless; the hallucinations had returned. Recalling the advice of one of my many useless psychiatrists I closed my eyes and slowly breathed through my nose, clearing my mind of all the bullshit and panic that had crept up on me. There was no mysterious darkness outside, and there certainly was no monster concealed within it, just figments wrought from a damaged brain, a result of too much whiskey and meth and bad memories.
In my dreams I returned to that overgrown cemetery where I had seen him buried; the sky was overcast and droplets of dew soaked my feet as I shuffled my way through the grass. I was following a white coffin hoisted upon the shoulders of faceless men in coats. I knew he was inside it. As the pallbearers wound their way through the gravestones I could hear muffled shouts coming from inside the casket. It began to rain as we approached a rectangular hole in the earth, a pearly white tombstone set in the ground before it. All the people I remember from the funeral were there, but instead of crying and watching the procession they had their eyes fixed unblinkingly upon me. The thumping and yells from inside the coffin grew louder as the men filed upon either side of the hole and began to lower him into the grave. As the casket was swallowed up by the pit he cried out my name, asking, begging me to help him. But all I could do was stand there and watch as he disappeared forever into the darkness. As the suited men turned and walked away from the grave I heard a final anguished scream burst out from the depths of the pit.
I woke up covered in a cold sweat. The wristwatch on my bedstead showed that it was only two in the morning; had I really only slept for a couple hours? The watch used to be his, but he had given it to me in his will. I remember how much the others had struggled to stop me from getting it. His parents, his girlfriend, all his other acquaintances, they said it was my fault he was dead; they said I didn’t deserve anything he owned. I told them how I had been away when he had been murdered, how when I saw how far he had fallen I tried to get him help. But they didn’t care. They said that I was the one who had corrupted him, introduced him to the wrong people, familiarized him with all the wrong substances. To them I was just as guilty as the one who had pulled the trigger and blown most of his head off.
I glanced out my window, shuddering when I saw that it was still pitch dark outside. The only respite available to me now was the bag happy pills safely stashed away under my sink. For the second time that night I crawled out of my bed and groggily made my way downstairs to the kitchen. It’d been two months since I had last touched my stash, but I knew exactly where they were, my hand tearing off the tape and pulling the bag out almost automatically. I sat there on the kitchen floor, my shaking hand pouring out one, two, then four pills; I was that close to safety, the white pills on the edge of my lips, when from the corner of my vision I saw the front door. It was open. I dropped the bag and leapt to my feet, the small tablets scattering across the hard linoleum.
Somehow the bolt had unlatched itself and a breeze had blown it open. At least, that’s what I told myself as I hesitantly walked across the kitchen and into the living room, my eyes locked upon the gently swinging door. I reached out and grabbed the cold brass knob, using it to pull my unwilling feet forward. There was nothing outside. But not the good kind of nothing where you shut the door and go back to bed placated, it was the bad kind; gazing out the door I saw exactly nothing, no yard, no lights, no snow, just the concrete steps disappearing downwards into a black abyss. That inexplicable wall of nothingness had moved closer.
Slowly, cautiously, I walked out the door and stood on the first step. The light spilling out from the doorway behind me only traveled three feet or so, illuminating the first few steps and the metal railing, but leaving the ground beneath cast in shadow. I raised my arm and carefully extended it before my face, trying to find the edge of the abyss. About eighteen inches out my hand suddenly disappeared, my wrist and my forearm floating alone before my eyes; it was an incredibly odd sensation not being able to see your hand, but still able to move and feel it. The other side of the dark curtain was unbelievably cold, so frigid that my fingers had already begun to go numb. Perplexed, I withdrew my hand and fished around in my pocket for my Zippo. Flicking it, and convinced that the flame was burning solid, I plunged my fist back over to the other side. The light from the flame vanished, along with my forearm. Wondering if the lighter had gone out, I tried to withdraw my arm. But before I could, something grabbed my hand.
I screamed as unseen talons dug into my flesh. Warm blood flowed over my frozen fingers as I tried to wrench my arm free from the invisible assailant. I heard the creature gurgling again, this time only inches away from my face. My feet began to slide across the ice laden steps as the thing started to drag me forwards, my wrist and my elbow slowly disappearing over the dark barrier. The horrible slobbering, murmuring sound was in my ear, I could feel splashes of cold saliva hitting my face. With a final effort I hooked my legs around the metal railing and tried to draw myself away from that horrible border. Slowly and painfully I begin to overpower the creature, my elbow coming back into the light. Deep, long cuts appeared along my skin as the thing’s razor sharp claws slipped backwards over my arm. Finally, with the last strength left in my legs, I tore myself free from its death-grip, tumbling backwards through the door and landing sprawled across the tiles in the entryway. In my mangled, blood covered hand I was still clenching the lighter. Its yellow flame fluttered back in forth in the darkness.
This time I propped a bookcase and a sofa against the door. On the other side I heard it clawing at the wood. I staggered off to the bathroom, clutching my injured arm, leaving a trail of splattered scarlet behind me. After popping one of the pills scavenged off the floor I sat on the edge of the bathtub and wound gauze around my wound. Whatever was hiding in the darkness, its claws had cut straight down to the muscle. Slowly, the drugs, mixed with my blood loss, overcame the pain, and I leaned back against the wall, my eyes rolling backwards, my mind wandering outside the walls of the dingy, blood spattered room.
I tried to focus on my situation, forcing my thoughts upon the wall of darkness and the horrible creature that stalked within it, and as my vision faded a dozen half baked escape plans wound through my consciousness. But it wasn’t long before the medication took control; I felt myself drifting out of the safe confines of the bathroom, the stained yellow tile and the leaking sink dissolving away, replaced by a green field dotted with rows and rows of white stones. I was propelled onwards through a haze of light rain and found myself once again standing in front of his grave. It was long filled up by now, the grass growing tall over the mound that marked where they had lowered his casket, a small vine with white flowers winding its way up his marble tombstone. I remembered the last time I came here. I stood there for hours, wondering if I was going to break down and cry, or laugh, or maybe just apologize.
Instead, as the sun set and rain began to fall, I left without a word.
The hallucinations switched gears, the graveyard disappearing into a swirling mist. I was sitting on a couch in his apartment as he paced back and forth in front of me. I recall that this was the last time I had seen him alive. A year of pricking himself with needles and forcing smoke down his lungs had reduced his figure to a skeleton, but his face still wore a smile that stretched across his gaunt cheeks. He told me how he’d made it big on some internet website; he’d gone from broke junkie to millionaire in a month. But that wasn’t all. He’d contacted some drug ring and was going to start dealing big time and pulling in the real bucks. The handoff was in a week, and he had even already stuffed two million into a briefcase hidden behind the fridge.
Six days later I got a call from the morgue. They found his body, minus most of his skull, lying in some abandoned quarry, riddled with bullets.
Finally, the visions began to fade and I felt myself dropping back down to reality, the last hazy vision of his mutilated head spiraling away as the bathroom came back into focus.
I guess I had some sort of pipe dream that the walls of the house would stop the darkness from squeezing in any tighter. But when I awoke and staggered out of the bathroom the entire first floor had disappeared, the wooden staircase winding downwards into that impermeable shadow. I glanced at the watch around my wrist – why did it say it was still two in the morning? And then I finally noticed something that nearly broke my strained nerves. The second hand wasn’t moving. The clock in the hallway confirmed it. Time had stopped. No wonder I escaped the clutches of that grotesque creature so easily, it had all the time in the world to let me stumble around my house and grow weaker as its dark net drew ever tighter.
I couldn’t even begin to fathom why I was being hunted by this thing. It was just too real to be another hallucination from my drug-addled brain. I wandered the upper floor of my house, desperately seeking some source of refuge from the gathering darkness. It seemed like every time I turned away it moved a little closer; slowly it began to advance up the stairs and down the hallway, the ceiling lights blinking off one by one. There was no more sanctuary from this creeping terror, my last chance for safe haven lay scattered across the floor of the kitchen, which had long ago been consumed by the shadows. I huddled in my bedroom, staring out along the vanishing hallway, every so often hearing something crawl about in the darkness.
And then I saw it. As the creeping gloom reached a junction between the hallway and the bathroom something skittered from shadow to shadow, ever so briefly exposed to the waning light. But that momentary glimpse was more than enough to chill me to the bone and reduce me to a shivering mass of fear. It had crawled on four spindly legs, but it had the body of a man. Its pale skin was pulled tight across its bones, sloughing off in spots and revealing masses of rotting blue flesh. Decomposing entrails spilled from its fetid stomach, and as it crawled across the walls it left a grimy trail of blood and tissue.
But worst all, it had no head. The lower half of a jaw flopped around under an open stump. As it breathed liquid gurgled in and out of its exposed throat. And as I stared at it, a new emotion burst above my undiluted fear. Recognition. The decayed body, the missing head…it couldn’t be…but it could only be…
He had come back to the grave to get his revenge upon the one who betrayed him, and it was too late, much too late, for mercy. Screaming, I kicked the door to my bedroom shut. Collapsing in a corner I yelled and begged and whimpered for him to leave, that I was sorry, that I had made a mistake; but as thin lines of shadow began to trace themselves across the wood I heard a scratching from the other side that communicated only one thing: too little, too late.
I commit these last few words to paper in the feeble glow of a plastic flashlight I grabbed from the closet, just before it was consumed by the shadows. As I sit here crouched in the corner, surrounded on all sides by the creeping darkness, I have only one wish. I want to reveal the truth to anyone who might find my mangled corpse; maybe it will buy my redemption from a horrible fate, if not in this life then perhaps the next.
It is my fault he died. When they all blamed me for killing him, saying that I had led him down the wrong path, that I had corrupted him, I wanted to laugh at their stupidity; I may have introduced him to his dark side, but he was the one who fell completely for it. Perhaps I should have seen the hunger in his eyes, but he chose his path, and he loved every minute of it.
But they were right, I did kill him. I can remember the exact moment I killed him. It was dark in his apartment, and I lay awake on the couch long after he had gone to bed. Careful to not make any noise I crept into his kitchen and pulled his fridge out from the wall. Just as he claimed, a small brown briefcase leaned against the plywood. Grabbing it, I strode out into the night, leaving him to his fate. A week later he went to the tradeoff and - well, Columbians don’t like it when you show up to a coke deal with a briefcase full of printer paper. Never did I apologize or ask for his forgiveness; I always thought he deserved it for being stupid enough, weak enough, to leave a case full of cash unguarded, besides what good was it begging the dead for absolution? I used the money to buy a new life for myself. New car, new clothes, even this new house where I now lay curled on the floor, awaiting my fate.
Now his rotten corpse squats on the ceiling above me, gurgling patiently, each breath showering me in his putrid blood. I have my head tucked between my knees, but I can already feel the shadow brushing against the top of my hair, steadily closing in. I don’t know, maybe I had mental breakdown and I’m really in a padded room, raving about moving shadows and dead friends. But I doubt it.
Maybe it’ll be quick, and when he rips the last breath from my lungs I’ll ascend to a better place. But I doubt it. Something tells me that my violent death will be just the beginning.
Oh god, I can feel its breath on the side of my face. I can’t see anything. The darkness has closed in completely.
I just want everyone to know tha
Author Information: Black Fedora
Story Title or Titles: Unforgiving
Date: Unknown. Posted by Sanjuaro at the Foundation wiki on 20 Dec 2008.