Shadow demons stalked his room, mirroring the pain and anger rampaging in his mind. They slithered from corner to corner and whispered their visions of despair. The storm outside raged, seething darkness and destruction and he began to weep. Such was the state of his exhaustion that he could no longer hold the worst of his emotions in check and delusions sprang from his spiraling thoughts. Shadowy teeth snarled. Sinister eyes flashed. He knew all he had to do was close his eyes and sleep would save him from himself but his eyes refused to shut. His monsters ruled the night.
Wind rattled the windows and screamed in frustration. Of what, he did not know, did not care to guess. The wind was something he had never understood anyway. Its howling was not to be ignored, though. It rose and fell in shrieks and moans, and seemed to give further voice, gnashing and menacing, to the shadow demons. They pressed close now. They would loom over him and then flit back to the corners when his eyes darted their direction. Soon they would grow brash enough to stay even under his gaze. They would learn that he was powerless against him and then they would pounce.
He longed for that, actually. Since his eyes refused to shut and he had long before even stopped trying to controls the demons he had produced, letting them sink their teeth and rip his flesh would be an end to his torture of waiting, or watching the minutes tick by, or feelings his mind continue to unravel. He almost called out to them, “What are you waiting for?” But, his mouth was too dry to form the words.
It was only a matter of time. He hoped. They would come for him. He hoped. Then his eyes would close. He hoped.
They say to never walk alone at night and he was the reason why.
For as long as he could remember, the urges had always been there. When he was younger he was too weak, too scared, too dumb to figure out how to act upon them. As he grew older, stronger, and smarter, he figured out how to use the system of laws and regulations to his advantage, to hide within plain sight so he could then act upon his instincts without getting caught. And once he had started, it wasn’t fear of punishment that guided his hand and ensured he followed his own, strict, code to get away cleanly each time. It was the knowledge that if he were caught, he would never be able to act on his urges again. That would surely kill him.
Not that he had always been so methodical and meticulous. His first had been clumsy despite how well he had planned and prepared. But, he had gotten away with it and over the years that followed he grew calmer, more confident and improved his technics until he was flawless. As perfect as a human ever could be. Despite the monster he was, he was still human. His tastes just ran slightly askew of what society deemed acceptable.
He relished the feel of the night, the adrenaline of the hunt. He liked to watch their eyes go wide with fear and surprise. He enjoyed the power he could wield in the shadows, stifling screams with ease, taking what he wanted. He didn’t run away from his crimes like a coward once he was finished. He savored the moments and when he was done he walked away calmly, fulfilled. And then he slipped back into the cloak he had learned to wear over the years, his shield against prying eyes and ears, his beloved darkness, to wait patiently for more prey to venture his way.
They say to never walk alone at night and he was the reason why.
It is surreal, on my dark morning drives, to travel down empty stretches of backroads where the only light is provided by my car pressing forward towards the coming day, to then have that serenity distorted by the glowing fields where crops are being blasted with LEDs to mimic daylight and therefore hasten their growth. The immense and intense light glares and blasts skyward to spread beneath the ever present marine layer, amplifying the impact, the disturbance of my peaceful drive.
Then again, people do need to eat. And the lights are on an organic farm. No pesticides. No genetic modifications. The lights are an experiment to see if the farm can produce better food faster under improved, mostly natural, conditions. I can’t fault them for that. The needs of the many outweigh my own desires for a pleasant drive through the morning darkness.
And yet, I do fault them all the same. We are selfish creatures. The people who will benefit from that food are abstract and in the moment, all I really can consider is my own grievance, the own detriment to my night vision, to my drive, to the start of my day.
But then the lights fade away and I’m left in peace again and all is right.
The waves glowed as they crested and crashed under the moonlit sky. It had been a long time since I’d been to the beach in the dark. I had forgotten the serene beauty of the water, sand and sky. The constant churning of the ocean even seemed muted so as not to disturb the moment. A couple planets watched on with the multitude of stars. I stepped to the edge of the tide’s reach up the shore and waited for the last of the sun’s influence to slip away from the far horizon and decided it really should not be so long between nighttime visits to the coast.
I may speak often of my love for the mountains but there is magic in all wild places and that magic calls to me. Have you ever watched the stars wink on the tide? Have you ever seen the moon echo beyond the breakers? Have you ever felt the memory of the day’s heat fading away in the soft sand between your toes? What could any of these be but magic? I hear the call of all the wild places. It tugs at my heart and directs my eyes and ears. As always, I must answer.
The crows fled before him in splashes of darkness against the coming dawn. It was often said that such birds were omens of ill fortune. He’d never seen them that way. He had always been fascinated by their ability to fly and he had long been searching for a flock of us his own. He wasn’t likely to find one but that didn’t keep him from hoping. He paused long enough to watch them disappear into the gloom where his eyes could no longer penetrate and then he lifted his gaze to the eastern skies. Very soon a new day would start and he still had a ways to go before he was safely within the confines of his home.
The bard had warned them not to get caught outside during the day.
It used to be that there were certain risks that could be taken while the sun was up, to get water, or relieve oneself, or tend to something else immediately near the house. But, the last time the bard had come through to sing his songs and share his tales he had warned all who would listen that the daytime would soon be completely unsafe. Only those who had listened survived the following weeks. The rest disappeared but only after their painful screams floated away from their homes.
Trist had been friends with the bard before he’d taken on the noble calling and so had trusted his word and stopped going out in the daylight. He had spent some time wondering if he would have listened so well if he hadn’t known the story master before. In the long hours of sunlight, there was time to ponder all kinds of what ifs and what could have beens.
Stepping forward again, Trist quickened his pace. He needed to hurry.
He’d spent the night checking on and chatting with his closest neighbors. He did that most nights. Trist didn’t mind that nobody ever seemed to come around to check on him. They were scared or had families to look after or had to spend the safe nighttime hours toiling away to provide for themselves and their loved ones. He understood. That was one of the reasons he was willing to go out and knock on doors each night. He didn’t have those same set of worries and responsibilities.
Being friends with the bard had certain perks like that. Trist did not take that for granted. He took it upon himself to help his neighbors as much as he could.
A hint of sunlight flashed across his path and Trist cursed. How he longed to be a bird. He could simply take to wing and fly away from the danger. He was fairly certain that he would be safe in the sky.
His front door came into view and Trist began to sprint.
He knew he was being paranoid. It was still too dark. There was no reason his heart needed to race the way it did, or his palms sweat, or his mind linger on the worst that could happen. He had heard that worst happening to some of his neighbors, some of his friends, though. And their screams were not easily forgotten.