The small town was a beautiful place- its rolling hills, vibrant gardens, and lush trees had been featured in many nature and landscape magazines over the decades but all that changed overnight.
The darkness crept up on the quiet, sleeping town like an uninvited guest; a darkness that was not part of the night. Something foreign. Something rare indeed.
The gloom slipped inside every crack of every house, every store, and in fact, every structure, even the dull red brick schoolhouse. As the people so sweetly slept, dreaming of bizarre things they would not remember, the silent black slipped inside each person.
The substance cuddled closer.
As it flowed easily into the very life of this Midwest town, everything faded just a little.
At six, when Tom Shutter’s alarm went off and joined chorus with the howling wind, he woke with a groan. He had been in a deep, sweaty sleep, dreaming he was the pastor of the local church, it was Sunday morning, and he had overslept and missed the service.
Except he wasn’t a pastor, didn’t even believe in God and it wasn’t Sunday. It was Friday the 13th, the day all the loonies walked up and down Main Street preaching their nonsense tales of superstition, bad luck, and danger.
He would love to just once line ladders along all the storefronts so people would have to walk under them all day long. Tom laughed at himself as he fumbled with his barefoot for his slippers. His slippers weren’t waiting in their usual spot for his cold feet.
The snooze alarm suddenly blasted from his cell phone and he groped for the button to silence the rage, but his hand, that had been effectively executing this movement for twenty years, failed at its task and the annoying sound screamed on.
It’s gonna be one of those days, Tom.
The alarm blared like an angry orchestra of trumpets as he tried again with no avail.
His wife, her hair matted in sleepy splotches, woke from a dream- a dream that was about another life that never quite happened. It was a good dream, but a sad dream. She was pissed to be disrupted.
“Turn that thing off!” she shrieked.
He moaned and gave it one more try.
Tom wanted to pick the damned thing up and smash it against the wall- something he dare not do in public, but more and more, the rage was brewing and lurking in the back of his mind.
The sleepy man grabbed at the phone, but he couldn’t even get a grip on the damned thing. His wife, determined to shut off that alarm that seemed to be stumping the hell out of her idiot husband, jumped out of bed.
As her legs swung off the edge and went to the floor, she vanished without a sound.
“I can’t seem to—” he mumbled and turned to his wife, who wasn’t there. “Honey?”
He glanced at the crack under the bathroom door— it was dark. The door to the hall was likewise dark.
“Honey?” he called again.
Then he realized the whole room was black as night. He looked out the window, expecting to see fiery rays of sunlight charging brightly into the bedroom, but it was still night. He couldn’t even see the trees, let alone the Jacuzzi, which was right on the porch.
He heard screams in the distance.
It wasn’t exactly night—shadowy was the best way he could think to describe what he was seeing. Like someone had painted the windows smoke gray as a prank.
Perplexed, he rose through the blankets, as if he the sheets weren’t there at all and leaned over the bed to hunt for his slippers. The slippers sort of looked like they were faithfully waiting for his feet, except he could see the carpet through his slippers.
He squinted and rubbed his bald head.
He reached for his cell phone, saw his hand pass through the device, and even go through the nightstand.
“Honey, where are you?” He shouted, his voice loud not with anger or irritation, but with fear. Did his words echo?
She didn’t answer and a dismal sense of trepidation pressed down on him like deep water.
The cries of his neighbors continued, but he could sense that his house was empty. The only sound was his alarm clock. The cat wasn’t howling in the hall for breakfast or purring on the bed. He couldn’t even smell the refreshing aroma of waiting coffee.
The bed felt like an island to him. Somehow, everything around the bed was smothered in thick shadows and had lost its substance. He recalled a time as a child playing on his bed, pretending it was a ship and there was lava all around. He couldn’t get out of the bed or the lava would burn him. That is exactly how he felt right at that moment.
The darkness sipped through the glass and filled the room.
He crawled to the center of the bed and drew his knees close to his chest.
“Stay back!” he shouted at the slithering shadows.
But the shadows had teeth and huge mouths.
Tom Shutter vanished.
Across town, up the hill from the cemetery and in front of the thick rows of stately pines, the eight-o-clock school bell shrilled to life to signal the start of another day. Like swarms of locusts singing, the soft cry of various alarms around this little town, droned on the whole day through. The rest of unlucky town was as still as a meadow on a windless day.
The town faded a little more.
When night fell over the world again, after a sunless day, the hungry darkness was no longer a stranger, no longer uninvited. The demon gobbled and feasted in unrestricted delight as midnight drew near until the town was a barren field, dusty and without form.
Word Count 989