My Final Round Story. 2500 words written in 24 hours. Ghost story. I did not win, and rightfully so. Though I only had two hours to write the damn thing...Midnight until 2:00am.
After twelve years of searching, Arthur Norman found himself walking along a road with no name ten miles east of Lyndhurst. It was well past dark and still the moon had not risen. Overhead, clouds crowded out any light from above, making sure the English countryside was draped in darkness, yet Arthur kept moving, waiting, watching.
For most of his adult life, Arthur had made a living as a salesman. He’d hawked everything from Fuller brushes, to black market porn. But that was all behind him. Only tonight mattered.
Arthur Norman was looking for darkness.
Tonight he was sure he’d find her.
There had been too many dirt roads, spreading like tendrils from thousands of forgotten villages all of which led him here...on this night.
Lady darkness was here and tonight she would show herself to him. When she did, he would...what?
No answer came. For twelve years he’d searched every hamlet, every village. He’d sought out witches and dark warlocks for guidance on his journey. He’d inquired about, longed after, held midnight vigils in honor of darkness. To what end? Another sleepy town, one more lonely road? He didn’t think so.
Tonight was different, the air was heavy around him and thick with moisture. His lungs fought for each breath as he plodded forward, ever forward. The fields all around were silent...only the wind was present and the tall grass hissed as it swayed. The air had the smell of rain and before long, he felt light drops on his back and shoulders. He pulled his jacket tighter around him and kept going, shuffling his feet along the path in the dark.
The rain fell heavier and Arthur allowed himself a smile. It has been said that Lady Darkness walks between the rain. His left foot came down on a gopher hole and twisted the ankle. Arthur pitched to the ground as something scurried across the path just ahead. It sounded small, a field mouse perhaps, and it was followed by another, and another still.
Arthur sat up on the muddy path and squinted into the night but the blackness was complete. It sounded like an entire colony of mice now, running blind by the hundreds. He could hear the scrapes of thousands of tiny claws. And then something larger...something with heavy footfalls that caused the earth to vibrate beneath him. He was glad for the darkness then. Whatever took those shuddering steps passed close to him, so close he felt the wind on his face as it moved.
The moon broke through the clouds and was gone in an instant. A sudden chill covered the land, burrowing deep into Arthur’s bones. There had been nothing in the path. No mice crawling over each other, no great creature towering over him, and yet the sounds continued. He turned and looked back toward Lyndhurst, but the night was complete in its duties. Arthur saw only black.
Getting on his feet again, he entertained the idea of turning back. Suddenly Arthur was unsure of his quest. He was no longer certain that he wanted to find Lady Darkness. Yet there was that part of him that did, deep down where the true heart yearns, where the courage to keep going and the will to believe resides. He knew that he truly did want to find her, to learn her secrets and feel her embrace. That part of him that can feel the virus in his bloodstream, eating him away from the inside. That was the part of him that turned him away from Lyndhurst and made him keep moving.
His shuffling footsteps carried faster into the void. He was eager now, as the rain fell harder, to meet the sensuously evil Lady Darkness.
Would she appear before him, her welcoming arms held wide? Would he rush to her and tell her how long he’d searched, how desperately he needed to know her secrets? How her embrace could end his pain and free him?
Would she reveal her secrets to him so they could rule together, King and Queen of the darkness? A smile crept across his face.
But what if she came to him and he could not see her? She was, after all, darkness itself. What if she appeared only to feel shunned by his inability to recognize her?
He was so tired. After a few more stumbling steps, he stopped and lay down in the path. He dreamt of a dark beauty draped in black flowing robes. She lifted him from the ground and wrapped him in her cloak, whispering her secrets in his ear, the secrets of darkness and what it would take to give himself over to it completely so he could sit at the foot of her throne and worship her. She whispered his name.
His eyes shot open, his ears tuned for the sound that interrupted his dreams. The rain had slowed to a light drizzle and suddenly he heard it.
His eyes rolled up white as a vibration seized him, taking over all function. Fighting his way through, he planted his feet in a defensive stance. He stared into the black. “Who’s there?” His voice was barely a whisper.
The answer came from all sides at once, neither masculine nor feminine. “It is I, the one you have sought for so long. Have you forgotten? I am Lady Darkness, your beloved.”
The tension left his body and he sagged at the shoulders. He’d travelled so far, lost so much. “I cannot see you.” His breathing was labored and sweat drenched his face, though inside he was freezing.
“One has only to look, Arthur. To want to see.”
Suddenly Lady Darkness appeared before him, ten feet away, but she was nothing like he’d envisioned. This was no dark beauty in black robes. No, this apparition had no form. Lady Darkness was a diaphanous liquid shadow and as she came toward him, she shifted constantly, changing from one formless, indefinable shape to another fluidly.
Arthur opened his arms to her as she floated before him.
“Love is the true darkness,” she said. “Love creates and destroys at will. Do you understand?” Lady Darkness came into his arms. "You want my love Arthur, but I have none to give. I am darkness.” She wrapped herself over him, embracing him.
Arthur opened his eyes, staring into the abyss and finally knew what darkness truly was. And when he screamed, nobody heard him.