The Last Night of Nick Markakis
Even after his eyes adjusted it was terribly dark. The feeble light from the diminutive candle in the kitchen danced and bobbed its way down the hall until only enough was left to outline the bedroom furniture. Everything existed in a charcoal wash: the smoky futon against the opposing wall, next to the elderly armoire that had been moved so many times its dried joints hardly held shape. Even the bed he lay in only showed form by a barely visible edge of ash on obsidian. His eyes darted around the room while he cursed himself for letting the new loneliness grip him in such a cowardly way. Men aren’t supposed to scare easily but the darkest corner of the room, the ink black void of the open closet door, couldn’t be ignored. It beckoned his terror. It stared at him, confirming without words or demonstration but with simple existence, that something occupied its void. The infinite oblivion past its entry was not an empty one. He could feel it in the lowest recesses of comprehension, where logic and rationality give way to faith and emotion. The belief of present evil trumped any attempt at reconciling it away.
He looked to the window, covered in thick curtains that were purchased to do as they did now: block the entry of any light. Only a thin line of shadow peeked at the edges. Much like the delicate kitchen candle, it only provided light enough to illuminate nightmares; give form to fright. Closing eyes only surrendered one of the few lines of defense available though he wanted badly to put the anxiety aside and sleep. Turning his back to the ajar villainy birthed similar ascensions of fear. Minor pacification came only from staring the wickedness down in false bravado as the examination of any movement held priority over everything, including breath. The repeatedly staggered rise of his chest under the heavy blankets resembled the spastic peaks of someone sobbing.
Then…a brief, slow sound.
It lasted only seconds but long enough to invite investigation.
A search for source begged an encore but one did not immediately follow. He was forced to try and remember it exactly, drawing upon all the past sounds of his life for possible explanation. It was a subtle, dull sound like fingers down the railing of a stairwell but softer. It was movement certainly. Not sudden and not intentional, it belied concealment. He and the closet had so far existed with an unspoken understanding of each other’s existence but now that silent perception was confirmed. There was little reason for the beast within to hide. Knowing this, the paralyzed man lay as a captive; waiting for what he knew was watching him all along.
As if it had been holding its breath the entire time, a long slow exhale rolled from the vertical depths. Another soon followed and an audible pattern of breath occupied a fraction of the oppressive silence. Understanding now that concealment was no longer a required burden, it existed openly but still waited to divulge its true intention.
Panic stricken, the man searched the inhabited darkness with pleading, agonizing eyes. Any shift in hue or shade, any protrusion from within was searched out. As desperately as he desired an identity to the horror before him, he couldn’t bring himself to scream out for answers. Fear paralyzed him further, taking what movement was left from the fall of so many years prior. In younger days, an able body and the confidence of youth may have propelled him into the closet where whatever monster now terrorized him would be slain. Not now though. Now, broken and old, he could do little more than hold back the tears of fully realized fatality.
The black moved again.
The sound that first betrayed the creature’s concealment repeated itself, longer this time. It stirred unrestricted, posturing itself for a pounce upon the man.
He foresaw a great jarring, the bed shaking violently as an impossibly fast hobgoblin sprang from nothing and straddled him with gnarled, curled horns ready to split him from pubis to chin. Or perhaps a vampire had been his stalker this entire time, a pale Nosferatu with blood encrusted fingernails and the eyes of a lover’s longing. All the demons of childhood fiction were given credence by something residing where nothing should. Life’s infinite opportunities were seen only now in the finality of their waste.
Finally, the yearned for revelation transpired. From the impossible blackness, death’s own chamber, the terror slipped forward. Out of the darkened closet and into the dancing, dwindling candlelight an extremity protruded. The appendage curved upward, rising from the hanging globes at its root. The form itself was familiar and not at all what he expected. This intruder was not the creation of Hell. It was but flesh and blood who had simply grown tired of waiting on the disabled grandfather’s slumber. A man…with boner.