Thursday, March 6, 2014
Dark Incarnate - Chapter1 Book2
Day One (A flashback two days after the rescue)
Kelly stared at the blank canvas, but in her mind it was anything but blank. She and Candace had created a window to IT's realm once before, but this was different. This was a window through space and time, a porthole to any reality she imagined. She would never need a brush again. What good would any earthly tool do? She with all her prowess could never replicate what she saw, what she created. The canvas acted as so much more than her minds eye, it was real; another dimension that she controlled. A place that she willed into reality. It was impossible, yet as she pictured a winters snow, it fell. Colors exploded flowering like fireworks in incredible ribbons of silk so beautiful they were emotion. The implications were beyond anything she could fathom. Billy would be home from school soon and find her immediately. She had barely convinced him to leave this morning.
Before, the paper drawing had been an accident an unwitting window to It's realm. Only by dumb luck had they locked it out. A place of pure darkness, a void, a black hole sucking the light and purity from her world and countless others into the gaping maw of oblivion. It was a singularity in the fabric of reality. There were so many worlds, so many realities dancing in unison all around. A place of infinite possibilities at her fingerprints in the canvas. How could they ever understand?
She slowly stood and walked to the canvas. It was her world, or one very similar to it, a mirror pulled straight from her memory. A simple picture of a powerful place. Fall leaves were heaped up in a pile with a rake lying on the ground and a few silly Halloween leaf bags strewn about. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the stool. She couldn't do this to herself. A dry breeze lifted a strand of hair from her cheek and she smelled the faint spice. "ITS NOT REAL!" Kelly heard herself scream as if the sounds hadn't come from her lips. Her breath began to quiver and tears welled in her clenched eyes. The air felt cold against her arms as if the blood suddenly drained and her mind reeled at the painful memories. A hollow howl blew from the canvas, like a kid blowing over an empty bottle. It shocked her back because it wasn't right something didn't fit. That sound didn't belong in her memory. The canvas had changed. A barren landscape of dead trees stretched for miles from a birds eye view. A winters wind blew countless trees to life with an eerie howl that spilled into the room. Had she done this? What part of her consciousness had the power? Icy wind kissed her wet cheeks.
Kelly shook it off and the room was warm again and the canvas blank. So many places existed on the other side but what about this side? It was a window sure, but looking at the room around her and the warm afternoon sun painted on the floor she couldn't help but wonder what side of the window she was on. Deja'vu struck her, she had felt this feeling before. She couldn't place it no matter how hard she tried. Her mind blotted the memory out, pushed it back to the depths she dared not go. For a time in that dank cellar she had felt the ability to go back in time, another her, another reality, this one was... faulty. This wasn't how her life was suppose to go and she couldn't place how she had gotten here or why. Something was surely wrong.
Kelly looked out the small second floor window to see her Aunt Sandra puff off down the road as Billy started across the parking lot. Where... where didn't feel right, she was exactly where she was suppose to be she was sure of it, but WHEN that was a better question. Her sense of purpose and place wasn't a question, but how did this reality branch off from the others. She wanted to turn and look at the canvas for answers but it didn't feel right. A gentle smile widened across her cute face thinking of cable TV galaxy crushing paradoxes if she saw herself in the window. An episode of the Twilight Zone. There was a another Kelly out there somewhere, she knew it. A Kelly who still had her parents and the life she always dreamed of. It was more and more comforting as she thought about it. The things that had happened to her, no matter how horrible they were, they were only a part of this fractured place and time. This divergent path. The perfect person she was had been hurled into this place by that evil thing. She had never been so sure of anything before in her life. If she lived or died she would hunt it until her last breath. How many other broken lives were spread across infinity because of this darkness?
"Kelly?" Billy called from the bottom of the stares. He had been worried sick all day. He held the banister for support and lugged the duffel bag up.
She didn't bother to answer, he would come up. The canvas spurred to life as she looked back at it. Her Aunt, and the thousands of different paths and simple questions she could have asked about the duffle bag that would have ended disastrously but didn't. This life was a curious one. Was it that simple? The idea of fate was so trite, but she knew what she needed to do, what all of creation begged from her. The problem was she didn't know if she could deliver without a little help from fate.
Billy bumped the door with the bag trying to knock but stumbled inside, "Oh.. sorry. Hey! Why didn't you answer I was worried?" His face held a myriad of mixed emotion, chief of which was annoyance. "Do you know what's in this bag! Jeez, maybe it looked normal to everyone else but it felt like clear plastic to me. I just knew someone was going to come up and grab it or ask me what the heck I was doin with it!" Billy grasped the double zipper and tore into the OD green bag. Stack of twenties and fifties filled it like soft bricks. Kelly stayed glued on the canvas without a sound. "Kelly? ..." Billy didn't see a thing on the milky white and all too empty surface. "What.. ah should we...do with it?" He held solid chunks of green cash in each hand.
She saw Higgins face, his weak pathetic traitor face draped with the shadow of darkness. It was blood money, she couldn't look at it or bare to touch it, the the painful memory of what it bought was electric and the money a conduit straight to her heart. Concern was growing on Billy's face, he was about to speak and she didn't want to hear it, "Just go! leave me alone! and take that damn money with you!" Her words bit into him like a snake and she felt the power Candace had fallen in love with. It was mean and a part of her felt bad the instant the words came out, but she didn't want to be in a room with him anymore. How could he be excited, how could he revel in seeing that bag with what it had done to her. He left like a dog with it's tail tucked between his legs and she was alone again. It was; however, a pressing issue.
The Canvas, her crystal ball whirled to life without her conscious thought, rather it responded to her thoughts. The Appalachian Mountains flew silently below her birds eye view, it was down there somewhere. It, Darkness was growing, feeding, becoming stronger. She had to find it, or maybe wait until it found her to fight it, but how and with what? She had her little .22 and another of her Dad's she'd hidden, but even Billy knew that wouldn't go very far. Sure buckshot stopped the possessed sack of meat known as Tom Chambers but that darkened room fought the invading light. Guns would no doubt be helpful, especially better ones but not the solution she needed. The canvas caught her attention, it seemed to come alive with some purpose she didn't understand. It swirled with colors but they darkened and became grey, until with sudden clarity she saw a paper. The classified ads, where everything from old VHS tapes and Barbie dolls were sold to used firearms. Billy was sitting at the kitchen table highlighting and dialing numbers into the phone in the surreal picture.
Kelly was confused; was this showing her the future? He stood in a parking lot she didn't recognize and an old truck pulled up. He held the duffle bag in one hand shifting nervously as two portly men stepped out twice his size. A sense of dread filled her. She didn't need to see how it would happen, but his twisted and broken body would end in a pool of blood in that parking lot. She couldn't ask such a thing of Billy! But what if she went, would her untamed power help? Was this the future or only what could be? She edged her stool closer so she was practically in the window. The scene unfolded the same until she faced swirling black and grey that wouldn't focus. It was infuriating, she bent her mind on it trying to see, trying to know. Her hand lifted to touch the window. Suddenly she stood before the two men. She didn't see herself; she was there! She felt the cool late summer breeze and chilling humidity, smelled the raw exhaust from the old truck they left running. The bags weight was in her hand and she looked down, it was murky, she hadn't got a good look at it before. Over her shoulder she expected to see a window into her sunlit studio but only saw a small ridge and the familiar train tracks just inside the tree line. Her head and thoughts felt murky like the bag, what was happening! Heart racing, she thought of the touch. It had been so slight. Would this happen every time? The murky bag was a comfort it wasn't real not like the world she came from. Was it a vision? The men loomed in front of her one on each side of the truck. One man flipped a latch for the camper cover and dropped the tailgate. Hear chest heaved but they didn't seem to notice, they played on like a movie. Was she here, or a spectator? She wanted to run; the tree line was pretty close but she didn't know where she was. Billy had died by their hands and it couldn't be much better for her. She had to focus, get as much out of this as possible, the canvas wouldn't clear it had to mean something! Their faces were blurred like a dream, somehow she knew them, or knew their spirit. She felt them like she had felt Tom's signature evil. One of them waved her over to look into the truck, they had some conscious knowledge of her physical form, or maybe the Kelly in the situation was acting just like her. She glanced over her shoulder once more at the tracks and stepped closer, she had to oblige to see more of the vision. The bed was empty, save for an old quilt. The dusky night was already darkening but storm clouds swept over the scene painting everything in shades of grey. Her mental embodiment dropped the bag, surely it's what they had killed Billy for, and began backing away. The black dream faces followed her, but this was more than a dream. She filled her lungs with air for a blood chilling scream that would bring Billy in the really real world running to save her, but she couldn't make a sound. She wanted to run when her voice failed and her legs froze in fear. The figures stood tall and proud now, the familiar evil didn't possess them, it WAS them in this place, this nightmare she couldn't wake from. One spoke, but no words came out, flies thick as a blanket flooded into the air from it's mouth and bathed her and disappearing just as quickly. They were words, words of power and fear that dropped her to her knees sobbing and weak as gravity held her a thousand times stronger.
Billy gently knocked at the door of Kelly's studio and waited for a response. The freezer was filled with frozen dinners and pizza, and his was downstairs getting cold. She had been mean to him but that was expected. The bag was on top of the washer at the moment, he wanted to ask her about it again but getting her to eat was more important. The knob slowly turned and the door pushed open. Kelly was sitting on her stool in front of the canvas like a little kid sits in front of the television. Billy giggled, "Don't sit that close or you'll go blind." She didn't even look at him, typical. The small desk had stayed in the room. It was the only piece of the old lab setup left. He put the pizza on it and hoped the warm smell would get her attention after he'd gone, it was making his stomach growl well enough. He turned to pull the door shut as he turned to leave but something about her unblinking stare finally started to creep him out.
"Kelly? ... ... Keeellyyyyy..." He turned back into the room calling more insistant, "Kelly!" She didn't move or even blink. It was way too creepy for him now. She could ask to be alone all she wanted but this was weird. Maybe it was writers block for artists? His hand gently slid close to her back afraid to touch but the instant he brushed her shirt Kelly exploded back from the empty canvas screaming with a gale of wind that nearly knocked him over. Billy rushed to her side where she grabbed to him like a drowning kitten.
"What the hell was that!" Her hair was a mess and covering his face. He held her trembling body though he was just as frightened. It had been more than a gust of wind. A pressurized pop that left his ears ringing. She slowly looked up at him wondering the same things. Nothing could have pleased Billy more than to hold her and be there when she needed him.
"I.. I don't know. What did you do? I was lost in a dream or something, and I... couldn't wake up." Her voice still trembled but the warm sun fed her strength again. She was back where she belonged.
"I just touched you! Something knocked you back." He turned to look around the room still clutching his love. The stool leaned against the far wall with a small dent in the sheetrock while the canvas and frame were torn and broken. "I hope this isn't going to happen all the time!" He chuckled, a nervous reaction but it seemed to lighten the mood. "You couldn't have been asleep. When I came in you were right in front of your painting just like I left you."
Kelly pulled away to stand and left Billy on the floor cradling the empty space where she had been. He was reluctant to move holding her had felt so right. "I think need to get out for a minute. Need to clear my head."
"But what the hell just happened!" The wood frame that held the canvas lay broken and splintered in a heap across the room. Something had happened Kelly couldn't deny him that but she quickly walked out of the studio without a second glance.
She wanted time to think. In her closet was a box of wood to make a new frame, she would have to make another before she could figure any of it out. The experience was horrifying and the worst part was how she seemed to lose control. Control, however; was the illusion. Kelly paused looking at the various woods and tiny hammer. A box of tacks was lost in the bottom somewhere. Once she got a new canvas she could try it again. That place was like a dream, a vortex where past present and futures met. It would take her an hour or more to build a frame and stretch a new canvas; too bad she couldn't get Billy to do it. She flopped on the floor and leaned back on her hands with a heavy sigh.
A flutter of wind through the drapes made shadows dance and play on the floor beside her. Kelly snapped her head to the dark movement. She thought she had seen something, a shadow darker than the rest. In the corner of her eye the black thing was nothing more than a dot, a fuzzy dot, but it was gone faster than she noticed it. Maybe she needed sleep. After what happened sleep was nothing more than exhausted rest. Now she was seeing black dots in peripheral vision. More wind kicked the drapes up. Billy must have opened the windows. She didn't know how she felt about him being in her room again, but the day was nice outside.
The hot summer was fading and the breeze wasn't cool yet but still fresh and clean. The afternoon sun was at the front baking the parking lot. Kelly went to the window that overlooked the backyard. The air was cooler and the shady lawn looked inviting. She hadn't been outside since the incident. Actually, she had hardly been out of her room or studio. She saw Billy standing in the hall studying the bizarre explosion from the door. How could she explain to him what happened. Did she even know? He would be on her heels all night with questions. It was an odd thing, she both loved and loathed him. His eyes, his knowledge of what she had been through, his overbearing care and insistence was just too much lately. He made her feel like a little old lady who might fall and break a hip at every step and corner. It was nice at times but equally annoying. His words had even begun to change, every sentence ended with a high tone like a question. Even a statement would be a question, "I'm going downstairs." sounded like, "I'm leaving, are you going to be ok?" and it was driving her bonkers. Now he would really drive her nuts.
Billy glanced down the hall just in time to see Kelly looking at him before she shut her door. He had given up on trying to understand her, but this mess was something else. It was his job to clean up no matter. The tripod survived and lay collapsed on the floor, but the canvas and frame were shredded. He picked up pieces of confetti. Kelly had been in here for two days now and hadn't touched a paint brush. Only staring. That was fine by him, he was scared to death she might actually paint something! The frame had splintered and exploded from within. It had to be more supernatural crap. Kelly didn't seem to bothered by it, but the way she grabbed him couldn't hide the truth. Several splinters were sticking out of the wall. They had been shot like darts into the sheetrock.
Kelly slid into light jeans thankful to have clean laundry again. The last thing she wanted to do was pull out a tape measure and work on a new frame. The wind was light and the sun fresh and she had to go outside sometime. Memories were so fresh and sore but somehow vague. Fear seemed to cloud the specifics, while comfort kept her from wanting to remember. Billy knew. She had to tolerate him now. He had helped more than she knew, but she just wanted away for now. The old green smiley T slid off her arms and onto the corner of the bed. It had been the first thing Billy put on her after that first shower. Nipples like pencil erasers cut the fresh air blowing from the window. She hadn't been wearing a bra, and without notice until now.
How long had it been? The thought threatened deeper fears, and she left the waters still.
Handfuls of her underclothes were scattered in front of her dresser still. At least Billy hadn't touched her private things. The memories flooded her weakened mind, maybe things would have gone differently. She stared off for a moment and shook it off grabbing a padded bra that would make her a little more womanly. She didn't have a plan of where she was going just out of the house. Her mind felt foggy since the picture. She needed to clear her head.
Billy caught a glimpse of her thin figure slipping out of her bedroom as she ran to the backyard. He jogged down the hall and hopped up on the toilet to look out the exhaust window. The purple and cream shirt slid across the creek just has he pried it open. Kelly disappeared around the bend. Billy's face flushed with rage, didn't she know how dangerous it was out there! What if something happened... the thought sank to the pit of his stomach.
Kelly's shoe was half covered in mud. The weather had been so dry her small creek was nothing but a sticky mud trap. She felt Billy's thoughts on her but didn't know if he was after her or just chased her escape with his thoughts. She hit the train tracks running and jumped behind a tree for a minute in case he did try chase her. Surely she wasn't a prisoner of her own home! Her chest rose and fell with full breath as quiet as she could. The jeans felt too tight, and she was aware of her famine figure in the breeze. Surely she hadn't gained weight. If anything she should have lost a little. How long had it been.... ... ... ? She shook her head as if to shake some cobwebs loose. She had just spent a few days in pajammas is all. The world still felt alien around her.
The wind rustled the trees and set the shady grove alive with dancing shadows. Kelly felt alert. Billy wouldn't come, she didn't hear him but somehow she just knew. The world around her had never felt so fresh and vivid. She felt like a child playing explorer. All she lacked was a wooden sword and a ball of yarn so she wouldn't get lost. With her recent history she really didn't know what to expect though. She stood and waited a moment longer, lying to herself that it was to be sure Billy wouldn't come. She hesitated, she had never been down this side of the tracks before. The train ran through town but the mountains could force a long snaking path. Her breath shook but her feet were moving forward through the fear. She didn't have to go too far. The sun was up ahead and the power of a summers day couldn't be undone. The tracks cut a swath through the trees and just before she exited into the clearing Kelly saw something from the corner of her eye. A cat maybe? It was gone into a ditch out of sight before she even got a good idea. It didn't matter, she had real things to worry about. In the sun all her worries and depression warmed away. The day felt good, hot and dry but the cool autumn wind would be blowing soon enough. Dry grass and grasshoppers fluttered and waved as she passed, her mind bent on understanding the canvas. She didn't understand that the window, the illusion of another reality, didn't come from some otherworldly influence; it came by her own.
Candace walked in off the school bus. She had had a horrible day and with her Dad out of town she had to ride the cheese wagon. The school bus wasn't so bad but her stomach had been hurting all day. It was more than her stomach, it was like menstrual cramps but brief and severe. They came and went like an intense fluttering deep inside. She didn't want to admit it and tried to ignore it, but today the sensation had doubled her over more than once. The first undeniable incident was in Art class with Bully. Kelly was absent and she planned to ask Billy. When the bell rang she started for him but was reduced to a panting struggle to hold her bag and not draw attention. The rest of the day had been agonizingly slow and all she could do was question what she had felt.
It was that Bee, it planted something inside her. What it did wasn't enough, it hadn't raped her for the fun, it was using her body for all she was worth. Inside she didn't know if it had laid and egg or some kind of baby bee larva, but something fluttered inside her now like a fish starved for oxygen. The clues were adding up and the time to let itself be known were growing. Candace chose to ignore it, but by the bus ride home all she could think about was getting to Kelly.
Just inside the door she collapsed back slamming the heavy door closed as another wave hit. She had never felt something there, so deep, so internal. How could she get it out? The grotesque knowledge of what it was sapped the strength as she slowly sank. Her only relief that she was home able to cry. She was finally alone. The garage was open and empty. Her Dad was out of town and her mom didn't come home until late on weekdays. The flutter passed and she released her death grip on the carpet and tried to stand. Her knees shook like they had been electrocuted. She was so glad the house was empty. Candace knew her Dad would take her as soon as he got the next chance. And she knew what the thing inside would do when he finished. Everything would come crashing down on top of her. She had to get it out before he got back.
The pink book bag slumped by the door while Candace stumbled up the stairs to her room. All she wanted was to crawl into bed and wait it out. Buster woke up and came to greet her at the top. The dog perked up. He didn't understand the exact stress she was under but he could tell Candace was struggling in a weakened state. His tail began to wag before he moved near her; he smelled her rare scent overpowering everything she was. Buster rushed to her side where his warm breath, wet nose, and tickling whiskers brushed her bare legs. Candace had worn an skirt, as she did on most days, but she hadn't planned on the creatures disturbance. Her panties were soaked wafting in the open air under the waves of her black skirt. The bus ride had been extremely torturous, she bundled into a small ball against the seat and tried to ignore the obnoxious kids and driver who hit every bump in the road (and several that weren't even in the road!). When she stood to leave even her arms were sweaty. Any kid along the row with an attentive nose could smell her heat as she left.
Candace hardly noticed any of this, she was in a fever like cold sweat. Even Buster didn't bother her as he hurried under her feet into the room. She got closer to her bed and warm covers that would cocoon her in a ball of safety. The thing inside her went mad again. It seemed frustrated and angry at her. She fell onto her knees just short but grabbing the covers. Buster read the signals and scent of her body and his nose dove under the back of her skirt lapping at the creamy gusset of her panties. The creature wriggled and kept Candace paralyzed curling further into the floor holding her abdomen, she felt the dog and knew he was taking advantage of her state. She was on fire, her back arched and stretched itself up while her face rested on the carpet. Something was overriding her, controlling her body like a puppet or maybe with just the right influences. Buster's tongue lapped at the swollen and wanting mound at her gusset. She caught a glimpse of Buster's red lipstick extending from his furry sheath swinging between his legs. It was too familiar, how could this be happening again? Her father made her do this the day of the first attack. She hadn't told anyone, not even Kelly, it had been the dog's semen inside her during the first attack. And the creature, the seed of evil was in her again trying for an encore.
She had a saving grace, a lucky comfort that she fought not to pull aside. Her soaked panties blocked the dog. His paws wrapped around her hips pulling his hips into position. His hard pecker and os-bone shoved and prodded her helpless figure but found no purchase. The thin cotton became transparent and stretched from the addition of his slimy excretions and incessant stabbing. The dog kept humping the soft swollen mound between her legs just hoping for a lucky hit, he was so close.
Kelly tried to think about what happened in her studio as she walked along the tracks. Somehow she knew looking back into the canvas was the only way. The possibilities of answering all her questions was tempting, but so was the fear of getting lost. Her mind wandered in a mist of questions until she came to the same place over and over. The past. She wanted to meddle in it. She had prodded the future but what about the past, what about understanding her life? She felt guilty in a way, and selfish in another. The railroad ties were too close together to for each step but to far for two at a time, so she tried to balance on the beam. She should be trying to find way to kill the Darkness. It was her purpose now, she was sure of it. Find it, learn it's weakness, and destroy it, send it back to the abyss. On a moral level it was so simple though she had no starting point, no point of reference. The past however was full of questions, not to mention she wanted to change the past. Go back, find a way to take another path.
The tracks rounded another bend and came to an old trestle over a river. The steel had turned green with mold and age, like everything else in Spencer. Over her shoulder was the way back, this would make a good stopping point. The day was beautiful yet dreadfully hot in the sun. Despite her long sleeve blouse, Kelly chose push on further see what was on the other side. She knew Railroad tracks ran behind Chestnut Ridge, these had to lead there eventually. Not that she wanted to go, but the idea intrigued her.
The bridge was creepy old and half a football field long. If any Trains still ran she would have turned back immediately. There was no exit and no floor, only the open air and railroad ties. She giggled at the minor risk. Her mind went to the sense of flying into oblivion on volcanic glass, like waking the moment before death in nightmare only Darkness had kept her asleep. The water below flowed quick and clean with a rocky riverbank. Kelly stepped out on a single beam of steel lightheartedly waving her arms for balance. A month before she would have been scared out of her mind, but when you've faced death and survived, life seems all the more beautiful. The challenge made her heart race with excitement and playful joy. She didn't stop until the far side where she jumped off lightheartedly.
Another half mile up a clearing came into view on the left side of the tracks, same as her house. Kelly would learn the tracks stuck to the north side of town. A clearing of concrete and asphalt, then a dumpster and a business, The Country Kitchen. Her time hadn't been wasted at all. The country Kitchen was just outside of town and while the road went winding for miles the train tracks must lay as the crow flies. It was less than an hour to get here, so main street Spencer was only a short walk away.
A shadow caught her attention again. Another stray cat? It was over by the dumpsters. She was a victim of circumstance growing up and her parents never let her have a pet. Maybe it was because she felt alone in a crowded room, or she just needed a friend who wasn't Billy or Candace. A pet cat might be nice. It had been a small creature and quick, maybe even a kitten. Over the ditch and into the parking lot she gently called, hoping to see a kitten perk up begging for a meal. The restaurant smelled of fried steak and gravy. The pavement near the dumpster was darkened with grease. She wanted to take the stray cat home and away from this dirty place. Her compassion came from a place she didn't understand.
Kelly was smooth and quiet as a breeze sneaking up behind the building when a back door burst open. Sounds of a busy Kitchen filtered out, pots and pans, people yelling, and the ding of diners bell, "Order Up!" She jumped behind the dumpster and slid down as a balding man in a cooks apron grumbled over and tossed an armload of trash in. She nearly jumped as a bottle broke just on the other side of her head. The man pulled his sagging pants up and headed back inside closing the noisy door. The scene was quiet again.
She stuck her head out and caught another sight of the kitten, surely it was a kitten. The little black ball of fuzz disappeared on the other side just as she saw it. Kelly was too aware of the grit grinding under her sneakers, there was no way she could sneak up on the creature but she wanted to try. Around the next corner she didn't catch a glimpse, and inside the dumpster was nothing but busted trash bags and horrid humid rot. Kelly's long neck stretched hoping that maybe the kitten was inside but she saw something else instead. Tiny white fly larva spread in a blind search across the metal confines of the dumpster.
Kelly's heart jumped into her throat drumming so loud in her ears the world muffled, so fast that her vision began to blur and she felt faint. The fear of falling unconscious here and now threatened to push her over the edge. There it was, right in front of her. How had she been led here, or was it coincidence or fate? The idea of fate scared her because it meant she had no free will.
She stumbled back, the sky was darkening into dusk and she had an hours walk back home. Without a word, trying to leave unnoticed, she calmly headed back to the tracks. Something was watching her and she couldn't stop herself looking back. Shadows seemed to swirl under the dumpster like a litter of kittens just out of sight. Her pace quickened once she reached the tracks. Her better judgement told her not to run, predators always pursue running prey. She didn't want to think like that, but her irrational mind wouldn't stop as she kept glancing back. With big awkward steps she made good time back to the trestle. She was out of breath and paused, darkness was growing around her. The wind made the shadows dance more and more showing the underside of tree leaves like a storm was blowing in.
Her feet stepped onto the rail at the bridge. She had come across here less than an hour ago but now she felt like a drunkard. Over her shoulder the distant tree trunks were swirling with the fuzzy black spots. Woolly caterpillars, kittens, and full grown cats massed inside the tree line. Was it just the dark? Did her mind make this up? She looked down at the tracks. Her deep breath called up new courage and her arms went up to balance, it would be too easy to trip and miss a step on the mossy steel beam. She had to focus on the path forward and not look back or down.
Halfway across she didn't look back but down. The riverbed swarmed with black things and they looked to race her for the other side. Kelly called upon a calmness she only knew from facing personal obliteration and took flawless smooth steps until she reached the far side where she jumped off the side and ran as fast as she could back home.
The apartments light came into view and before she crossed the creek she stopped to catch her breath. Every light in her unit was on, at least Billy could be trusted, he was sitting in the living room waiting for her with both doors unlocked. Behind, only the moonlight danced on the ground. The wind had blown any clouds away. It didn't make any sense. She ran, but from what? She had always been able to feel evil before whether it was Tom Chambers or the Darkness itself, but this time she felt nothing. Maybe it was an illusion, a visual manifestation of her fears. No more real than shadows... Is this what she could expect every time she got the creeps?
Home looked safe and inviting. The back door slowly slid open and Kelly slipped in knowing Billy would be furious. His head popped up over the couch to see her. "Candace called for you. Like a hundred times!"
Kelly's voice was soft and cracked through her dry throat before she cleared it, "I wanted to get out of the house."
"She's gonna stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails if you don't tell her something."
"Candace is a big girl, she'll be fine."
"She could torture me and I'd have nothing to say ya know! How about letting me on what you're doing!" She knew he meant the incident from upstairs. "Not to mention what you're thinking. You need to stop and think, what if something happened?"
Kelly was taken aback, suddenly she wasn't sure about anything. It was out there. The Darkness persisted but she couldn't tell where. Everything was blurry. She was suddenly struck with the urge to ask Billy what he knew. Some answers and clues would be nice. "I'll consider that. I think I'm going to be fine. Just give me some time." She was having to relearn how to navigate the world all over again.
"Hey, are you gonna call Candace back? And where the heck did you go?"
"Just out, and I think I'll go to school tomorrow, so... I guess I'll see her there."
"Easy for you to say..."
"I'll be in the shower." Kelly walked up the stairs without a bit of gratitude or even a good night. Her shower was quick, they had been faster and faster since she always kept one eye on the drain.
In her room she pulled soft clean cotton up her legs to cover her nakedness and realized the window was still open. She stared into the dark searching for those shadows again. Maybe they were out there and maybe not, it was too hard to see a shadow in the pitch black. It didn't matter, she didn't feel any evil, only neutral like her clean canvas has been. Neutral held infinite possibilities. The more she looked at the bleak quiet of the night Kelly wanted to look into another canvas and paint with her mind. Stretching a new canvas would be such a pain. She wanted a really big one. Even if she had the wood to make one, she'd have to ask Billy for help and that wasn't gonna happen tonight.
One of Billy's habits she had adopted was sleeping with a light on. He had done it for her at first and the comfort grew on her. A soft night light at a power outlet would have worked best but a lamp with a dim forty watt bulb worked too. She pulled the covers up and stared at the ceiling. Her walk burnt some energy but quieting her mind was another issue. What if she had a canvas in front of her now what would it show, what could she see?
Her eyes half lidded and restless began to close as she saw another shadow. Only for an instant and near her closet. It was maddening! She threw the covers back and jumped out of bed to look. Her light switched on and any darkness retreated to her closet. The wicker doors hinged to fan open or closed. Tiny specks of light painted the box of framing supplies. Kelly gently pulled the door to one side. Nothing but a stack of clothes and her box.
Billy would be downstairs absorbed into the TV or asleep in front of it. What if she tried to look at one of these black dots in a canvas? Something about them didn't feel right, but also not wrong. The only way to find out if it was real or her imagination was to look into the canvas again. Billy would be against it. She would have to be sure he didn't hear. The boards were pre cut but the tacks would be hard to sneak. All she could think to do was wait on Billy to fall asleep and sneak back outside.
Kelly's bedroom door creaked open, a bad start. She crouched down in her teddy pajamas and slid to the railing. A crazy cartoon exploded from the TV and splashed colors across his face. He was laying along the couch with the covers pulled up. Assumed asleep. She grabbed the supplies and slid down the stairs on the balls of her feet. The carpet helped and she didn't make a sound. She felt sneaky, like Catwoman on a heist. Her calves, hamstrings, and quads stretched searching for another big step. Her muscles felt lean and strong. She was aware of herself in a way she never had been before. Moving in ways she'd never done before she found the power of confidence. And she found it sexy. The sliding door made her cringe but Billy was dead to the world.
Outside felt different. A cool breeze reminded that summer was still here but nearing an end. The yard felt different at night. The creek further away, and the fence more confining compared to the open sky and dark hills. Coming through the living room she didn't want to make any noise, but out here she felt she may disturb the night. She went to work wanting to finish quickly. Huge flood lights lit the yard up her only weapon against the black. Her hands flew, she had done this so many times before. Each hit of the little hammer snapped the darkness awake and reported back just how open the yard was. Her little corner of light in the ocean of night.
Kelly felt the dots, the black things, felt their neutral again. A presence only. The presence of infinite possibility. She knew that Darkness could affect it. Infect the pure night with it's evil. But Darkness was only one side of the coin.
She finished stretching the canvas quickly and made it to her studio without Billy ever moving. Stretching was the hardest part. She had made the biggest frame with what she had, and it would do for now. Billy had cleaned up the studio while she was on her walkabout. Her stool and tripod were in the middle of the room waiting. The canvas completed the picture as she took her seat in front.
The instant Kelly got in her comfortable and familiar pose the canvas turned to smooth placid water showing her reflection. She looked tired, too serious, and determined. Her thoughts probed the vision, wondering if it responded to her and her alone. The water rippled and her face became unclear. Her thoughts went to the walk outside and she saw herself walking down the tracks, but from hundreds of feet above. She saw the scene as the crow flies. Slowly zooming in, her figure crossed the river with a silly confidence she only now realized. It was more than a memory because she saw something she didn't before. Kelly watched herself close on the dumpster. She had felt the black thing there for sure, just around the corner. Her figure went to the left and her viewing window to the right. Her canvas like a porthole in a submarine.
The balding man came out right on time cussing about some, "Dumbass teenager," and lugged the trash in. He held an empty soda bottle winding up like a pitcher to throw it in. The door shut and Kelly leaned forward from her stool. She blinked, That was new. It had certainly happened but not from her point of view.
A fluid black paper flew into view. It was like oil but flat as latex. The spots she had seen were real! Her picture froze when she recognized it. It was a thing not meant to be seen. A two dimensional shadow always just out of sight. Like a secret exit from a stage when the lights go out. It rippled and flowed like the wind, like seaweed on the canvas. It was nothing, the essence of nothing, infinite possibility incarnate.
She couldn't help but smile, she couldn't believe she actually caught it. The thing didn't have any features but she could feel it. Feel it's surprise. She broke out in giggles, her mind drew comic eyes on it bulging out at her in amazement. Regaining composure she looked back worried the scene would have changed, but a little mouth dropped open; the creature was in awe of her. Her awareness gave it expression.
Kelly's body still sat on the stool squirming and looking at the empty canvas like an excited school girl, but the canvas was blank in her reality. She was learning to explore the ethereal, her mind pushed and probed the possibilities.
"Well hi there," She softly said not to herself but to the creature. That neutral feeling was in it, but it was a curious being, like a wild kitten. The little face she'd painted on it raised a cautious eyebrow, like a puppy that had been beaten yet never loses hope in humanity. "It's ok, come-on." Her words didn't matter, Kelly communicated to it with her heart, and it purred back. The thing was never allowed to express itself more-less encouraged.
Kelly popped back awake, suddenly aware the canvas was bare in front of her, she was back in her world. A tiny ink dot blotched the center of the canvas. But she hadn't touched it. She looked closer and the ink was thick like oil and still wet. A smile crept across her lips, it was spreading. First only a thick pen dot, then a dime, now a quarter. It pulsed and forced itself wider like it was fighting to exist. It was a shadow in the light, a fuzzy void you weren't suppose to see, but it fought the light and spread onto the canvas at Kelly's urge.
She rushed to the desk and turned on a soft lamp before flipping the big light off. Instantly the shadow burst like a balloon and covered the canvas front, side and presumably back too.
"A shadow within shadows..." Kelly slowly approached with an outstretched hand. What evil she had felt in Tom, she felt good in this. Her fingers gently touched it. The shadow was a solid thing that had taken the form of her canvas. It wobbled and rippled like black water changing to flow into the air lifted on a micro breeze. Kelly reached up to cradle it. It didn't like what she was doing, it was afraid but it had to obey.
Kelly felt it's fear, it's uncertainty. It was a slave to a fearful master. Kelly had mastered them too but she was different. It was a sad thing longing for the light, the pureness Kelly offered, but it knew only darkness. The comical eyes darted back and forth worried like a feral kitten fighting it's nature to run. Kelly heard Billy turn the knob. It vanished from her arm when she turned to look.
Billy pushed the door open and flipped the light switch on. "Kelly why are you still up?" His face tired and annoyed.
Kelly realized what she must look like to. His eyes judged her sanity. Her arms were up cradling an invisible baby at her neck. How could she show him? "I think I've found something!"
"It's four o' clock in the morning and your posing in the dark? What have you found? I'm just dying to know..." His eyes were flat and totally unexcited.
Kelly pouted her lip a little hurt. "Come here and I'll show you." She waved him over, "Cut the light off first." Her looked at her like she was crazy but did as she asked.
The room got quiet and Kelly wrapped her arm around his neck to pull him down pointing with the other. Her desk lamp was still on and she pointed right at the edge of light. "Look close, see if you can see them." Kelly focused and where the line of shadow was clear on the desk they were tiny and moved like ants, she could hardly see those. Over on the wall where the lamplight was weakest near the total dark there's a shadow! Billy leaned forward not sure how to feel about being hugged so close and followed her pointing finger. He didn't see a damn thing.
"What the heck are you talking about?"
Kelly took a step back and looked at his eyes in the dim light. It was a last ditch effort but it seemed appropriate at the time. "Nargles. I think I've found Nargles."
Billy blinked lazily and took a deep breath. "What the hell is a Nargle?" He didn't want to think about the fact that she might really be crazy and hoped it was some elaborate joke.
"Well not exactly like from the movie but they're in the shadows and I think I can show you." Billy blinked a few more times, clearly not entertained. "Ok they're like shadows, and they are a thing like me or you. Only instead of being three dimensional like us, they're a two dimensional shadow.. thing... a Nargle." Kelly smiled at him at with her discovery dismissing his doubters face.
Billy cocked his head to the side and stood back up straight. He didn't know what to do. Maybe if she went to school she would come back to normal, or let someone else find out she's gone crazy, he didn't want to touch the subject with a ten foot pole. "Are you going to school in the morning?" His annoyance showing through his tone.
Not knowing what to make of it Kelly dropped her smile, it didn't feel that late to her but she would be dead if she went. "Maybe I did stay up a little late."
"Too late? your dancing in a dark room taking about imaginary creatures!"
Kelly rolled her eyes, "How did you find me anyway, what were you doing up?"
Billy looked down with his signature way. He knew how angry she'd been about her clothes, and he didn't want her to be mad at him about checking on her from time to time. "I was just using the bathroom and noticed your bedroom light was on. I thought it was strange this late and checked."
"You just opened my door in the middle of the night?"
"Nooo, it's was halfway open, go look! and you weren't in there so I came to check in here."
Had she left her light and door open? She couldn't be sure, but more importantly she lead Billy away from his questions. "Fine, well I guess I'll sleep in and miss one more day. But I want you to do something." His eyes said no but his silence betrayed he would do anything for her. "I'm going to have my aunt pick you up from the school and take you to get some supplies. I'll leave a list. Some of them you might have to ask Mrs. Francis for..." Kelly trailed off mumbling about how to know which Mrs. Francis might need to supply and which would be at the store.
Billy didn't say a word and turned to leave. All he wanted was to snatch a few hours sleep before morning.