Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Steps in the Dark

It's Halloween! I'm probably neck deep in hot glue and creative bat-themed curse words, but I have time for one present for everyone. Steps in the dark is a short story about a mother trying to protect her children from an invader.

Darkness is eternal, endless, accustomed, secure. It is the safety of the womb, the calm of the grave, the pre-dawn, the post-finality, and my home. The darkness shall not be sundered, not while I live.

Many beats of the ragged heart passed since last someone dared to rouse me from my vigilant slumber. My legs are stiff and unwieldy, crackling from age and abandonment as I raise my head to the vibrations pulsing across my floor. A visitor has come. They always drop in just as I am about to lose faith in the inevitable and succumb to time's endless strokes.
My home is not much to view in the light, but within the dark it is an ethereal harmony to behold. Her beauty calls so many visitors to her, to see for themselves what the half legends and vague tales speak of. Ancient blood, bubbling when far deadlier things than I strode the lands, rouses from its slumber wakening my limbs, my eyes, and my thirst. Though, perhaps thirst is not the correct term. Language returns slowest of all in the eternal night. Oh well, I shall think of a better one later; we have guests.

I rise from my bed, soft as silk and thicker than a raincloud, my legs quickly finding a steady gait across my accustomed home as the air itself calls out. The vibrations sing to me; my new friend is alone, his footsteps solitary and agitated as if he did not start out as such. He, or possibly she -- I never care to tell -- is pacing outside my garden.
The garden is a treasure in the dark. Thick cords droop like crumbling bunting across the entrances built from an aging rock melted and malformed in just the right formations to provide perfect handholds for my children. They also took to stretching and tugging upon the denizens of the garden until the floor seemed to rise up with each step, grazing across the flesh, but my children are not in the garden tonight. Their bodies do not rustle across the arranged gifts from our previous visitors, some laid to entice deeper into my embrace, others to warn away from the dangerous precipice right outside my garden. I would not want my new friend to be harmed before he can make our acquaintance.
A shrill noise pierces the air, the vibrations rattling the few curtains I placed upon the windowless rock in my early days. It seems the visitor has raised his light upon my garden; no one ever dares to experience it properly, harsh radiance shattering every delicate thread of night. Light spoils all it touches.
Shifting my thick body around an outcropping of walls, there's a new, and yet very old, alterations in the vibrations; my children. So many have I sent out into the world to found families of their own, and so many shall I until the game is done. These are still young, too young to meet our coming guest.
One passes across my leg, the youngest always so adventurous, and I ruffle across his back. He leans into me, trying to warn me of the friend playing in his garden. It's that stage where everything is his -- his mother, his garden, his home, his darkness -- but he will grow out of it until he discovers everything actually can be. Gesturing behind me, I try to shoo my children back to their room. A few thrash their teeth at me, unhappy to be treated as babies, but acquiesce to my authority dragging their feet, as if I am unaware of the perfect view they have from the moveable stone in their room.
Patting my youngest once more, I push him off to trail his other siblings, his own legs shifting the floor in familiar and familial vibrations, unlike our coming friend. The children are the future and also the past, a link to a line that cannot be severed no matter how thick the arm wielding the sword. Some probably assume I do not care for my own, that I push them from the nest because biology expects it, resources demand it, and never that I would wish honest success upon every child I brought forth. Life cannot flourish trapped in the same dirt it began, but still I coddle each child running between my legs and break in half when each life is stolen from me. I bear every loss as a mariner would an albatross, a tooth fallen from their silent bodies dangling from my heavy neck. If it weren't for the sticky padding, they'd jangle like a set of armor with each step.
Another wail pierces the silent air, rattling the rugs beneath my feet. My visitor discovered the entrance way, a bit of sentimentality on my part as it cannot be properly appreciated in the dark; but I see no reason to not provide a branch to those who invade my home. He is most likely poking over the spun art of first me and then my children, all with the assistance of our last visitor, for which we were eternally grateful.
As his infernal light remains trapped behind the entranceway's thick walls, I slip into my parlor. She is a mess from my rambunctious children. Flooring torn and tossed aside as they chased each other in some silly game; the curtains dangle forlornly, ripped from their pinnings and left for our efficient salvage later. I remove a set, a beautiful hanging done in a lace pattern dating before the darkness became my home. It would take more time than I have to make this place properly presentable; I only pray my guest will understand. He did come uninvited after all.
A sprig of light cascades into my domain, the darkness shrinking away from its enemy. I slink back with it, towards the still thick corner not in disrepair thanks to my spawn. The light widens its attack, slicing apart the dark until a vast swath illuminates the cracks of my flooring. One of the visitor's hand's follows the light and then its heavy head, encased in a thick hide, perhaps the reason he made it so far.
He is unable to see the beauty only darkness can give my home. Light robs the scenery, forcing all senses upon the solitary image of a fallen rock, a dent in the floor, or a rare clean spot. Everyone forced in the light fails to find the grandeur inside the harsh chaos. I shift along the walls, my vibrations unexamined by the visitor, following his slow movements even as he invades my domain.
The little lantern, the piercing light breaking open my world, finds something. A glint unlike the other glints from the fellows before him. This glint is golden and prized far above the other scraps of heavy metals so many bring to my home. It illuminates nearly the entire back half of my parlor, piled high from my industrious children over the eras, glittering across rocks coated in my art.
My visitor makes one step in, his heartbeat thudding so thickly into my home it's as if I can feel it ruffling my hair. The air is heavy, but he cannot sense it, he cannot see. All he has is his light and the promise of glint at the end of it. Another foot falls deeper into my parlor, his boots ripping apart my flooring far better than any my children could; but he does not care, doesn't even notice the dangling ends of unfinished projects snagging across his head or floating into his eyes.
I inch my body up the wall, my legs finding easy purchase in the knot holes I was born to use. The human is distracted, unable to see or sense me moving around it, blocking off any exit. All he wants is the gold, still trapped in the lying embrace of his lantern. Humans, so certain that light brings only truth, never once putting faith in the dark. His thick shoes tear apart my ankle-high webs and with a wide swing crunch down, catching and then scattering something into the walls. It pings like old clay baked into a vase, but from the echo is clearly not. He stops and for the first time lifts his lantern higher above the gold to the tableau I devote my life to.
Bodies, ancient to present day, numbering over a hundred and a thousand, dangle forlornly across the impenetrable walls of my domain. Their undigestible insides, thick as rocks, sway haphazardly out of the sacks I taught each of my children to create. Skulls, eyeless from our venom, can finally appreciate the beauty of the dark. Bones, previously limbs, point and gesture as if they could have clawed their way out.
My new visitor drops his lantern, the light shudders but does not extinguish, as he opens his jaw wide and vibrates the entire air. Even through his screaming I can feel my children skittering back in their rooms, each straining around their viewing window. This is their favorite part.
The friend, the visitor, the invader, the meal turns on his heels about to flee from my domain and pauses in mortal terror. For a brief moment he is able to see me fully for the first and last time as I rise upon my legs, all eight poised for the kill, my compliment of eyes glittering blood red in the pathetic light, and my fangs descending from my hungry mouth. Hungry, yes that is the word I was thinking of.
He gurgles only, unable to scream again, as I make quick work of our newest friend. My children enjoy the day, their first as they learn how to pry off armor, how to arrange it in the garden to tempt others, how to string up a still alive but paralyzed meal, and how to satisfy their hunger upon it. My veins grow weary from this work; having satiated themselves, the body yearns only for sleep. With a stomp of my front leg I blot out the orphaned light, welcoming back my darkness.
The darkness shall not be sundered, not while I live.

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