Essence of Darkness

Submitted into Contest #105 in response to: Write your story from the perspective of a side character.... view prompt


American Fiction Speculative

I am the essence of darkness. I never disappear even when the sunlight does. My world is silence or maybe it is just me. I’ve never been able to converse with Lugh, but we have grown together. I have followed him everywhere. I was on the water when he dove off the high dive for the first time. I was on the wall when he broke up with his first girlfriend. I even flash on the walls when he is sleeping as cars pass by his windows. We’ve been together through bunk beds, dorms, and now this apartment.

I have tried to have friends. Lugh’s brother Reggie’s essence and I would pose in the different lights cast upon the walls of their bedroom. When they said goodbye as Lugh left for college, we were one for just a moment. Our essences together felt warm. We couldn’t touch each other, but we could feel the other’s presence intermingling. There was no talking, but so much to ask. I wondered how much Reggie’s essence remembered and if he knew where we came from. I had tried to talk to Lugh many times, but the thoughts I tried to convey loudly stayed solely in my mind. They never traveled beyond my frame of darkness.

I kept trying though. It must be possible. Lugh and I watched a movie once where a little boy who could fly spoke to his essence. The essence was particularly onery most of the time too. The dark one simply floated around and shook his head causing more mischief. It looked amazing. To be seen and reacted to would be such a change from always following or looking up while Lugh never looked down. 

Then it happened. One day on his balcony, I wasn’t watching Lugh at all. I was staring at the clouds in the sky and imagining what wind felt like when I saw Lugh standing and staring at me with his mouth wide open. His surprise was understandable as I was still in the reclined position Lugh had been in previously and he was now standing with his hands on his hips. I didn’t know what to do, so I simply stayed in my seated pose and looked back at Lugh. 

Lugh started to wave his arms, walk around the balcony, and even went half inside his patio door to try to get me to match him. I stayed resilient though and never budged. Lugh rubbed his eyes and then spoke.

“This is crazy,” he said with half a smile and one eyebrow raised.

I moved my position so I could nod in agreement.

Lugh jumped back and the smile dropped from his face.

“Did you just respond to me?” Lugh asked dumbfounded.

I gave a thumbs-up sign and nodded again.

“Have you always been able to communicate?”

I shrugged my shoulders, and my hands came up to join the gesture. Then I put up my index finger to indicate this was the first time.

“So this is a first for you too?” Lugh said in understanding.

I nodded again. I wanted to ask questions myself, but I had no way to start the conversation. I could only respond and answer Lugh’s questions, but for the first time ever I was communicating. It felt liberating and exciting, but I worried Lugh would not believe this was real and tomorrow I would be lonely again.

Lugh rubbed his head and then looked at me again. I was standing against the brick wall and Lugh had taken a seat in the green vinyl lounge chair.

“How long have you been with me?” Lugh asked.

I thought about my response for a second and then rotated both of my index fingers in a circle.

“My whole life?” Lugh inquired.

I nodded and watched as Lugh’s head dropped.

“That must have been exceedingly boring and lonely,” he began, “I didn’t know. I’m sorry...”

I started to shake my arms back in forth in front of my chest to get Lugh to stop. It was clear he did not know of my essence and I was not angry. I was thrilled to make contact and have at least this afternoon to finally enjoy some company. I put my thumb to my chest and then flashed the “ok” sign to Lugh.

“You’re okay,” Lugh said and smiled again. Then his face lit up even brighter. “Do you know sign language?”

I shook my head no this time disappointed that I hadn’t thought of that.

“Hold on,” Lugh said excitedly, “I’ll be right back.”

Lugh started to open the screen door but then stopped suddenly.

“You won’t disappear when I go inside, will you?”

I wasn’t sure. Even if I did, I would reappear when Lugh came back out into the light. I always did before and I always remembered what had happened even when Lugh was little. I shrugged slightly and then used my hands to shoo him into the house so he could go get what he wanted to show me.

Lugh smiled and disappeared into the house. Darkness came and then suddenly I saw Lugh again. He was holding a poster with letters and hands on it.

“When I taught middle school, I had this hanging in my classroom. I always wanted to learn sign language, but I just never got around to it. Now I have a real reason to learn, and we will.”

It was a magnificent idea and I stared at the letters.

“What is your name?” Lugh asked quickly.

I hadn’t thought about my name before. I had never needed one. Now, this moment was here, and I needed a name to follow me like I followed Lugh. It didn’t take long for the name to surface in my thoughts and carefully I spelled the name out for Lugh using the letters on the poster.

“Your name is Kieran?” Lugh asked quietly.

I nodded. 

It took Lugh a long time before he brought his eyes back up to see me again. His body had slumped over, and his hands cradled his head while his elbows rested on his knees. He looked badly shaken, and he was sobbing gently.

This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have continued this conversation. I should have just returned to mimicry and mirroring Lugh and stayed in the solitary darkness. It wrecked me completely to see him so upset and I just wanted to make his hurting stop.

Finally, Lugh took a large breath in and sat up straight. His eyes were the last part of him to fully return, but when they did they were full of wonder.

“Before Reggie and I were born, mom had another baby boy, named Kieran. He died the morning he was born. Mom’s heart was broken, and she thought she would never be able to go through another pregnancy again. She never spoke of our lost brother. Dad told us about him after I found a baby’s bracelet with Kieran’s name etched on it in the attic. I was looking for something to take back to college, but I found a small porcelain box with the bracelet and a folded piece of paper with his handprints and footprints on them. Dad hid them immediately and promised to explain them if I kept them away from mom. She loved her first baby, but losing Kieran made her depressed beyond measure dad said. He even said he worried about her harming herself until she found out she was pregnant again.”

Slowly, I used the letters from the poster to ask my first question.

“So, we’re brothers?”

“Yes,” Lugh said and genuinely smiled.

“We will be together forever?” I asked again through the sign language.

“I truly hope so,” Lugh responded, “Side-by-side always.”

I nodded slowly with as big of a movement as I could. 

“Just wait until I introduce you to Reggie,” Lugh said mischievously, “We are going to have some fun with him.”

Lugh began to laugh, and I felt myself lighten and laugh too. We both shook gently as we mused over the coming conversations and pranks we had in our future.

August 03, 2021 19:08

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Tommie Michele
05:03 Oct 12, 2021

This was such a light and heartwarming read! I love the personality you give to Kieran and to Lugh, and as I was reading through the first paragraph, the slow realization that I was listening to Lugh's shadow tell a story was enjoyable. I love how you didn't just outright tell the reader the exact situation, but revealed just enough to let the reader figure it out on their own. That balance is one of the hardest parts of writing (at least for me) and you nailed it. If I had one piece of feedback to give, I would say that Lugh's block of di...


Elizabeth Maxson
18:19 Oct 12, 2021

Thank you so much! I truly appreciate the feedback. I am so glad you enjoyed the story, and I will certainly look at reworking that monologue section. Thanks again!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply