Children of the Dark

Submitted into Contest #168 in response to: Start your story with someone looking out a train window.... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction Contemporary Adventure

Shadows moved beyond the glass, their features difficult to delineate from the surrounding darkness. Unable to take my eyes off of them, I strained myself to see what they were doing. What were they up to? What were they going to do next? They danced and swirled about, forming their own, unpredictable saga. I barely noticed the static noise coming from the intercom above the door behind me, but it was there, amplifying the whole mystifying experience in its own subtle way. Time fluttered away, stolen away by the whirling shapes and figures. 

“Sure is a swell time, isn’t it Jim?” one of the shadows said. 

I nodded to a formless figure outside the window. “Sure is,” I droned.

Velvet curtains closed over the window. I stood up and faced the door behind me, legs stiff from sitting for so long. My eyes hurt but were well attuned to the atmosphere of the room. A single mattress with a crumpled-up blanket lay in the corner. I wished I could go to it now but a loud bell chimed and the door slid open. I stepped into hallway. Five others did the same, each coming out of their room in unison. Had it not been for the dim, red light at the end of the hallway, we would have been in total darkness. We stared at the wall in front of us. I curled my toes on the rubber carpet and looked down the line at my brothers and sisters.

“Stop looking around, Jim,” a voice called over the intercom and I immediately snapped my head back to the center.

None of us knew how or when we got here. Our previous lives were mostly forgotten. All we knew was that we lived in an old train car and that there were rules to follow - orders to be obeyed.

A moment later another bell chimed. We all turned right and made our way into the living area, walking in a single-file line. The light of the living area, though pale, was the brightest light we knew. It exposed that this room used to be a lively place, with attachments on the floor for lavish furniture. Now, however, it was stripped bare, with nothing but a large metal bowl in its center. The six of us gathered around it, evenly spaced and patiently waiting. 

Once in position, a tube descended from the ceiling with a sharp whine. A grinding sound echoed through it, heralding a steady flow of small pellets that fell into the bowl with a metallic ring. All of our stomachs growled as we stood motionless, eagerly awaiting our next command.

“Eat,” the voice said. 

All six of us lunged forward, pushing and shoving, grunting and growling as we shoveled handfuls of dry pellets into our mouths. We wolfed down everything we could grab as fast as we could, trying to eat our fill but we all knew were were intentionally kept hungry. As soon as the bowl was empty, six metal tubes descended from the ceiling which we promptly grabbed and drank from. Then, another bell chimed and we all stood still, breathing heavily. 

A door on the far wall slid open. Being the last in line, I followed behind everyone else to the other room but before I could enter, the door suddenly slammed shut. I blinked, staring at it for a long moment. I could hear my brothers and sisters preparing themselves to be washed, completely unaware that I was not with them. My heart beat fast. I started to panic. Had I done something wrong? 

Suddenly another door opened. I froze in place. Never had I known it to be there. I stared out into the darkness beyond, wondering what it all meant. Was this for me? Slowly, I walked over to the opening, daring to poke my head just beyond the threshold. It was cold outside the train car. Very cold. A slow dripping sound echoed from somewhere out in the dark. 

A sudden feeling came over me, like a chill brought on by a ghostly touch. There was a certain freshness to the air outside the train car, a stark difference from the stuffy ambiance of my home. Holding to the side of the door frame, I eased myself out until my feet felt solid ground. I took a few steps forward and stopped. It was quiet, so quiet that I could hear my heart beating in my ears. 

“This way,” a voice called from the dark, coming as a faint whisper. 

My head snapped to it and again the voice called out to me. 


I glanced back at the faint silhouette of the train car. A familiar part of me pleaded to seek the safety of my room, but another part of me, one I was unfamiliar with, bid me to follow the voice.

“Who are you?” I asked. 


  My legs wobbled and moved, taking me away. I had no references and no guide, just a perceived direction in an eternal void. How long did I walk? I couldn’t tell you but never had I felt so alone. After a long while, I thought I had been tricked by the shadows as they made me trip over many unseen objects, bloodying my knees and feet. Then, just as I was about to give up all hope, I saw it.

A light unlike any I had seen before. I quickened my pace towards it, driven forward by an insatiable curiosity. The light grew brighter with every step reaching a magnificence that was impossible to ignore. It easily beat back the dark; beautiful from a distance, yet terrible to behold up close. I stepped into its reach and my skin burnt from its touch. I scream, blinded by its radiance.

“Come,” the voice calls, “Do not be afraid.”

I do as it says, driven forward by an unseen hand, enduring the pain until I exit the cave and step into a world of blurred shapes and intense light. My eyes burn. Everything burns.

“You brought me here to die,” I wheeze.

“Forward,” the voice calls, “Just a little more.”

My legs move and the hot cement beneath my feet gives way to something else, soft and playful. I look down, vision blurred but able to make out a sea of verdant green. The terrain slopes up, a change my legs were ill-fit to endure. How long had it been since I last ate? How long since I last slept?

I fell to the ground in an exhausted heap. I threw my hands over my face and wept, accepting my fate. 

“Come. All is well.”

It was then I noticed that my skin no longer burned, nor did my eyes shy from the intense light. Things came into focus. My world burst with color. White puffy clouds drifted above in the deep, blue sky. Wildflowers bloomed intermittently in the vast field around me. The grass swayed. A single tree grew atop the steep hill, bearing red fruit that I desperately desired to have. My stomach growled, motivating me to crawl up the hill.

“Yes,” the voice whispered, coming like a gentle breeze, “Just a little more.”

Grabbing handfuls of soft grass, I pull my way up the hill, groaning with every foot gained. It took everything I had to get to the top and, when I finally crested the hill, I finally saw my reward. I stared out over the horizon, my mouth agape. The sun hung high above the horizon, too terrible to look directly at but magnificent to behold. It was pure and good, and I was nothing compared to it. Tears welled in my eyes.

“Why me?” I shouted, “I am not worthy.”

There was a sudden breeze and I heard something thump on the ground next to me. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I stared at the red fruit that had fallen next to me. I grabbed it, brought it to my lips, and bit into it with savage hunger. My teeth pierced its outer layer with a resounding crunch. The juices poured into my mouth, sweet and tart. A surge of energy came over me and I sat up, placing my back against the base of the tree. I stared at the landscape as I ate. Everything was so peaceful and still. 

I sat there for many days, watching the sun make its way across the sky while eating fruit that fell from the tree; Occasionally getting up to drink from the slow-moving creek flowing near the base of the hill. My once pale skin was now flush with a peachy hue. 

On the seventh day, as the sun was setting beyond the distant horizon, I thought of my family living in the dark. I got to my feet and stared at the cave entrance at the base of the hill, remembering my painful escape and the experience of adjusting to the light. Despite this, I knew I had to tell my family of what I had found and emancipate them from the dark. It was my duty to do so. I ran down the hill and approached the cave entrance. It loomed above me like the widened maw of some great serpent. I charged into it plump with the desire to bring my family into the light. 

The journey back to the train car was no easy feat. Having adapted to the light, I had to strain myself in the dark depths of the underworldly domain. Though I remembered the way back to the train car, I still tripped and stumbled over everything as I begrudgingly moved through the dark. Eventually I saw the silhouette of the train car. I was surprised to see the door still open.

The pale light of the living area faintly guided me in, yet I felt odd approaching it. The place that was once my home now filled me with fear and disgust. I stepped in, only to be greeted by the pungently stale air. It clung to each breath like a creeping mold, dizzying the mind as I walked through the lobby. Just as I was about to reach the hallway, a loud bell rang over the intercom. My body instinctively stiffened and my stomach growled at the tone. I backtracked behind the feeding bowl.

Shortly afterward, my family emerged from the hallway, walking in a drone-like unison as they gathered around the bowl. I had to consciously resist the urge to join them as their eyes fixed on the lowering feeding tube. 

“Hey,” I said, “I’m back.”

Nobody moved or acknowledged my presence. I flapped my arms and jumped up and down, trying to grab their attention. 

“Get in position, Jim,” a voice called out over the intercom, “You know the rules.”

Finally, my brothers and sisters looked up at me, the shadows of the room accentuating their grimacing faces. I had their attention now.

“Guys, there’s a whole other world outside the train car. It’s full of life, color, and delicious red fruit.” I pointed to the open door on the opposite wall and took a couple of steps toward it. “Come with me, I’ll show you.” 

No one moved.

“No food until you get in place, Jim,” the voice said. Again, I motioned for everyone to follow. 

“Come,” I said, “It’s a magical world, full of wonder. Come and see.”

“Stop with the lies, Jim,” the voice said. “Gather around the bowl like everyone else.”

“Please, Jim, we’re so hungry,” one of my sisters said. 

My eldest brother stiffened and clenched his fists. 

“I want food!” he growled.

“Know your place, Jim,” the voice called.

“You have to believe me!” I cried, “I just came from there. It’s a beautiful world. Come, I’ll show you!”

“I won’t tell you again,” the voice said. 

Siblings turned back toward the bowl, standing as still as they could and leaving an open spot for me to join. They trembled with hunger. 

“Get where you need to be, Jim.”

I stared at the open spot. What was I supposed to do? I either join the group, live out my days in the dark, hoping that, one day, my family would follow me into the light; Or return to the world of light, alone, and hope one day they sought me out. 

“Please, Jim, hurry,” my sister cried, “we’re so hungry.” 

I looked at them, tears welling in my eyes as I took a deep breath.

“I . . . I can’t,” I said.

With that, I left the train car. The moment I stepped outside the train car, I heard pellets of food fall into the bowl and the crunching of ravenous mouths. 

October 22, 2022 02:05

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Jett Caskey
18:15 Oct 27, 2022

this is a cool story


Kevin Alphatooni
18:43 Oct 27, 2022



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