When Darkness Falls

Submitted into Contest #184 in response to: Set your story during a complete city or nation-wide blackout.... view prompt


Horror Suspense Mystery

“We are all of us, afraid of the dark” he says it sadly, as though he’s delivering a terminal diagnosis, and in a way, he is.

“When we’re kids, yeah,” snorts Philips.

Now he’s lazily shaking his head with an economy that makes it all the more striking, “we still are. Every last one of us.”

“How do you work that one out?” says Philips, disdain dripping from his words, disdain and the beginnings of aggression. There is a threat here, but it’s pathetic. Philips is showing himself to be that bully-in-waiting and I wish he’d shut up. I dislike conflict, but he’s bringing it and I can see that it will be down to me to shut that stupid mouth of his. I should do it now, but that isn’t how it’s done. Innocent until they prove themselves guilty. Pre-emptive strikes are frowned upon. Even by me.

The old man looks up at Philips. Looks into him, then his eyes shift a little and he’s looking through him as though there isn’t much of value in Philips. That there is a damning look and Philips knows it. He bristles, but he doesn’t know what to say, only that he’s not comfortable with the way the old man looks at him and he wants it to stop.

Philips has a need to fill the silence and change the old man’s focus, “it’s only a blackout. What’s with all the drama and tall stories?” There is something like pleading in his voice. He wants the old man to go easy on him. He doesn’t think he’s being fair.

Since when did fair come into it?

The old man sighs and an air of disappointment fills the room, he should not have to say this, in saying it, he damns us. He damns us all. We are not ready, I know that in this very moment. Perhaps we never were. “This isn’t just a blackout that’s coming. The lights aren’t going to come back on. Not ever. There is a darkness within us. Always has been. Forget the wheel, or whatever other invention people bandy about as the most important development in our history, fire was the transformative technological innovation in our evolution. Fire gave us warmth and light. Respite from the unending darkness. When we stepped out of the darkness, we changed for the better. Problem is, we never did anything about our darkness and it has lain in wait for us ever since. We are afraid of the dark because it speaks to our darkness, and when it speaks, we feel it. We feel it and we know.

“We know what, old man?” says Philips flippantly.

I should punch him in that dumb mouth of his, but I don’t. I want to hear more from the old man and Philips serves a purpose right now. He’s asked the dumb question I wanted to, but was never going to ask.

“Can’t you feel it?” asks the old man, he looks around the room as though there is something in here with us, something other than his sorrowful disappointment, “if you give yourself a moment. Cease attending to the constant noise we’ve created in an attempt to deny and ignore our very selves, you will hear it. If you look down into your selves, you will see a darkness that goes all the way down into hell itself.”

“This is utter cobblers!” cries Philips, “we’re talking about a blackout, not the end of bloody days!”

“There’s that noise,” says the old man calmly, as though he’s teaching a class of five year olds, “you’d rather make some noise than acknowledge how close we all are to that dark half. That all we have ever done is turn our back on that darkness of ours. Ignored our true nature and lived a charade that is now coming to an end.”

Philips scowls at the man and for all the world looks like that petulant five year old. The again, I doubt he’s made it to five. Right now, he seems more like a grumpy and petulant two year old slinging toys like they were his own excrement. 

Despite his poor behaviour, I want to side with Philips and that proves the old man’s point. I’m in denial and I don’t have the guts to face the truth. We’ve all been in denial and pretended everything was OK for far too long, and now it is too late. I want to ask him all the same. I want to know what it is that we can do, but this question of mine remains unspoken. I already know the answer. There is nothing we can do. It is too late. Far too late.

Silence falls over us then. Each of us forming questions and half thoughts then pushing them away and down. There is nothing of use available to us now. All I feel is a shedding of an invisible skin. The armour of civilisation has turned to dust and now I am red raw and vulnerable. I smell of blood and fear and my very existence is an open invitation for the evil that is coming.

I hope it is not going to be painful, but my hope is weak and futile. With a force of will, I consider what it is that awaits us and I face my cowardice. There are worse things than death. Death would be an escape from what is coming. Even a painful death would be preferable to the dark wave of change and what it will bestow upon us.

That darkness brings chaos, an instantaneous undoing of all that we built over thousands of years. The dark is our undoing and I can already feel myself unravelling. 

I really can feel it right now, some of what the old man has told us. His words have summoned my darkness forth and I resent him for that. Now it is not Philips I want to punish, it is him. I swallow this down and I shudder. I have experienced a small taste of what is to come. I can smell it on the wind and I know what is coming with a growing certainty that threatens to completely undo me.

So, I fight.

I make fists with my hands and I stick with what I know, and I hold it together. I hold it at bay. I do what I have always done, what we have always done, since we huddled over the fire and waited out the long, dark, bitter nights. The darkness crowding in and threatening to take everything from us as we cowered from it and held on in the hope that the sun would rise before we fell prey to the most fearsome of all predators.

“This really is the end for us, isn’t it?” the words escape my mouth before I know what it is that I am saying. Thought and feeling made all the more real for them having been said.

The old man smiles. It should be inappropriate, but I feel gratitude for both the sight and the warmth of it, “we also fear change. An end heralds a beginning.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Philips asks.

We exchange a look, the old man and I. I know at least some of his meaning and it is cold comfort, but it is at least something. I find that I do not want the coward’s escape of death, instead, I want to see this thing through. Come what may, I want to be a part of what is next.

Philips persists, “no! Tell me what you mean! All these ramblings and your mumbo jumbo, it’s all getting on my bloody nerves, you old git!”

I’m up on my feet before I know what I am doing, and I’m grabbling Philips’ throat and pinning him against the wall before he can react. I stare into his eyes and all I see is fear. Fear and cowardice. Whether it’s mine, or his, I can’t tell. 

“Shut up.” 

That is all I say. The sound of those two words is alien to me. I am broadcasting on another frequency and there is no recognition to be had here, and that casts me adrift on the first waves of the dark tide that will very soon consume us all.

So soon?

I thought we had longer.

I wanted longer.

We always want longer, and we are never ready. 

We go unwillingly into that dark night.

My fear is displaced by an overwhelming sadness. I feel the darkness stirring and I can no longer separate the darkness without, from that darkness within. Everything is bleeding into one and I feel it rising up. 

Counter to everything, I feel that upward movement and an inexplicable elation. I am with the part of me that I have always considered to be the entirety of who and what I am. Now I know how wrong I was. This part of me has had its day and now it is leaving. It rises, only so it can fall, and it will fall eternally. 

That well of darkness is infinite. That is the hell that awaits us. The hell that has stalked us all of our days.

I turn to the old man and we both smile, but this time I see his smile and it does not warm me. It is cold and it is hungry, as are his eyes. His lips move further upwards and reveal teeth that are a threat. I feel my detached response and what frightens me the most is that this does not frighten me. It excites me.

I am being freed and there will be no rules. Only me and the darkness. I doubt there will be much of me left after this eternal night begins.

Then I understand.

I want this.

I have always wanted this.

Everything before this has been a lie.

This is not who I am, because there is no who. This is what I am. This is my nature, and I am returning to it.

I am returning to the darkness.

There is only the darkness.

There has only ever been the darkness.

It indulged us. It allowed us to play in the light for a short while, now it is reclaiming its own.

This is when the lights go out for the very last time and the darkness finally swoops back into its rightful dominion. The lights go out across the globe, and that is then the light goes out in each and every one of us. This is when the light goes out of me, and this is when the first of the screaming starts. I think some of the screams are mine. It’s so difficult to tell. It’s even more difficult to care.

February 04, 2023 10:59

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Lily Finch
03:13 Feb 05, 2023

Jed, This story captures the essence of the end as darkness is all-consuming and blankets all things and everyone. I liked the conflict with Philips. Only then to find it is all for naught. Thanks for the good read. LF6


Jed Cope
09:45 Feb 05, 2023

Thanks Lily, I'm glad that you enjoyed it. The conflict was interesting. There was something about the old man that could easily grate... and he seemed to know a little too much for my liking!


Lily Finch
14:18 Feb 05, 2023

Yeah, he was a bit creepy, and he did know an awful lot more than the other two. LF6


Jed Cope
16:20 Feb 05, 2023

Was he merely the messenger, or something much darker...?


Lily Finch
17:03 Feb 05, 2023

Something much darker, for sure.


Jed Cope
20:35 Feb 05, 2023

I read this and it felt like a request for something much darker...


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