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Days of Darkness

Days of Darkness

The story of how a man's days of darkness ends.

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Paranormal fiction / Magic realism


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Natalie Cruz (United States)


I was walking home, it was like any other day passing under the tall buildings that loomed over me as if watching, waiting, for what I do not know. Like any every day it was dark but I was looking forward to passing the alley. For the past two years the alley has comforted me, it kept me alive, the alley itself did not do this but it was who was in the alley. An old lady and her cat always sat there and greeted me with a smile, the only smile I see nowadays; when she smiles her eyes always crinkle in a familiar fashion. Yet the older woman looked as if she could have seen better years- her skin spotted and wrinkled, and her clothing looked as if they were two sizes too big -and her cat companion was in no better shape- although her cat looked younger, it hadn’t bathed in months nor eaten, leading to a starved, thin and ratty looking ball of fur- but every day I received a small meow from her cat that brought a spark of joy to me. I see her every morning as I walk to work and when I come home from work, she was a statue with a smile on her face only for me. Today was different. She was gone. I stopped and went into the alley to look for her. I couldn't find anything. There was nothing. Devastated, I walked home and I looked up at the tall two-story building, too big for just one person. I remembered past events. The red and blue lights flashing through the windows, while the hope and happiness that I had drained out of me. I walked up the steps into the neglected house. I walked down the small entrance corridor passing the beaten and discarded umbrella holder, into the kitchen to grab my sleeping pills feeling that it was going to be one of those nights. I swallowed the hard, bitter pills and dragged my weakened body into the living room to sit and watch some TV before the pills took full effect. I grabbed my flask- it was always at hand- and drank my some of my pain away. Maybe thirty minutes later I began to feel the effects and heaved my body up the stairs into my room, on the way passing a dirty room filled with girly toys. I laid down and looked next to me expecting to see her. I closed my eyes and dreamt of the past.

It was the middle of junior year; everyone just started getting serious about life after high school. My buddies and I were the 'popular jocks' and were chuckling at something I had said when we heard the girls laughing and pointing at someone walking down the hall. It was one of those embarrassing movie moments where some toilet paper was stuck to a girl’s shoe, waving like a flag. I had never talked to her but the girls were being immature so I decided to intervene. I chased after her and stomped my foot down on the flag. My stomp startled her and she looked behind her to see me close behind. At first she looked confused but she connected the dots once she saw the toilet paper and the girls still giggling and looking in our direction. She blushed a deep red, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen but she ran away before I could speak. I reached out my hand to try to grab her. A door appeared under my hand. Knock. Knock. And I waited because I remembered her warning that her father did not appreciate impatient men. He opened the door and greeted me with a firm handshake, demonstrating his superiority by squeezing my hand till what felt like the blood flow stopping. She walked down the stairs moments later blushing the same red when I met her for the first time weeks ago. She grabbed my hand and dragged me out without a word to her father. I looked back and waved as we climbed into my car. When we got to the restaurant at first it was awkward but as she got more comfortable conversation and laughter flowed freely. Afterwards we walked through the moonlit gardens traveling back to my car. At her house I walked her up the steps. We faced each other, I closed my eyes as I began to lean forward for a kiss. When I opened and raised my eyes I was kissing my wife's newly pregnant stomach as we unpacked in our new two story home. She blushed that same deep red that I fell in love with so many years ago. We got nothing done but that was fine. As we laid down I pulled her close and kissed the top of her golden brown head. I pulled away revealing the same colored hair just on a much smaller body. It was the first day of kindergarten for my daughter. She wore her favorite outfit- a large cat face on her shirt with a skirt that had a repeating pattern of kittens. My wife strapped her in the car seat and I kissed them both goodbye. They waved their hands out the window as they drove down the street. I wished I could go but our anniversary was soon and I wanted to do something really special. I turned on the television as I got dressed to see that the news had a special weather report. It was going to rain. Hard. It began to pour immediately. I sent my wife a message telling her to be careful on the streets and grab an umbrella from the holder if she still planned to go grocery shopping. I left. Got my reservations. Bought the gift. It was three o'clock when I finally got home and the downpour was so thick it was hard to see. Her car wasn't there but I figured she was out shopping with our daughter, since school ended at two o’clock. I came in and out of the corner of my eye I saw the umbrella holder. Both umbrellas were still there. Dry. I stood, frozen for how long I don't know but at somepoint I finally decided to call her. That's when I noticed the red and blue flashing light outside. That day I lost my love and my hope.

I opened my eyes, it has been awhile since I had that dream. Why did it come now? Why was it coming back on these darkest of days? Feeling watched I turned on the lights, and there stood the old lady and in her arms the cat, like a mother cradling her daughter. I was startled but as they moved downstairs into the living room I followed them. I stomped after her as she sat and waited in my living room. I sat and waited. That's when I realized something strange. No noise. I heard nothing. Not the sounds of my feet stomping. Not the small deep breaths you would expect hearing on a silent night with a room full of people. In this old neglected house noise was constant. I crept back upstairs and still, nothing. I felt her following behind me as I tried to figure out this seemingly unimportant yet essential fact. It nagged at me. I walked back into my room to find a mass. A human mass. Resting in my bed. I sneaked closer and in one swift move threw the covers off the intruder. But I was greeting with my own face- pale, lifeless like a wax figure, looking peaceful and finally happy. I looked back to the old lady and her cat to see if they were seeing the same thing. Instead of the homeless duo, I saw my wife and daughter extending out their hands. I understood. Taking both their hands the darkness surrounding me fled and light flooded. I was happy.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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