Category Archives: In the Dark

In the Dark: Chapter Six

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Beep-beep-beep.

The clock’s alarm wakes me up from a sleep full of dreams (the details of which I can’t remember); I open my eyes suddenly and reach out for the clock–beep-beep-beep–pulling it towards me once it’s in my grasp.

How does this thing work? I can’t find a traditional snooze button–BEEP-BEEP-BEEP–nor are there any buttons on the top for that matter, and the alarm seems even louder now that it’s closer to me.

“Turn it off!” Bryan says just as I flip over the clock to the back–aha! Whoever designed the thing–BEEP-BEEP-BEEP–put all the relevant buttons on the bottom, and I mash on the large one marked with “alarm.”

Well, I’m certainly awake now.

Groaning, I swing my protesting body out of bed and trudge out of the room. To my right, Noah’s already in the corridor and heading this way; there’s a trickle of movement to my left belonging to the others living here.

“Excuse me,” Bryan says, pushing past me and out of the room–I’ve been standing in the doorway, taking in my surroundings, and I now head out into the corridor.

“You’re the new arrivals?”

I turn to the left to find with my eyes a man walking towards us. Now in my vision, I can see his brown hair and young features.

“We are,” Noah says at the same time as I nod my head.

“Welcome to Hold thirty-seven. I’m Elliot, and I’ll be helping you four–wait, where’s the other one of you?”

“In her room, I suppose,” Bryan says.

“Here?” Elliot nods to Catherine’s room; Bryan confirms. Elliot then turns to her room and opens the door, revealing Catherine–she yelps, flinching.

“I was just leaving!” she says, glaring at Elliot.

“So you were. Anyway–I’m Elliot, and as I was beginning to say I’ll be helping you four become acquainted with Hold thirty-seven. If you will, go back to your rooms and get a change of clothes.”

“What for?” Catherine asks.

Elliot gave her a blank stare. “Just do it.”

The rest of our “morning” was spent on what could be best likened to a tour; first we washed up in communal, locker room-esque washrooms before eating in a small mess hall (while Elliot informed us we’d be helping out with cooking and laundry on specific days). After that was the testing.

“Holds are primarily for new Disciples, who can’t easily get places of their own and or need training,” Elliot said. “As such we’ll be testing each of you for power and skill, to determine what your roles will be.”

And so we were, one by one, taken into a small room in what Elliot defined as the training section of the Hold–Catherine was first, followed by Bryan, and neither returned afterwards.

As I entered the room at Elliot’s command, my pulse was elevated, my skin clammy–Jonathan’s proclamation of me being weak kept running through my mind, and that mixed with the uncertainty of what was to come almost proved to be too much.

The room inside is pitch-black, with what seems to be a woman standing near the back. There’s another door opposite the one I entered.

“Trap me.” The voice is definitely female, and I clutch my fist as the dark around her contracts and grows denser.

Slowly, though, the shadows loosen–I struggle to keep them in place, but the woman’s control is more powerful than mine and in less than a minute she’s free.

“What is beyond the door?” She nods her head towards the other door.

I frown, realizing that despite my strengthened power in the Hold I can’t see anything in the area behind the door. Softly, I grasp at the shadows near the door’s bottom and attempt to send them under, only barely succeeding–the crack below the door is miniscule. As soon as the shadows pass through, however, I find them disintegrated, meaning the area beyond must be lit with at least moderate strength.

I try again, letting more shadows condense under the door before sending them out. This time I manage to get them out, but the light beyond is so strong I can’t hold them for long.

Two more attempts end the same.

“I don’t know.” I cringe at the words as I speak them.

“How old am I?”

Her body isn’t hunched or otherwise obviously aged, so I focus on her face, trying to find wrinkles, read the shape. Her voice, unfortunately, is no help–while it sounds like she’s past her early twenties, I can’t tell from there.

“Thirty-three.”

“Very well. You may leave.” She gestures to the other door once again.

I hurry out.

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In the Dark: Chapter Five

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“Catherine Ross.”

“Bryan Eckleby.”

“Tobias Fletcher.”

“Noah Daniels.”

The man peers at us a moment. “Right. You do know you could’ve knocked, right?”

“It was his idea,” the girl, Catherine, says, jerking her head at me.

“Really brilliant, kid.” The man grins and I give a nervous smile back. “Now, stay here…” He stands up and leaves the room through the door to my left.

None of us speak as we wait for the man to return–I’m feeling slightly confused, and I can only imagine the others are as well. The blond boy, Bryan, does take off his hood, though, the rest of us following suit after a moment.

“What kind of a name is Eckleby, anyway?” Catherine says after another thirty seconds pass.

“A good one, that’s what.”

The other boy, Noah, turns to me as the other two continue their conversation, and I get my first good look at him–his hair is either black or very dark brown, wavy and covering his ears but leaving his sharp face unobscured.  “Tobias, is it?”

“Yes.”

“Can I call you Toby?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

It’s another minute, possibly two, before the man returns with a woman following him.

“This is Jenna,” the man says, “and she’ll be guiding you around our base on this lovely day!”

I’m not sure what to make of the man’s fake cheeriness, especially with the grim expression on the woman’s face.

“Follow me,” she says, walking to the opposite door. The man returns to his seat at the desk as we follow the woman out of the room.

We’re now in a long hallway lined by doors every here and there.

“Excuse me, but what’s going on?” asks Bryan.

The woman stops moving and turns to look at us. “I’m taking you to your quarters. Were you expecting something else?”

“I don’t even know where this place is,” Catherine says.

The woman’s brow furrows. “Your teacher did not explain your destination?”

We all shake our heads.

“None of you? Honestly, these teachers nowadays, so obsessed with mystery… This is Hold number thirty-seven of section three, under the jurisdiction of Peter Clark.”

The woman sighs when we say nothing. “The territory of the Disciples of Night is separated into four sections, each controlled by a specific commander, ours being Craig Partrin. Within each section is then Holds, which are like the building we’re currently in–as I said, we are in hold seventeen of section three, with Peter Clark being our Hold’s leader. Is that sufficient?”

I want to ask what our roles will be in the Hold, but instead I nod along with the others. We continue walking.

A few minutes later and we’re in what looks like a dormitory of sorts; the current hallway branches off in three directions, each with a sign marking them as Dusk, Night, and Midnight. We’re led down the one on the left, Dusk, where numbered doors line the walls.

“Now, I don’t know what sleep schedules you’ve been keeping,” the woman says, stopping halfway down the hallway, “but from now you’ll be asleep from ten AM to six PM. It’s about nine now, so I’ll let you get settled in before bed.

“Catherine, you’ll be in room seventeen–” she nods her head to the room immediately to her left “–which already has one occupant. She’ll arrive shortly. Bryan and Tobias, you’re in room eighteen, and Noah will have room nineteen to himself for now. Any final questions?”

Silence.

“Very well. Good day.” She walks off.

Bryan is already moving for room eighteen, which is opposite Catherine’s–she’s already disappeared inside. I follow Bryan, leaving Noah behind us.

Inside the room is sparse; there are two beds on either side, with small bureaus next to each one. A single alarm clock is on the right bureau–Bryan seems to have claimed the opposite side, sitting on the bed with his backpack next to him.

I nod to him before heading over to my side, crouching down and beginning to empty my backpack. I brought two changes of clothes, at Jonathan’s suggestion, and I sort them into the bureau; I place a small picture of my parents on top.

“My teacher told me not to bring anything,” Bryan says once I stand up.

“Mine practically forced me to take it,” I reply.

“Wish I had known it was okay.” He stares at my picture as if it’s quite dear to him.

“Your parents aren’t relevant anymore.”

“That’s awfully grim.”

“It’s the truth. I’m going to bed.” I take off my shoes and slip under the covers, though I won’t sleep–my preference has been to go to bed at noon, and even with all the traveling I’m still not tired enough to sleep.

“Night,” he says feebly.

In the Dark: Chapter Four

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“Well,” the girl says, “this is peculiar.”

I give a sharp nod. “What now?”

“There’s obviously something there,” says one of the boys; I look at him and see long blond hair escaping from his hood. “We can all feel it, right?”

“Maybe there’s some sort of mechanism,” the other boy says. “Let me…”

I see as well as feel him extend shadows towards the forest, and the smattering of flora begins to ripple and give. I extend my own shadows and find that the trees and bushes compact at my shadows’ touch, as if they’ve expanded from a smaller shape.

“Come on,” the girl says before forming a tunnel out of the illusory forest and stepping into it. “Nice one, blond!” The blond boy bristles and hurries after her; me and the other boy are close behind.

When I step into the forest I find myself enveloped in the presence that drew me here–my senses feel heightened, and it’s much easier to read the shadows around me. The forest itself, I realize, feels like shadow; I reach out a hand towards a nearby leaf and pluck it. It looks enough like a leaf, and feels like a leaf to my fingers, but to my mind it is nothing but concentrated darkness.

“It’s shadows,” I say to the boy next to me; the blond one has now moved forward to walk next to the girl, where they’re whispering an unintelligible conversation.

“I know,” the boy replies.

I explore the shadow forest using the dark, finding myself not even needing to send out shadows; my power is so heightened, the information comes nearly instantly. And yet, despite straining my powers to go as far as I can, I cannot find a possible destination for us–the forest is all there is.

“Are you sure this is the right way?” I say to the girl. “There isn’t anything where we’re going.”

She lets out a loud sigh. “Check the ground.”

My brow wrinkles, but I do as she says and find what feels like a trapdoor some ways ahead of us. I keep quiet as my face reddens.

Soon we all come to a stop, gathered around the trapdoor; it’s made of old, rotted-looking wood, with a handle of black metal. Despite its weathered appearance, it’s heavy as I pull on the handle, but as soon as I lift it up a short ways, my companions wedge shadows underneath it and fling it open. Hidden under the trapdoor is a steep, dark stone staircase.

I smile as we begin to descend. Other people might be unwilling to walk this staircase, with its pitch-black darkness, damp dirt walls, hard stone steps, and chilly atmosphere, but I am a Disciple. I can navigate the gloom with ease, and I don’t care about moisture or cold or dirt.

We’re soon at the bottom, where there’s a short corridor ended by a wooden door that, unlike the trapdoor above, looks new and clean. The girl opens it and dim light filters into the corridor; while my eyes adjust to the light, I use the remaining darkness to view the area in front of us. It’s another corridor, technically a continuation of the one we stand on, but I can feel the shape of lights affixed to the walls, which are smoother than the dirt where I am. This space goes on for a short space before one more door blocks my shadows.

My eyes are now adjusted, and they find exactly what the shadows told me–the walls look to be made out of stone, and the door is identical to the one before it save for the fact that there’s no way to open it. The others are already moving, and I hurry to follow them while simultaneously wondering where the lights get their electricity from and why the door has no knob.

“Hmm,” the girl says, having reached the door first. When I catch up to her, I realize that there’s a small, circular hole in the door–as far as I can tell, there’s a lock inside, surprisingly similar to the ones I’ve been opening on my trip.

“What is it?” asks the blond boy.

“A lock,” I and the other boy say at the same time. I briefly glance at him, then say, “let me.” I step forward, up to the lock, and the blond boy and the girl move out of the way for me. Gathering up a group of shadows, denser than any other I’ve made, I begin to pick the lock.

“Where’d you learn to do that?” says the girl when I succeed and the door pops open. I say nothing and step past the doorway.

The room beyond is square, and two doors line each wall to my right and left; at the back of the room is a wooden desk, and behind it sits a man dressed in black.

“And you are…?” he says.

In the Dark: Chapter Three

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It’s been two days now, and I’m all out of food as the night creeps on. I’ve managed to hitchhike a bit, and I’m slightly ahead of schedule; I might be able to finish my journey in three more days rather than four.

Never mind that for now, though: I have to find something to eat. I’ve been going over my options since yesterday, and until I run out of money the easiest will obviously be to buy the food. I will eventually have to resort to theft, but not yet.

I don’t have to read the shadows to see that there are two gas stations, both appearing to have convenience stores, at an upcoming intersection; one’s on the same side of the road as me, so I choose it and quicken my pace. As I draw nearer I see that it’s thankfully open and I hurry inside.

I keep my hood and head down as I pick out a small assortment of junk food; I don’t know what measures my parents may have taken upon my disappearance, and I don’t want to risk being seen. The food itself isn’t nearly as healthy as the sandwiches I packed, but I doubt a few days of malnutrition will do me much harm.

The items I choose add up to just under ten dollars by no accident, and I let the cashier keep the change–a few cents aren’t likely to be worth anything useful, and I’d rather spend more time walking and less time around people, even if it’s only a few moments.

I’m all out of money with at least another day to go. I’m not hungry yet, but my watch tells me it’s 8:00 AM, which is probably the safest time for me to steal some food. I’ve found myself in a residential region, and it’s not long before I’m able to find a suitable house. Nobody’s at home here or in the surrounding houses, so I’ll hopefully be unseen.

I start by crouching behind a hedge near the front door so I’m hidden from any passerby’s view, and sending a few shadows through the crack between the door and the ground. Inside is gloomy and thus relatively easy to read, and after a few moments I can’t find anything that seems obvious as an alarm, so I stand up and check the door’s lock–a tumbler, as I suspected and hoped.

I gather a dense group of shadows and solidify them before cramming them into the lock; I tweak the pins up and down until, after a minute or two, the lock clicks open and I swiftly turn the knob and open the door.

I enter just as swiftly, closing the door softly behind me and making a beeline to my right, into the kitchen. The room’s single window is blocked by curtains, and since my eyes are unadjusted I use the shadows to locate the fridge. It’s then a simple matter to grab a few apples and a small bag of baby carrots before leaving the house, making sure to lock it behind me. With any luck, whoever lives in the house won’t even notice it had been broken into.

I’ve felt it for a few hours now; some bizarre presence miles ahead of me, alternatingly seeming to absorb and exude darkness and power. It must be my destination, and the road I’m following is headed right for it.

I can feel other presences, too: three figures, weaker than the one directly in front of me but with that same feeling to them. They’re on the move, too, and I suspect they’re just like me, for I can feel my own power fluctuating, growing and ebbing along with the strong presence.

It’s all very unsettling, but I ignore it, focusing on putting one aching foot in front of the other. My whole body is sore, for that matter; so much walking combined with sleeping on the ground hasn’t been easy for me. It doesn’t help that it’s day out, either, for the light gives me a headache.

But the light is dimming…

I look up: there are clouds in the sky, but not nearly enough to cause such an effect. Everything’s growing dark for no discernible reason aside from the presence. It must be very powerful to have such an effect.

I’m close now, and in the fading light and I can feel the weaker presences, two farther past the strong one and one to the right. I’m closer than them, and I slow my pace so that I arrive at the same time as them.

Now I’m there, the others as well; two male, one female. Without but a quick nod to each other we turn towards the presence, where the road turns off and…

There’s nothing. There’s just forest.

In the Dark: Chapter Two

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It’s been just over eleven hours since I departed–I’ve since left residential areas and am walking in a forest, following a busy road maybe twenty feet to my right. The time has been uneventful; I didn’t encounter anyone else during the night, and I was able to continue walking as I ate my “lunch” (a simple sandwich). I’ve been contemplating leaving the forest, maybe trying to hitchhike, for the past half hour; I don’t really want to go out into the light and expose myself, but if I can reach my destination faster… It’s difficult to decide.

I also have to figure out how I’ll feed myself. I have food packed for the next day or two, but that’s it. I have some money, of course, but I doubt it’d last me more than another day–and my journey is supposed to take a week. If only Jonathan hadn’t been so abrupt with me, I might have had time to plan…

It was one A.M., our usual meeting time. I had been waiting there, in the park nearest to my house, for the last hour, practicing turning off my mind and letting the dark do my thinking for me. I was like that when he arrived, sitting on a bench with my hood pulled down over my face and letting the shadows wash over my consciousness.

I had seen him coming maybe half a mile away, walking from wherever it was he lived in the east. I didn’t open my eyes, however, until he was sitting right next to me.

“How far?” he said once I had taken off my hood.

“Three quarters of a mile,” I said, picking the high end of my estimate.

“Impressive.” He didn’t sound sincere–but he never did.

“What are we doing tonight?” I asked when he didn’t speak further.

“Combat practice.” He stood up, heading towards a largish clearing.

I hesitated a moment before following–we had practiced fighting in concept before, but something in his tone and his way of speech implied we’d be doing something more.

It turned out I was right–when we both reached the clearing, he had me stand ten feet away from him and told me to ready myself.

“Attack me,” he said, and waited.

This time I didn’t hesitate–I immediately grabbed the shadows around Jonathan, pulling them tight against his body. He struggled visibly for a moment, but I kept the shadows in place–then, all of a sudden, I no longer controlled them and instead of surrounding him, they leaped towards me and I was the one immobilized.

I, too, struggled physically at first, but whereas my shadows had had give to them, I couldn’t move a muscle–couldn’t even breath.

Then he released me and I fell to the ground, unable to regain my balance in time.

“You can’t incapacitate someone stronger than you, Tobias,” Jonathan said. “You have to fight.”

I got to my knees, panting, keeping my head pointed towards the ground. Then, as fast as I could, I punched forwards, sending the shadows flying towards Jonathan. Looking up, I saw him stagger and I drew to my feet–a force punched me, hard, and I went flying backwards before I could even register what was happening.

Jonathan was walking towards me, shaking his head as I stood up.

“You should have seen that coming and stopped it,” he said, and I grimaced. “I’ve had pupils years younger than you who’ve had more power and control.”

My stomach churned with shame.

“But I can’t keep teaching you forever. The migration is tomorrow–you’ll be going.”

The shame turned to elation mixed with uncertainty, but I just nodded my head.

It’s dark in the forest, but the brush slows my progress to a crawl and so I finally decide to head out by the road. It takes a few minutes to reach it–the flora is thicker as I near the forest’s edge, and I have to force myself through vines and bushes. I pull my hood up as the sunlight reaches me and pause a moment, using my eyes to scan my surroundings a moment before turning to the left and walking directly at the side of the road.

I continue like this for a few hours before my hunger starts to reach intolerable levels and I decide to take a rest–I’ve been awake for sixteen hours now, and it’s time for “dinner”. I duck back into the forest and find as comfortable a place as any–a small bed of pine needles. I take off my backpack and set it on the ground, then sit next to it and dig out one of the sandwiches I made, contained in a plastic bag. I eat quickly, and when I’m done I close the backpack and lay down next to it (I don’t wish to crush my only food source by using it as a pillow). I’m tired from the long stretch of walking, and despite the light and the hard ground I fall asleep shortly.

In the Dark: Chapter One

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((From n0w on this story will be replacing Avery Trudge, as I felt Avery Trudge was… well, not that great; the only original concept was the fact that Avery could hear the narrator, but without much coming from that it ended up as a few character archetypes solving one dimensional mysteries. Thus, I decided to end it.))

I swing my backpack on and hurry out of my room, taking the stairs quickly lest I’m seen. My parents’ room is on the ground floor, and so I slow to a creep as I reach the stairs’ bottom. I open the door out of my house swiftly, knowing it doesn’t creak; it is midnight and the moon is new, but my vision is impeccable as I step down the porch stairs and leave the property.

I am on my way.

I know my destination, north of where I now stand, in a small town located square in the middle of the state. How I will get there, I don’t know; this is a test, one that I am not allowed to study for. I begin walking, taking a left down the residential street. I am, at least, skilled enough to read the shadows and I know that nobody is around to disturb me, so I speed up to a jog. As long as I don’t make a commotion, I can reach a major road unhindered.

It’s peaceful, in the dark. Only a few nocturnal creatures break the calm, and so I am alone with my thoughts–even if I might not be thinking much at the moment. Why anyone could prefer the day, noisy and bright and stressful, I do not know. Though it will be a break from the solitude I’ll go through over the next few days, I cannot wait to be around those who feel the same.

But no matter; the Disciples of the Night adapt easy, and if I am truly one of their ranks I will too.

So I continue walking, attempting to shut off my mind as I do so. I have not been all alone in the night in weeks, and it’s necessary for my education that I familiarize myself with the dark, learn to read it. Discover its secrets–for, unlike the day, there are always secrets in the night.

It’s amazing, what travels through the gloom; a raccoon walks perpendicular from me, though its destination is in the opposite direction, in the forest to my left; a barn owl perches above it, though I can’t tell what it might be doing; and then there’s something to my right…. I can just barely tell it’s a human, far away from me, though I can’t figure the exact distance. The human is also traveling north, in almost the same direction as me. Another Disciple, maybe. Or some innocent–or not so innocent–soul who doesn’t concern me.

I alter my course, crossing the empty street and continuing along, mapping out a path; the other human is also following a road, and if I take a right at an upcoming intersection our paths will cross. If they are a Disciple, the company may be welcome; I could learn much from an outside source. If they aren’t… I have means of defending myself.

It is a few minutes before I near the human, who is now some ways ahead of me–he or she wears a hooded jacket, so their outline is all I can see. I pick up my pace, nevertheless keeping silent as the night around me.

As I hoped, the figure stops and bristles when I get maybe twenty feet away; it isn’t until I step next to the human that he or she speaks.

“It’s awfully late.”

The voice is male; I turn to him, and he looks back at me–a strong, sharp face with light hair just barely escaping the hood.

“I like the dark,” I reply.

He nods and we continue walking together.

“Not very observant,” I say, too curious not to speak.

“I set out an hour ago,” he says. “Didn’t feel the need to keep a long watch out.”

“Hmm.” He’s not talkative, as I would expect, but he’s reckless and his tone irks me. I don’t want to learn from someone like him; we’ll be parting ways.

I soon get a chance to do so; a fork in the street, both branches of which will reach the same basic destination. I am to the left of the male, and we wordlessly take our respective side’s fork.

Once again, I am alone.

But I don’t mind.