|Jeff stared into his bottle of beer, watching the golden liquid ripple as the music in the night club rumbled, vibrating everything, becoming one with everything around it. The music was the pulse of the club, the life-blood of the party.
But Jeff wasn’t feeling it tonight.
Normally he would be on the dance floor, dancing with whichever gorgeous woman caught his attention. He would be the first to admit that this particular night club had the sexiest women in town. And Jeff knew, from the way the women looked at him, that he must be pretty good-looking, too.
But despite all of the beauties around him, trying to catch his attention, he wasn’t in the mood tonight. He simply stared at his beer bottle, lost in thought, wondering how much longer this hell would go on. Not here in the club, but at work.
Jeff had a dead-end job. He was getting nowhere fast. He had lost a possible promotion to one of his coworkers, and wasn’t sure what to do now. He hated his job. But there were no other jobs available at the moment, so he just had to suck it up until an opportunity became available. Which would probably never happen in this awful city.
He had hoped coming to the club tonight would get his mind off of everything; but he had no such luck.
Jeff stood up, leaving his half-finished beer on the table, and left the club. He lit a cigarette as he walked to his car, trying to figure out what he should do. He had to get his mind off of work somehow. But what could a guy do at one in the morning other than party, drink, or sleep?
“I’ll just go for a drive,” Jeff muttered to himself, pulling his car keys from his pocket. Maybe a couple hours on the road, away from the city, with just himself, would be just what he needed.
Jeff headed straight for the highway, speeding out of town with his windows rolled down. The fresh air was calming his mind, and he was immediately glad he chose to go for a drive over anything else. He let his body relax into his seat as he drove on, letting his mind wander. He watched the trees on the side of the road fly by, and for just a moment lost his concentration on the road.
But that was all that was needed, for when he turned back to the road, Jeff was terrified to see a young man standing in the middle of the highway, completely oblivious to the car speeding towards him.
He slammed on the breaks, but too late. Jeff heard a loud thump-bump as his car hit the young man, knocking him to the ground. Jeff’s heart was racing as his car finally came to a stop.
“Oh, no,” he groaned in fear when he saw the drops of blood on his windshield. He stepped out of his car on wobbly legs, terrified to see if the young man had survived…or if Jeff had killed him.
He walked as quickly as he dared to the front of the car, and saw blood on the pavement and more on the front of his car, but there was no one there. Jeff groaned. He realized he must have run over him, too, and the man must be pinned beneath his car. Jeff took a shaky breath before dropping to his knees to check.
But there was no one there.
Jeff took a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm his racing heart. He glanced at the pavement and his car again, and sure enough, there was fresh blood. He couldn’t have made it up in his mind. But then, where was the man he had hit?
He walked all the way around his car, searching for some sign of him. Footprints, more blood, clothes, anything. But he was gone.
Jeff leaned against his car, and covered his eyes with his hands. Had he imagined it?
“No, I couldn’t have, there’s blood on my car,” he muttered.
Jeff wanted to call the police, but he didn’t know what good that would really do with no body to be found. He pulled out his cell phone anyways, still debating what to do, when he cursed under his breath. His battery was dead. He forgot to charge his phone today.
So much for that idea, he thought to himself, carefully placing his phone back in his pocket.
Jeff stood there for a few more minutes, debating with himself what to do…if he could really do anything. The accident had scared him half to death, and if it weren’t for the blood splattered all over the front of his car, he would have seriously considered the possibility that he was going crazy.
He finally gave up, and got back into his car, still shaking. He could not explain what had happened, and decided he just needed to get home and get some sleep.
“Maybe this drive was a bad idea after all,” he told himself out loud.
He drove back to the city slowly, afraid he might hit something else. But he didn’t need to worry. There was absolutely no traffic, and nobody wandering the streets tonight; absolutely nobody. Jeff checked the time briefly; it was 3:14 in the morning. Usually there were a couple of people driving through the city, on their way home or even to an early shift at work. But Jeff shrugged his shoulders, too tired and overwhelmed by what had happened to think about the lack of people. He went straight to his apartment, made sure to plug in his phone so it was charged in the morning, and crashed on his bed.
The next morning, Jeff did what he always did on a Friday. He got up and got ready for work, exhausted. Before he even looked at his clock, he knew he was going to be late today. As he was putting on his tie, he called the office to give them a heads up about his tardiness. When no one answered, Jeff had to double-check the time on the clock. Yep. It was definitely 9:45, fifteen minutes after he was supposed to be there. So why was no one answering the phone?
He shrugged his shoulders. Maybe he wasn’t the only one late today. After all, there’s a first time for everything.
When Jeff walked outside and saw the dry blood on his car, everything that had happened the night before came rushing back. He shook his head, trying to dispel the memories. There was nothing he could have done; he had to keep reminding himself this.
As Jeff was about to duck into his car, he paused, puzzled for a moment. Something didn’t feel right this morning. He stood still, and listened.
Other than the sound of a bird chirping, there was absolute silence around him.
He glanced around, and was struck by the full parking lot and the lack of people. This was wrong.
With growing unease, Jeff slowly got into his car, glancing around cautiously. After he started his car, he turned his radio on, but there was no signal on any of the stations. No music, no sound of any sort.
Jeff dug through his glove box and pulled out an old CD, shoving it into the CD player. The silence was terrifying him. He needed to listen to something, to hear a voice other than his own. He had never realized until now how unnerving silence could be.
Jeff realized as he pulled onto the main road that this would be the quickest drive to work he had ever had. His car was the only one on the road. Jeff’s anxiety continued to rise as he drove downtown to his workplace. Not only were there no vehicles of any kind on the road—no buses, cars, trucks, not even bicycles—there were also no people on the sidewalks.
This busy city had turned into a ghost town overnight.
“What in the world is going on?” Jeff whispered.
When Jeff reached his office building, it was the same as the rest of the town; completely empty and devoid of life.
Jeff stood on the sidewalk outside of the office building for a couple of minutes before grabbing his cell phone from his pocket. He immediately started calling everyone he knew in town. But there was no answer every single time. He even tried dialing 911, but still no answer.
He looked around him, at the empty street, the empty cars, the empty buildings. This was one the few times in his life when he was truly frightened.
“Hello!?” He shouted at the top of his lungs. “Is there anyone out there!?”
The only response was his own voice echoing back at him, mocking him in his solitude.
Jeff started walking down the street, determined to find someone else in this city. There had to be someone else. He could not be the only person here.
He saw a Seven Eleven on the next corner, and trotted up to the convenience store. Cautiously, he stepped inside, and glanced around.
“Hello?” He called out.
Still no answer.
He started slowly searching the store, checking every corner and back room. But there was nobody. No sign of any life here, either.
“There is no way that every person in a city this size can just disappear,” Jeff spoke in frustration. He was appalled by the fear he heard in his own voice. He swallowed hard, and grabbed a water bottle, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He slapped a twenty dollar bill on the counter to make himself feel better before he left.
Jeff lit a cigarette and started going from building to building, searching for anyone, but always ending up with the same results.
He was starting to panic by the time evening arrived. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was starting to believe he really was completely alone.
But then, he saw a shadow on a wall.
Jeff was relieved to finally have found someone. He shouted in excitement, “Hey! I’m not alone, after all!”
The shadow, startled, immediately darted in the other direction. Jeff began to chase after it, alarmed that he would never find out what had happened if he didn’t catch up with the person it belonged to. “Wait! I’m not going to hurt you!”
The shadow slowed down briefly, allowing Jeff a chance to catch up. But then it darted off again, leading Jeff through a maze of buildings and alleys. He followed without any questions, and only one frantic thought in his mind; he did not want to be alone.
But when the shadow led him to a dead end, lit by a single flickering light, and vanished, he halted, suddenly unsure.
And then he heard the voices. Happy voices, sad voices, angry voices. They called his name, and at first he was relieved. He called out, “Yes, I’m here! Where are you? What’s happened?”
The voices paused briefly upon hearing his voice. But when they continued to call his name, he became frightened. He turned in a circle, searching around him for where the voices were coming from. But there was nobody there. He was still alone.
Then the shadow appeared again.
He stared at it, wide-eyed. Jeff broke into a cold sweat when he saw the shadow split in half. Now there were two shadows on the wall in front of him. He took a shaky step towards the shadows, desperate to know what they were. The voices were coming from their direction.
He froze when both shadows split again. And again. Multiplying each time they split. The shadows now covered the entire wall in front of him. And still they did not stop.
The voices grew more insistent, calling his name over and over.
Jeff began to tremble in terror, and he took a shaky step back.
The shadows mimicked his movements, and took a step towards him, detaching from the wall.
A small cry of horror escaped Jeff’s lips. He turned on his heel and broke into a desperate run away from the shadows and the voices.
But the shadows and the voices followed close on his heels. The voices were growing louder, and angrier with each step Jeff took.
He glanced over his shoulder briefly, and desperately wished he hadn’t. The shadows had become terrifying and ugly creatures as black as tar, with horns on their bodies and lopsided faces. They screamed at him, revealing grotesque fangs in their huge mouths, blood dripping from the tips.
Jeff screamed in terror when they lunged at him, grabbing at his shirt and slashing at his body with jagged claws. One of their claws caught his leg, and he fell to the ground crying out in pain and fear.
He stared up at the beastly shadows, his eyes wide, and his breathing quick and labored. When they rose up as one to strike him again, he held out his arm to defend himself and shouted “Wait!”
The shadows paused at his cry, and drew close to his face, their breath foul, and waited for him to speak.
“What is going on?” He managed to gasp out.
“You killed HIM!” They screeched angrily.
Jeff trembled at their accusation, understanding they were speaking of the man he had hit the night before on the highway. “It-it was an accident! He was standing in the middle of the road!”
“You killed him, and you will suffer for it. You have cursed yourself because of your foolishness!” They howled.
“But who was he?!” Jeff shouted back.
They laughed at him, grinning wickedly. “The Keeper of Nightmares. When you killed him, you brought us, your worst fears, to life in the world.”
“What are you talking about?” Jeff trembled. “I don’t understand.”
“Then let us enlighten you,” the voices whispered in terrible delight.
The shadows snatched his arms in their claws, making Jeff shout in agony. They swallowed him in their darkness, and showed him exactly what he had unleashed upon himself. His fear of being alone; his child-hood fear of the dark; the monsters he saw in his nightmares; and worst of all, being tortured to death.
Jeff screamed in agony as the monsters tore him apart with his fears, laughing at his suffering, stopping only when he was completely consumed by his nightmares.
Word Count: 2,415