Short horror in the gothic vein.
|The Night Creeper; or Those Unlit Halls I Once did Walk
The creature lingers deathlike in these unlit halls, denied the world outside with its ever changing gouts of vibrant colour, brilliant sunlight. Cold, and faintly fishlike, its eyes film over in the twighlight embrace of the setting sun and a change bestirs it. First hints of life, a rustling in its parchment skin, a scent of decay as it leaks out softness and lubrication, becoming supple and taut and then a twitching finger, long and thin and talon-capped.
Its movements are sudden. With moth-like grace it flits into a grand chamber, redolent with the empty echoes of whimsy conversation. It breathes in – great whooping breaths- its expressionless face now contorted into gleeful grimace as it sucks down a soup of barely cooled emotions.
The beast is not yet sated. Given strength by pride and envy, succoured by unrequited love and brutal lust it stalks down corridors so repugnant to it in the light of day. Now, in darkness, it may call them home once more.
Tip-tap. Tip-tap. Misshapen nostrils quiver as the creature’s shadow-stained fingers click from door to door, questing eyes peering in at each glass panel. Sudden light. The moon slips, serene, from behind its obscuring quilt of cloud, throwing the image of the beast back at itself. A breathless hope is born within its hollow breast, and for a few brief moments long thin fingers scrabble desperately with the handle, for here is one like it – a night creeper, gaunt and pale in harsh illumination. Then the cloud returns; drawing with it the cold anguish of loneliness. The night creeper sheds no tear, nor does it cry out in frustration or pain. The agony of loss is soon forgotten, replaced, as always, by hunger.
Now through a trophy room it turns, barely pausing to nod in passing recognition of its herd; their names immortalised in wood and brass and gold. It skips up stairs, long pale legs skittering on polished steps, until at last it scents its prey. Then it slows, soft sibilant breath hissing out in hideous counterpoint to the measured clack-clack of bony feet on uncarpeted floor. The creature’s nose guides it to a door, shut fast against would be intruders. To the night creeper this is no guard.
Swiftly now it bends itself double, contorting until its pallid body can slide between the door and the jam, a living hunger rendered down into a viscous mass of roiling matter. It slips through like the sound of decomposing flesh. Once on the other side it stands again, spindle arms held wide in glorious exultation. Here it will find what it desires, needs. Here is logos, nous, the very spirit of learning, education condensed and encrusted upon every surface.
“Class,” it chokes to empty seats, pitted tongue stumbling over familiar words. “You may begin.”