by Sam Creed
Andy's Uncle is insane. But maybe not in the way he thought...
|Shadows in the Dark
I’m not mad. I’m not insane. I’m not what they say I am. The dark found me. The dark whispered to me. It made me do this. It’s what made me come back, time and time again, to punish those who had betrayed it, turned back to the light. It’s really a shame for me to be related to them.
I’m not mad, I’m not insane. That’s what I tell myself as I wait patiently in this awful prison, waiting for the dark to call again. That’s what the dark tells me to do, to not worry; I don’t belong in this place. It comforts me, hides me, and allows me to relax after the doctors come. The doctors try to keep me tied down, make me turn to the light.
But they won’t succeed.
The dark is too kind, too cautious and mysterious. It gives what secrets you can take, and doesn’t ask for yours. It’s the only thing I can be certain of here, that darkness will come, when the doctors turn the lights off. That’s the difference between day and night, here; the doctors turn the lights on; it’s morning. The lights go off; it’s night. My sun runs on electricity, always breaking, always needing a backup, a replacement. My night doesn’t.
Now, as I sit in the dark, I let it absorb into me, to surround me with a comforting blanket of inky darkness. I hear something; a faint whisper. No, it is not time yet, I must wait. I see a flicker of movement to my right, I look and it’s gone. A piercing scream breaks the sweet silence of the night, like a sudden flash of lightening. One of the other patients, trapped in a feverish nightmare.
Don’t they realize all these nightmares will go away if they open their eyes to the dark?
My mind tingles; memories push at my brain; faint memories, of before the dark saved me. They linger on the edge of my thoughts, like a shadow, moving silently, unseen, through the dark. Then the dark is wrapping me up in it; pushing the memories away. I feel peace.
The dark is a shadow, I am a shadow. The dark is night, I am night. The dark holds shadows of mystery inside itself, I hold shadows of mystery inside myself. I am a shadow in the dark.
The dark has warned me of these thoughts, the thoughts that plague the cobwebs of my mind. They are treacherous, dangerous. If I allow them to speak to me, I will break. And I cannot break, not before the dark tells me to. I can’t think these thoughts, can’t let them cross the threshold of my mind. Because I know what they are.
They are who I was before; before the dark saved me. They are the man I was; once upon a time.
Once upon a time I was a figure of light. Once upon a time the dark didn’t whisper. Once upon a time I didn’t listen. Once upon a time, light didn’t burn me. Once upon a time, I wasn’t stuck in a prison, a barred hospital, listening to the feverish, desperate cries of terror of those from the light, those who fought the dark. Once upon a time, I was like that. I could be like that again.
It’s not even worth it to think those thoughts; thoughts of turning away from the dark. It’s too dangerous, too unfamiliar.
The dark wouldn’t allow me to leave. I would break if I tried.
I don’t even want to leave. I don’t. I’m happy here, waiting for the dark.
The dark’s not done with me yet.
I am a shadow in the dark.
Once upon a time, indeed.
“Andy,” The voice whispered, smooth as silk and cold as ice. “Andy Mire.” Andy peered into the darkness, but all he could make out was what he saw before: twisted trees, locked houses, old oil wells, and an old, unused electrical tower. He walked slowly, looking for the source of the voice.
“Andy Mire, come here. Come to me.” The voice was like an icicle, cold, smooth, and sharp. Andy stopped, glancing around. He saw nothing. He kept walking.
There were signs that people lived there, once, that they prospered. There was furniture in the houses, overturned and rotting. Rotten food still sat in the broken cabinets, moldy and unappetizing, and cracked, grit covered plates waited in drawers to be used.
Andy peered through the smeared, dirty windows inside. As he walked past each house, a light flickered on, bathing him in yellow, dull light. “No,” The voice continued, demanding. “I’m not in the houses. I’m not by the light.” Standing in the small circle of light provided by the house, Andy moved back against the wall. He surveyed his surroundings, trying to decide which direction it was coming from.
“I am everywhere.”
The sound echoed in all directions, seemed to come from everywhere at once. But it came from out there, away from the houses. It came from the darkness, as if the shadows were speaking to him. And it came from all directions.
“Go to it,” A different voice said. This voice Andy knew, knew very well. It was his uncle, who’d gone insane three years before, killing Andy’s father and his aunt. “Go to it, hear it, let it comfort you. You can be with me, Andy. You can fight against the bad, the pain. Fight against the light that burns your skin, blinds your eyes.”
Andy shook his head, refusing to leave the little circle of light. “No,” He whispered. His uncle was insane; locked up. He couldn’t be like him. He wouldn’t be.
“Andy, please.” His uncle was begging. “Come to me. Help me! Together, we can show them how wrong they are about us.”
Andy shook his head, even more forcefully now. “No. How wrong they were about you. Actually, how right they were about you. You’re insane, Uncle! You think you don’t deserve to be locked up? Think about it, Uncle, really think. You killed your brother, my father! You killed your own sister! You think there isn’t something wrong with that?”
A pause, a moment of silence. “I did it because I had to,” He explained, his voice strained, tired. “Please, I’ll explain everything.”
Andy didn’t even bother shaking his head now. “No. I have to leave! Let me go!”
“Be quiet!” Uncle snapped. “You’ll make it angry!”
Andy didn’t have time to think about this. Like a shadow tearing from the darkness, a figure came out of the gloom. “Don’t go,” It said, the voice Andy had heard before. The figure was blurry, smeared, like a black scribble over a drawing. “Don’t wake up, Andy,” It hissed. “Don’t wake up. Don’t wake up. Stay here. Don’t open your eyes. Join us. DON’T WAKE UP!”
Andy’s eyes popped open, wide and scared. He was sweating, and in his bed. The sheets were damp from his sweat. He was roasting, and his legs were tangled in blankets. He stared into the darkness, thinking about his dream. Where had he been? Why was his uncle there? Who or what was the blurry figure, the one who’d told him not to wake up? Did they want him to go insane? Did they want him to die?
Unable to go to sleep even though it was just past three in the morning, Andy slipped out of bed and removed his journal from under his mattress. Thinking that it might make him feel better to write it all down, he found a pencil on his dresser and opened the notebook to find a blank page.
But he paused at one page, reading what it said, and he had to stop to think. The dream hit him again, in full force, and he could hear what his uncle was saying once more. Then, as he reread the page in his journal, he could hear him speaking again, only different words.
The words were the last words his uncle had spoken to him, practically shouting them over his shoulder as he was hauled away to the mental hospital. They’d scared Andy at the time, and they scared him even more now.
Uncle’s Last Words
The vision of my father’s murder is still fresh in my mind. My uncle…. It was him. He did this; he tore my father away from me. I’d always known my uncle was odd, strange. I’d never thought he was insane.
I’d never particularly liked uncle. But I hadn’t hated him. Not until now. I’d never thought him capable of doing something like this…… killing his own brother, my father, and his sister, my aunt. He claims the darkness told him to, that shadows whispered to him… told him it was the right thing to do.
He’s being admitted into a mental hospital today. A bunch of people came today, to bring him there. Doctors in white, nurses, police officers, men in black suits. They came and they took him away, to lock him up, to try to fix his mind. But even if they cured him, got him to calm down, understand what he did, he still won’t be able to come back. He’ll be locked up.
I don’t think I’d be able to stand it if he ever tried to come near me again, me or my mother. I don’t want to talk to him again. I never want to see him again. Not now, or any other time. I don’t want to see him again.
Especially not after what he said today.
When the people came to bring him to the hospital, he broke away from them, and came to me. He said he wanted to have one final talk with me before he was locked up. They agreed to let him, but they stood near us impatiently the whole time, listening.
“You and I are a lot alike, Andy,” He began. As soon as I heard him say that, I almost choked. We were nothing like each other. We never have been, never will be. “Don’t try to deny it.” His hand gripped my shoulder. “The darkness does whisper, you know.” He was practically growling now.
“No,” I managed to force out. “I don’t know. I do know that you and I are nothing alike at all.”
“You’ve heard it. You have. You will. You’ll see I’m right. You’ll believe. You’ll know I’m not mad, I’m not insane, and killing your father was the right thing to do. He was the bad guy, not me.” He’s up in my face now. I can smell his rotten breath.
“NO!” I shouted, pushing him away. “It wasn’t! The dark doesn’t whisper! You’re mad! You’ve lost your mind!” I could see his eyes filling with pain and rage. The men are holding him back now, dragging him away. “And I will never, ever, be like you! EVER!” I yelled after him.
He shouted back. “You just wait!” His face is red, they’re trying to force him into a car, but he struggles. “You’ll see I’m right! I’m not mad! And you just wait, Andy. Someday you’ll hear it. Someday, the dark will whisper to you. And then you’ll believe. Someday, you’ll be JUST LIKE ME!”
Then he was forced into the car, and the door was slammed shut and locked. I could see him inside, throwing himself against the doors, the windows, the seats, ranting and raving.
His whole speech was more surprising than scary. It surprised me, it shocked me, it made me angry. But the part that scared me was the last part.
“Someday, the dark will whisper to you.” Does he think I’ll go insane? Hear voices that tell me to kill my family? If so, he’s dead wrong. I wouldn’t kill anyone even if the dark did whisper to me. I’d admit I was insane and go to one of those hospitals before anything like that happened.
But even scarier was the very last part: “Someday, you’ll be JUST LIKE ME!” Does he honestly think I could ever be like that? Killing my own family members because ‘the dark told me to’? He’s worse than wrong about that! Him even thinking that is unforgivable! I promise, right now, to myself and everyone I know, that even if I go insane, I will never do what Uncle did. I swear on my life.
Okay. I need to try to forget about this. Yes, it happened, but it’s over. I can’t live in the past. What’s done is done. That’s it; don’t think too much about it.
As the police officers and doctors and men in black and everyone else left, I found tears running down my face. My mother had her arm around me, and we watched the car with my uncle in it drive away. As it disappeared around the corner, my mother broke the silence with the two truest words I’ve ever heard: “Good riddance.”
As I wiped the tears from my face with my sleeve, I thought, “Yes.” I dried my eyes and turned back to the house, shaking my head.
“Yes, Good Riddance indeed.”
They admitted a new patient today.
It was just after the lights had come on, just after the nurses had come in, given me a tray of food. Small bit of eggs, two sausage links, a cup of juice; same as always. As they took the tray away, I heard her.
It’s a woman, and she was sobbing as they led her into her cell, the one right next to mine. They gave her food, the nurses said some comforting words to her, and then they left to get the doctors. She quieted down quickly; for several minutes there was little more than a muffled sob now and then.
Now I listen as two doctors and two nurses hustle their way into her room. One of the doctors is one of mine, as well; I’ll call him doctor A. The other will be doctor B, then Nurse A and Nurse B.
Doctor A: “Hello, Livvy, I hope you’re comfortable.”
Nurse A: “We gave her food and water, and a pill, just as you instructed, Doctor.”
Doctor A: “Good. Maybe we can get her to talk to us.”
Nurse B: “What’s her story?”
Doctor B: “She boarded up the windows and all but one door to her house, and never used her electricity. She started to refuse to leave her dark house during the day, and only ever left the house at night. She refused to answer her phone or allow any visitors.”
Doctor A: “Some visitors were persistent though, and they tore down the boards to one of her other doors to let themselves in. She flew into a rage and wouldn’t talk to them. When they tried to turn on the lights, she started screaming hysterically. They turned the lights on and tried to comfort her, and she became violent, throwing things and trying to attack them.”
Doctor B: “Those visitors left, but they came back, bringing some of her closest family members with them, and they finally managed to get her to go outside and into town with them. It was late evening, and the sun was setting. She kept trying to go inside shops and buildings, saying the light burned her.”
The light burned her, too? Could she be loyal to the dark? Could I have another ally? I keep listening.
Doctor A: “As it got darker, she slowly agreed to stay outside. But she soon got agitated. A young girl, maybe ten years old, walked under a street lamp, which had been turned on, and she attacked her. The girl is mostly okay, but she came out with a bloody nose, a sprained wrist, and a bite mark on her right arm.”
Doctor B: “When asked why she did it, she said that the girl had light in her eyes and light reflecting from her skin and looked like the devil.”
That is all I need to hear. My heart is beating faster, I can hear it pumping. She is loyal to the dark! She must be. I have an ally; someone else, someone else who sees the truth. I’ve been hoping to find someone like this, someone who’s loyal to the dark. Before now, I’d been unable to find anyone. The doctors frowned and took notes whenever I mentioned it, the nurses went silent. I’ve never had much free time to associate with other patients. Even my own nephew failed to see it! And he certainly could, if he would believe me.
But now, she is here! And the only thing keeping us apart is a padded wall and a locked door.
I know this cell so well. How many times I’ve paced, how long I’ve spent staring at every crack in the padding. I’ve memorized every inch of this cell. There has to be a way out. I have to get to speak to her!
Be patient, I tell myself. You don’t even know if the dark wants her to work with you. I tell myself to wait until the doctors turn the lights off, to see what the dark has to say.
The rest of the day passes quickly; for me; but there is the occasional sobbing from Livvy’s room. But I’m relieved when they finally turn the lights off. Almost immediately, I hear a whisper.
“It is her,” It tells me, and my spine tingles. “She is what we’ve been waiting for. Now, listen to me. I have a plan, and you must do exactly what I say.”
As I listen to the plan the dark has, a smile crosses my lips. It’s such a perfect plan, I know no one but the dark could have come up with it. I look at the door, with its lock and soft pads. It won’t stop me now, now that the dark has called. The dark keeps talking, and I laugh, long and loud.
It’s time. It’s finally, finally time.
Andy sat alone at home, watching a Halloween movie on mute. Every light in the house was turned on, and the blinds were closed. It hid him from the darkness outside.
He was still haunted by his dream.
Thunder boomed outside, and a flash of lightning momentarily lit up the cracks in the blinds. The steady pounding of the rain on the windows did nothing to ease Andy’s uneasy mood. But then, neither was watching Michael Myers bloodily kill a bunch of people. Switching to another channel, the weather, he turned up the volume and tried not to think about his dream.
Which only made him think about it all the more.
He looked at his journal, which had been left sitting on the couch next to him, open, in case he needed to write something. He shook off the urge to write anything, or reread what he had written about his dream. Writing was a habit both his father and his uncle had drilled into him. His father, a huge fan of reading, taught him creative writing. His uncle taught him to keep journals.
It was one thing his uncle had done for him that he couldn’t shake.
Andy stared blankly at the TV screen, not really listening to the weather, just letting the weather man’s voice wash over him, surround him with something normal. As if his life could feel normal. More thunder boomed, and the wind blew something to his house, making it clatter loudly against the window. Andy jumped when he heard it, and, after realizing what it was, he felt a strange, eerie sense of dread filling him.
It was a dark and stormy night.
The twisted irony of that famous sentence cracked a smile onto his face.
It wasn’t just the feeling that something was going to happen, it was that something was coming. It was the feeling that whatever it was, it had something to do with him. He had unknowingly angered something, and that something was coming back to make him pay.
It was a creepy feeling.
Stop it, Andy told himself whenever it came up. He was just being paranoid. The day before, there had been no feeling. He’d done nothing wrong, nothing that would anger anyone. All that had really happened was that he had a dream about his uncle and the darkness.
It was nearly midnight. Andy knew he should go to sleep. But he remained by the TV for several minutes, listening to the weatherman and the rain. Finally, he tore himself away.
Suck it up, he told himself. It was just a dream. Nothing’s coming to get you.
If only he believed himself.
As soon as he turned the TV off, the rain abruptly stopped falling. He stood still in the eerie silence. A distant rumble of thunder sounded quietly, but he knew the storm was over. It had moved on.
Now Andy wished his feeling of fear would move on.
He walked around the house, turning off the lights. With each light that went dark, the feeling of tension and nervousness grew. The sound of the house creaking as it settled, the water running off the roof; every little sound made him jump.
As Andy started up the stairs to his bedroom, a quiet sound stopped him. The floor creaked about ten feet away from the bottom of the steps. His heart skipped a beat, then began racing, even as he held his breath, his body frozen, one foot on the step above the other. He held still in the perfect silence, looking behind him, his eyes trying to force their way through the darkness.
There was a faint whispering sound. Desolate in the otherwise quiet house, the sound was as soft as silk, but as cold as ice. It was as loud as a shout, and as warm as a melting icicle. It was as hard as a rock and as sharp as nails. It was as hurtful as a pillow, and as deadly as a knife. It bathed him with both cold and hot, making him feel oddly feverish. It deluded his thoughts with mixed emotions, and left him feeling nothing at all. It rang in his ears, but abandoned his thoughts.
“Andy,” The whisper hissed, dark, burning and evil. “Andy, come to me.” Its voice was kind, promising. “Come to me, join me,” It called. It beamed out to Andy, like light from darkness. “Join me, and be with me, Forevermore.” It sounded like some kind of twisted prophecy, an intense proclamation of fate.
Shaking, Andy shook his head in the darkness. “No,” He croaked out.
There was a stir in the shadows to his right. “Yes,” There came the icy reply. “Forevermore.”
Jerking into motion, Andy stumbled up the steps, slowly at first, then faster.
Andy tripped on the last step, and fell hard at the top of the stairs. He pushed himself to his feet; too quickly, but managed to grab the catwalk railing before he fell.
“Forevermore.” The voice was louder now, more insistent.
His head throbbing, his ears ringing, he groped around on the wall for the light switch. He didn't find it, but somehow managed to bang his thigh against a doorknob.
He found the switch and flipped it up.
As the light suddenly lit up the house, the voice abruptly stopped, and a low hissing sound, like gas leaking from a balloon, came to Andy’s ears. For a moment, he stood in silence, staring at the light switch, afraid to see what it was. Slowly, he turned his head, and looked down.
There was nothing there.