The Dark Within – Part 1
Eric stood swaying slightly against the pouring rain, no longer crouched in the shadows as he had done night after night for nearly three weeks. No. Not tonight. She was somewhere in that house. Somewhere within the walls of the grey old mansion. He was sure of it.
His black oxfords were sodden and his feet ached from the cold. Rain cut into his eyes and ran down the inside of his jacket and into the waist of his faded jeans, the muscles of his legs quivering. He felt empty, hollowed out except for the echo of her that sounded in him, pulled him from bed night after night to this house. This house had dominated the block for over one hundred and forty years and now it dominated his thoughts. And it was images of this house that tormented him at night before he would awake gasping for air as if he had swum from a great depth to the churning silver surface above. The dreams started the night he awoke with a sense of dread in their small third-floor apartment alone, the covers thrown back from where she had lain.
Light from a dark blue Volvo cut across him as it paused at the corner stop-sign before turning right and continuing through the night. The light from the painfully bright halogen bulbs illuminated the interior beyond the large window that Eric stood facing – in the white light, the rectangular glass panel transformed from reflective black glass to a dusty and warped interior image of the room. His shadow traveled quickly along the cracked plaster wall, peeling wallpaper, and an ornate marble fireplace flanked by elaborate gas wall sconces. In an instant, the room returned to darkness, the glass to his reflection. Eric lurched forward as if struck from behind, his heartbeat thrumming in his ears. The windows had been boarded up, a barrier to prying eyes and potential intruders. Night after night he had starred at them. The boards were gone and tonight, under the penetrating gaze of the halogen lamps, the decaying interior was momentarily revealed.
He rushed up the wide steps to the great double oak doors, the iron handles unyielding to his desperate attempt to gain entrance. The doors had no windows but led to a small yet ornate rectangular vestibule with a set of bronze and glass doors that opened into the entry hall. In decades past, the great oak doors remained open, flooding the entry with light. But no more. They had been shut tight for nearly fifty years. Enraged, he turned and sprung from the covered landing that provided temporary shelter from the storm and burst through the black iron gate that groaned in protest, racing down the moss-covered stone path that lead to the back entrance. He bounded up the three steps to the back door and shook the solid iron knob with both hands, leaning into the door with his shoulder. Solid and unmoved, he felt it mocking him. Turning, he ran into the overgrown garden. Lightning flashed revealing medieval statuary imprisoned in vines, thorns, neglect. He fell to his knees, clawing at the ground and untamed growth, mud collecting under his nails, grunting like an animal, seeking purchase on anything he could use to gain entrance to the house. Brambles, stones, and hidden shards of pottery tore at his hands as the once glorious Italian garden reluctantly yielded a fallen branch to his desperation.
Wild-eyed he rush the back door, branch raised overhead. Just as he reached the base of the stone steps to the door, lightning cut through the night, three flashes, acrid and alive, long jagged fingers illuminating the night and the thick old glass in the door. Eric reeled, life drained from his legs. Beyond the glass, her face, ghostly white, eyes empty and fixed, was illuminated as if by three flashes of a camera. One….two…..three……and he lost consciousness.