In celebration of Orthodox Easter, I’d like to share a small portion of a work-in-progress, “Overtaken By Night.” Comments are welcome!
Christos Anesti! Khristos Voskrese! Al-Masih Qam! Hristos a inviat! Christ is Risen!
There— in front of the door to his parents’ room. It was the size of a bathtub now, and it wasn’t just moving, it was growing towards him. Remy locked it in his gaze and backed towards the light coming in the windows at the front door.
His foot found the empty space beyond the top stair, and he did a double take. When he looked back, the shadow had climbed the walls of the hallway and swallowed the doors. It was inches from his foot.
Remy choked back a scream and pressed his back against the wall that was lit by moonlight. He sidled very slowly down the stairs, keeping an eye on the creeping dark, not letting even the tip of his shoe touch it. Socrates pressed up against his legs, nearly tripping him with every step. After what seemed like forever, they made it to the foyer by the front door.
Remy paused for a moment, wondering how much trouble he was going to be in for leaving the house after his parents were sleeping.
“Not as much trouble as we’ll be in if we stay with the shadows. Right, girl?”
Socrates scratched at the door.
That was all it took; the boy and the dog slipped out of the front door and took off down the street. One look back revealed the entire house swathed in pulsing darkness.
At first, Remy thought it was better outside, but any focus on the shadows revealed the breathing pools of liquid dark that had swallowed his house. He and Socrates sprinted from streetlight to streetlight, trying to get out of the dimly-lit sleepy suburban district into the town proper. Gradually the split-levels and Cape Cods gave way to duplexes and row homes, then to shophouses as old as the town itself.
They passed boutiques closed up for the night; the girl in the coffee shop was upending chairs onto tables as she broomed the floor. He stopped briefly in the warm glow from the window lamps; she looked at him oddly, judging whether he looked small enough to call the local police about. He didn’t give her a second chance; he dashed across the street to the next streetlamp and ducked into an alley. Though narrow, pools of light fell from inadequately curtained windows, revealing the raucous fun of a world he was too young to care about. Somewhere a glass broke and a young man’s voice barked out a yell of surprise. Remy kept moving.
The block behind the shops and apartments opened up into a series of parking lots and there the shadows waged battle against the lights. Great waves of darkness roiled with tidal fury, breaking on the macadam and rattling pockets of shattered glass and broken asphalt. Pools of safety morphed as Remy ran towards them, leaping over dark fingers that reached for him. He couldn’t look at all of them at once.
Though it had been a warm evening, every pass of the shadows felt like winter all over again. They were so cold they hurt. His feet ached, then burned, then went numb. Picturing the purple blisters on his ankle, Remy kept running.
He was staring down a particularly high shadow wave when he ran right into a car. Quickly, he flipped with his back to the metal and found himself in a parking lot packed with many cars, but with fewer shadows. Down at the front was a square building with a bell tower topped with a modest blue turret. It was speckled with golden stars that caught the streetlights and scattered them across the ground. A set of stairs led up to a double door under a wooden arch.
Remy ran up the cement steps and pulled open a heavy oak door, slipping into the foyer. It was dark in here, and very quiet, but even the deepest shadows were a normal plum color and completely still. Socrates pushed against his legs.
“Stay, girl. I’m going to go look around.” Remy gestured to an open coat closet, half-filled with spring jackets and raincoats. Socrates curled up in a ball under a long black robe and sighed contentedly. Apparently she felt safe here, too.
Still cautious, Remy crept slowly towards another set of doors. These were glass, and as he came closer, he could see movement in the room beyond.
A whisper from his right startled him out of his reverie.
“You made it just in time. Here you go.” A wizened old man handed him an unlit candle and pulled the door open for him.
It was dark in here, too, and packed with standing people. No one spoke, but the air was humid with breathed anticipation. Everyone was waiting for something; the energy in the room was coiled tightly, ready to spring into action. The scent of lilies and hyacinth filled up the corners.
Remy’s eyes adjusted. There were a few candles and oil lamps around the edges of the room; enough to outline faces and furniture, but not enough to understand what he was seeing.
There was a rustling near the front, then the sound of a heavy curtain being pulled back. A pair of ornate wooden doors opened outward, lacy with open scrollwork. Behind them, a ghostly figure bowed deeply three times, sweeping the floor with its hand. It took a candle as tall as a child in its hands, and the warm light illumined a man dressed in white satin embroidered with gold. He stepped through the arch, paused at the top of a small set of stairs, and began to sing:
“Come, receive ye the light from the Light, that is never overtaken by night.”
His voice was a deep lyrical baritone that Remy felt in his teeth. The melody was slow and somber, but not sad, and it magnetized the air. The people began to file forward as the song repeated, each one lighting his own candle from the pillar of the chanting man. Slowly the space filled with warm light, rising to unveil a jewel-toned firmament. The air smelled sweetly of honey.
Remy felt himself moving forward, responding to the musical call. Finally he stood in front of the royally vested figure and his candle touched the paschal flame, its light filling his eyes. He sighed deeply, and was wrapped in a cocoon of stillness.
When he opened his eyes again, the people around him were moving, following the sound of bells, candles held before faces shining with joy. Remy waited until everyone had gone first, then as he passed the coat closet, patted his leg for Socrates.
He walked back across the parking lot to the sound of the people outside singing and victory bells ringing, Socrates at his heel. He moved slowly, his hand cupped around the flame of the candle, and as he passed a small shadow wave, it fizzled into nothing. He retraced his flight of terror, this time confidently, with a strange weapon held out before him. The inky pools of malice melted into normal street-lit macadam.
“Now, get out of my house,” he commanded as he mounted his front steps.