Something in the Dark

This is the first chapter of an old project. I have been toying with it, and this is a rewrite of the opening. It is a horror story, so it is darker than my usual work.

Casey locked the apartment door and snapped the deadbolt before sliding the safety chain closed. Night-lights burned in every outlet and two tall black halogen lamps were on in the small studio. The glaring lights illuminated every corner of the tiny apartment with its mattress on the floor piled with blankets and a clean wood floor. Casey scanned the space, once assured that everything was exactly as she left it, she sat down on the thin mattress, pulling the rubber band from her hair, the dark mass tumbling down her back. The smell of coffee and cigarettes floated from her hair. God, I hate that job, she thought, I hate coffee, I hate people, and I hate people who drink coffee.

The answering machine blinked its green glowing eye at her, but Casey ignored it leaning forward to unlace her boots and kick them into the corner. Her shift had been longer than usual when the night barista hadn’t shown up – and the coffeehouse had been packed with the college crowd. She didn’t know why, but a small group of college guys had come in. She assumed their type was more likely to be at a frat party or bar – but they had spent the evening hitting her and every other woman in the place. Casey was used to being hit on, as was every woman in the service industry, but there’d been something about those men, about their approach that left her edgy and brittle. When Howie finally came in to replace the missing night girl, Casey was snappy and bristling.   

But now that she was home, she could relax – at least as much as she ever could. Tonight, she’d promised Derrick they’d go out. With a sigh, she flipped on the small radio next to the bed and in the process knocked a pile of CDs to the floor their plastic cases clattered over the wood floor. The low drone of some ambient-dark-wave band filled the room. She laid back enjoying the feel of being off her feet for the first time in hours. Her glance stayed on the open closet as she wondered what to wear, wondering what was clean and what was passably clean. Her head ached and she closed her tired red eyes the slow music filling her head. She wanted to stay at home, but she couldn’t flake on Derek again.

What she wanted more than anything was to sleep. But sleeping left her vulnerable to the nightmares and her. The lights and glaring white walls of the apartment made her eyes ache. I can close my eyes for just a minute, she told herself. A minute or two can’t hurt and that’s all I need just a minute to rest and then I can get ready to go out.And she closed her eyes, the lights still burning, behind her eyelids.   

Casey jerked her eyes open. The white light from the halogen seared her eyes and left the room hidden behind black and purple splotches. Her hazel eyes searched the room. Was I asleep? What time is it? The clock glowed at her, 10:12. It was only two minutes I can’t have fallen asleep in two minutes.  She grabbed her battered black leather purse and pawed through the contents.  She glanced at prescription bottles and tossed them onto the bed.  Pulling out a scrap of paper she made a note to ask her therapist about some new amphetamines, anything that would keep her up until she could take her sleeping pills. He was always happy to prescribe her more pills, a true subscriber to the mantra “better living through chemistry.”  

And then she felt it; something was wrong. She sat up slowly knowing that something was wrong, something was missing. Her eyes stared into the void of blackness left by the open bathroom door. Casey rubbed at her eyes and squinted trying to see into the bathroom.

The room fell into focus. The bathroom was dark, not even a nightlight burned in the darkness. Why isn’t the light on, she thought; it was on when I came in wasn’t it? Casey stared into the velvet darkness and forced her head to turn away. The shades were pulled closed over the window covering the night sky. I know it was on I left it on, she thought, it’s always on.

The darkness gathered outside the door straining at the confines of the narrow rectangle. It spilled viscous, flowing from the open doorway seeping across the wood floor and white walls. She waited, watching the darkness twist over itself as she stared waiting for her

She always crept out of the shadows, with her scurrying, crawling movements. Casey watched and waited, shivering, and couldn’t make herself move. The darkness slanted outside the bathroom door and was cut off by the blinding lights of the apartment. The cd player stopped, the quiet whirling dying away. Casey’s glanced at the stereo and then back at the door. 

She isn’t real,” She whispered. She tried to breathe and felt her throat constricting it was a panic attack and she knew she was supposed to take her meds. She took sudden shallow breaths feeling light-headed and her valium was in the bathroom.     

Casey forced herself to breath – to stop taking the frantic shallow breaths, and then she heard the slippery scuffle of sounds in the bathroom, with wide eyes she stared at the inky darkness of the bathroom. Where the light from the bedroom reached the floor, she could see the glisten of muddy slime – viscous like the trails left by insects. She knew it would be sticky and would stain the floor leaving tangible proof that she was real.

Then, as inexplicably as they had gone out, the lights in the bathroom flickered to life. First, the small night-light flared to life followed by the buzzing-shine of the rows of florescent lights.  

The sounds of traffic and voices drifted back into her awareness with the stink of car exhaust and a wet sky. She forced herself to take slow deep breaths. 

Eventually, she forced herself to stand and swayed before she bolted for the bathroom puking up the sandwich she’d eaten after Howie had arrived.  

Even brushing her teeth couldn’t chase the taste of bile and fear from her mouth. Her head ached from the glaring white walls of the bathroom, sometimes she longed for darkness. Fighting with the lid on a prescription bottle she spilled the pills over the counter. The tablets clicked against the clean white porcelain.             

She picked up the tablet and with a practiced hand crushed it she pushed the Valium into a straight line. Snorting the drug worked faster than swallowing it.  She brushed at her nose and felt the tingling in her sinus fade. The comfortable haze settled over her and her foot slid through the cold congealing slime on the floor, sending her sprawling to the ground.         

Her wrists took the brunt of the fall. A devastating crack filled the room and her arm burned. “Damn it.” She muttered and rubbed at her wrist. Moving her left arm made sent shooting pain through her arm. She slowly massaged her wrist and felt a sickening shift in the bone. Sweat poured down her face, but the pain was receding. Whether it was because she wasn’t injured or because the pills were kicking in, she didn’t know. She grabbed some towels from the bathroom and piled them over the slime. Watching the darkness bleeding through the towels made her nauseous again. 

Her head was resting against the toilet when the buzzing finally broke through.  The buzzer. Who the hell would be here?  She thought glaring at the intercom.  Pulling herself from the toilet, she went back to the main room and punched the button. “What?”        

“Cay it’s me, Derrick. You were supposed to meet me down here like twenty minutes ago.”

She rested her head against the wall, of course, Derek. She promised him they’d go out tonight. “Oh God, Derrick I’m sorry I’ll be down in a couple of seconds.” 

Casey peeled the sweat-soaked shirt from her body and tossed it toward the bathroom. Her pale skin glowed in the lights. She grabbed a clean black t-shirt emblazoned with thick scarlet letters, ‘Hail Satan.’ Where did this come from? She wondered but pulled the shirt on; it hung nearly to her knees and slid off of one shoulder. Sitting on the bed she tugged on a pair of black leggings and laced her boots, the slick black leather pulled tight up to her knees. In the bathroom, she washed her face and brushed her teeth again. The clock glared at her, after 11 already. “Damn.”  She muttered. She brushed powder over her face and grabbing an eyeliner pencil and a lighter she quickly melted the makeup, not completely, just enough to make it soft. She traced around her eyes the melted make-up leaving thick, heavy black lines around her eyes, which she took a moment to smudge leaving her looking ghoulish. She grabbed her keys and was careful to lock the door behind her.      

The fluorescent lights in the hallway flickered with that constant whining buzz.  Casey hated the murkiness of the hall. The corners were never lit, and she tried not to think about what might be in them. The stained maroon shag carpet stretched down past the endless identical doors would have made The Overlook Hotel proud. The dark corners skittered around her while she waited for the elevator. The deep growl and dull clanging of machinery filled the hallway.  Casey listened to the sounds trying to ignore the darkness. Wendy always waited for her in the dark corners. Sometimes Wendy followed her to work at the coffeehouse. If it was empty Wendy would creep around the shadows under the tables and the ones on the patio.  

The elevator finally stopped its groaning ascent and the doors opened. Too late, Casey thought as Mrs. Steiner from down the hall stuck her head out with her hair in curlers and baby in her arms and glared at Casey. Casey smiled and waved to the woman as she stepped into the elevator. Now she’ll be as loud as possible in the mornings, just to get back at me. The sound of the screaming baby followed her down two floors.

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