THE DARKNESS BEHIND
By Melissa L. Webb
Leaning closer to the mirror, Henry stared back at the strange creature before him. He smiled. The creature smiled as well, exposing blackened teeth coated with blood. But the thing that drew his attention was the eyes.
The creature’s eyes were shaped like a snake’s, and redder than the fires of hell. There was nothing human in them what-so-ever.
Henry laughed as he turned away from his reflection. He couldn’t wait for his wife to see his costume. His demon-zombie was the best he had come up with yet. And those contacts! He’d be lucky if he didn’t scare every kid in the neighborhood.
“Are you ready?” his wife called from the doorway.
He turned around, arms spread wide. “What do you think?” he asked, grinning evilly at her.
She wrinkled her nose in distaste. “You look disgusting. I don’t know why you can’t be something normal. Something not so…hideous,” she said, turning away.
“Just because you’re a boring old princess, Jenny, doesn’t mean I can’t think outside the box.”
“The guests are arriving, Henry,” she called dryly over her shoulder, making her way back down the stairs. “You don’t want to be late to your own party, do you?”
He sighed as she disappeared. His wife never got into the real Halloween spirit. It was always glamour, makeup, and shoes with her. That wasn’t what the day was about. It was about bringing the fear. And that’s exactly what he planned to do.
He snuck another quick glance in the mirror. He looked good. No, more than that. He looked terrifying. Just the way he liked it.
Turning away, he headed for the stairs. As he moved, he caught a dark shape out of the corner of his eye. It slunk through the shadows, barely even there.
Henry stopped, glancing quickly in that direction. Nothing moved. He blinked quickly. It must have been a trick of the light, or a side effect of wearing printed contacts. Dismissing it with a shake of his head, he hurried down the stairs and began to greet his guests. The night was young and so were they.
“Don’t you look awesome. Check out those eyes,” his best friend chuckled around plastic fangs, slapping him on the back. “You always have the best costume.”
Henry smiled his disturbing smile. “I try.”
“Oh please, Christopher. Don’t encourage him,” Jenny said, rolling her eyes. “I’m still hoping he’ll finally do something decent.”
Henry gave his wife a mischievous look, his fake red eyes blazing bright. “Never.”
Movement caught his attention. His eyes focused on something over Jenny’s shoulder. A dark shape lumbered in from the kitchen. Its flesh drooped in places, dangling freely as it moved.
“Who’s that?” he asked as it slid past other guests. Had someone outdone his costume this year?
Christopher and Jenny both turned at the same time. “Who?” his wife asked as they glanced around the living room.
“The zombie who’s even creepier than I am.”
They both looked back at him, confusion in their eyes. “You’re the only zombie here, man,” his friend told him.
“Everybody else has some decency,” his wife mocked.
Henry’s eyes never left the creature as it hung back in the corner, eyeing the party guests. “No. He’s right there,” he told them, pointing.
“There’s no one there.”
Henry took a step back. Why were they doing this? He could clearly see the zombie. They were only standing a few feet from it.
“Are you alright?” Jenny asked, concern coating her words.
“Is this some kind of joke?” he asked, looking at the people around him.
“What are you talking about?” Christopher asked, placing a steadying hand on his shoulder.
Henry pulled back from him, turning around. Were they trying to make him look like a fool?
A dark shape formed in front of him. It swirled, coating the air around him, blocking his view of the party. It solidified, a white face forming in the middle of its blackness. It stretched out, stopping inches from Henry’s.
It blinked black eyes as it sniffed the air, trying to determine something. It blinked again and opened its mouth, the black maw forming in a silent scream.
Henry screamed, too. It rang out through the party as he shoved his way past it, towards the front door. That hadn’t been a Halloween costume. That had been very real.
“Henry? What are you doing?” Jenny yelled as he ran. But he didn’t care. There was something there. Something no one else could see. He needed to get away.
Flinging the front door open wide, he raced down the porch steps, dodging groups of trick-or-treaters as he flew down the street.
All around him, dark shapes swirled, silently passing through the kids as they closed in on him. They were out for blood and only he knew it. “Get out of the way!” he yelled to the children. “Don’t let them touch you.”
Parents pulled their children closer, murmuring softly about the crazy man. They didn’t know what he knew. No one could see the creatures as they slunk through the shadows and hovered in the air. They didn’t know the things were hunting him like a pack of hounds, desperately nipping at the heels of anyone who could see them.
He didn’t know why he could see them, but he needed to find a place to hide. He could almost feel their cold clammy touch as he sprinted. He didn’t have much time left.
“Oh god, Henry! Come back!” his wife’s voice carried down the street after him. He knew she didn’t understand, but he couldn’t stop. Not when the things were so close.
Saggy-skinned zombies swarm through the street in front of him. Their outstretched arms clawed furiously, anticipating their hold on him.
He looked around frantically. He couldn’t keep going. They’d devour him in seconds if he got too close. He darted through a yard, trying to put as much distance between him and the creatures as he could. He couldn’t let them get him. He just couldn’t.
Approaching a fence, he sped up, hoping to jump it. As he sprinted, a hand shot out of the fence, its white bony fingers wiggling inches from his chest. Skidding to a stop in the damp grass, he panted, trying desperately to get his mind working enough to figure out a way to end this.
A reptilian head followed the hand, moving through the fence as easily as it would smoke. Its jaws dripped a foaming red substance as its eyes rolled with glee. It threw its head back, howling in triumph.
Henry couldn’t hear the sound, but he knew it would be laced with blood lust. He wasn’t going to stick around to see if he was right. Turning, he fled around human spectators and the swarms of impossibly real creatures. As the latter reach out, hoping their claws sunk home, he raced into an empty space in the street.
“Henry!” someone shrieked.
He turned around in time to see the headlights as they bore down on him, tossing his body in the air like a rag doll, the creatures hissing softly as he flew.
Henry slowly opened his eyes; blinding white light filling his vision. He groaned in pain. Had the things gotten him?
“Easy, baby,” Jenny spoke, slipping a hand into his. “It’s okay.”
He blinked, adjusting to the light as he glanced around the strange room. “Am I in the hospital?”
“Yes. You ran in front of a car,” she said, taking a deep breath. “But we got lucky. You’re going to be okay. You scared me to death, but you‘re fine now.”
The memory of the car and why he was in the street flooded his mind. He sat up, yanking at the tubes and cords around him, scanning the room. They were alone. Nothing moved or slithered in the shadows. He couldn’t see them. Were they gone?
Or…was he not able to see them?
“Lay back down, Henry. You need to rest.”
Rest? How could he when those things were out there? What had changed? Why couldn’t he see them anymore? He looked down at himself, at the stupid gown hospitals made you wear. He wasn’t in his costume. That’s what had changed. He only started seeing them when he had put his costume on. When he had put those contacts in.
“Jenny, where are my contacts?”
“What? What contacts?” she asked, not understanding. “You mean those silly Halloween ones? The doctors threw those ugly things away.”
“No,” Henry shouted, trying to slide his feet out of bed.
Jenny pushed him back down. “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t get up.”
“I need those!”
“Are you insane? They’re just cheap novelty junk. You don’t need them.”
Henry laid back and closed his eyes. The contacts were gone. His glimpse into the unknown was gone. He’d never know if he was alone in a room, or if those things were inches from ripping off his skin.
Opening his eyes, he wondered if that was a movement he heard coming from the corner of the room. Of if that shadow behind the door was more than it seemed. He had seen them. He knew about the darkness that waited behind this reality. Did his sudden blindness free him from the danger or were they watching, waiting for the perfect time to strike.
© 2012 Melissa L. Webb