Available Darkness: Chapter 12
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
Something was wrong. The gallon of ice water that had settled at the top of John’s shoulders was now sliding down his spine and speaking of Abigail’s trouble.
He bolted upright in the bed and glanced at the clock on the cable box – 6:51 p.m. – and then at the curtains. His toes curled into the carpet as he made three long strides toward the shrouded wall. He wanted to part the curtains and take a peek outside, but a sudden fear grabbed his hand and held it. The sun was low in the sky, but still there, and John could feel its deadly light holding him prisoner in the hotel room. Another 10 minutes at least.
A current rippled through his body and caused the hair on his arms to stand up and wave like wheat in the wind. He paced the floor, repeating his whisper to no one.
The girl is safe — this is all in your mind.
A seam in his subconscious, barely tethered to begin with, suddenly split and spilled a swift shimmer of images. John caught a glimpse of a rearview mirror, a cop car with spinning red and blue lights and a the edged shadow of a looming nightmare.
The image evaporated almost as quickly as it came, and John tried to comfort himself with the thought that it was just fear holding court in his head, mocking him like the final rays of the sun outside. If he could only ignore it a little while longer, he would be rewarded with Abigail walking through the door. Any minute now, he almost allowed himself to believe.
As if to punish hope for daring to show its face, John was slapped with another flash, just as quick and twice as painful. He saw Abigail’s hand push open the door of the old sedan before she stepped onto the road.
The image turned to gauze, then faded to black.
John frantically circled the room as though his body was an antenna seeking for the connection he had with the girl. Logic told him he was simply imagining things. Then again, logic had spiraled down the drain along with his sanity the moment he woke in a coffin.
What he was seeing was real.
He closed his eyes, trying to coax another image into view, but nothing would color the sudden hollow of his mind. If there was a way to control this, whatever this was, he was operating without a manual.
“Damn it,” he snarled in a voice several octaves deeper than it had been earlier in the evening. The new timbre surprised him, as though a stranger’s voice had been driven from the depths of his throat.
Another flash and he found himself again looking through Abigail’s eyes and up at the cop.
The image quickly turned to vapor.
John double checked the bags sitting at the foot of the door. Everything was packed and good to go. He glanced at the curtains again, tried to summon the courage to pull them aside, then shuddered with the thought that it would probably be easier to part the sea.
Something inside him whispered, you’ll burn just like they did.
Another flash. Abigail was looking around at the traffic, quietly frantic. So many people staring at her. John was swimming inside her emotions, feeling her longing to just disappear. He caught another brief glimpse of the cop before the image vanished, replaced by the sight of his hand curling tightly into the thick hotel curtains.
He tugged the curtains aside, no more than a couple of inches, and his world exploded in a helix of fire and agony.
John launched back, hitting the far wall, causing a tacky hotel room framed piece to fall onto him. The left side of his face matched the inferno erupting across the sudden cinder of his left arm. His mouth opened impossibly wide to unleash the ear-splitting shriek of a banshee. His body writhed beneath the frame, wracked in torment for what seemed an eternity. He focused on the only thing he could see from where he was — a cracked electrical outlet — clutching it as an anchor to keep him rooted in this world and to prevent him from blacking out again.
Abigail needed him.
He held tight as the intense pain started to recede. However, he still felt as if he’d been hit by a truck — a truck on fire — and could only lay on the floor. He thought of Abigail again, her wide eyes, and felt a pang in his heart. That she should suffer so much in her short life enraged him. He shrugged the framed art aside and sat up.
The curtains had fallen back closed, returning the room to the safety of darkness.
The sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeated his nostrils and stirred a surprising growl in his stomach despite knowing the scent was of his own body roasting. His left arm was the color of charred brick, raw with blood and torn skin, but still functioning.
He dreaded seeing his face.
John pulled himself up against the wall and slowly made his way to the bathroom mirror. The left side of his face was the snapshot of a monster. Not as bad as his arm, but horribly mottled; his left eye crusted shut and throbbing beneath the thin mangled membrane of remaining flesh.
The mirror disappeared in another flash, replaced with Abigail’s vision. She was still with the cop, the two of them now talking. An approaching van had grabbed her attention. Oh Christ – in the window! A masked man with a gun appeared in slow motion.
The image disappeared alongside all lucidity.
A preternatural quiet suffocated the room suppressing all but the mingling sounds of John’s shallow breaths and pounding heart. He searched the mirror for a way to save the girl, afraid if he did not act quickly, the next image would be from inside her closed eyelids.
The silence of dusk was shattered by a gunshot that was half in his mind and half an echo in the distance.
John screamed, instinct and rage seizing control of his limbs and driving him into spontaneous motion.
Though every move seemed to rip his wounded flesh even more, he swallowed the pain and scanned the room. He grabbed the blanket on Abigail’s bed and wrapped it around his body in one quick sweep. He lurched forward and also grabbed two pillow cases, then ran towards the door, stuffed one case inside the other and pulled them over his head.
“I’m coming, Abigail,” he said, hoping that whatever connection there was between them carried the message to her.
He breathed in deeply before opening the door to abandon the safe harbor of the hotel in a deadly swap for the savagery of the awaiting sunlight.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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