Available Darkness: Chapter 24
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized horror 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.)
Jack Baldwin woke with the embers of the dark creature’s eyes still singed in his memory.
He glanced at the clock – the scant hour of sleep seemed to have hollowed his bones. His head pounded as he tried to clear the cobwebs from his mind. He stumbled into the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and cradled his head in his hands as he emptied his bladder. The lights were off, but Jack could do nothing about the bright that spilled into the memory of his sleep.
That wasn’t a dream.
The thought sent a chill down his spine. As the images continued to loop, they felt less and less like the sequences of a dream and more and more like a forgotten memory.
A buried memory.
A terrible itch raged from the deepest recesses of his brain. Jack approached the bed and collapsed on top of the sheets, eager to return to the dream, turning the pieces of the puzzle and trying to make sense of all he saw.
Baldwin’s memories of his early childhood were fuzzy at best. The only things he could recall with any clarity didn’t come until after his birth parents were killed in a car accident and he was adopted by Ed and Myriam Baldwin. He vaguely remembered his birth father, though certainly not as the abusive man who haunted the dream. His mom was even more of a mystery. Suddenly, perhaps for the first time in decades, he wondered why he had not held on tighter to those memories. They were his parents, after all. A wave of guilt washed over him.
He beat the hell out of you.
Baldwin shuddered as vague memories bubbled from somewhere deep down in the recesses of his mind.
He saw his birth father, a balding, working class man with a paunch and a horrible glare. As if prodded by the dream, memories surfaced. Whatever version of his father he had been carrying with him was now revealed to be false. Baldwin remembered the man’s hateful gaze on him, judging him for one reason or another, always shaking his head in disgust. He tried to pull more memories from the well, but it had run dry. He awoke.
He stared at the ceiling, then leaped up and yanked the cord to turn the ceiling fan on. He downed another two pills and fell back into bed and stared as the blades made their orbit. He often found that if he allowed his focus of the blades to soften until the individual blades blurred into one singular shape, sleep would descend upon him. He had nowhere to be tomorrow and would stay in bed all day if necessary, in hopes of unlocking whatever memories were waiting to be found.
John woke to darkness. The last thing he could remember was looking up at Abigail. He was now lying nude in a bed covered by cool silk sheets. Upon remembering Abigail, he tried to leap from the bed and call out to her. His body refused to cooperate. Panic seized for a second, until a voice called out.
“How long are you gonna be?”
After a moment, he realized it was his own voice, though he had not spoken the words, but rather this dream self had. Suddenly, and without thinking it into action, John rolled over in the bed and glanced at the light bleeding from beneath a door.
“Hold your horses,” a woman’s voice.
He tried to get up, but instead found his hand reaching down to coax himself to readiness.
Though he was seeing through his own eyes and could feel the coolness of the sheet, and smell the scent of… what was that, jasmine? … he was simply a passenger in his own body, another John, in this dream which was most likely a memory, was in full control.
“You promise not to laugh?” she asked again, from the other side of the door.
“Scout’s honor,” he said and crossed his heart, though she wasn’t there to see it.
“If you laugh, I’m NEVER doing this again,” she warned, in a slightly serious voice, edged with the laughter he loved. “And this will be the last birthday gift you ever get.”
The door opened, and there she stood, her milky white skin bathed in the soft blue glow of moonlight pouring through the open curtains. Hope, just as she appeared in the gift of memory given by Abigail, though even more beautiful. And less dressed.
She wore a black and white maid’s uniform, the sexy kind you’d find in a costume shop or adult catalog.
A strong sense of deja vu flooded John’s brain. A swarm of memories rushed him. He remembered looking at the outfit with Hope at a costume shop a few months prior to that night. He joked that he’d like to see her in the uniform. She must’ve taken him seriously and decided to feed into his fantasy. Another memory, this one from earlier that night – they were out to dinner when she whispered in his ear, “I have something special for your birthday.” He was excited and curious. Hope wasn’t overtly sexual. Her charms were more subtle, though no less intoxicating.
Suddenly, John began to remember more about the woman he loved. Her love of painting, how she always carried a book with her, her attempts to play cello, how her nose crinkled when she laughed, and how she got super silly when she consumed even the smallest amount of alcohol. John the passenger smiled, even if his dream self didn’t, at these recollections.
He looked at Hope with a renewed sense of longing. He wanted to reach out and touch her, hold her and hug her and never let her go. If he could feel her, perhaps he could somehow wake in that moment and never return to the nightmare that had recently become his life. She was right there, so real he could smell her skin. He desperately wanted the dream John to reach out and touch her and prayed that the senses he was experiencing as a passenger would extend to touch.
“Wow,” he said, looking at her.
She stared back. “Happy birthday,” she said in a huskier-than-normal voice, slowly moving towards the bed.
The dream John laughed.
Passenger John wanted to reach through and strangle his past self. Don’t laugh, you ass!
Hope’s eyes widened as she pulled back, hurt.
“I’m sorry,” he pleaded, “I’m sorry.”
He reached out to touch her but she pulled away, standing just out of reach. “I knew I shouldn’t of done this!”
“No, no, no,” John said, standing up, awkwardly aware of his erection, “I’m not laughing at you.”
She looked up, wounded eyes peeking from beneath her dark auburn shelf of bangs. “Then what’s so funny?”
He stammered, trying to find a way to explain what he was thinking. The passenger John could hear the flood of thoughts echoing in his head, crossing over his own.
“You just surprised me,” he said in the desperate tones of a man who was accidentally honest when asked by his wife if an outfit made her look fat, “that’s all.”
“I look ridiculous, don’t I?” she said, looking down and covering her breasts.
“No, you look absolutely beautiful.” Passenger John felt as if he were also speaking, a simultaneous echo of his faded self.
He felt like such an ass for laughing. Of course he found her sexy, didn’t she know it by now? She was such a strong and confident woman and rarely showed such frailty. How could she not know? She looked up and their eyes met. He held her gaze. Hours of conversation passed without a word. He stood up and seemed to be instantly beside her, longing to be inside her.
“I was just surprised, it would be like if I dressed up like a … I dunno, one of those Chippendale dancers or something,” he said, laughing, “Sure, I’d be sexy as all hell, but you’d be surprised.”
She laughed, “So modest,” she said, the smile returning to widen her face. “You sure that I don’t look stupid?”
He reached out, “Come here.”
And they touched.
As he wrapped his arms around her and their bodies blended, passenger John felt the warmth of their embrace. He’d almost forgotten how good it felt to touch another. His fingers caressed her hair and traced the arch of her back as he pulled her tightly to him. His hunger to touch her, to feel her, to explore every inch of her body was fed insatiably by the dream self as he began to kiss the small of her neck, downward, to her breasts and then back up, licking her lips before their mouths locked. Their eyes closed and for a moment there was only darkness and the sense of touch, the glorious warmth of their fingertips exploring each other’s bodies.
If his recent hours had been hell, this was nothing short of heaven.
While kissing, he opened his eyes, and found she was looking at him. The passenger John felt his heart leap, in hopes that she was recognizing him, not only there in that moment in the bedroom, but also the him that was passed out in a motel room somewhere. He wanted to ask if she could see him, but his dream body would not cooperate. Their eyes locked and he was certain that somehow, if he just knew how, he could find a connection, somehow find a way to her in the present. Failing that, he was prepared to live forever in this moment.
“Fuck me,” she said as her hands slid down to his cock.
This time, John didn’t laugh.
She pushed him gently down to the bed and he fell. And he kept falling.
John awoke back in the motel room. His body and heart were equally broken.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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