Available Darkness: Chapter 31
(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.)
Swallow enough pills and sleep eventually finds you. For Jack, it came quickly. His breathing relaxed and he found himself deep in his dreams, though he wasn’t in the bedroom of his youth. He was somewhere else.
Jack stood on a deck overlooking a pristine white shore, familiar, though only through the hazy fog of fragmented memory. He was more relaxed than he’d remembered feeling in a while. Chasing criminals has a way of owning you even when off duty. Prior to their mutual “I do’s,” Julia used to continually complain, both with words and dancing eyes, about his inability to unplug from work and just be happy.
He remembered the shoreline; the pristine white sands of Aruba, where he and Julia spent three amazing weeks on their honeymoon. Which was, oddly enough, probably the last time he’d felt at peace. Julia had made him promise to take three weeks off from work, a luxury he’d never experienced, even though he’d probably built up a half year’s worth of vacation time. He didn’t want to. He had too much work and knew it would pile up without his constant attention.
“The world will still turn and the job will get done without you,” Julia had said.
And she was right. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he found his shoulders relaxing long enough to let him enjoy life. An epiphany, Jack returned home with renewed purpose. Life was his to create. Family first, a husband’s duty.
That vow lasted almost until the end of his first week back until Jack found himself buried alive with a case that kept him hostage to the office from early light to mocking moon. One case turned to two, then weeks to months and months to years until just like that, he found that he’d slowly surrendered his limbs to the shackles of fate without even realizing it.
Waves lapped. Jack took a sip of wine. Behind him, he heard a muffled voice from the other side of the double French doors of their honeymoon villa. Though he was deep into dream and memory, a part of him was also aware of the waking life in which his wife was long since dead. His eager heart sped in his chest.
It had been so long since she had visited his dreams. Even though he’d wake up sad, these brief moments were better than nothing. He opened the door and…
…was again a child, back in the middle of that awful night which had been blotted from his memory ever since, stepping gingerly into the darkened hallway. Downstairs, his father was still screaming at his mother. The shadow man was just ahead of him, at the landing of the stairs. He turned back and in that dissonant voice, warned Jack to wait.
And Jack did.
Moments later, he heard his father cry out, “What the fuck?”
The end of fuck was severed by a ripping sound followed by a wet thud and a splash which sent chills down Jack’s spine.
While a part of him should have been happy that the man who tormented he and his mother would no longer do so, the reality of murder did not bring the relief he’d sought. Panicked tears welled inside and warm piss trickled down Jack’s leg.
His mother screamed. At first Jack assigned the sound to the horror of seeing her husband murdered. Yet the scream held an elevated fear which went far beyond the terror of a frightened witness, sharp as it was with the acid panic of self preservation.
“Hello, mother,” the man in shadows said in a voice of boots crunching atop vomit soaked gravel.
Then, the sound of ripping flesh and gurgling, followed by silence.
Jack waited, fear circling the drain of his throat.
She’s dead, you killed her!
The adult part of Jack was frozen as well. He remembered nothing of this night from his youth, these memories were not the ones of how he knew his parents to have died, yet he knew it wasn’t a dream. This was a truth he’d been hiding from, or … which had removed from his mind. Entombed memories were no less real for their burial. He urged his dream self to take a step forward, to unravel the rest of the mystery.
“Mommy!” young Jack screamed, bolting down the stairs and into the living room.
He saw the still smoldering corpse of his father, flesh still bubbling as his headless body twitched. Wherever his father’s head was, it wasn’t anywhere next to his body.
The next two things he noticed in unison.
The shadow man, now looking slightly more human in form, stood in the center of the living room with his arms outstretched, while his mother, throat slashed and blood soaking through the thin gauze of her night shirt, danced. Her arms were raised, her lifeless head rolling back and forth barely there and maybe only by a thread. Her feet hovered inches above the ground. The shadow man moved his arms wildly like a crazed marionette as Jack’s mother danced some perverse jig. The shadow man continued to vent a smog of chilling laughter during the macabre recital.
Jack screamed. The shadow man turned to him, surprised, and allowed his mother to collapse in an inanimate heap.
“Forgive me, a son should have one final dance with his mother, yes?” The trailing S, a serpent’s hiss.
Jack was confused. He longed to run at the monster, pound him, tear him apart, anything. But fear bolted his ankles to the floor.
“You don’t remember me, do you Jackie?” the monster said, drifting closer.
Jack wanted to turn and run. The adult Jack also wanted to turn away, tears streaming down his sleeping cheeks. Neither Jack could do anything but watch the mind movie that had no pause.
Finally, the child spoke.
“Why did you kill her?”
“Because!” the monster yelled, his voice sounding more boyish and human than before, “she left me. You all left me behind.”
“She’s not your mother!” Jack cried out.
“Ah, what have they done to you, brother? You really don’t remember me, do you? It’s me … Jacob.”
And just like that, the shape of the shadow man dissipated like spider webs in a tornado, and standing before Jack was a boy, not much older than he, wearing a black shirt and pants, coated in the fresh blood of Jack’s parents.
Jack was torn between confusion, anger and a sudden, incredible sadness. None of this was making any sense and his head felt as if it were going to split and spill its contents.
“She made you forget,” Jacob said, “but I,” and he pointed at his head and spread his lips in a lunatic’s smile, “I NEVER forget!”
The monster boy stepped forward and Jack took a step back, shaking.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you two. You‘re my brothers.”
Brothers? Two? Who else is he talking about? Adult Jack was puzzled, though his mind was too entrenched in the dream to work out the logic at play.
The monster headed to the front door, opened it, and disappeared into the night.
This was all too much for young Jack, what was he supposed to do now? His head hurt and more than anything, he wanted to march behind his mother right into the arms of death. Adult Jack was feeling the same feelings as he was experiencing this, in some way, for the first time. Part of him wanted to die right there in his dream. To spare him of not only this, but of living alone in this cold world without Julia.
But he couldn’t.
A tiny voice called from upstairs, “Is he gone?”
Jack glanced up at the four year old peering back between the banisters. A boy so young should not see such things.
Adult Jack was dumbstruck. I have a brother?
“Go back in your room, Johnny!” Jack shouted, tears twisting his voice into a gasp.
Confusion, shock and pain were twined like hair in a braid, but he couldn’t allow himself to shut down. Though he were just a child himself, he had to protect John. Family first, a brother’s duty.
Jack snapped awake.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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