Friday, March 7, 2008

Chapter 9: Third Night, Part VII

"Again?" he muttered. Vernon forced the seatback upright and shoved the footrest down. In his haste to stand, he overbalanced and nearly fell head-first on the floor. He staggered forward several steps and stumbled to a halt when his shoulder bumped into the wall. The window rattled around its ancient air conditioner. He turned around and rested for a moment, then shoved himself upright and crossed the room, casting glances at the darkened doorway. Shadowy tendrils wrapped around the frame, and the darkness bulged into the living room. Vernon glanced at the windows and saw the night trying to force its way in there, too. He grabbed the lanterns and headed for the bedroom. He stood in the doorway and watched the shadows balloon and deflate in the light, like jellyfish trying to squeeze their way out of a jar. They pulsed in unison, back and forth, back and forth. He stepped closer to the edge of the door to watch.

A loud snap from behind made him jump back a step as the lights in the living room went out. Another blown breaker? He turned and looked at the closet, where shadows still brooded. It looked like a dark, grainy photograph of a clothes rack. Raymond jerked in his arms. Vernon shifted his grip and bounced the baby slightly, making shushing noises. Do I really need to get them back on? Ray twitched harder, then left his grip altogether.

"Huh?" Vernon whirled, expecting to see the infant hurtling toward the ground. Instead, he floated toward the doorway where darkness bubbled and writhed. One slender arm held the boy aloft. "Oh, no, you don't!"

He lunged and wrapped his free arm around his son. The strand holding Raymond grew longer, wrapping itself around his arm and torso, pinning the hand holding the lanterns to his side. Raymond woke crying at the cold touch. His feet slid across the floor as the darkness dragged them both forward. He spread his legs. His toes hit the doorframe, followed by his knees. Vernon grunted and leaned back, groaning at the pain in his hip. He halted. Aching, exhausted, muscles hummed and cried out for relief. His back creaked under the strain. Slowly, he started leaning forward.

Dropping one lantern, Vernon swung the other with his wrist. Light flashed across his knees and waist, but couldn't reach high enough to break the grip holding them. Come on! He swung harder, his hand flapping hard enough to create a breeze across his uncovered leg. Tears leaked down his cheeks. Please don't let it end. Not like this. He whipped his hand forward with a grunt and let go. The lantern flew up, straight across the arm holding them and into the dark room. It disappeared, but the ebony tentacle snapped in half. Vernon slammed onto his back. The impact drove the air from his lungs. Trying to breathe, he shoved himself backward. More arms chased after them, but withered and fell short in the light. Vernon gasped and climbed to the bed, laying Raymond beside him. He clung to the baby until they both calmed, then stood and grabbed the remaining lantern. He limped to the closet as quickly as he could force himself to move, snarling at the shadows there. He stopped at the door.

"You can't have them," he growled. "Do you hear me? They are mine. You can't have them!"

He shoved the lantern in among the clothing. He grinned at the fleeing shadows for a moment, then turned his attention to the circuit breakers. Hunting through the hand-written labels, he found the one labled "living room" and flipped it back on. He heard a deep, angry grumble that rattled floorboards and looked through the door. Shadows fought the spreading light, grudgingly retreating under furniture and out the windows. After a moment's hesitation, he reached in and snapped the other breakers off, leaving only his room and the living room alight. Maybe that'll stop all this running around for tonight. I'm too tired to keep this up.

Vernon left Raymond on the bed for a moment and walked to the living room, where the lantern lay on the floor. That's a good light, he thought as he picked it up. The wire handle had bent and the glass cracked, but it shone just as brightly. He carried both back to the bedroom, set the lanterns on either side of the baby and collapsed on the bed.


Part I of Chapter 10 coming soon.

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