Even a dead man likes to have a quiet night’s sleep.
It doesn’t always mean he’s going to get it. Take me for instance. Usually there isn’t any noise in the alley outside my door. I can normally sleep without any concern, but tonight my sleep was broken by the sound of a woman’s scream and feet pounding down the alley outside.
Then someone began banging desperately on my door.
It’s amazing how quickly you can go from asleep to awake and moving under those circumstances. I’d been up since the scream, and by the time the banging had been going on a couple of seconds I was at the door, getting the locks out of the way, and swinging it open.
There on my doorstep was a young woman with an expression on her face I can only describe as pure and utter terror. Even with no idea what the cause was, I was certain neither of us wanted to meet it, so I dragged her inside and slammed the door shut, hitting the bolts back in place.
Except for her panting behind me, silence reigned. I stood at the door, listening and waiting.
Remember as a child when you had the moment of utter terror at the darkness? When you knew without a shadow of a doubt that something was watching you in that pitch black eternity and that if you stopped staring for even a second you would die?
Don’t lie to me and tell me you’ve never had that feeling.
I had that feeling now, and it had me backing away from the door while I stared at it. I felt terror and fear all rolled into one as a light crept underneath the edges of the door, like someone was pointing a torch from one side while we stood on the other. It shifted and flickered resembling candlelight exploring and moving constantly around the door frame.
Without warning it burst into a brilliant Light that flowed through the gaps in the door as Light shouldn’t be able to. No longer bound by straight lines, it started to fill up the area around the door and swarmed to cover me as I stood there. The Light burnt at my skin and eyes, causing actual physical pain. It felt like someone had poured a hot kettle over my skin, while someone was electrocuting my nerves. My muscles spasmed like crazy, and each second the feeling was getting worse exponentially.
My breath caught and my heart stopped beating, and in that moment, it felt like I was dying again.
But as things felt bad for me, I felt something come to me.
Darkness came to me from every corner of the room, flowing against the Light that burnt, pushing it back towards the door while gathering around me like a protective armor. It felt like I had summoned it, and that it was mine. The painful sensation faded away, replacing it with a sense of Power. As if I were on top of the world, and all would bow down before me. Oddly, it felt strangely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place the feeling.
Despite being covered in this Darkness, I had no issue seeing. The world had gained a faintly blue tinge to it where the Darkness was, except where the Light was. There it was a much more vivid blue with a constant lightning pattern running through it.
I could also see that the Darkness and Light were pushing against each other, small areas of each had gained a foothold against each other, creating a checkerboard pattern of blue and purple in midair as they pushed against each other. It was clear to me that they were straining against each other as well, trying to gain the upper hand.
I tried to take a step forward towards my door, but it was like I was pushing against a wall. I wobbled for a moment, and the Light shoved against the Darkness, moving in air towards me, before I was able to push forward against it, taking a small step towards my door.
It was a struggle and felt as if I was pushing a truck uphill, but each small step forward pushed the Light back to the door, allowing the Darkness to grow, swelling and covering more of the room until just the door was left in that strange Light flickering around the edges.
I could feel the Light pulse and try to push against me, but I stopped my ground, gritting my teeth and then it was gone. The Light and the feeling that began it all had disappeared, leaving me staring at the door suspiciously. I felt like I was almost daring something to try that once more.
Nothing happened, and I felt safe, certain that it wasn’t going to happen again. I kept an eye on it for a few minutes then I turned to look around my room, at the Darkness that was swirling and shifting around me, trying to understand what was going on.
I lifted a hand and ran it through the Darkness. Physically there was nothing there, but I could feel there was something there, essentially identical to waving your hand through smoke. I could see the patterns as my hand ran through it, but I couldn’t feel anything.
At best perhaps I might have felt a faint sense of warmth? Maybe some sort of energy held within it. But I wasn’t sure. I was in entirely new territory here and guessing in the end. Perhaps hoping too? Maybe I’d finally gone mad too?
This Darkness was still familiar and somehow comforting despite the fact it was Darkness. That was strange really. Darkness is supposed to be something we’re inherently scared of. It’s where the monsters hide.
I was pondering that for a moment when the Darkness rushed away from me, heading back to the corners of the room, and leaving me alone with a strange woman, plus a mound of questions.
I looked at the young woman as she stared back at me, taking a shaky breath, followed by a quiet sob.
She was an absolute mess, drenched from the rainstorm outside. Her hair was stuck to her head and hung down to around halfway down her back. Some of it covered her face, but I could see piercing blue eyes staring out at me. She was dressed in a party outfit; a thin brightly colored top, short skirt, and stockings with a coat partially wrapped around her, barely covering her upper body. Definitely not an outfit you want to be wearing when a Seattle storm comes by.
She bit her lip for a moment before she shuddered, wrapping her arms and coat tighter around herself. She was breathing heavily, looking around the place with quick eyes, trying to work out things out. I could see a mass of wounds all over her.
I stayed as still as possible. She was clearly on the verge of panic, even my dumb maleness could tell that. It would not do to push her now, so I kept my hands stuck out at my sides as if I were facing someone armed, held still on the spot I was stood on, and spoke calmly but softly to her.
“Hello, I’m Ryan. Relax, I promise I’m not going to hurt you, you’re safe here with me. Okay?”
She looked at me for a long moment, her mouth opening and closing a few times as if deciding what to say before she finally nodded a little, “I... I... thank you. I am so thankful, I really am.” She wobbled a little on her feet.
Looking down quickly I saw that what was once her high heeled feet were now a single high heeled foot, and barely covered by a very tattered stocking.
“I... you can call me Sally,” she replied softly, pulling her coat tighter around herself again.
Part of me perked up at that, noticing it. Her wording on that intrigued me for some reason, but under the circumstances it wasn’t going to be something I pushed at.
“Sally. Please take a seat. I’ve got a first aid box and I can help clean you up. I’m not a trained medic or anything, but I’ve cleaned up a fair few wounds in my years.”
Her eyes widened a little bit and she looked around again, slowly, taking the time to take thing in properly, she seemed surprised by what she saw. Looking around with her, it wasn’t hard to agree with her in part. In this day and age of computers and televisions, it was not the height of luxury. In fact, to some it might have been barely above living on the street.
But it was mine and I felt safe here.
I’d found it not long after I first arrived in Seattle. Finding somewhere you could stay, not be moved on by the police, and be off the street with all the rain wasn’t easy, with all things considered.
I was going down an alley heading towards some warehouses intending to look around for a disused one, when I noticed the large metal door Sally had been pounding on set into the foundation brickwork of the building. It wasn’t completely invisible, but it was painted to match the wall, and hiding in place sight in the alley. Easy to miss if you’re not paying any attention or just flat don’t care.
Taking a gamble, I decided to try and open it up. It wasn’t easy, and I engaged in an epic struggle with the metal door, but after much cursing the door gave up its macho fight, and I managed to enter it.
Inside it was easy to see it was either long abandoned, or no one cared to enter it. Beyond the metal door there was no other entrance, it was perhaps once upon a time a storage room, but these days it was never used and thus remained forgotten.
The floor had a thick coat of dust and dirt, and a mass of cobwebs covered everywhere. I’d taken it, worked with it, made it mine. The first thing to happen was the cleanup, getting rid of the dirt and grime that had gathered, along with the creatures and cobwebs
After that I’d moved furniture in, getting my hands on a couple of chairs and a couch. They were tattered in places, but for the most part a sewing kit did repair work on them, and some cheap pillows helped to re-stuff them. Former pallets and bricks had become tables and shelves around the place. Some old trunks, boxes and cupboards too became storage areas for my things. Just in case, some wooden boards gave me a walled off area for a pallet pile to become my bed, even if most of the time I just slept on my couch.
Hey, it was soft and comfy.
Frankly, the hardest part had getting myself electricity. Okay, stealing it technically, but after some research and exploration I’d managed to do it without anyone noticing. Wires ran along the walls to electric sockets and lights, and I was on my fourteenth month without it being cut off. And I did pay the building upstairs some cash under the door, and never used much anyways.
Perhaps the best part about the original place was that there was a washroom inside room. It had taken a few books bought, but I’d eventually gotten it working and even given it a plumbing improvement, so I got a shower. Admittedly, it was a cold shower.
Some days it was a damn cold shower that told me I was definitely alive.
I could understand her confusion at the setup, considering all of this was down a rarely frequented alley in a not so safe part of the city, hiding behind a barely noticeable metal door, hidden in the basement at the back a shop.
It’s just not what you expect really.
Her gaze returned to me and I put what I hoped was a relaxing expression on my face, but I might have been faintly amused at the same time.
“I know it isn’t much, but it’s been mine now for ages now and it’s rent free too. Honestly, you’re the first person to even try to get in since I moved in, so you’re safe here.”
She considered that for a few moments before she gave me a little smile, nodding again and limped over to the couch, where she sat down. Carefully, I might add. She sat on the edge, ready to run.
Probably for the best. My couch occasionally ate me.
I walked over to a large trunk I kept, rummaging through it for a few moments before I got out a tackle box that was buried amongst the stuff I kept in there, and went into another trunk getting her a bathrobe.
I pulled over a fold up chair to sit down in front of her and offered her the robe. She hesitated for a moment before she stood up and took off her coat and wrapped the robe around herself.
Opening the tackle box revealed the large collection of first aid stuff it held, and I pulled on a pair of gloves while looking over her wounds, before starting to clean them up. She had a lot them on her hands. She’d been fighting whatever it was.
Good for her.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on Sally?” I asked softly, trying not to push her. I kept my attention on her wounds, wiping them down then cleaning them out before bandaging them. Tonight, had been weird, and looking at her while asking these questions wasn’t going to get any questions. Sometimes you don’t want people looking at you while asking questions. Fear of being viewed as weird, freaky, or different.
So, my eyes were completely on her wounds. But I also knew that if I didn’t ask her, she wasn’t going to volunteer the information freely. Sometimes you need to be asked, sometimes you’re desperate to be asked.
She took a couple seconds before she replied, “I guess after that you’re not going to believe I was running from an abusive boyfriend, are you?”
I flashed a smile without looking up. “I haven’t got a clue what happened there. I am as new to it as you are.”
I felt her looking at me, so I looked up at her. She was looking at me in the strangest way, it felt as if she was seeing me, all of me laid out for her to see. It was a look that only took a second or two, and in those few moments, she saw not just who was in front of her, but who I was inside, who I tried to be. That she knew everything I’d ever done, everything I would do, everything I could do.
It’s freaky having someone look at you and feel that they’re seeing that much.
Well, at least for someone other than your mother to be able to do it.
But she seemed to make up her mind in those moments, and I went back to dealing with her wounds.
“I do wish I could tell you why it was chasing me. I’ve never heard of anything like it and haven’t seen anything like it before. I came to town for a job interview a couple of days ago and stayed with a college roommate. We decided to go out, and... and well, one moment I remember being inside, the next I was outside in an alley. And this... white light was in my face. I... couldn’t see anything but the light.” She was babbling without a pause to breathe but at the mention of the Light she shuddered again.
I looked up to her face again, seeing an echo of the terror she had been feeling when I’d dragged inside. I noticed that her eyes were showing pain that she was hiding from me, so I bandaged up her hands and arms as quickly as I could
Finishing that up only took a few minutes more, and I took my gloves off, heading into what can vaguely be called a kitchen area only in the sense that it had a gas camping stove, microwave and kettle set amongst some boxes for storage, arranged around a sink that was hooked into the water supply.
Okay, you might struggle to call it a kitchen, but having worked hard to do all these upgrades, I was pleased with myself. And what else am I going to call it?
I boiled some water, and made up a bowl of warm water, and a couple of coffees, placing them both on a side table next to her. When I got back, she’d clearly gotten an idea of what was going on as her stockings had been taken off so I could deal with her foot injuries without any issue. I let her rest for a few minutes while I drank my own coffee, watching the door.
She took a few sips of her drink while I put on fresh gloves and looked up at her as I sat down again.
“This is going to be painful I’m afraid Sally. I don’t have any painkillers.”
She nodded and gripped the couch as I got started cleaning up her foot. It wasn’t easy for her to stay as still as before while my hands were cleaning and working at the wounds on her feet. These were bigger than the ones on her hands and had stones and dirt in them. It took longer to get them cleaned, but she suffered it in as much silence as she could.
And in the end, she had freshly cleaned, and bandaged wounds and I could settle back and sip some now coldish coffee myself, sitting opposite her in the chair
As curious as I was to know more, sometimes you can’t push people into telling you things. You must let them tell you at their own pace. It wasn’t easy to do, as I’m not naturally a patient person.
However, it did pay off.
“I don’t know why, but the light... It was so terrifying wasn’t it?” She gave a little hiccupping laugh at that. “You don’t think of white light as something that is terrifying, but... ” She faded into silence for a moment staring at her coffee.
“I know. I felt it, too. Whatever was on the other side of that door was... Not something I want to meet.”
She looked relieved at that admission, although I didn’t enjoy giving it. Much like ninety eight percent of males in the world, I didn’t enjoy admitting I feared something.
We have images to maintain after all.
“I tried fighting it. I was... I was sure it was going to kill me. So, I hit it again and again in a panic, and... well, I just ran in the end.” She looked a little ashamed of that admission, probably as ashamed as I was of my own admission of fear. I realized that maybe these days, neither of the sexes were supposed to fear things anymore. Such a weird society we have.
“Look I... I know this place doesn’t seem like much, but you can rest here, okay? There’s a bathroom in there. You can go in and wash up.” She glanced to the door I was pointing at, and after a few moments she gave a little smile at me. It wasn’t much, but it showed a lot of thanks.
“Thank you,” was all that she said before she took her coffee cup and limped in there. The door locked once she’d shut it.
I wasn’t bothered by that. I was still smiling at someone being so grateful for my help.
Funny how little things can make us feel better.
I gave myself a couple of moments to enjoy that feeling before I got up to clean up but realized that she’d already done it. All the stuff I’d used to clean up the blood and gloves were gone. Nice of her, but not needed.
Instead, I decided to head over to my mass of chests. Rummaging through them for some spare clothes she could wear and carrying them over to the door I knocked, “Sally, I’m leaving some spare clothes outside the door. You’re welcome to them while yours dry out.”
She gave a noise of acknowledgment, and I went back to take a seat on my carnivorous couch. I took a few minutes, watching the front door drumming my fingers on my thighs and thinking before a decision finally came to my mind. I got up and grabbed my leather coat and bag.
Despite appearances, my door was silent to open, and I went to do something stupid.
I went to find the Light.