When Darkness Falls
Azalea remembered his first encounter with the strange and mysterious. Four years ago, yet it seemed like an eternity from where he was as he stared into the eyes of Not-Jessica. But Azalea knew the monster.
He needed to remember his past.
Azalea stared into the dark center of the ceiling. This was his childhood, many years ago. Azalea knew he was really good at sleeping, but that night, he just couldn’t.
He rolled over to stare at the clock, which read ‘1:31’.
Bored, he rolled over and stared back at the ceiling. As he stared at the shadow covered walls, his eyes seemingly began to play tricks upon him. The paint began to warp, forming a shape.
Child Azalea rubbed his eyes, but the ceiling continued to warp. As his room had no ceiling fan, he got a full view of what was happening. Strangely, there was no terror as the hard wall formed… a door.
The door, oddly, had color. It was a dark brown door, shiny, as if it had just been clean. The door’s handle was a perfect glowing gold.
The handle began to turn. Slowly, the door clicked, and it began to slowly swing open. Behind the door, was a strange hallway, lined with even more doors. Somehow, the door wanted him to enter. A soft humming, almost unhearable began to appear, vibrating the bed. Slowly, the bed began to float, and so did Azalea.
But just as Azalea neared the door, he heard a window break far away, distant to the child. But the door warped back into the ceiling, disappearing.
Almost immediately, the child fell asleep.
His parents later told him someone threw a rock at the window to break in.
The second time he saw the door was when he was trying to enter his middle school. Instead of the regular glass door that welcomed students in, today the door was different.
As he got closer, the door’s color had changed, now becoming dark brown, like the door from his childhood. Caleb pressed his hands against the new door, and to his surprise, it was warm, comforting, even inviting.
Through small cracks through the door, a soft, golden light showered Azalea with seemingly holy light.
Azalea turned the door’s handle, but again, their destined meeting was interrupted. The school bell had rung, and the door sucked itself, swirling itself into non-existence.
The third time was in the catacombs.
Caleb Azalea had never gone to the catacombs before. Today, it would be his first time. He, and some others had won a lottery and would be exploring the catacombs, led by a highly experienced guide.
While creepy, they would still be traveling through marked paths.
And that’s why Azalea met up with the five other winners. He didn’t know any of their names, and he didn’t bother two. He simply saw them as numbers, more data than human in his head.
“Oh! I’m late!” the guide called, a woman named Michelle Alarie as she ran step after step to a bus stop where the others awaited. Looking back, Azalea noted her to look a lot like Jessica Io.
“No problem,” chirped one of the adventurers, a fellow with a British accent.
“Now, we’ll be taking a bus that’s… also late.”
Just as the guide spoke those words, a small orange bus arrived around the corner. Along the side were various advertisements, and the occasional graffiti. The small group entered the bus, and took their seats.
An hour later, Caleb found himself taking photographs of the infinite skull walls of the catacombs. He didn’t know the others in the group, so he just stood and gazed at the sights while the guide narrated vivid scenes.
The skull halls were lit with a soft, golden glow, an aura of life, even in the rivers of the dead.
“...and that’s how and why the catacombs were created,” the guide explained. Caleb nodded, not paying attention. The skulls were giving him a strange feeling, a calm, almost sleepy feel.
“Hey!” someone called, snapping Caleb out of his trance. Reflecting back, Azalea would realize this man was Oscar Lilith. “We’re going now!”
But as Azalea ran, he saw something that should not have been there. Yet he knew it was there for him. A door, sticking out, wooden, a dark brown, but it looked newer, glistening in the electronic golden lights.
Azalea stopped. By now, many years had passed since he had last seen the door. He had chalked it up to a childhood dream, but now, he was certain of the door’s existence.
This time, he wasted no time in admiring the door. Azalea turned the handle, and opened the gateway.
Like his first encounter, it was a long hall, basked with a golden light with an unknown source. He walked in, sure of what he was doing. When he was far enough from the still open door, the entrance closed.
But Azalea was not afraid. Something about the hall seemed like destiny.
At the end of the hall, was another door. This one seemed to call out to him. The gateway was like the door he had used to get in, and a sign on the door labeled it as ‘exit’.
Azalea still tried the other doors, but found them locked. Something pounded at the door when he tried one that was a crimson color.
Opening the ‘exit’ door, he found it leading back into the catacombs. But there were no guests, no guides, and nobody. Checking his phone, Azalea found it to be 1:41 am.
Azalea stepped out, and the world behind him disappeared.
Oddly, the door leading out of the catacombs were open, but as he walked out, the doors slammed shut, then locking itself airtight shut.
In the streets of Paris, France, nobody noticed him exit. But Azalea noticed them. He could sense something different as different peoples passed him. Some gave him a feeling of anxiety, while others calmed him down.
He decided it was probably nothing, and returned to his hotel to sleep.
But all through the next day, the feelings still persisted. Coffee didn’t work, because when his eye caught someone looking tired, he would be instantly tired. He watched a child celebrate a party, and he felt a feeling of security and pleasure.
Though he didn’t notice often, a side effect caused him to want to experience fun, and so he indulged himself in odd trinkets that pleased him, which, like bubbles, pleased others.
It was the same after that. Doctors mumbled something about brains when he went to the hospital, and that was after his appointments got canceled time after time.
In other words, Caleb Azalea got used to his new ability.
He liked the nighttime. Nobody was there to make him feel scared. The dwellers of night were peaceful.
But one day, months after he gained the new ability, one such person scared him. Azalea remembered the person from somewhere. He concentrated, and realized it was one of the other visitors, one that won the lottery for the catacomb tour. He thought, then remembered it was a man named Elijah Jacobi. He didn’t sense any new feelings from this person, which scared him. It wasn’t normal, and everyone else he saw gave him feelings.
Azalea decided to follow him.
Elijah Jacobi walked into an alleyway, and Azalea stalked him silently. Now concentrating, Azalea could see something different about Elijah, like he wasn’t completely ‘there’. It didn’t seem like a human either. Instead, it just seemed human, like how mannequin exists as humanoid, but how the uncanny valley repelled humankind.
Every few seconds, Azalea would think it looked male, then female, changing again and again.
It reminded him of television static, always shifting. But in the end, Azalea could not keep track, and it looked not-human, and not-gendered, even though he was sure Elijah was.
Now, Elijah began to look back, making sure nobody was following. He saw Caleb Azalea a few times, thinking he was some person going the same path, but Azalea learned, and hid just around a corner.
When the man was sure nobody watched, he began to change. Azalea peeked out, and what he saw, horrified him. The body began to shrivel and transform, like a towel being wrung of liquid. As the body began to twist, a crack began to appear on the skin, where a single jet-black limb came through.
The limb was sticklike, and it had ring patterns at its edges, where it met a clawed hand. Three, serrated, daggers were fingers, and these daggers ripped the body, freeing another limb.
The first limb stretched out of the body, revealing a length that could not have been contained. The second burst out, where it set itself on the ground- a leg, longer than the already long arm. One it’s ‘feet’ had curving claws that when they moved, clicked and scraped together.
The freed limbs began to split, turning two, into four.
From the inside, two more limbs burst out, silent, except for the brief rustling of wind and scrapes of its toes. Those changed as well, each limb ripping apart and forming new ones.
From the center, burst a head, followed by an extending, skinny, neck. The head looked like an open Venus Flytrap, except that it had a color beyond black. What appeared to be a mouth was open, and needles of teeth were raised, half pointing outward, half inwards.
The human body now sagged in a corner, empty, and slack like paper. It was flat, and spread across.
Beside it, the monster, whatever it was rose to full height, rising higher than even the highest of mankind.
The transformation happened in quick succession, and Azalea opened his mouth to scream- when a hand covered it.
And that’s where he met Paris Chambers for the first time.
“Listen,” she had first whispered, “if you want to live, stay silent.”
And now, in the present, Azalea remembered his past as he stared into the dark eyes of someone who was Not-Jessica.
Not-Jessica began to shift, and Azalea prayed to anyone who might be listening.