Azura

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Jessica Nolan.

The pearly white, Mercedes Benz Matic rolls around the circular double-tiered fountain, and stops at the base of the pristine marble staircase. Jessica finishes up texting whilst the driver exits the vehicle to retrieve her luggage. Shortly the backseat door opens and with her eyes still on the screen, she slips out of the UberLux. Her Louis Vuitton suitcase awaits ahead of her.

She pockets her phone. “Thank you so much, Ben.”

He nods, appreciated. “You’re very much welcome, Miss Nolan.”

"Travel safe," she bids.

Jessica turns to gaze upon her home with a whimsical expression. A precession of memories projects out in front of her, a treasure of sacred recollections. The mansion is lit from tower to cellar, windows gleaming with a warm, welcoming golden glow.

Elated beyond measure. She heaves up her one bag , dragging it up the widespread, smooth-edged staircase. Once she reaches the top, she bursts through the one heavy mahogany door.

“Guess who's back early,” she declares in a singing voice. The amphitheatre-like hall, carries her words down the palatial front entrance that simply boasts wealth.

She rolls her suitcase inside and parks it at a random spot. Jessica stays where she stands and admires her home for the first time. Not realising how much she missed her home and everyone in it until she returned. It’s like the dam walls in her mind broke, flooding her with reminiscence.

Even though the darkness of night has the entire plain blanketed in blackness. The Nolan manor stands like a blaze in the wilderness. The expansive foyer stretches deep into the house, with a hand-sewn carpet laid on the polished floor like a runway. Priceless art line the walls, interspaced by shimmering mirrors and family portraits with no lack of ancestral, pedestaled busts. Everything relishes in a river of gold. Twenty feet above the chandeliers shine like the noonday sun.

She abandons the front entrance and saunters down the foyer, passing the central, crimson-carpeted staircase; both begin facing each other at the base and they gracefully swivel up to the second landing. The eddying banister carved by a carpenter’s skilful hand, leading to the balcony with a choice of west or east.

She ambles towards the main guest living room in the distance, humming a soft melodious tune as she walks. A song her caretaker sung to her every night before bed when she was small. The only thing that would give her solace at night, when she was afraid.

Jessica narrows her eyes into slits, and notices a dark figure zip across the Tudor archway. An excited smile thrives on her face.

“Katalina,” she beckons. Her speed accelerates.

No-one answers back.

“George?” She tries.

Without a doubt, she knows Katalina’s daily evening routine. She would always make sure the head chef prepared Momma’s and papa’s favourite meals, presented it to the them the way they liked it, and made sure that the staff completed their chores. And George and his partners took care of the football-field size garden out back. Once all that was done, Katalina would release everyone to their quarters. And by now. Jessica thinks back with a grin.

She’s doing one last check-up before she rests.

A saccharine voice rebounds through the hall. “Is that my little Jess?”

A round-framed woman emerges in the archway.

“Katalina!”

Jess leaps into a quick sprint until she brakes to an abrupt halt. A sickening sensation swarms inside her core. Thrashed by a gut-wrenching realisation. A dread-drilling reminder that Katalina always, and without fail. Only took the first two weeks of summer off to spend with her family. Abroad.

Her voice drops to a fearful whisper, “Katalina?”

The woman extends out her arms as if beckoning for her embrace. Then the faultless lights of the Nolan manor start to flicker erratically, split-second interludes of darkness and light. Uncontrollable shivers wrack Jessica’s body uncontrollably. The luminescence in the living room explodes into darkness and the arms of the woman thaws into the shadows, ethereal essence begins to stream out of her, blending into the black.

She is. It is. The darkness.

As one blows out a candle, the lights from the end snuff out, one-by-one. And the bestial darkness grows like the rising of night and it rushes out towards her ravenously. She spins around, sprinting back to the entrance, but the hall seems to infinitely lengthen from her. Distancing her from salvation.

She reaches the double doors, frantically trying to heave it open. A bloodcurdling scream escapes her, ricocheting into the expanse, rattling her own skull. She whips around and dashes to the staircase. The malignant darkness consumes the light in the foyer with just one inhale.

Jessica surges up the flight of stairs and chucks herself to the left. She launches herself down the labyrinth of corridors in the west wing. She tears out her phone, thoughtlessly speed dialling the first person on her emergency contact list.

The line rings.

Her head snaps to the side, glimpsing the imminent black doom gushing towards her in a frenzy. Chased by her own screams.

The line rings.

But it does not stop.

Fear urging her stamina, her body overwhelmed by incomprehensible horror, mounting with each frenzied breath. Her heart beats outside of its cage as if it wishes to flee from her chest completely.

She bolts down the last corridor and blasts through the double doors of the master suite. She slams the one door close and hurries to the far corner of the high-ceilinged room, dialling emergency services. At the same time, she hums the same tune, the melody shuddering with her breaths. She switches on her phone's flashlight.

Starlight pours through the suite on the opposite end, spilling soft light into the chamber. Giving vision to the darkness that seeps beneath the doors, skulking menacingly like smoke, bathing the floor. The darkness rises, filling the room, solidifying into a palpable presence.

Jessica looks down. The call cut out before it could start.

Huddled in the vertex, as small as she was when she was little. She presses herself against the crook as if hoping the walls will envelop her into safety, feet skidding on the furnished floors.

Her shivers ramp up to a toe-curling climax. Her phone jumps out of her grasp and it lands on its face beside her, the white light reflecting on the wall beside her.

Only in the light can the truest of darkness be seen.

The darkness creeps into the mere of light around her. Its true form reflects on the wall like a morbid spectacle. A form with too many jagged angles and a terror-piercing shape. A spear of dread slowly impales her, running right through her chest.

It rushes at her and her screams steals into the night. Taking the last of the light.

From cellar to tower. Darkness reigns. The once brightly lit home, a blaze of comfort amidst the crepuscule of night. It too joins it's gloom.

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