Dark Hall

Joe heard the breaker click as the lights abruptly disappeared. He cussed at the air. His game was getting very interesting. The Rusty King had just condemned his character to exile and he wanted to know what the hell was going to happen next.

“Man, I think I almost had it beat too,” he grumbled to himself. “Now I have to do all that crap over again. What a pain.” He sighed and dropped the controller on the floor. He carefully wondered out through the door. It wasn’t the first time he had to make his way in the dark to fix the breaker. And he was no stranger to sneaking downstairs to get a midnight snack while his parents slept soundly, he knew where everything was, the steps, the doorways, and the chandelier hanging too low in the hall. He made his way through the dark like a blind person, which is why he didn’t notice the darkness that permeated the hall. At least, he thought he knew where everything was, until he ran into the wall where the steps should have been.

“What the hell?” Joe swiped at his nose as it began to throb, then thrust his hands out to touch the wall that shouldn’t have been there. It felt rough and rusty. Pieces of the wall flaked off, making quiet sounds as they hit the floor. “What?” Bewildered, he made his way back toward his room, following the wall, thinking he may have missed the steps. He reached his room and looked in. It was still his room. The moonlight lit it up with a soft silver-white glow and nothing looked out of the ordinary. He moved to the window and saw the houses across the street. His eyebrows scrunched up with confusion. He looked back in the black hall and wondered why it was so dark.

Joe made his way back into the hall and felt the wall again, fingertips twitching at the roughness. Suddenly there was a noise above him and he ran into his room. He hid under the covers, shaking with fear. He peeked out from under his blanket and watched the doorway, waiting for something to come through. His gut tightened with thoughts of what might appear. Did he hear something else? He watched closely, not daring to breathe. Nothing.

“What’s going on?” he asked himself. “Where are the stairs and Mom and Dad’s room?” Some time passed before he gathered his wits and his heart slowed. He was curious now. There had to be some sort of explanation. He wondered what was going on. He wondered what the noise was. He wondered why the moonlight didn’t go into the hall, even after opening the blinds all the way. It was pitch black in the hall. He reached under his bed and grabbed his flashlight. Then he noticed the time on his watch. It blinked 12:00 A.M., as if it had lost power. The seconds were stuck on zero. He glanced at his alarm clock and noticed it was doing the same thing. Blinking 12:00. The red number just flashed off and on but didn’t change. Joe flicked the light switch on and off a few times, but there was no response. His room was dappled only with moonlight. He looked around, trying to gather his thoughts.

“Wait a minute! This is way too weird! This just isn’t right. I must be dreaming. It’s the only explanation.” He looked into the dark hallway. “I have to get out of here. Maybe through the window.” Accepting the fact that this was all some bad dream but still feeling nervous, he walked across his room toward the window. He looked out of the window and his jaw dropped. An ocean had replaced the street below, as well as the rest of the neighborhood, as far as the eye could see. He realized he was high too, almost as if he was at the top of lighthouse.

“What in the…” He closed his eyes tight and shook his head furiously. “Just a dream, that’s all it is, just a dream.” He stopped a moment and prepared to open his eyes. When his muscles finally relaxed and opened, he let out a shaky breath. “Oh god.” The waves were still there smashing up against his house. He felt faint as his stomach tightened and he sat down and about fell back against the wall. He felt the blood leave his face as he turned pale with fear.

“Help!” It came out as a squeak but quickly turned to a scream. “Help! Help me! Someone!” His screaming was cut short by a scraping sound.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk.

It sounded like footsteps on a grated floor. Did it hear him? It had to have heard him. He made himself turn toward the door, waiting for something to make its way through the door, pulling itself along. Without warning the noise stopped. But it felt like something was there. Idle. Waiting. He was relieved to see nothing until he looked at his blinking clock again. It was different. It was still blinking but it looked like letters. His curiosity overcame reasoning and he edged closer. The red letters flashed two words over and over: It’s time. It’s time. It’s time.

“What?” His voice triggered whatever it was that lurked in the darkness outside his bedroom door.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk.

His first reaction was to run and hide under his blanket. But then he remembered that this was probably just a dream. And he had a flashlight. Once again his fear abated and was replaced by curiosity. He flicked the flashlight on and shone the beam of light toward the hall. It only partially penetrated the darkness. It looked like a fog made out of darkness. He sighed and moved closer to the darkness. He knew it was a bad idea but what could a dream do to a person? It was only a dream. A very real feeling dream.

He slowly made his way to the hall. As he stepped into the darkness, he couldn’t shake the feeling of swimming. The flashlight only went so far. The hall was the same shape but the doors were gone. His parents’ room and the bathroom were all replaced by a dark wall. He looked closer and saw the dirt clumps on the wall. Under the dirt it looked like the wall was made out of wood planks. The dirt seemed like it was making its way in between the planks. His thoughts were interrupted by a now familiar sound.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk.

He looked up above him and could barely see what looked like metal grating. A dark shape was moving around with a limp above him. Then there were more shapes moving about, and more footsteps. But the sound of the limping figure stood out above the rest.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk. Faster now.

The more he looked above him, the more shapes he noticed slowly wondering above him. What really caught his breath was the reflection from his flashlight. The eyes of the figures above glowed white and blue, reflecting like a cat’s eye. They kept pacing, never taking their eyes off of Joe.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk.

A quiet moan came down to Joe’s ears. They seemed excited. He made for his doorway to get back into the light, away from this darkness and away from those figures with the glowing eyes. He ran into the wall that suddenly replaced his doorway. Dirt fell on his face as he realized he was lying on the floor, staring straight up. The figures had been following him and hovered above him, pacing.

     Scrap-clunk-scrape-clunk.

A low, rumbling voice echoed from everywhere, “It’s time.” The shuffling stopped and only his breath pierced the sudden silence.

He finally sputtered, “What is going on?”

The same voice chuckled, “God isn’t very proud of your short , pitiful life. He sent me to do his job. It’s time.”

“What?” He sat up now, his back pushed against the wall where his door used to be. He could feel the wood give a little, almost icy cold through the sweat-damp cotton of his shirt.

The voice continued, “When your parents come home, they will find your body lying still in the bed, locked in eternal sleep. It’s time.” Part of the grate opened across the room and the steps started again in the opposite direction of Joe, the limping still rising above the rest.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk.

Joe shined his flashlight towards the hole in time to see one of the shapes fall to the ground with a solid thump. They started moaning as more bodies fell behind the ones that were now walking toward him. His feet scrabbled against the floor as he tried to press himself closer to the wall in a feeble attempt at escape. In the shaky circle of light from his flashlight, he could see their pale faces and pointy teeth glinting in their wide grins. Joe couldn’t see their eyes, just black holes where he thought eyes should be. The limping sound came from the creature in front of the others.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk.

“It’s time.” Started the voice again. “If only you could have been good for once, God wouldn’t have sent me. Ha ha! Silly boy. Are you scared? Don’t be. Hell is close.” Joe stopped moving and tried to scream but nothing came out. This was no dream. This was the end.

     Scrape-clunk-scrape-clunk-scrape–

Joe’s scream was suddenly set free as cold clammy hands grabbed him and a gaping mouth full of sharp teeth flew at him.

~1998~

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