The Darkening Part II
A Horror/Paranormal Novella
by E. H. James
Cornelius Blackwell’s great, great grandson has inherited Raven
Manor—his first order of business…tear up the floorboards with
the protective symbol. You see, like his great, great grandfather, he
too wants to make a deal with the devil. However, not only is the
Darkening once more opened, but a gateway from the underworld
is created, and creatures begin to spill out into this dimension.
Aware the Darkening has been reopened, Rosario prevents any
more creatures from entering this world, but not before the Source
casts a malevolent net around Raven Manor. Drawing the life’s
energy from the people inside, the Source will create a tipping
point, allowing his world to blend with this one. Only Rosario has
an ace up her sleeve, and she intends to use it.
Will an exodus overtake the world as we know it? Or will three
unsung heroes step into the breach to save us all?
* * *
* * *
Hank shot up in bed. For a moment, he sat clutching the blanket, his heart racing. He grabbed a pen and notepad from the bedside table. Holding the pen poised to write, his hand trembled. The empty white sheet glared up at him. The fleeting images even now abandoning his thoughts.
He sighed and tossed the pad and pen back onto the table. Throwing the blankets aside, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Tiny clawed feet clicked on the wood flooring, as they scurried in the shadows.
He turned, but there was nothing there. He half shrugged and snatched the pants and shirt from the chair by the bed. Yawning, he strolled into the washroom and relieved himself. He washed his hands and splashed cold water on his face. Pressing his palms onto the cold porcelain of the sink, he raised his head. On the window sill behind him, there was a ball of fur about the size of a kitten. Its hair was scraggly, and it had no tail. “What the…?”
The creature shifted on short legs, its red eyes staring up into his. Baring long needle-like teeth, it leaped from the sill straight at his face.
Yanking the towel from its rod, he then swung. The creature and the towel landed upon the floor in a snarling lump. He ran from the bathroom and slammed the door. “That was not real. That was not real. This is not happening.”
Snarls continued to come from the other side of the door, followed by claws running on tile, and then a thump against the door. Tiny feet reached out from under the door, and he jumped back.
He shook his head. “It’s fine. It’ll be fine…as long as I never have to take a leak or maintain any semblance of sanity.” Closing his eyes, he swallowed. “Not real. Not real,” he muttered.
He walked into the kitchen and reached for the tap. A black mass, about the size of a cat, flew out of the shadows straight for him. He grabbed the frying pan from the drain board and swung hard. There was an odd thunk, as metal struck solid. Whatever it was, it hit the wall and slid onto the floor. It lay still for a moment and then moved.
“Fuck this.” He grabbed his wallet and slipped on a pair of running shoes. Snatching his keys from the table, he then raced into the hall. He wasn’t waiting to find out whatever the hell that thing was. He closed the door and locked it. Gathering himself, he stepped back.
Something breathed, and slowly he turned. It was his neighbor Mrs. Baldwin’s German Shepherd.
“Mrs. Baldwin, you forgot Jeremiah in the hallway again.” He reached to pat the dog, as she came out of her apartment, accompanied by Jeremiah.
Hank froze, his eyes turning to whatever lay at his feet. The creature stirred. Its head lifting, it rose on bone-thin legs.
The stench of rotting flesh drifted from matted, wet fur and filled the hallway, as it raised its pointed snout. Gelatinous goo oozed between its teeth, forming a puddle on the carpet. Its stare locked with his. “Holy mother of…”
The creature sprung and knocked him to the floor. Bringing his arms up, he screamed.
Lowering his hand slightly, he peeked up at Mrs. Baldwin. She was touching his arm—the beast no where to be found.
“Are you all right?”
Tugging his disheveled shirt, he pushed up against the wall. “Sorry, I thought I saw something in the shadows.”
She smiled down at him and patted his shoulder. “It’s all those readings you do, dear. You really must take care of yourself.”
He climbed to his feet. “You’re right. I need to take a break. Thank you.” Taking the stairs, he made his way to the front entrance and out onto the street. Pressing his hand to his chest, he fell back against the brick wall. “You’re losing it, Hank.”
Stepping from the wall, he opened his eyes. He wasn’t in front of his building anymore. Before him was an apartment block. Its front doors were falling away from their hinges—years of abandonment and neglect leaving the paint cracked and peeling. He glanced from side to side. “How the hell did I…?” He drew his sleeve up off his watch.
One minute had passed.
“Keep calm.” He laughed. “Who am I kidding? I always knew this day would come. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.”
A hand came to rest on his shoulder. “You’re not losing your mind.”
A woman stood to his left.
He closed his eyes and then opened them. “Jeez. Now I have hallucinations telling me I’m not hallucinat…and who’s Rose?” The apartment building was no longer falling to ruin. His gaze followed the lines of the freshly painted doors, as they stood straight on their hinges. “What’s happening here? What is this place? Why do I…know it?”
Slowly, the doors opened. “Come inside, and I will tell you why.”
“Look, whatever kind of ghost you are, if you think I’m going in there, you have another think coming.” He turned away only to be facing the apartments again. “Okay, that’s…”
“Cross the threshold, and all will be revealed.”
Hank’s shoulders drooped. “You’re not going away, are you?”
“I didn’t think so.”
“I am sorry, but you’re a part of this. I need your help. I alone cannot close the Darkening.”
A man’s face flashed through his mind. “Michael? Why do I know that name?”
He ascended the steps and crossed the threshold into the grand entrance. The moment his foot touched the marble floor, people appeared going about their day.
To his right was a woman.
“I’m Jenn. Are you moving in?”
“You’re still thinking about it. Gotcha. You don’t want to rush these things. Have a look around. Check things out.” She grinned. “Well, I can tell you one thing. There are some really great people here. So, if you’re looking, this is the place to be.” She continued out the front door, vanishing as she passed over the threshold.
He sighed. “Nice touch. Make me feel guilty by introducing me to the all-American girl next door.”
“I did not send her. And she is not a ghost.”
He turned. Before him was the woman from the street. She touched her finger to his forehead, and a surge of images and memories flooded his mind.
He lost his balance, and she grasped him firmly by the arm.
“I…remember. Michael. The void. His girlfriend.” He clutched her by the shoulders. “He succeeded. He got her out.” He whooped and pumped a fist in the air.
The woman smiled.
“Wait. Why did I forget?” He paused. “This is a different timeline. One in which I never met him. Because…it never happened.”
“The memory still exists, buried deep within your psyche. You just needed a trigger.”
He blinked. “I know you.”
“You’re remembering the other timeline.”
“No. I mean, I know you.”
“I am Rosario.”
“Funny. I was going to say Rose. But you don’t let anyone call you that, except…Tommy. You prefer to be called Rosario, and you are…”
“You’re blocking me.”
“No. Your mind is absorbing the memories. It will take time. It would not be wise for me to rush you.”
He cast his gaze over the front entrance of the apartment. “What exactly is happening here?”
“What you’re sensing is the Darkening. You remember it as the void that took Mr. Caulfield’s girlfriend, Elaine. They closed it, sealing it off. Only the new owner removed the seal, when he had the symbol in the wood floor boards torn up and taken away. By doing so, the Darkening has been reopened. But, not only is it open, the doorway has created a passageway from the other side to this. Creatures have begun to escape into this world.”
Hank’s brows rose sharply. “Creatures? They wouldn’t happen to have red eyes, long sharp fangs, and smell of death?”
“Dear God—” he took a step toward the front door “—they must be creating havoc.”
“Not yet. But, they soon will, unless we do something to close the Darkening once and for all.”
He spun. “What do you mean, not yet? I came across three, between my bedroom and the hall outside my apartment.”
“They were drawn to you, because you’re vibrating on a similar energy to them. By that I mean you can sense, hear, and see the Darkening and everything connected with it.”
“When you met Mr. Caulfield you saw into his mind. You connected with his consciousness and life energy. And when you did, you also became connected to what he was experiencing.” She directed her eyes to the front door. “You can see and interact with those creatures as real entities of the other world here, because when their energy and yours comes into contact, you are both in an in-between state of awareness. One in which you both exist in that moment. So, yes, they can hurt you. And the larger ones can even kill you.”
He gulped. “So because I can sense them…?”
“While in your presence, they become real to you, and your world becomes real to them.”
“That’s why it couldn’t pass through the door, and I could hit the one in the kitchen with the frying pan.”
“Precisely. And when Mrs. Baldwin touched you, her energy attached itself to yours and disconnected you from the creature in the hallway.”
His brow creased. “Exactly when did the Darkening open again?”
“It has only just happened.”
The crease on his brow deepened.
“Then how is it they could have come to you so quickly? They’re out of phase with this dimension. Physical reality doesn’t exist for them here…yet. Only when they come into contact, with one such as yourself—”
“Do they become real.”
“That is correct.” She pulled up. “That’s why I brought you here. When with me, you’re safe from harm. These people here, in this apartment building, are trapped in a world that exists outside your world. The Darkening is drawing on their life energy to strengthen the connection between the two worlds, and to fully open the doorway. And once it’s done taking all they have to give…”
“They will die.”
“Yes. They’re unaware their world is no longer the world you and I know. The moment I sensed the Darkening open, I came immediately. My presence has stopped any more creatures from escaping, but those who came through before I arrived are now in this dimension. To return them, I must seek them out. And that is something I cannot do. I must remain here holding the Darkening at bay. Only those, like you, who’ve seen this other world, or sensed its existence, are in danger, for now.” She hesitated. “But there is another way to return them to the Darkening…and that is to close it.”
She turned her head to the staircase. “The Source sensed my presence and knew I was preventing any more creatures from escaping. Before I could stop it, he created a bubble around this apartment building, with the intent of solidifying the doorway between the worlds. Once he’s taken their life energy, there will be a shift, and the Darkening will spill out into this world.
“Should I collapse that bubble, and rescue those people, I would have to engage the Source, and the ensuing battle could tear both worlds apart.”
“So these people are dying and don’t know it. And if you try to rescue them, not only could they die, but everyone on the planet.”
She nodded. “I have the power to stop it. But my power, combined with the Source of the other world, would create a catastrophic event.”
He lowered his head. “You’ve brought me here to get Michael.”
“Yes. Mr. Caulfield, Detective Henderson, and you will be able to breach the bubble and enter the other world to close the Darkening.”
Hank cleared his throat. “Uh…me?” He laughed. “You’re kidding, right? I’m just a psychic. I’m not some underworld warrior. The best I can do is make a hole as I run through the nearest wall, unless that’s considered a super power.”
Rosario smirked. “You’re far more than you realize, my dear man. Just as Mr. Caulfield and Detective Henderson had to be convinced they were more than they believed, when they had to engage the other world the first time, so must you.”
“No, really. I don’t—” Before he could finish his thought, Rosario once more struck him on the forehead. A rush of color and sound flew through his mind, as images and knowledge unveiled itself to him. He staggered back and fell to the floor. The wooziness subsided, and clarity once more returned. “That was…I don’t know what that was.” Slowly, he stood. “What a rush.” He lifted his gaze. “And I thought my nightmares were scary.”
She pressed her hand to his chest, and he flinched, jumping back.
“What did you do?” He pulled his shirt open. On his chest was a mark burned into the skin.
“This will protect you, as you travel through the underworld. You never need worry it’ll be blocked or removed. It’s part of you, now and always. It’ll enhance the abilities you already possess, as well as more firmly connect you to the knowledge within you.”
“I remember.” He came close. “You. This. All of it.”
Her gaze met his, and she touched her hand to his cheek. “Then you understand. You and I have a special connection—one that allowed me to reach out to you and bring you here.” She turned her head. “I must remain here. I need you to reach Mr. Caulfield and Detective Henderson, and make them remember who they are and what they are capable of. You need to reawaken their warrior within.”
* * *