Author’s Note: This is a collaboration between the artist of the drawing, Judah Lincoln Doran, and myself. He gave me permission to write something based off his drawing. Judah, thank you.
She felt along blindingly in the darkness, her quiet whimpers seemingly louder than she thought them to be. Her cell phone had died hours ago, and she thought she knew her way home by now. She and her family had moved to the small town a month ago, and she walked to school every day. But she forgot… she forgotten that daylight savings time had ended, and darkness would come too early, too soon. She had to stay over for tutoring, and both of her parents had to work late, so she was left to her own devices to return home. She wasn’t necessarily afraid of the nighttime, but she wasn’t fond of it, either.
But this darkness… it wasn’t normal. Where were the cars, the streetlamps? She thought back to a scary story her classmates told her the first day she arrived, about how no one stayed out late at night on the road she lived on because of a malevolent spirit which haunted the street. It was no mystery that there were many missing children in the town, which seemed odd to her due to the town’s size. However, with an idle wave, she dismissed the tale; she never believed in things such as that.
She knew by now, her parents were more than likely home. Why weren’t they searching for her? Her phone was dead, and surely they would have called it by now, realizing this. Her legs were getting tired. How long had she been walking? Her house was around two miles away from the school. Without a doubt, she’d walked more than two miles. Was she lost? No way. She had walked this way for a month, and it was a straight shot to her house. She never thought darkness could be felt… but she could feel it. It was almost smothering her, and she felt like breaking down and crying there-
A light? Her eyes noticed a flicker in the distance. Her chest heaved as she let out a sigh of relief and started towards the light. Hopefully, a bench would be there, and she could rest for just a moment before setting out again towards home. The more steps she took, the more visible the light became, but she noticed something… This light was different. It was as though it was moving. She laughed and shook the thought out of her mind. Her eyes were playing tricks on her, after being in the dark for so long.
No… it was different. This wasn’t a normal streetlamp. The light was too low, too narrow, only extended out the the sidewalk. Still, hopeful, she continued to walk, realizing that the light was getting longer. She laughed at herself. Nonsense, again. Her eyes were playing tricks on her, that’s all. Before long, the light touched the tips of her sneakers, and she noticed the light seemed to hang from nothing. For a moment, she stopped, but then the light drew closer, now revealing her shins. She took two or three steps back, her hands folded together up to her chest as her breathing became unsteady. While at first, seeing the light comforted her, now, she was unsure. As she stepped back, the light followed, and then she closed her eyes, shaking her head.
“Stop it,” she whispered to herself. “You’re letting that stupid tale get to you. I’m just going to rest beneath it for a second then head home.”
She continued on, and the light stopped moving forward. She glanced behind her to see that her shadow was elongating, and she smiled. Just a normal thing, and she was glad to finally be able to get some rest. She wasn’t sure what time it was, but she hoped she would get home in time to finish her Algebra II homework. After tutoring, she finally grasped it… or so she hoped, anyway.
Just as she was to reach the light, she looked at it and stopped, her body covering in goosebumps and a silent scream on her lips. The light wasn’t a streetlamp at all. She hadn’t noticed until just now that it had been getting brighter, and when she looked behind her, her shadow was her entire body, but it seemed stretched out more than possible. As she turned her head toward the light, a white skull entered her peripheral, and a whimper escaped her lips. Then, she was there, face-to-face with whatever it was. Blackness, dark and fluid, was its tall body, shrouded around its white skull. The “light” extended from the blackness and over its head, only giving the light sideways, not backwards or forwards. Just enough for a sidewalk. And its arms… long, fluid-like, the fingers long and sharp, black just like there rest of it. She was frozen, except for her lips, which quivered as she struggled to let out a scream that just wouldn’t pass by her throat. It was as though it was caught in her lungs, and no matter how hard she tried, it stayed there.
She watched as it raised one of its arms, index finger gliding under her chin, where it gently placed itself. Lowering itself down to where its mouth was next to her ear, the figure whispered something to her that made the breath in her lungs dissipate.
“Child of light nevermore. Child of night forevermore.”
It slid its finger off her chin, then snapped its body around, the light twisting out of existence. A gasp-
Flashlights. A man and a woman were walking down the street, their flashlights beaming through the heavy darkness. The man was trying, in vain, to calm the hysterical woman.
“Shh, honey, just stay calm. Maybe she’s still getting tutored, or she took a rest somewhere.” The man shone his light to the left. “Let’s try over here.”
Gwen called out to them, but no voice came. She kept trying, her mouth moving but no sound to be heard. All she could do was watch as her parents walked away.
The spirit then turned around, the white skull seemingly with a smile. At with its light, she saw…
“Child of light nevermore.”
Tears streamed down her white skull as she looked at her black, ethereal body.
“Child of night forevermore.”
Three days later, Gwen’s picture was added to the poster board of missing and exploited children. How many, out of the countless, were there because of the spirit? How many, out of the countless, were now part of the spirit’s scheme, property, to help gather more and more?
Gwen’s smiling face would be there, always. Just like the rest.