Black Petals Issue #92, Summer, 2020

The Bringer of Darkness

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C. S. Harbold-The Whispering
Dean Patrick-Vincent's Warning
Doug Park-We Get Him Together
Joseph Hurtgen-Worlds to Conquer
Mickie Bolling-Burke-The Bringer of Darkness
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Matthew Wilson-Endless Men's Hate
Michael Steven-Hell Rift
Sean Goulding-Hypnagogic
David C. Kopaska-Merkel-In the Land of Giants
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Richard Stevenson-Peg Leg
Richard Stevenson-The Alkali Lake Monster
Richard Stevenson-The Green Man

92_bp_bringerofdarkness_greenberg.jpg
Art by K.J.Hannah Greenberg 2020

The Bringer of Darkness

 

Mickie Bolling-Burke

 

 

My days are fear and watchfulness and the counting of the dead. My parents’ days, ‘the old days’, were holiday celebrations and laughter, people opening their curtains and their windows, and leaving their homes without carefully planning their routes, without packing weapons and traveling in groups.  Of friends who ran in and out of each others homes without struggling at doors studded with locks, and sitting on their front porches calling out to the neighbours walking by.

Our front porch is empty now, except for the wooden swing hanging from the ceiling where my sister and brothers gathered, drinking their lemonade and swinging so hard the chains would rattle. Sometimes the chains rattle even now. I pretend it’s my siblings. I stare out the window for hours. My sister and brothers’ days were playing out there, with balls and bats. I still have them – their playthings. Sometimes I hold them and pretend we're going to have a game. My sister and brothers have been gone for longer than I can tell. I want to have played with them, to feel the soft, sweet sun, to smell the new mown grass.

The darkness comes earlier and stays later now. The screams are louder, shriller and wilder. We turn up our radios, our stereos, our televisions to drown them out, but we hear them. We always hear them.

When the darkness first came, we gathered together; safety in numbers we assured each other. That just made the carnage easier. I didn’t know which was worse, the blood or the bits. Because that’s what the darkness left us: bits of eyes and fingers and tongues clotted in blood. In the beginning, we tried to piece them together so we could have proper burials, but that left the Piecers open to slaughter, so burials became another relic of ‘the old days’. We learned to huddle in no more than twos or threes. That saved lives for a while, but the darkness was canny and quickly learned our ways. The killing continued. Maybe not as fast and efficiently, but still the death toll rose.

This evening, I sit quietly in the front room, rocking back and forth in my chair, mesmerized by my shadow on the floor. I hear my parents upstairs, their voices rising. Fights are another thing my days are filled with. I'm sick of their battles – I wish I could stop their anger, make them be quiet. My rocking speeds up when I hear my name; I close my eyes as their argument escalates.

A stupor comes over me; it would be a relief to escape into its comfort, to accept its embrace. I've always welcomed it before, but this time I push it back and refuse to go into it. I white knuckle my grip on reality and refuse to lose my way. I hear my father screaming – I have to help him. I search for a weapon to save him. I’m confused when he backs away from me, and I follow.

I’m startled by my face in a series of reflections – I barely recognize my bulging eyes and mouth frozen in a snarling rictus in the blade of the butcher knife clutched in my hand...oh my g---

 

END

 

Originally an actor, Mickie now lives in the Southwest, where she spends her nights writing stories of horror and suspense inspired by her beloved rescue cats, Pal and Lassie. She spends her days sleeping with her fists clenched because Shirley Jackson taught her that not everything that wants to hold her hand is a friend. Find her on Twitter @MBollingBurke.

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