A creature, part of the darkness before God created the heavens and earth, has awakened. It had slumbered, hibernating from the light. Now, it is hungry and wanting to feed…
Bobby, a local kid, and the police chief have gone missing. Everyone in the small town turns to former Chicago cop Rob Alletto to find them, but as he starts his search, more people disappear. Rob is quickly overwhelmed. The night seems to come alive, taking these people. Alletto must find out why and discover a way to stop it before the whole town slips…Into Darkness.
JASON R. DAVIS
Breaking Fate Publishing
© 2017 by Jason R. Davis
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic and print editions, and do not participate in or encourage any form of piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Edited by: Kim Young, Kim’s Fiction Proofreading & Editing Services
Cover Illustration by: Jason R. Davis
Walking out, the screen door slammed behind him with a satisfying whack, making Bobby smile, knowing just how much his grandmother hated it. Sure enough, not long afterward, there she was, standing in the doorway. He didn’t have to look around to know the short, squat-looking woman, who usually always had a warm smile for anyone, would not have that smile now.
“Robert Evan Taylor, you know better than to let that screen door slam behind you,” she called after him.
He turned and saw a glare and frown on her face, just as he pictured. It wouldn’t last, though, and he knew it. She loved him too much. All he had to do was flash a grin at her and watch as the hardened face softened. It wasn’t in her nature to stay upset, her usual, heartwarming smile quickly reemerging.
“I’m sorry, Grandma,” he said, jumping down the few cement steps to the front sidewalk.
“Okay, well, make sure to have your mom call me when you get home. I want to know if she still intends to go garage saleing with me tomorrow and if so, she better get here early.”
Bobby knew his grandma could call his mom. No, the reason for him to tell his mom to call was her little subtle way of checking to make sure he got home safely. He was ten. He didn’t need them to constantly check up on him. For half the kids in town, their parents never knew where they were. He was so annoyed that they always kept a watchful eye on him.
Okay, he knew why, but it still wasn’t fair. It happened over a year ago. They should move on already. He had.
Bobby walked toward the end of the sidewalk. He’d turn left and go through what his grandmother called the “Fool’s Woods”. It was a dark spot of town, the little mini-forest surrounding the large coal dump. Of course, neither she nor his mother allowed him to go through there, but if he didn’t, he would have to walk downtown and get harassed by the older kids who hung out up there. The coal dump path was a straight shot home. It was stupid to go around it every night.
“Bobby, where’s your bike?”
He turned back toward his grandmother. Yeah, he wasn’t happy he didn’t have his bike, either. He didn’t want to tell her he had bent the rim yesterday by jumping off one of the little cliffs around the coal dump. Well, he hadn’t bent it by jumping off. It had been the landing. He had gotten some really good speed. So much so, he realized he was going too fast. His survival instinct kicked in and he had bailed off his bike right before the cliff’s edge. In the end, he walked away with scratched knees. His bike hadn’t been so lucky.
He planned to go to some of the garage sales by himself tomorrow to see if he had enough allowance to get some other crappy bike. It wouldn’t be as nice as the sixteen-speed mountain bike he had now, but it didn’t have to be. He hoped to find a granny rider or a banana special he could tool around with, maybe salvage some of the parts from. It wouldn’t be the first time he had done it, their second garage starting to look like a bicycle graveyard.
“Oh, it had a flat tire before school this morning, so I just walked.” He rushed through the lie as he stepped onto the uneven asphalt of the road.
The gravel crunched beneath his sneakers as he jogged the short distance to the streetlight at the end of the block. When he heard the screen door ease shut behind him, he slowed to a walk, happy he was no longer being watched.
He knew she would be back inside, already changing the TV channel as she sat at her kitchen table. It was how she always was without him there. The TV would be on some game show or a lame country music station. Something no one under the ancient age of fifty would enjoy.
At least she didn’t force him to watch any of that boring crap. When school let out and he had to go to his grandma’s so she could watch him until his mom got off work, he would come in the door, drop his backpack, and quickly grab the remote. It was his time to watch what he wanted.
He would sometimes come in through the back door and sneak up behind her. She never heard him, so he would give her a quick hug from behind. She would jump and give a shout every time. Then he would say sorry and grab the remote. After all, he had just given her a hug.
He stood under the glow of the next streetlight. With the fall chill, night had started coming earlier and it was already dark. It wasn’t chilly enough for him to wear a jacket, not that he would. He liked to avoid it until he was forced to, wearing shorts and t-shirts until it was a command from his overbearing mother. “Wear this.” “Wear that.” “Don’t be out too late riding your bike.”
If she found out he was going through the Fool’s Woods tonight, she’d nag him about that, too.
He walked past the the streetlight, keeping his eyes focused on the next one, the gravel crunching under his shoes. There were no sidewalks on this street. Normally, he would ride his bike down the side of the road, but he now let his feet follow where his tires would cruise.
Mrs. Brady’s house was up on the right side of the road. All the lights were on, the curtains wide open. Outside, she had orange Halloween lights, which looked like Christmas lights someone had pooped on, running along the edges. Halloween was only a couple weeks away, and she was one of those town nuts who loved to overdo it. However, her version wasn’t haunted or creepy. She seemed to think Halloween was like Christmas with lights and inflatables of smiling skeletons. What fun was that? It was too childish. Come on. These weren’t any kind of decorations for Halloween. Where was the scary?
From light, it seemed like he went to completely pitch black as none of the houses on the next block were lit up. He knew people lived in the first house, but only because he would sometimes see cars parked in the driveway. Bobby didn’t know them, but whoever lived there never really cared to socialize anyway. The streetlight gave off the only light on the block until he reached the alley and Tina Limpquist’s house, which was right along Main Street.
Tina was annoying, and Bobby would often pick on her at school. He found it hard not to as she was such a snot. One grade behind him, she still found ways to tattle. It seemed getting him in trouble was her personal mission. When he pushed her down at school, she always ran to Mrs. Sanchez. Then he would have to sit out another recess, writing those stupid sentences up on the blackboard until the underside of his hand hurt.
Once school was over, Tina waited to see if he would go into the Fool’s Woods. Then she would call his mom or grandmother and get him in trouble again. What was it with little girls knowing his mom and calling her? There were others who gave little reports to his mom, but Tina was the worst.
At least he knew she didn’t watch for him at night. She didn’t know of all his night trips through the woods. Tina was afraid of the dark…Ooh, boohoo. Little girl afraid of the dark…which meant she wouldn’t be out or even looking out her window. Little girls were always afraid of monsters. Besides, unless he was under the streetlight, she wouldn’t even be able to tell it was him.
Bobby made it past her house and to Main Street, which actually had a sidewalk. When he had his bike, he would fly down it, not caring if the cops caught him. He’d been stopped a few times, the cops telling him it was illegal, threatening to give him a fine. He still rode his bike on the sidewalk, not caring if they liked it or not. He felt safer there than on the street. People who walked, well… They needed to get out of his way. He was the bike rider, the midnight flyer, and on his bike, he was the king. Everyone should know to get out of his way or get run over.
But he had no bike tonight, so he was forced to be one of the walkers, yuck, and he wasn’t happy about it. He wasn’t going to go along the street, though. His goal was to cross it and into the open grass area, then into the woods. His grandma would call him a fool. She always warned him of all the hobos in the woods at night, telling him they liked to steal little kids and run off with them.
Like a hobo is really going to grab me.
Even if he didn’t have his bike, he could still run pretty fast. And when had he ever seen a hobo in Standard? It’s Standard. There were no big towns nearby, nothing close that would be considered a city. He had only ever seen one creepy guy. Bobby guessed he could have been considered a hobo. He had heard he lived in the alley behind Main Street. Everyone knew he didn’t have a regular job, doing odd jobs and stuff liked that. Sure, he could be in the coal dump, but everyone said he slept in the alley. Why would he leave back there to stay in the woods?
Besides, if anything happened to Bobby, that guy would be the first one questioned. He didn’t know if it would be like in those cop shows where they put him in a room and sat him down, waiting it out, maybe even beating the guy up for a confession. If it were, he kind of wished he could be there to watch it. That would be so cool.
Huh. Just where did they question their perps anyway? Bobby wondered.
He had seen inside the little police headquarters in town when he had to go up there when Mikey had disappeared. He saw the little office all the kids called the “Cop Shop”. It was so small, barely having room for a desk and a file cabinet. Where did the cops take the people they needed to question? Did they have some other jail hidden somewhere?
He walked across the street, not hurrying because there were no cars. While it was still relatively early, it was a school night. It seemed like most kids just didn’t stay out as late anymore. Their loss. They should be out enjoying this. Who cared about what the adults said? They should be out running through the alleys and having fun. Maybe it was just a fluke that most people wanted to spend the night at home, but it had been like this all week. Where were his friends? Why weren’t they playing tag in the coal dump when it was dark and harder to find each other?
He made his way across the street, turning to look at downtown two blocks away. Sure enough, it was pretty much what he would have expected. There were three cars parked in front of Doc’s Sweet Shop, four or five older kids sitting on the steps. It was too far away to know who, but he could make a guess. It would be the normal ones, Springer being one of them.
Springer, the one he was really trying to avoid. The rest of them weren’t that bad, but there was just something about Springer that dug deep into Bobby’s chest and gripped his heart. It had been a long-standing feeling that traced back to even before Springer began picking on him. Bobby didn’t know why, but the kid had it out for him. When they were in the same school, Springer would push him into lockers. He once chased him down and slammed Bobby into a fence just because he had looked at him. Springer would snicker and make up cruel nicknames for Bobby whenever he was near.
Bobby would much rather face whatever was in the Fool’s Woods than go uptown. There was no way he wanted to face Springer, not with all his friends standing around. Instead, Bobby rushed down the gravel maintenance vehicle entry until he came to the edge of the path and the yellow bar blocking it. From there, he could see the small path running along the south edge of the large mound. He didn’t know why his mom called it the coal dump, or the surrounding woods the Fool’s Woods. Both seemed like strange names, but especially the coal dump because the rock mountain was covered in small, thin red rocks, which looked nothing like the coal he had seen. It was just another one of those weird things he didn’t think he would ever understand. And why call it the Fool’s Woods? At least the whole town called it the coal dump. As far as Bobby knew, only his grandma and mom had a name for the wooded area around it. He had called it that to Emily once and she just looked at him funny.
He stood at the barrier. Of course, no one ever let the bar stop them. Walkers just stepped over it, and those who rode their bikes just went around. There was a well-worn path around the side where bike tires had long since stripped the grass. It was a good symbol for how everyone felt about the coal dump. The adults said to not go there, but everyone did. No one cared.
He let his knees rest against the bar as he looked down the long path. A cool breeze rustled the remaining leaves in the trees. He closed his eyes and listened as the night talked to him. The wind pushed against him, as if telling him to turn back around. Bobby chuckled.
His overactive imagination often talked to him. Whether riding his bike or running, he felt like people were in the trees, watching. Sometimes, they were spies and he was a secret agent making his daring escape. Other times, they were ghosts. He was always much more afraid of the ghosts because they would scream at him as he rode by, their howls piercing the night, crying out that they knew what he had done.
Tonight was different. He really felt like he was being watched, and not just because of his imagination. The night had an edge to it. He knew Tina wasn’t watching him, but it still felt like it. He knew the older kids weren’t anywhere near him, but it felt like they were right there, breathing down his neck. He wasn’t alone. Something was watching him. Even in the open, he felt like there was something just out of sight, hiding in the darkness.
Come on. Don’t be a dork.
Bobby laughed and put his foot up on the bar. The muscles in his leg flexed as he pushed himself up, then it was off to the races. He could sometimes see a little light from the streetlight just past where the path twisted, but not tonight. He landed hard on the other side of the bar and took off running.
The night came to life around him. The wind picked up, hammering into him, as if warning Bobby he was running into danger. It howled around him, screaming, piercing. He tried not to focus on it because it was hard enough to see where he was going. The moon was bright overhead, but as he went deeper, more and more trees took away the light.
He knew the path well, but he was usually riding his bike. It all felt different when he ran. His feet didn’t land right because of the ruts. There were times he slipped or snagged a foot on a root.
Shadows moved, twisting and turning around him. Their dance slithered amongst the light. When it seemed like Bobby could see where he stepped, the light changed and his foot fell into darkness, making him trip on the uneven, rocky ground.
Taking a breath got harder, the air around him growing thick. He hadn’t noticed it at first. He thought it was because of his running, but now it felt like syrup as he fought to breathe. His head grew fuzzy, the world around him turning gray. No, it wasn’t the world going gray. It was his head. It was heavy, like he had to struggle to think. He couldn’t remember where he was going.
His shoes felt like weights, slowing him down. The roots he had to step over seemed to have grown, making him fight to get over them. He finally misjudged. Before he knew what was happening, he fell.
The ground came up quickly. His arms plunged into the thorn bushes running along the edge of the path, cutting his skin. His knees hit hard, the sharp pain making him turn his body as he skidded along the red shale rock. He had fallen off his bike enough times to know how it felt when skin got scraped away. Somewhere in his mind, he heard his mother yelling at him about his long-sleeved shirt being in his backpack.
Home. He wasn’t that far. Being so close was somehow important.
His body was sore, his chest feeling like a hammer had slammed into it. He reached out to push himself up, his palms burning, his knees screaming as he knelt. Glancing up, he could see the streetlight at the end of the path. He was almost there. Almost out of there and away from…
Something. There’s something in here.
Bobby could feel it. It wasn’t his imagination. There was something hiding in the shadows, reaching out for him. When he had fallen, the pain pushed back some of the fog and he could breathe again. He knew there was a presence watching him.
He couldn’t believe it. His grandmother was right. There was something in the woods, and it was coming after him. He had to get out of there. He had to run and go and get the hell away before it got him. He could see the shadows dancing again, circling him.
A chill came over him, but he couldn’t shiver. His body wasn’t his to control anymore. Bobby’s mind started to spasm. He couldn’t escape the cold or shake it away as it overtook him. The fog came back, the weight on his chest getting heavier. It felt like waves slammed over him, pulling him deeper into exhaustion.
Bobby knew he had to get out of there before whatever it was completely took him. There had to be a way for him to break free. He’d been on that path a thousand times. It was his home away from home. When he’d ride his bike through there, he’d hit speeds where it felt like he was outrunning the devil. Well, the devil was back. He had to get away.
How do you beat the devil?
He wasn’t the most religious, not after him. His parents weren’t churchgoers. His grandma went a few times a year, usually when he would go along. What had the pastor always said?
Please, there has to be some prayer.
There had to be something he could do or say. Something that would get him out of there. Bobby needed to remember, but thinking was just so hard at the moment. The harder he tried, the thicker the fog grew.
From somewhere, the words came to him. A ray of light shown through the clouds as the words formed. He recognized the bedtime prayer. As he visualized it in his head, his mouth formed the words.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,” he gasped. The words tried to choke him, but with a watery cry, he forced them out. “I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake…” I don’t want to die. God, don’t let me die. He forced in more air, the weight on his chest lightening. The next few words came out in a rush. “I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
The fog receded as a shiver rocked through him. Bobby could move again. Before it even registered, he jumped up and ran. His feet pounded on the ground, pushing him. Go, go, go. Faster. The devil was back there, and it wanted him. If he stopped again, he didn’t think he’d get another chance. He had to win. He had to get to the light.
The bar at the end of the path got closer. Bobby saw the yellow paint, which caught the light of the streetlight. He had to reach it. He’d be safe then.
His legs pumped harder. New pain coursed through him, but he fought to keep himself moving. Run faster. The fog was there, but he felt like he was running through it. It seemed like the faster he ran, the more it drifted behind him. It lifted more and more out of his mind.
Then he was there. Holding his breath, he leapt high over the bar, his heart pounding. It would have been easier for him to just run around, but he was sure that whatever was behind him would have caught him if he did. He had never cleared it before, but he needed to now. If he tripped… If he were to get caught on it, he would fall just short of the glow of the streetlight and it would get him.
Bobby landed with a whoosh of air. He swore he heard the night around him come alive with cheering. Crowds roared and applauded. He reacted by standing, raising his arms, and jumping around, doing an end zone dance as he worked his way into the round circle of light.
“And the crowd goes wild!” Bobby cheered, his hands held high. He jumped up and down a few times before the burning in his lungs forced him to bend over, coughing, fighting to take in deep breaths. He didn’t care. He had made it to the light. He was safe. If he stood up and looked, he would see his house just across the empty lot.
“And the crowd goes wild,” he said again, looking at the asphalt of the road. He had won. He stood and looked over to where his house was…
It wasn’t there. Nothing was there. All he could see was black. He turned to look in the direction he had just come from.
Nothing, just blackness.
“No! No! No!” Bobby cried out, spinning around. As fast as he turned, he could only see glimpses of the world around him, the darkness cutting him off. Then it drew closer, the circle of light shrinking around him. Above him, the dark moved across the light, Bobby’s world disappearing.
If anyone had come down the street, they would have seen what looked like a circle of nothing, not much larger than a ten-year-old child.
If a person was really close, they could even hear the muffled cries, screams of a child calling for help.
Then the ball of blackness shrank in upon itself until the glow from the streetlight above illuminated the area once again.
Bobby was gone.