The outside was dark, terribly so, yet I could see far and clearly. There was a sense of enclosure to the darkness, as if it were a structure built up around the world, providing shade. My feet were still tucked into my blood-soaked wool slippers, and they made a comical squelching sound as I tiptoed around. Whenever they creased from my movement, little red bubbles appeared. I remember at one point while I was wandering around, I noticed the branches above my head were creaking from the constant breeze. But when I looked closer at all the pretty autumn colors, I realized the branches were moving all on their own—they were waving against the wind, probably trying to shoo away the gigantic moths that were playing about their branches.
There also seemed to be a kind of melodic absence tolling somewhere in the background of the world. It was tiny and fragile, and the slightest thought could block it out. I think it was just a fancier form of quiet—it reminded me of cursive writing made from silence. The air was incredibly soft and forgiving, and I moved about as though I were in a dream, never worrying about tripping or falling. Lesser technical issues were completely resolved during the Darkness—you never had to worry about splinters, tripping, swallowing wrong, stubbing your toes, frog-in-the-throat. It was as if all the jagged edges of the previous reality had been blunted, if not entirely removed. That’s not to say the Darkness lacked subtlety. The nuances were exquisite, I assure you. I could feel the shadows trickle over my skin, tickling like cobwebs against gooseflesh. And whispers could become various kinds of insects. I once whispered the story of Little Red Riding Hood to a pet of mine, and suddenly all these little red crickets were hopping out from the corners of the room. Nasty-tasting things, crickets.
Anyway, enough of all that. This is my last story and I’ll hear it finished before you cobble me into some kind of bone-gilded music box, or whatever you plan to do with me after I’m dead.
Where was I? Oh yes, I remember. I was walking down the sidewalk. As I snuck around the neighborhood, I could see a line of people twisting out from behind the brambles of what I remembered to be an abandoned house. The house was peeling paint and the lawn was wildly overgrown, and it had been the source of endless complaints by the neighbors. All the people were silent and apparently happy, as everyone was smiling. I hoped that it was a crowd of neighbors waiting to receive rations or the like from some form of emergency services group. I walked up to the back of the line, somewhat in shock from all that had already happened. I suppose I played up my fright a bit, as I was in desperate need for some good old-fashioned pity.
I wandered, sobbing and shivering, over to the people at the end of the line. They didn’t even look at me. They were all too busy staring at what looked like movie tickets. They cradled the little things in their cupped hands as if they were too precious to hold one-handed. In a somewhat breathless, exaggerated tone I questioned the woman at the end of the line about all the darkness and insanity and what have you. She placed an index finger to her lips and shushed me. That’s when I noticed her footwear. I’ll never forget that pair of red sneakers as long as I live—which, in view of my current situation, won’t be that long. She was one of the mutes that had wandered around my bedroom, flinging bloody body parts all around!
My little epiphany seemed to be the woman’s cue to activate her next level of weirdness, because just as I figured things out she curved her face into a dreadfully vapid smile—the sort you’d see stretched across a sugar-drunk child’s face. I quickly exchanged my indulged expression of horror for the real thing, and ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Those stupid, blood-squishing slippers made a right and proper joke of my exit, by the way.
I ended up squeezing myself into a small gardening hut in some random backyard. I just sat in there, scared like you wouldn’t believe, wondering how long I could stay hidden before some horrible thing or another prompted me to leave. Do you know that I stayed in there for two weeks? Well, at least it seemed like a couple weeks. Time was a tricky thing during The Darkness. I never got hungry and I never had to powder my nose, so to speak. The Darkness was a wonderfully immaculate enterprise, at least as far as the more unpleasant requirements of the human body were concerned—another one of those dampened technicalities I mentioned before. I should also mention that sleeping was all but impossible, so all I could do to pass the time was hum old show tunes and talk to myself. At one point, I began to sing a funny a little song. It was a really odd ditty, full of all kinds of cut-up and pasted together rhymes and songs I’d heard. I don’t know where it came from, but the more I sang it the braver I became. Just when I had worked up the courage to leave, a small piece of paper was slid through the crack in the wooden door. All it said was Louder, please. I decided that it might be wise to wait a bit before leaving, song or not.
When I felt safe again, I crept slowly from the shack and skulked around the edge of the yard, on the lookout for people wearing familiar footwear or smiling like psychotic idiots. I could see that the line of people had stretched into nearby streets, all of them clutching their tickets and grinning. I have to admit that I was pretty curious about the movie showing inside the abandoned house. I eventually decided that I needed a change of scenery, so I carefully made my way through side streets and parking lots until I was closer to the downtown area, where I hoped to encounter sane individuals. I had no idea what a tall order that was.
When I arrived at the center of the city, I encountered a throng of people carrying around metal fittings and various other mechanical odds and ends. This time I was a bit more careful about how I approached people, so I watched and waited. I soon discovered they were building a rollercoaster inside a skyscraper. It wound down from the top of the inside of the building, twisting into hallways, offices, up and down elevator shafts and stairwells, and presumably into the basement and maybe even the sewers. I could see the cars zoom past some of the windows, and I could faintly hear the joyful screams of the passengers. Soon this ridiculous little absurdity began to wiggle around inside me—I desperately wanted to take a turn on the ride. But a derailed car filled with screaming riders came crashing out of a thirty-story window, so I decided to move along. At least until the roller coaster was repaired.
It didn’t take me much longer to figure out that the whole world had pretty much gone off the deep end, so I decided to find a quiet place to relax. I was about to sit down behind a dumpster and read from a damp fashion magazine I’d fished out of it when I heard something behind me. It was sneaker-woman, smiling so hard she made my face hurt. She just stood there like some kind of demented doll. After I don’t know how long, she put her hand out like she was checking to see if it was raining. Suddenly, across the entire city, it started raining bloody body parts.
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