The Path Less Travelled

Or, in the context of my mind, the path never travelled, except by me…..maybe.

So, dear reader, it’s time to return to the choice you were left with at the end of ‘Do Be Afraid Of The Dark’ – whether to climb back up the stairway and into the light, or whether to plunge even deeper into the darkness.

You turn back to the third door that has appeared and your decision is made. For, to face what you fear can only serve to make you stronger, surely? Either that or it may shorten your lifespan. Either way, it makes for a more interesting and worthwhile existence, don’t you think?

There is a mass appeal to being afraid – hence the draw of horror movies at the box office – but is that because you know it is only temporary? Is it because you know that when you leave the cinema, you are leaving the fear and horror behind?

What about now though? As you come with me on this journey into the depth and depravity (and, yes, it can be) of my mind, can you truly say you will leave it behind? For those of you who know me, I suggest that this may become very difficult.

Oh, would that I know what is going through your mind right now – a bubble of excitement; of fear; of uncertainty; or even of confidence? To be able to see how you respond; how you change, as more doors are opened, would be a story in itself, I have no doubt.

You stand now, legs a little more than hip width apart, shoulders rolled back; grounding yourself; bracing yourself. Whatever is behind that door, you are ready for it. Your jaw is set, your chin dipped, your gaze alert. You reach out and grasp the handle and, without hesitation – your new found strength fuelling your resolve – you open the door.

Your resolve, however, crumbles, as does your stance. What is this? You walk forward and, bracing yourself in the doorway, you lean your head around and look left and right. Nothing. You refocus on the scene before you.

A family is seated along either side of a wooden bench; bowls of what looks like stew before them; a platter of bread and butter in the centre of the bench; and a pitcher of water sits half empty closest to you. A fire burns in the hearth, its heat warming you as you watch. Candles decorate various surfaces in the Spartan room, casting it into various shades of darkness and light. The family are talking and laughing. This is a happy scene; a benign scene. You relax and lean against the door frame, arms folded across your chest, enjoying the feeling that flows from this family.

A scream sounds in the distance and it jolts you. You step back and look up and down the corridor, but you don’t see anything. The two doors remain closed and this is the only other door. You turn back to the family and see the father looking out of the window; a window you hadn’t noticed before. The screaming has escalated; the harrowing sound emanating from more than one source. The father turns from the window, a look of panic on his face. The mother pulls the two children close to her. You feel your heart start to constrict as you watch. The father runs this way and that, opening doors and rummaging in drawers, looking for something, but what?

An almighty crash makes you jump and the sound of splintering wood changes this once happy scene, as the front door crashes to the floor and a hulking man fills the doorway. Candles extinguish in the rush of air, casting him into darkness. The father stands frozen. The mother screams. The children cry. You stare.

The man strides into the room and grabs the father by the throat, lifting him off the floor. With his free hand, he takes hold of the unruly mop of hair and, in one swift movement, he rips the father’s head clean off. Dropping the body at his feet, the man hurls the head into the fire and marches forward. He upends the table and yanks the children from their mother’s protective embrace. Holding each child by the neck he squeezes, his gaze fixed on the mother. The splintering of bone echoes through the silence, for not even the mother utters a sound now. He drops the children where he stands and advances on her. You remain transfixed; impotent.

He grabs the mother by her hair and drags her to her feet. Yanking her head back, he exposes her chest and, with one swipe of a fingernail, he rips open her dress, releasing her pendulous breasts. You stare as, with the talon like nail of his index finger, he slits her flesh open just over her heart. He throws his head back and opens his mouth, exposing his fangs, before plunging them into the open wound on her chest.

You watch as he gulps the blood, drawing the life out of this woman who, minutes ago, was enjoying a meal with her family. Feeling starts to return to your body as your synapses try to kick start a warning in your brain. Still you remain.

The man, sated, drops the woman at his feet and looks up, blood dripping from his chin. It takes a moment to register. He’s looking at you. You start to move, but it’s too late. He swipes his hand out and you feel his nails slice through the skin of your throat as you stumble backwards, tripping over your own feet.

The scene plays in slow motion as one of your hands goes to your throat, while the other makes a grab for the door. As the man steps over the slain woman towards you, you grasp the door and yank it towards you. It slams shut, separating the two worlds once again.

You lay there, panting, your hand clamped around your neck, terrified of removing it. You’ve seen the movies; you know what happens if the correct artery has been severed. Your breath slows and you can’t help but look back towards the stairs; towards the light. You turn and look along the corridor and find another door has appeared.

You remove your hand from your throat, replacing it with your other one, just in case. You check your hand. There is no blood. But why? You know he sliced through your skin, you felt it. You close your eyes and lean your head back against the wall. Perhaps I am protecting you, after all?

To be continued……..

And so, dear reader, I introduce you to Antony Cardover, the antagonist in my forthcoming novel, BONDS. But he wasn’t always like this and he doesn’t always have to be like this. He just has to break the curse.

BONDS will be published in paperback in February, with the Kindle edition following soon after. Both will be available to buy from Amazon.

May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

Til next time.