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"Darkness Within Darkness," short story excerpt

Wednesday 3/2/22

On an eventful night a man fastened a rope to a pipe coming out of his house. He cinched the rope around his waist and walked past an initial row of trees, where the trees still looked like trees, and into the darkness of the woods.

He heard the breaking of sticks beneath his feet. Crunching of leaves. Scattering of pebbles. Demons called. They inhaled the surrounding sounds which the man could no longer hear. Whistled notes in the now indistinguishable trees. The man was conscious—hyper-conscious—of creatures walking past him from the other direction. He couldn’t see their faces, but they didn’t have any.

They sang songs of torment in rapid clicks. Tongues of metal pressing to the tops of electric mouths. The passing forms exhibited no interest in the man. They existed to arrive. To step from the woods. Faceless terrors that were not nameless. To take hold elsewhere and remain.

The man’s forward movement came to a halt. The rope jerked him at the waist. Burned. Had cut into flesh. Would stretch no further. He hung in air where the very ground of existence had given way. He felt wind that wasn’t wind. Currents of darkness traveling from below his feet to above the top of his head.

He screamed, but made no sound that he recognized as sound as he dangled in the aperture. This entrance to the darkness within the darkness. He tried to pull himself up, not really wanting to. He thought he saw a girl overhead, peering down from the rim of the opening. Her face was a wound. The underside of skin. She had no outerness. She reached for him with a hand or a tentacle. An elongated limb charred in innumerable fires, suggesting leprous metal. The battles within. She was one of the moving forms and she had stopped.

And then the tentacle was around the man. Pulling. Dragging him out and across the part of the woods from which he’d already come, his back peeling away as the outside skin became papered with inside skin, and it was so raw, because it was not meant to be where it now was.

He lay on the grass behind his house, staring into the sky. His back was fire. The sound of an ambulance seemed to disturb the leaves in the trees. The man breathed the late night air of early spring. Thought of irreducibility. Smallest parts into which one may be broken and retain an infinitesimal speck of humanity. He considered the tiniest pair of scissors. If he could get into his chest without having to break his ribs, because he knew he wouldn’t have the strength to move the bones. And with an efficient cut, slice through the smallest part of his heart necessary for it to work.


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