by Jenny “Hill” Hildenbrand
Hansen Crag was old by anyone’s standard. Old in a way that wasn’t interesting or endearing. Perhaps living in this ghostly stone hut alone for all those years had slowly pushed him to the point of losing his mind. Especially since he lost the love of his life–almost 60 years ago. He had only known her for 3 months–but that was long enough to last a lifetime….until the things in the dark started visiting him a few years ago. What exactly were these monsters of the dark? Were they memories? Were they monsters of the mind ? Or perhaps something more sinister…
When he met her in his early twenties, he knew she was the one–though he wasn’t able to explain why. Was it the haunting light shining in her blue eyes, the way she played with her long dark hair, or just the way she moved through a crowd…? It was love at first sight. From that very moment, he managed to love her and make her happy, no matter what. Having only known each other for six weeks, they made the vow to spend the rest of their life together. Hansen was living in a dream. Every night, he would watch her sleep and stroke her hair, thinking about all the things he would do to please her. He would die for her… But this was not to be…
* * *
Just like any other night, he woke up trembling and sweating. His old bones were shaking with terror. His eyes were wide open, but in the dead of night he couldn’t see anything but darkness, and he couldn’t hear anything but the loud, aching silence. He felt groggy and confused as his mind was still trapped in the foggy remains of the nightmare. Ghostly shapes seemed to dance in front of his eyes. He waved his hand in front of his face in an attempt to make the shapes disappear, sitting up on the edge of his bed and resting his bare feet on the wooden floor.
His head was low as he pictured her beautiful face once more. “Lee-Ann…”, he said in a whisper. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. He had felt like a cursed soul since the day he lost her, and as means of penance he condemned himself to loneliness and isolation, where he could do nothing but think of her. He had nobody to talk to, nothing to entertain him, all he had to do was to face his mistakes. Remembering every single day, the angel face of his beloved wife who died too young, and somehow because of him.
Teardrops fell on the floor planks in small wet spots. He was sobbing like a child when he suddenly felt something–a hand–slightly caressing the back of his neck. He turned over to see who was there… Darkness. Silence. Nothing more. Hansen shook his head–how could he imagine that someone else was there with him…?
He lit a candle, stood up and slowly went to the small sink in the corner of the room and stared at his reflection in the cracked mirror. He was a wretched sight… His white hair was unkempt and he had large dark rings under his grey eyes… An almost lifeless expression on his face… He looked like one of those poor lads he saw by the side of the road when he was a kid. Those lost souls who didn’t belong anywhere, moving from place to place in the hopes to find a seasonal job. Guys who didn’t expect much in life but who had to go on living. Hansen had to force himself to go on living as well–death would be too easy for him. He had to repent.
In spite of the stifling heat of the summer night, as he stood there looking at his reflection, he saw something that made his whole body cold… Behind him, the shadows were moving– stretching, then shrinking, and stretching again, taking the form of grotesque shapes. He couldn’t move–he didn’t dare–as the shadows turned into monsters… Monsters with sharp claws and teeth, creatures coming from the deepest part of his lonely mind, drooling, howling, creeping on the floor and walls… The poor old man had to grab on to the sink to avoid falling, as his legs got weaker. They were back again…
Back when these things had first appeared to him, Hansen was strong enough to make them disappear, as he knew they weren’t real. But as the years had passed, as he got older, the things in the dark came to visit him more often–and they stayed longer. Now on the edge of his eighties, he didn’t feel brave enough to fight them… And it was like they knew… These things, creatures, shapes, or whatever foul title they gave themselves. They knew.
He closed his eyes and turned, firmly holding the porcelain sink to steady himself. His back against the wall, he slowly slipped and sat on the floor. He could still hear them, and this time, he knew they meant to stay and claim their due. They would not disappear the way a nightmare fades away when you awake. “Begone…”, the old man said in a cry, “Begone, you evil!”. He slowly opened his tired eyes, only to see the monsters getting closer to him… Some of them were now lasciviously moving on the ceiling, staring at Hansen with their empty and lifeless eyes…
The old man had completely lost his mind, he had crossed the door of sanity. He was weary of living this life, and he was ready to let the monsters accomplish their deed. As darkness became more and more oppressive, the poor old man saw, in the corner of the room, the silhouette of his lovely Lee-Ann.
“Hansen…”, the silhouette softly said, “It is time to let go… Let them take you as you have suffered long enough… Lover, you didn’t have anything to do with my death… Stop feeling guilty… Let go…”.
As the monsters of the dark started feeding on the remains of his reason, Hansen gave a hint of a smile to his wife’s spirit. His heart soon stopped beating, his blood stopped running through his veins, the air stopped entering his lungs, and he let go of the fear and pain he had held on to for so many years… He felt his soul being lifted as it escaped his moribund body, to reunite with Lee-Ann’s, and it was as if they’d never been apart. He died, eaten by darkness, but with a smile on his face… Because his love lasted a lifetime, yes… But death made it immortal.
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Jenny “Hill” Hildenbrand
Jenny “Hill” Hildenbrand was born in the late 1980s near Nancy in the east of France. After passing a Master’s Degree in English, she is now an English teacher in her country. As a lover of everything related to horror, she spends her free time listening to horror punk music, watching monster movies and writing short horror stories, with the support of an American friend dear to her heart. Living in the north of France, she is planning to write an essay about zombies and American history.