It began as a little pool of darkness in the corner of my office. At first, I thought it was merely a shadow like all the others, cast by the door or my chair or the leaf stuck to the outside of my window by a spider’s web. As the light shifted from morning to night and back to morning again, however, it remained remarkably consistent. It didn’t move or lighten. It stayed there, dark and impenetrable.
Even when I turned on the light in the office, the dark splotch remained. I dismissed it for a while. It seemed to me only to be darkness, after all: a shadow I couldn’t explain, but a shadow nonetheless. I wasn’t entirely unconcerned, but I wanted to be, and wanting to feel a certain way is how I end up making a large portion of the decisions in my life. I often ignore things, and normally, that’s my downfall. This time, though, it was paying mind to the darkness that ended up being my mistake.
After it had failed to disperse for a few days, I got down on my knees to observe it up close. At this point, I thought it might be a stain of some sort. Perhaps water had leaked in from the ceiling, unnoticed, and left a darkened patch on the floor and on the walls. Perhaps dark mold, in an even, light layer, had begun to grow there. No, these things were not true. It was darkness, of the same quality that comes about from a hand blocking the light, yet it had collected here in the corner of the office in my house, and it refused to be banished by the light.
To my credit, I was compelled not to touch it, and so I avoided poking at it with my finger as I was so tempted to do. Instead I took a flashlight and directed its beam directly at the darkness. Perhaps the reader is unsurprised by the result, but in the moment, I was not. I was, in a word, flabbergasted. The light from my torch didn’t diminish the darkness whatsoever. If anything, it seemed to grow darker, contrasting more strongly with the light that flooded across the walls and floor surrounding it.
I didn’t poke at the darkness with my finger, but I did by proxy, using a ruler I grabbed from my desk. I wanted to know if the darkness would cast itself upon a new object. It did. The tip of the ruler, as it entered the darkness’s space, grew shadowed and dim. I recoiled, surprised, for some reason, though I should have predicted that result. Then I dropped the ruler and jumped to my feet, for something I might never have predicted followed.
The darkness followed the ruler out of its little pool. When I pulled back, hand upon the ruler, the darkness upon its tip continued to cling to it. It dragged outward, leaving a line of shadow behind it like a slug trail. The line did not recoil back, either, after I dropped the ruler. Light now touched neither the ruler nor the line I had inadvertently drawn behind it.
This bothered me, but it was late at night, and I was tired of the day and of the darkness. I wanted to believe it was a delusion born of my fatigued mind, and so I went to bed. This has often been my defense against things I don’t want to accept. Bed. It’s a soft, warm place of solace, where I can retreat into a sleep often unplagued by my troubles of the day.
That night, in sleep, my mind did not abandon thoughts of the darkness as it usually does with unpleasant aspects of my life. It instead hovered on the darkness, considering it and contemplating it. It was though the shadow had been cast on my brain, preventing my other thoughts from reaching the surface as it prevented the light from reaching that which it covered in my office.
I did, finally, drift into sleep, only to be plagued by nightmares suffused by shadow. In one, the most vivid, I dreamt that the shadow had spread under the influence of night to cover my entire office. Something about that dream startled me into waking. I lay there in bed, in the dark, staring at the shadows the moon cast upon my walls and wondering if they were part of that unbanishable darkness that haunted the corner of my office. There was no way to know, not without turning on the overhead light.
So I did it. I pulled myself out of bed and crept over to the light switch. I winced, when the light flooded the room, though not because of what I saw. The sudden brightness was painful to my dark-accustomed eyes. The room was fully lit, though, with its shadows in their proper places. The darkness had not spread itself to my room.
I glanced down at the floor, though, and my breath caught in my throat, choking me. Picture the way light spreads from the bottom of a door when that room is brighter than the one in which you stand. The bottom of my bedroom door leaked not light, but darkness. It was as though a pool of liquid had darkened my carpet.
For whatever reason, my horror compelled me to open the door. I had to know what lay beyond. That drive overroad my sense of self-preservation. Perhaps I should not congratulate myself for not poking at the darkness, earlier, when I made such a stupid mistake as this one later in the night. I flung open the door, and saw that beyond it lay shadow. Only shadow. The moonlight did not extend into the hall. The glow of the ceiling light failed to extend past the door frame.
As the ruler had before it, the door, one side of which was cloaked in shadow, dragged the darkness in behind it. It splattered against the wall where the door struck it, leaving splats like a new coat of paint in a darker shade. I stumbled backward, where I tripped upon my own bed and fell partially onto it. In my panic, my dry feet slipped upon the carpet, and I feared that I couldn’t bring myself back to standing.
Then I was up and ready to run. My heart raced in my chest. My body was ready to flee, but I had nowhere to go. My apartment was on the fourth floor. The only means of egress from my room was blocked by the shadow. I could only regard it in horror, wondering what would happen if it touched me.
It did not remain still, as it had during the day in the corner of my office. It flowed forward like molasses spilled from a bucket, creeping over the carpet and spreading across the walls and onto the ceiling. I backed away and away until I was stuck in the corner of the room, shadow on all sides of me. I watched it creep closer and closer to my toes, but that’s not where it finally reached me.
It dripped down from the ceiling upon my shoulder. I didn’t even notice at first, because it didn’t feel like anything. It was shadow. Like light, it had no weight that I could perceive. I noticed only because I happened to glance to the side, where a stream of it had flowed down onto my shoulder and down my arm. I lifted my arm. It moved fine, but it felt like… nothing. Where it had been darkened, I couldn’t feel it.
The darkness spread over my entire body, numbing me and cutting me off from the light of the world. I fell to the floor and curled up, holding my own knees, which I could not feel. I must have fallen asleep, or passed out, because the next thing I remember is the morning. The only thing the light could still reach was my eyes. I saw it, tempting me, outside of my window.
I rushed down the the stairs, heedless of the fact that the shadow trailed behind me, pooling in each of my footprints and cover the railing upon which my hand had slid as I ran. I hoped, against all my fears, that the pure light of the sun would banish the shadow from my body.
It did not. The shadow remained, even in the morning light. Even in the noonday light. It has not left me. I am darkness, now, and numbness. I feel nothing. That which I touch becomes shadow as well, and so I confine myself to my room, where at least I can spread it no further. In time, I hope the shadow will leave me. If not, well, I’ll die in darkness, and hope that can refrain from spreading it to anyone else.