The Lord of Darkness assembles himself from the shadows, takes form in a corner of the room, and then scampers to the edge of the bed. He pauses, looking. Others had done it, and so would he. He is Nunsk, a nightmare of the mortal realm, soon to deliver a horror of the night so profound and compelling, that it will murder its occupant. Scare the human to death, that’s what Nunsk will do. And when she dies in her dream, she dies, and then Nunsk becomes enterer of the Abyss, a Lord of Darkness. Nunsk becomes free.
Nunsk looks at the woman. He scratches his black hairy rump then sniffs at the bed. He smells the woman, the she, her scent of flower and honey, sour musk hidden beneath. He smells the he beside her, dirt and garlic. Nunsk does not want the man, although strong as he might be—perhaps too strong. No, it is the woman who promises Nunsk the Lordly title. The others who had become free, had slain the old and the sick, frail creatures that Death himself had already noticed. But woe is the title given to them, as they entered the Underworld. Nunsk will slay the young woman with the great belly. He will kill her and the unborn…the unborns, so as he now smells, sniffing like a small dog at the foot of the bed. She is with double-child, and Nunsk rolls his black tongue over his lips with anticipation. A Lordly title indeed.
Like a cat, Nunsk pounces softly up onto the bed. The humans stir. He looks at the man briefly, but then his gaze falls back to the woman. She is uncomfortable with the climate, her russet legs naked to the night air. Drops of sweat linger on her lips, trail down her temple, making wet patches in her brown hair. She moans, and then Nunsk licks his lips again. He feels for his tiny erection, brought forth by the excitement. He stares at the great belly, crowned by two heavy breasts pouring out of the cloth. Nunsk shuffles forward, imagining her fears.
She has other children, two that now walk, he sees them in the photo on the nightstand. Her fears…
Nunsk reaches with hairy arms and legs, straddles the woman, and then seats his anus onto her chest. He draws his appendages inward, curling into a ball. The woman strains for breath under his weight. The great belly serves as a backrest for Nunsk, the heavy breasts cradle him like a newborn, and the nightmare becomes comfortable upon the woman’s body.
Nunsk waits and waits, staring at her soft face, her plump lips. He imagines the woman’s greatest fears then drops his black tongue out of his mouth. The organ stretches and descends, thinning into the looks of a long wet worm, tipped with a tiny flagellum, wriggling like its namesake. Nunsk drives the tongue down into the woman’s nose, deep and delving.
The flagellum splits within the canal, becoming two as it passes through membrane and tissue, slithering onto the woman’s cerebral matter, now searching, searching for the amygdalae. Like tiny fingers groping in the dark, the flagella burrow deep and seize the woman’s fear, spreading over the wet cells of the amygdalae, tapping pulse-like, with sticky ends. The nightmare begins.
The woman drives a big car, a heavy car, black as the night around her, long as the dessert before her. Her great belly presses into the steering wheel. The road is an endless tongue, recoiling into the mouth of the vehicle. Tumbleweeds sweep past like fleeting memories, each one driving a nail of sadness into the woman’s ear. She’s crying, but she does not know why.
Something shoots out into the road, the wrong direction, running perpendicular to the endless tongue, not parallel. It is a rodent, and it makes a noise somewhere from under the car.
The woman keeps crying.
The headlights shine for miles, and the woman sees an object standing in the road, way, way out there. She is nervous, becomes frightened after now knowing that she cannot steer the vehicle. She feels an itch inside her belly, just below the skin. The object in the distance draws closer, the vehicle shifts into a higher gear on its own, and the itch inside becomes more demanding. The woman chews her lip.
The object is bipedal, tall, standing in the middle of the road. It is a man, somewhat familiar. He is naked, and his body forms a perfect sculpture of chiseled muscle and sinew. His body forms the perfect lesson for shadow. He is familiar, all too familiar. The woman screams into the windshield, tries to stop the vehicle. She jerks at the steering wheel. She tries to roll the window down; perhaps she can warn him.
Nothing works, and the woman gives a sharp wail then closes her eyes upon impact. The man, her man, takes the car head-on. His perfect body gets eaten by steel-in-motion, consumed by a kinetic maelstrom. To her horror, many noises occur from under the car. Ugly noises.
She sees a twisted mass of bone and tissue hurling in the rearview mirror. The woman chokes on grief, tries again to stop the car. She is helpless, a helpless passenger. Briefly, she had forgotten about the itch in her belly, but it is there now, strong and painful.
Another object up ahead, not in the middle of the road, but on the shoulder, standing amongst the tumbleweeds. The woman cringes, and then feels a scratching in her belly. The itch becomes satiated for a moment, yet it comes back stronger than before. In response, the scratching quickens, deepens, pressing into her belly, causing an alarming pain.
The object ahead approaches rapidly, yet it is on the shoulder. They are on the shoulder. Coming into view, the woman sees that the object is two children pressed together into a tight hug, their eyes staring up the road at the headlights. The woman does not have to see the children clearly to know who they are.
The pain in her stomach rises into a sudden breach, followed by a nauseating, tearing sound. The woman screams and wails, as two hairy hands burst out of her belly and grab hold of the steering wheel.
The vehicle responds to the guidance of the hands, swaying slowly toward the shoulder of the road. The woman struggles for breath amongst her own wailing. She fights with the hands, knowing their intentions now. She tries to stop the vehicle again, she tries to roll the window down, but nothing works.
Before impact, the woman presses her own hands against her ears, and squeezes her eyes shut. She does not want to hear or see her children get eaten by the kinetic maelstrom. But she feels them. She feels the vulgar bumps and thrashings under the car, as the vehicle slides over the shoulder ever so briefly. The woman moans terribly, and then her world spins through a black tornado of grief, where nothing exists but the saddest of all memories.
Back on the road, the vehicle accelerates. The hairy hands are in control, and they are a site of horror for the woman, protruding out of her belly. She cannot move free from them, she doesn’t even try. She sits calmly now, listless in her grief, sobbing, as she watches the great tongue in the night stretch into the horizon. She feels as if she is ready to die, and somewhere, somehow, the woman pictures a small black creature dancing with delight.
There is a wall ahead, brightly lit by two street lamps; a massive wall of cinder blocks stacked two stories high. It runs perpendicular to the endless tongue. The woman sees the structure, notices that it stares back at her, dumb with expression. It means to kill her. The hairy hands mean to kill her also, ambitiously gripping the steering wheel as they are. But the woman no longer cares. She has watched and felt the murder of her family, and the treason of her unborn. She is ready to die, and out in the dark desert, something howls with glee.
The vehicle presses forward, the wall looms larger, thicker. The lights shine brighter, the night draws nearer. The woman sees her violent impact just before it happens: the crushing blow upon her body, the pop and splash of blood and bone, the fissure of membrane, the rapid expulsion of her conscience…
Something is wrong, terribly wrong.
The Lord of Darkness feels a restraining sensation on his limbs. He feels a tug. The night has vanished, and there is a cold, cold grey now looming in the air…dawn.
Nunsk shivers. He reaches his long tongue around his body, licking at the restraints, feeling the webbed strands of gut string and tendon that bind him. It is a sorcerous device, so he suspects.
The humans stir. The woman with the great belly rolls and sighs—not dead!
Nunsk turns violent. He thrashes his body and whips his tongue erratically through the air. He opens his mouth to howl but is unable to make a sound. There is a cold dread growing in the grey silence, thick and heavy, like a massive wall.
Once more, the humans stir. The woman rises. The he beside her reaches with a hand. Laughter down the hall; the two that now walk, now running. The catcher of dreams grips the body of Nunsk with ambition, without fail, and Nunsk watches as the morning color bleeds him of his darkness. And in this slip of grey that blinds the shadows, that wakes the humans, the nightmare becomes suddenly uncomfortable with the climate.
Christian Riley‘s stories have appeared in over sixty magazines and anthologies. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and his debut novel is pending publication. As a previous citizen of the Pacific Northwest, he vows one day to return, knowing that that which has yet to be discovered lurks somewhere behind the Redwood Curtain. Until then, he keeps a blog of his writings here, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.