The Night was Dark and Still

I ran across this the other day – an old story fragment I had written long ago.

The night was dark and still, but they could still see the figures dancing.  Like shadows, they seemed to melt into the very darkness that created them.  Yet still there was no sound, and that perhaps was the most disturbing fact of all.  The light of the fire seemed only to annoy them, as they danced around the borders of the light.  The flickering light seemed to dance along with the shadows themselves, engaging in a terrifying display of the power and terror of the forest.

Still, they kept the fire burning, and as long as there was light, the shadows seemed to stay at bay.  So all through the night, at least one person was awake to feed the fire, and ensure the safety of the others.  But there was little that could have been done, if the shadows had chosen to attack.  They called with their silent voices, taunting and teasing.  They made no sound, but it was impossible not to hear them.  Even their vague, dark shapes spoke to you, holding your attention until the last moment, when you realized that the fire had almost burned out, and the shadows were almost upon you.  But always they released you, only to taunt you again when the fire grew bright.

Those who slept were no better off than those who were awake.  They stirred frequently in their sleep, and sometimes moaned as if they had seen horrors untold.  In their restless dreams, the shadows had no fire to fear, and they danced and called without fear.  Sleep brought no rest.

Suddenly, the silence of the night was shattered by an ear-piercing wail.  All were awake instantly, some in a state of confusion, others in a state of fear and panic.  But all states of emotion were driven away by the second wail, louder than the first, bellowing into the night and echoing off the trees and the infinite shadows.  The sound spoke of death, of pain, of terror, of hopelessness, of futility, of fear, and of hate, all at the same time.  The very sound of it seemed to beat at your eardrums, confusing you as if you had been struck in the head.  The sound continued until it became almost unbearable to hear, and then it stopped as suddenly as it began, and the forest was silent again.

The silence was almost as bad as the wail, for a short time.  No one was able to move or make so much as a whisper to break the terrifying silence.  But there was no need to.  So slowly and softly that it was almost unnoticeable, the normal sounds of the forest resumed.  The crickets began to chirp again, the tree frogs began to sing again, and finally, birds could be heard singing praise to the light which was forming in the east.  Dawn had finally come.

By Keith Survell

A geek, programmer, amateur photographer, anime fan and crazy rabbit person.