You know that feeling when the hairs on your arm stand on end?


Extended Nightmares

By Alicia Bruzzone

For The All Night March Award


 

Humans have long been cautious of the dark, afraid of what lurks hidden in shadow. Startled by movement barely caught out the side of an eye.

Turns out we had a reason for it.

The day the Earth slowed they blamed a meteoroid. Something from space that knocked the entire planet from its tilt, extending daylight to impossible lengths. We would have believed it too, except there was no site of impact. All that time looking up in space for intelligent life, we overlooked what existed on the planet.

They were already here. And they were hungry.

The Vargon were nocturnal creatures who enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. They were damn near invulnerable, and after thousands of years lurching in shadows and stalking their weak prey, they got bored. There was no reason for them to hide when nothing on this planet posed a threat. I wish I didn’t literally mean nothing, but it’s true. Nothing. When the hair on your arms stands on end; it’s a warning. Run.

They slowed the Earth to almost stationery, one month for a single revolution, and they detached from the shadows, claws bared. We never stood a chance.

I learned that on the fourth day of darkness.

We didn’t know what to think back then. Planes didn’t work: something about changes in gravity or air currents, I didn’t really pay attention. Businesses had closed. There was already a media debate sparked over what constituted ‘night shift’ when there was no day: were ordinary office workers now entitled to penalty rates? I didn’t watch the news to find out, there were better places to be. The pubs were open! It’s not like being dark made it any harder to enjoy a drink, and an impending apocalypse is always more manageable while drunk, or at the very least highly tipsy.

Riley and I were sharing a pint. He was sombre as he stared at the amber liquid of his drink, condensation running down the side of the glass to pool on a coaster with a picture of a dancing peanut wearing sky blue boots. I don’t know why I remember that but it’s imprinted clearly in my mind, just like everything else that happened that night. No matter how much I wish I could forget.

There were only two of them, and I swear if I ever see the devil it would be a welcome relief. Vargon are hideous monstrosities of mottled hide and claw that reek of carrion and death. One had matted fur that hung in dreadlocks from his chest, the other was smooth skinned, and somehow all the more terrifying for it. They slid out of the shadows of our permanent night; suddenly there where nothing had been before.

Thirty seconds, and everyone lined up ordering drinks was dead. Blood fell like waterfall mist through the smoky room, spraying every surface in a coat of glossy crimson. Most of the people inside didn’t even get a chance to cry out, let alone defend themselves.

For me, the world truly stopped when they ripped my best friend apart; limb from limb. They laughed as my heart ached enough to violently shudder out of beat, the beasts barely raising a sweat as Riley screamed. I couldn’t even feel my legs as I ran.

Eighteen nights later, and I haven’t stopped running. Because the Vargon are still coming. It’s a game, and they do enjoy their night time entertainment. Over panted breath I hear them cackle maniacally while someone in the distance screams; another victim of the relentless night. No matter how much my lungs and thighs burn I know I can’t stop. Not yet. Not when I’m so close. I can’t until the prickle on the back of my neck leaves; the warning I’m being watched.

I need to reach the sunlight- find the day, and you’ll be safe. That’s what the rumours say anyway. Head east and meet the sun; steal time away from the night. Drive until you hit water, and then you find a boat, or a raft, or swim until you find land again. Drowning seems a better end than facing what happened to Riley.

Fear turned out to be the perfect motivator. Sure, scientists set up labs, and agriculturalists scrambled to set up hydroponic vegetable facilities since without sunlight crops were withering away, while on the other side of the world they burned into shrivelled crisps under unrelenting sunlight. But the dead don’t need vegetables.

Nothing matters beyond survival.

Beware the shadows, flee from anything that moves like part of the night.

The day the Earth slowed humans dropped from running the world at apex predator status to becoming prey. Ironic, because since then I’ve done little else besides run and pray myself.