Still in catch-up mode, today's challenge - Night - inspired me to dip into the more horrific section of my palette...
They Come At Night
They come at night, mostly.
When the sun has slipped fully over the horizon, when the sky has turned from blue to twilight purple to midnight black, that’s when they emerge from their lair and begin their hunt for victims.
I first realised what was going on in this neighbourhood a few weeks ago. I’d taken an afternoon nap on the sofa, something I’ve done on occasion since retiring, and when I woke up it was already dark outside. But for the fact that my back was sore, I’d probably have got straight up and turned a lamp on and never been any the wiser to them; but as I sat on the edge of the couch massaging my lower back into life, I noticed two shadowy figures standing on the opposite side of the road. Two men, pale skinned and smartly dressed in suits. They didn’t look right, was my first impression.
When they looked my way, a little voice in my head whispered for me to freeze right where I was and I did so without questioning. The men stared at my house, as if somehow sensing my gaze upon them, before finally turning away and instead walking up the driveway to the house where Mr Simmons lives
I had my suspicions about them immediately and, when I bumped into Mr Simmons a few days later, my worst fears were confirmed. He was different; changed somehow and despite his relaxed posture and easy smile, I felt the icy finger of terror slithering down my back. As crazy as it might sound to you, I knew what those men were and what they’d done to poor Mr Simmons.
I hoped against hope that maybe that would be the end of it, but of course they didn’t just come that one time. Perhaps they sensed that this was a neighbourhood where they could sate themselves, a quiet little place where they could have their way and no one would be any the wiser. They swiftly grew bolder, the two men became four and I stopped turning the lights on in the house at night so that I could try to secretly observe them.
I learned their patterns, I learned their behaviour. It’s true, by the way; you have to invite them in or they won’t cross the threshold. But I learned that they have ways of securing that invitation; and, before long, first Ms Trunckle and then Mr and Mrs Dweedle fell entirely under their influence. Their numbers were swelling and there was nothing I could do.
And so, each night, I would sit camped out in my living room with the lights down and observe them, trying my very best to understand their strategies; I was learning about them without them even realising I was there.
I fell asleep in front of the lunchtime news and, when I wake up, my stomach leaps in fear as I realise that I’ve inadvertently left the television on and the room is bathed in a flickering white glow that paints electric shadows on the walls. My troublesome back immediately forgotten, I lunge for the remote control and press my thumb down hard on the power button. But, of course, it’s too late.
As my eyes accustom themselves to the darkness filling the room, I realise that there are two faces pressed against the window. They have found me at last. I try to avoid their gaze, try to pretend I’ve not seen them, but it’s no use. They move silently away from the window and to the front door.
Two knocks, sharp and hard, rattle the door and echo through the quiet stillness of the house.
And I know then that I can no longer hide from them; they know I’m here now and even if I manage to stay safe from them this night they will never give up. They are relentless. They will return until they get what they want and I know in my heart that this can only ever end in one way. They will return until I finally open the door and crumble and give them the permission that they so crave. The only option is to face them.
The walk to the front door seems to take forever and, when I get there, their elongated shadows, back lit from the street lamps, stretch across the floor of the hall towards me. My breath catches in my chest but I am committed now and my hand closes on the door handle, the metal cold against the slickness of my palm. They wait, patient.
Finally, steeling myself, I open the door wide and look at the two men in their suits. They smile at me; I’ve made their job easier.
“Do you think God wants you to be happy?” says the first man.
“Can we come in to tell you how you can let the light into your life?” asks the second.
And so, with weary resignation, I invite the Jehovah’s Witnesses inside.