By on Sep 4, 2023 in Featured, Fiction

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Stained glass window on dark brick wall

Once again the light in his eyes dimmed and his head leaned way forward, leaving me alone in some sense. There was still a panorama of light filtering through the glass panes, but shadow now held sway in the room. Now is the perfect opportunity to slip away, to vanish without any closing remark, but what held me there was not concern for my friend, nor guilt over any sin that might mean—for terror had weakened my muscles so that I knew I could not trust them for a safe retreat. So I was committed to wait for my friend to dismiss me in some fashion, to remove any responsibility from me.

Then, suddenly the mechanisms of the clock ground, and then chimes filled the air, announcing the time: seven o’clock; and in the same instant Patrick came awake with a start, and boldly proclaimed:

“Beware the time, Robert. It marks a descent as it draws on the darkness.”

It was my first instinct to believe that the utterance originated from some chaotic dream he had encountered in his latest nap, but once again his eyes—those eyes—were staring intently at me, and all I cared about in that instant was to avoid being the target of that attention, like one would desire to avoid detection by a rabid psychopath.


“Yes, it is I,” said he, “But for how much longer? The time grows short, but fear not that your previous question goes unanswered. The answer, by demonstration, creeps toward us now.”

Oh, how my mind quailed at the thought that anyone should be trapped in this castle after the last rays of sunlight had abandoned the sky, but clinging to the desire for the light did not preserve it. I stared at my friend, while my other senses took in how the darkness had pooled in the room. Then my attention was suddenly drawn to a folded black cloth on the table before me. When had that been put there? I inquired of my memory about its appearance, for now the shape seemed dominant, outstanding enough that it could not be missed, but it was certainly my first conscious glimpse of the object. Had Patrick put that there, or maybe some other agent while I was otherwise engaged?

But I was once again distracted as Patrick suddenly became animated in the most agitated manner. He pulled at the collar of his shirt, and his hands trembled in the effort to undo his cuffs as if his clothes had become constricted. A seam on his jacket tore, and still he continued to convulse. When he once again became still, he raised his eyes and glared at me like I was unexpected company, or an unwelcome intruder.

I turned to look at the window. The sun was near the bottom of the portrait now, the disc of the sun hidden behind a dark shrub, but the light radiating through the green grass. The upper portions of the window were now darkened and featureless. Soon, very soon, the light would vanish altogether, and the room would be plunged into darkness. As I sat gazing upward, contemplating the oncoming sunset, another part of my mind calculated every minute move required for an abrupt departure: My carriage sat not fifty feet from where I sat, a distance I could make very short work of; then the simple act of pulling open the large front door, but then the more crucial task of climbing into the seat, gathering the reins, and spurring on the horse instantly to a frantic pace—and successfully completing all these tasks while something sinister flew at my heels.

Yet despite this terror, the bid for safety from some unspecified mortal danger, I still maintained some rationality, nested in my loyalty and fear and responsibility for my friend. I began to alter my plan for passage to include Patrick.

By the time I looked away from the window, the sun had sunk to the very lowest portion of the window, just a dim light glaring above the horizon, slowly slipping away. But when my gaze fell upon my friend again, his eyes showed no dimming, despite the dark that had taken up residence in the room.

“Robert,” said he, “I struggled fiercely with soliciting any aid, and my call to you was a hard-fought victory against my will. Yet I still have not revealed the true petition of assistance, and I am not sure even now that I can will myself to make the request in any fashion. There is still some time for you to leave. I recommend you take this last opportunity.”

“Please trust me to accept any request you have except that,” I said. “I cannot abandon you—that would haunt me forever.”

“It is no mere wish of whimsy, but a bid for a solemn act that might endanger more your soul than your body.”

“You are retreating from your endeavor. Ask so that the burden will be on me.”

He said, “To ask might even transcend the most perfect friendship. I even fear I might have asked too much already in requesting your presence. But alas in mere moments there will be no need to ask, to put you to an unfair test, and so it will exonerate you of any blame and free you of any guilt. Soon your actions will be dictated by another stage of necessity that need not be requested by me but will instead be determined by you. Time is passing rapidly.”

“Let us leave here then,” I said calmly. “Together. Let us leave this curse behind us, let it take whatever objects it desires, let it take possession of the very house, but no longer let it inhabit you. Let the spirits wail and shriek in an empty house, let them take possession of an empty soul while you preserve your mortal entity.”

He said, “Robert, my mortal entity is tied here. I may not leave here. I suspect that your feelings have surpassed any logical deductions, and I further suspect you feel it, though the understanding is beyond anything rational. So you must follow your desire to protect yourself.”

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Kevin Lenihan is currently a technology teacher in North Brunswick, NJ. He has always been interested in horror and science-fiction movies, as long as he can remember. He got interested in writing when he was 17, when he read "Firestarter" by Stephen King. He read everything he wrote for a long time. Now he writes books faster than Kevin can read them. Another author He became obsessed with was Robert R. McCammon. The first book he read by him was "Mystery Walk," and he was hooked. Then he read "They Thirst" and was blown away, as it took the vampire story to a whole new level, such a grand, epic scale. And, of course, Kevin loves Edgar Allan Poe. "Ligeia" was the first story he read by him, and it set the standard for all short stories after that. He loves his poems, as well, and he has memorized several of them, including “The Raven”, “The Conqueror Worm” and “Lenore."