Haunting Memories

William King sat in his study, the door to the room open so that he could see outside the window at the end of the hall, watching as the sun dipped behind the house that sat across the street. Lines crossed his face, and his hair was a thick shock of white. His breast moved up and down at even, regular intervals as he breathed, and he looked like someone who had contemplated all the mysteries of the universe, and had arrived at an answer. All the worlds' time lay before him at his feet and there seemed to be no better use for it than to sit in his favorite chair (although to be honest, it wasn't his favorite, favorite. Bandits had made off with that many years ago) and take in nature's splendor. Something of a philosopher's dream you could say. As the evening wore on, the horizon changed from a bright yellow to gold, then to the orange that made William King think of October, of haystacks and pumpkin patches, and of Halloween before night fell and the trick-or-treaters began calling. The sun fell behind the house across the street as he watched and then was gone. At this William was disheartened, although he knew that the light would remain just a little bit longer; just something that he had to remind himself of every now and then as it kept the nightmares of childhood from arriving to soon.

He shivered a little as he got up and turned away from the door, going over to his desk to light a candle. It was going to be a cold one tonight, and the summer was just barely ending. No doubt it would be warm by the end of the week, but he didn't like it. It made his bones ache at the thought of having to suffer through another winter. Oh sure, it wasn't here yet, but you could say that it was nature's idea of a teaser.

A taste of things to come my lad, but not just yet…

He shivered again as he struck a match and lit a candle, and then picked up it up and used it to light the other candle's that were placed around the room. In a little bit he would he would go and light the way to his bedroom, but for now he was going to bask in the warm glow that men called light, and thank God for its existence. God and Jonesy. Thank you Jonesy; if it wasn't for you and your candles I don't know how an old man like me could get around in the dark. Probably go and break my fool neck. When he was finished doing this he went over to his desk, as he sometimes does when feeling grateful for something he once took for granted, and opened up the top drawer. In it was a bible with a small silver crucifix necklace on top of it. He picked up the crucifix first and set it down reverently on top of his desk and then pulled out the bible. There was a significant difference between the two items. The crucifix was well polished, and it shined in the light, almost looked new but for a small chip at the top of it. The bible was well worn, some pages stuck out of the binding, and the gold script was all but gone from its cover. With the latter object it didn't look destroyed, but from the way the man looked at it with a small smile creeping across his face, it resembled more of a tough old farmer wearing faded jeans and a flannel shirt than another ancient relic that was past its prime. It brings to mind the kind of memories that are always best when reflected upon, as in the Robert Browning poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", it is that "taste of the old times" that sets all to rights.

Ah, God, William thought with a touch of remembrance. We've been through a lot, haven't we? As always God was silent, but William was sure that He would have agreed. William was just about to set the old friend back in the drawer when he saw another book. He paused, and set the bible on his lap, but didn't bother to withdraw the other book. He knew full well what it was, and every time he saw it he felt a sense of impending damnation, as though it were something that weighed on his heart, as though a stone were attached to it by a chain. It was more of a journal really, heralding back fifteen years ago when all hell broke loose back in that accursed town that he had called home. In those days his faith had been badly shaken, and he had wondered if guys like Pat Robertson were right; that this was what they got for supporting gays, but then a whole congregation of such people, after fighting briefly with riot control, wound up getting torched by this nameless force that tore through the states. Fifteen hundred people dead, all at once. And it had been so sudden that those who didn't taste the fire were broken in ways that transcended the physical and went to the spiritual. William remembered, quite vividly, that in those days he was desperate. A lot of people were, but it all came down to how desperate everyone was. For William King, he was desperate enough to break the very rules of the church that he followed. He had rationalized it of course; when facing such horror there were plenty this side of the fence who did and still would for years to come, and in the end he did what he thought was the right thing. Better that he himself be damned, than to let others die and be damned with him anyways. Since then, following those years since the Time of the Casting and the Reich War he had wondered if he had done the right thing. Things had been quiet for the past eight years or so, but more and more he felt as though he was standing in the eye of some storm. And then there had been the child he had seen at the Casting, the one with a scar on his forehead and a black aura that hung around him. He wondered about that, even after all these years. The kid looked familiar…

It wasn't the sound of a footstep that made William look up, or the sudden and sharp decrease in temperature either. Rather it was the change in light that caught his attention. The shadow's in the hallway deepened and grew until they reached into the study, making the light cast by William's candles look weak and pathetic. The candle nearest to the door winked out, and as the smoke curled up from the wick, he found that the light that should still have been coming in from the window wasn't there. Something was blocking it. And with that all the lights but for the one that sat on his desk went out, the flames bending as though struck by a gust of wind, though there was none. William sat in his chair, shaking badly and huddling closely to the small sphere of light that the tiny flame poured out. His last shelter against the night, and he realized with quiet irony that he must truly be damned, for as a man of God his faith should have stood where his courage didn't. His eyes fell onto his crucifix and he reached for it. In one instant, the world seemed to blur before his vision, and in the next the crucifix tipped and then fell into the shadows beneath the desk, hitting the floor with a clatter.

God has rejected me, William thought balefully.

A figure entered the room, standing at the light's edge. He was close enough that William could just make out the figure's form. He was a dark figure, imposing but not gigantic. He wore what looked like a long trench coat, and a flat-brimmed hat sat upon his head. Light twinkled in his face like stars in the twilight, and William realized that it was the candlelight reflecting in his eyes. The figure briefly reminded him of some 'Ghost Rider' that his mother used to talk about from her days out west, before the trouble started (hell, before he was even a teenager), but the image passed when the figure raised his hand, as though he were pointing at William, and an image of Death, as it was represented in all the tales of the Grim Reaper suddenly came to mind so quickly that he knocked his chair over in his rush to gain his feet. The Visage of Death had come to his home! Oh, sweet Jesus. Oh, God no. No! No! NO! Still clutching his bible, that old friend that had seen him through many hard times, William found his voice again. He extended his hand forward, the one holding the bible (what his father had once called "God's Holy Handbook for the Dumb and Blind"), the book facing downward so that his pointer finger was extended accusingly at the intruder, and was about to demand the nature of his identity and his reasons for being here when the figure spoke. The voice was perfectly human, but something inside it, made William think of stones being crumbled, being ground down to sand, and then he stood there, silent and mute. His raised hand fell to his side, the bible falling from fingers gone numb. The shadows shifted, as though growing eager, and the figure spoke again. "Tyhme has come to claim its lost children."

The last candle winked out.

The next day found the faint rays of sunrise shining through the windows. Jones Bradley Jr., commonly known as Jonesy to his friends, mounted the steps to William King's home, and knocked politely on the door, calling for the old man. No answer came to him. Tsk-ing to himself he waited before knocking again. After a few minutes he fished out a key from underneath a stone (Jonesy was one of the few people that William had trusted with that key's location, and Jonesy felt pride in that knowledge) and let himself in. He explored the house, from top floor to bottom, from bedroom to study and found nothing. Except for the crucifix that the old man occasionally wore, the one that was chipped at the top. That was lying on the floor for some reason. Weird, Will's usually not that careless about that sort of thing. But he mostly dismissed it and pocketed the relic. Wasn't the sort of thing that you left lying about in an empty house. Especially something that was valued greatly by you.

He only stopped briefly before the door that led to the cellar. Jones licked his lips nervously. He wasn't normally afraid of the dark, but he had never liked basements, not since he was a kid. But if the old man had gone down there to get something (which was crazy, he told himself. William never kept anything important down there) and had slipped and gotten hurt, he should check it out. His hand went to the doorknob, and froze. Suddenly that darkness around the crack of the door seemed a little bit blacker, had more depth to it. Jones stepped away and although he wouldn't remember it later he ran full tilt out of the house, and looking around almost guiltily to make sure there was no one around to see, he locked the house's door, replaced the key and began to head back home, confidently telling himself that the old man had probably gotten up early for a walk and that he'd just stop by later to check up on him.

Yeah, he thought. That's it.

A/N: This is an excerpt from a story that I started writing a couple years ago and wound up not finishing (mainly because it was a cliché idea to begin with and I hadn't planned the story out all that well). I'm a little bit new to writing original works here so I'm hoping that I can get some tips on anything about the writing and its style itself before I settle down to do any actual, serious original, fiction work. Thanks.