Old boards creaked under Richard's feet. Darkness was everywhere. Somewhere, water collected in the recent rain dripped slowly off a ceiling to the wooden floor. In the echoes of each drop, thousands of half-real whispers giggled at his plight. The flashlight lit the rotten floor ahead, but the revealing beam seemed too narrow, its borders too quickly fading into the black.
Glints in the corners of Richard's peripheral vision stared at him, the reflection of light off of eyes, like those of cats. No matter how fast he turned his flashlight, they always seemed to just get caught as the fled, not quite silently. Black, clawed feet or gnarled hands would be revealed in the half-shadow of the light for half an instant before disappearing into the darkness, making him wonder if he was just imagining them.
All the while, a presence seemed to be pressuring him. It seemed to follow behind him, occasionally brushing his neck or tugging his hair or clothing. It pushed him forward with its presence, though he wanted to turn and flee. But when he turned, there would be nothing there, except the feeling of implacable evil. It was paralyzing. He couldn't turn back anymore; he had to follow the path that the evil had decided for him.
Hardly remembering why he had come in the first place, Richard wondered if he could ever leave this place of terror. It had a hold of him, and he knew it. He was no longer sure of what was real and what was his imagination. He half expected to hear…
"Are you SCARED?" The voice was a whisper until it screamed 'scared.'
Richard jumped at the voice. He didn't scream; he knew screaming would bring the things with eyes and claws upon him. Instead, he said nothing, holding his breath. There was silence.
The not-quite silent movements of the creatures had disappeared. Their eyes dimmed to merely reflections from the flashlight off of bits of metal in the dark. Even the presence didn't touch him. It must have all been his imagination. After all, he had just been thinking a voice would say just that. Shaken, but feeling confidence, Richard turned around, swinging his flashlight before him.
The presence suddenly existed again, the feeling so strong that Richard's skin felt that it was burning away. Creatures, small, sickly and with deep-set, black eyes, were there, fully illuminated for a moment before they scattered into the darkness. He felt things grab his clothing and try to pull him in the direction he had been herded.
All the tension broke. Richard screamed, swinging the flashlight at the things grabbing him. It struck one of the things of the darkness with a thud. It screamed in an unholy parody of a human voice and let go. Freed from the thing's grasp, Richard ran back the way he had come.
Something tugged at his foot and he fell to the floor. The flashlight smashed against the floor and went out. Scrambling in the darkness Richard managed to regain his footing, despite the hands that pulled his clothing and battered him. Terror overcame all sensibility. There were going to kill him.
As he ran, the hand became fewer and fewer. The presence eased in its intensity. Some part of Richard knew it wasn't right. They were faster than he was. He couldn't escape them. They were herding him, though he didn't know what direction he was going in anymore.
They wouldn't let him escape, Richard realized. They were going to keep him to toy with him, chasing him away from the exits. A moment of despair grabbed him. His only choice was to face them. He would run in the direction they didn't want him to go. They'd either kill him or let him go. Either was better than the fear.
Assisted by adrenaline, Richard reversed his direction. He expected to be hit by the creatures he ran from as he turned, but, for that instant, none touched him at all. He began running again, and suddenly, everything was much worse than ever before. The hands ripped at his clothing, tearing pieces off. Fists battered him, but never stopped him. The presence pushed against him, making running hard, almost painful. Whether it was out fear or determination to live, Richard ignored it all.
As he ran, it all got worse and worse. Claws tore his skin. Bodies of the creatures slammed against him. He could hardly breathe though the pressure of the presence. Yet he had to keep going. He never stopped moving forward.
A light came on. Then suddenly it all stopped. The flashlight. It lay on the floor, sending it's light out on a creature. It was almost like a human. Naked and pure white, the creature's slight frame practically glowed. It looked at Richard with the pure black orbs that were its eyes. It shuddered at the light and cowered at Richard's presence.
"Aren't you scared?"
Richard jumped at the words, as the creature's mouth hadn't moved, but then he recognized the voice. It was the same as earlier. Only there was fear in the words now.
Richard didn't answer immediately, instead, just looking at the creature. It was a pitiful being, scrambling into a corner, attempting to escape the light without passing through it or getting any nearer to him.
"Yes," Richard told it, "but not as scared as you." He picked up the flashlight and held it on the creature. "You're going to let me leave."
The thing curled up, covering its eyes, hiding them. Its voice now also contained pain. "Yes! Go! I want you gone! I tried to make you and the light gone! Go! GO!"
Richard turned the light to look where he had come from. Shreds of his clothes were caught on pieces of broken wood. Objects were knocked over. There had never been any creatures, except the one. They were all just things. The being must have given shape to his fear to chase him away.
That creature was fear, Richard realized. It hid in the shadows and places people would never see fully. It gave shapes to things that were not there, and when it was exposed, it was harmless. It couldn't exist without its shadows. Pitiful creature.
Wandering his way to the exit, Richard wondered how many there were. How many Fears hid in places that people rarely dared to come. How many places did people not go because they couldn't stand the terror. He wondered if they would ever die out. He doubted it. After all, they controlled the only thing to fear.