A Thousand Midnights

The movement caught Grant's eye.

He set the remote control down and sat up from his favorite spot on the couch. Swinging his gaze over to the dark recess near the front door, he stared at the shadowy space, watching intently for any further signs of movement.

After a minute of staring at an empty corner Grant shrugged off the interruption and focused on the television again. His mind nagged him intermittently though, but he suppressed the thoughts. He wanted to relax. He worked all day. He deserved a little rest and relaxation.

No more than two minutes passed when he noticed it again: something moved in the shadows.

This time however Grant leapt to his feet and walked over to the niche between the bookshelf and the wall. He reached out a hand, extending it into the shadows. He knew all he had to do was turn on a light, but for some reason he didn't. He needed to see if there was really something there or not, without light.

Something nipped his finger. He yelped and pulled his hand back, cuddling up to his chest. Pain urged him to turn the light on.

The room lit up and revealed nothing out of place.

Grant felt relieved, but also worried. He would've preferred if something had been hiding in the niche. At least then he could have dealt with it.

He looked at his finger. A tiny pair of pinpricks welled dollops of blood.

"So it wasn't my imagination."

However, the words did little to calm him. Something wasn't right in his world, something that had already proven it could bite.

Grant immediately rushed around the house and turned on every light he could find. He even opened the refrigerator door.

Movement near the front door caught his attention as he walked back into the living room. He froze in place and glared at the spot. Although he had lights on throughout the house the space (behind a half-wall and to the left of the door) still clung to its shadows.

He leaned forward and strained his eyes.

A black hand the size of the cat's paw and tipped with comically-long claws swatted at the light.

Grant fell to the floor as his legs gave out from under him. Sheer terror and disbelief paralyzed his body. The impossible had somehow crept into his life, and now that he had seen it, it would remain a part of him for the rest of his days.

But the hand wasn't the worst of it.

What the hand did was.

It swiped at the air. Long claws raked across nothingness and cut through the light in the room like a razor blade through rice paper. And behind the parallel fissures was blackness darker than a thousand midnights.

Grant was transfixed by what he was seeing. If he had seen it in a movie or read it in a book it would've been frightening enough, but in real life it was beyond emotions.

The hand was joined by another. Identical in size, it also sported long claws which it used to tear the riffs its brethren had created even further, exposing more blackness.

Grant stumbled backward until he was pressed against a wall. The tears were widening, the hands pulling on the edges like someone removing wallpaper, and the darkness within seeped through the breaches and into the room.

Grant jumped to his feet. He ran into his kitchen and flung open the pantry, and grabbing a flashlight, whirled around and trained the beam on the niche by the door.

The light was immediately swallowed by the darkness.

Another hand then slipped out of the shadows and cut a broad swath through the air. One of its claws swept across the feeble beam from the flashlight and darkened it in midair.

A flashback suddenly crossed Grant's mind. He remembered a story his grandfather told him when he was a child. The old man sat him down one night, and after pouring him a cup of hot chocolate, gave him his trademark smile.

"Grant, I don't want to scare you but there's something you should know."

Grant, being only seven or eight years old at the time, hung on his grandfather's every word.

"There's another world behind the one we see. The light hides the darkness, and everything in it. And there are things in the darkness." The old man stood up and embraced Grant. "I'm telling you this because I love you and I don't want anything to happen to you. You have to be careful. You always have to be aware of your surroundings. One day they'll break through so if you're prepared you'll be all right."

And now, all these years later, his grandfather's words came rushing back into his life. Now he had to heed the old man's warning. Now he knew it was the truth, every word of it. For over twenty years he breezed through life unaware of the danger that lurked in every shadow. Now he knew what really hid in the darkness.

Grant stumbled back into the kitchen. He snatched a knife from its slot in the knife block and steadied his nerves. Running out of the house occurred to him, but where would he go and who would believe him?

The knife shook in his hand. If the things in the darkness managed to cut their way into the light he'd take care of them, or at least some of them. This he vowed to himself.

Another hand, black as coal, exploded out of the shadows. It was larger than the others and twice as animated in its movements.

It was quickly joined by another of similar size that was just as black.

Then something emerged from the tears that was more frightening than the hands.

The face leered at Grant. Its eyes were black, and yet somehow easily discernable from the surrounding darkness. Behind it were others of the same ilk, the same hateful visages. Too many to count. Too many for a sane mind to comprehend.

Grant charged forward and flung the knife directly at the face.

The face flinched for a second, but regained its composure when the blade vanished in the darkness.

Feeling defeat sap his courage, Grant ran into the hallway. He'd had enough. He needed to find help. He couldn't use his cell phone (he forgot to charge it when he got home), so his only option was leaving the house to get help.

He felt something scratch his arm.

A jet-black hand had clawed its way through the wall and was swatting at him as he passed by it.

Grant yelped in pain and fell into the opposite wall. He had a gash that exposed raw meat, and blood soaked his arm, trickling down to his hand.

"They're breaking through!" he cried. "Grandpa! You were right all along! You were right!"

A hand pushed its way up from the floor and latched onto Grant's ankle. It squeezed so tightly the bone snapped like a twig.

Grant crumpled to the floor. Pain wracked his body, rendering him helpless. His mind fogged over in agony.

The floor opened. A slit formed and quickly expanded, stretching to the opposite wall and enveloping the hapless man writhing on the floor.

The last thing Grant saw were faces that were darker than the blackness surrounding them.

Lisa knocked on the door. She had heard commotion, like someone screaming about their grandpa, and was worried. Grant was a nice guy. She hated to think that something might have happened to him.

After a few minutes she leaned over to the window on the side of the door and peered inside.

Strange, all the lights are on and nobody's answering.

She tapped on the glass but there was still no answer. The hallway was empty with nobody in sight and nothing was out of place.

Giving up, Lisa stepped off the porch.

Maybe he's asleep, or in the shower.

As she turned, the lights in the house went out. She paused, wondering if she should try the door again.

Maybe there was a power failure.

She looked at her own house.

My place is fine.

She stepped up to the door again and noticed that something in the darkness stirred.

She pressed her hands to the window.

Faces, darker than the surrounding blackness, stared back at her.