Devil in the Dark
The monster in the corner of the jail cell wasn’t moving. It’s eyes were two emotionless silver flecks in a blanket of shadow. Scary and silent. Hollowed and haunted. Ancient beyond words. The rest was hard to make out in the darkness. The creature was definitely large and twisted. It appeared to have wings which were scaled. It’s face seeming animalistic, but strangely human.
Anna Isabel Asau had been down here for days. Possibly weeks. Possibly longer. It was all a blur now. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take before she completely lost control of reality. Before what was left of her sanity was gone forever.
Her long dark hair was matted, and frayed like a wild woman. In a way she was a wild woman now. Everything had been taken from her. Her palace, her family, her kingdom: all gone. All that was left was this disconnected reality of being locked away in the dark, and the unmoving creature in the corner.
And of course her crown; her reminder of what life had been, and who she once was. This had been left with her, and she wore it now. A cruel joke to torture herself in the darkness of her jail cell.
The monster was continuously becoming more realized over the time she had been locked in here. At first all she had seen where treacherous eyes murmuring in the dark. Then the diabolical face. Then the wings, and the twisted arms. It never said a thing, and never moved at all. It just watched, and waited. A patient monster. A devil in the dark born from the slipping of time, and from the internal destruction of reality. From the slow but steady loss of control. From the fading of sanity.
Anna prayed for sound. For Pain. For something. For anything.
But only that terrible silence lingered. She was forgotten down here. Broken of soul, and useless to the world. She had no place up there anymore. It was all gone. Burnt to the ground. Forever lost.
She heard whispering, and then realized suddenly that she was talking to herself. What was she saying? At first it seemed like gibberish. She felt as if she had never spoken before. As if it were an impossible thing that just now became possible.
She realized she was talking to the monster.
“You’re ugly,” she said. “You’re everything that I never was, and wish I could be. Strong, patient, observant.”
“If I had been you, I never would have ended up down here.”
Anna felt as if she had no purpose anymore. It was a terribly feeling. Uselessness, was there anything worse? To be unseen and forgotten. To be so alone. There was a strange freedom to it–but it was also suffocating. A raw unsettling helplessness.
She tried imagining better days, but the darkness in her thoughts snuffed out any attempts of hope. There was also something else in her mind and in her heart. Something so distant and so feint that it almost wasn’t there.
A dull, tired anger.
Black coals burning low beneath her current circumstances. It was quite possibly the only thing keeping her alive at this moment. She had no use for it really. There was nothing to be done anymore. But it was still there just the same.
How long has it been since she had eaten? There had been times blurred within the time spent in this darkness that scraps had been pushed through a slot in the jail cell door. She had no way of knowing who or what was pushing the food and water through. It was most likely one of the guards or soldiers ordered to keep her alive, but she had no real way of knowing. They never said a thing. The silence was another form of torture she supposed.
The loneliness was becoming so overwhelming that she was having a hard time breathing. She wanted to gag, but forced herself not to. She wanted to die.
Her thoughts felt mangled. Broken beyond repair.
But then she noticed something.
The monster in the corner was holding something now.
Anna stood unmoving, her wide, curious eyes fixed on whatever was in the monster’s hands. She dared not get close to the thing. Not so much of the fear that it would hurt her, but for the fear of it not being real. The fear that she really was losing her mind.
The object hidden in the monster’s hands wasn’t there a moment ago. The monster was after all becoming more realized as time passed. What else waited to be revealed? What other possessions would the creature unveil?
After a long moment of not moving, Anna asked, “What do you have for me?”
The thing’s hands opened, and within them there was a half melted candle.
The monster moving after such a long time of nothingness filled Anna with a strange hope. The half melted candle even seemed fitting. It reminded her of herself. Used up, thoughts misshapen. But an abstract sense of hope. That there would be light again.
“What else do you have for me?” Anna asked.
“Anything and everything,” a voice inside her head answered. “You create this reality.”
It was her voice, but unlike how she felt now, the voice seemed confident.
“I want to kill the part of me that is weak, and become like you. Strong. Wise. Unstoppable.” Anna Said.
The candle in the monster’s hands somehow lit itself. As it did, a yearning ignited within Anna. The murmuring coals of anger burning in her stomach became a fire. She suddenly needed to get out of here.
With the candle lighting their surroundings, she could finally see where she had been locked inside of for so long. She was in a very small stone jail cell, with one large wooden door. The board stones surrounding her were stacked unevenly, and were covered in scratches and filth.
“You create your own reality,” the voice said again.
She looked at the monster again, only it wasn’t a monster anymore. It was herself. She was looking into a large mirror.
“I create me own reality,” she repeated, looking at her reflection.
Anna looked behind her, and the door was gone. In its place a hole, with a glimmer of light shining through. Slowly she got up and moved towards the opening, then stepped through it. Her thoughts were frantic now. Her heart beating fiercely.
There was a long hallway, the floor made of pale stone tiles, and covered in a thin layer of clear water. Painted on the tiles were strange symbols. Towards the end of the hallway, the ceiling disappeared, and daylight radiated down like a warm blanket. Beyond the hall was a large archway, which appeared to lead to some sort of garden.
Anna raced forward, almost dropping her crown.
Her footsteps made little splashes, dampening the edges of her tattered dress.
The garden she found could have been beautiful. Exotic plants grew out of massive stone pots and garden beds, with streams and fountains incorporated throughout them. The roses in this garden were enormous–and their many leaves so green and and so vibrant.
But at the center of the garden, was a pile of dead bodies. Soldiers with broken limbs heaped awkwardly on top of each other. Their eyes were glazed over and white. Their expressions in agony. Blood dripped down their armor and faces, and onto the pale tiles, clouding the once clear water.
Sitting on top of the bodies was the monster from the jail cell. This time in its hands was an ancient looking sword.
“Is this what you wanted?” The voice in her head asked.
“I don’t even know what I want anymore,” Anna said.
And really, what did she want? What did she truly want?
She looked down, and in her hands was the ancient looking sword. It was covered in fresh blood, and dripping into the water. Splatters of gore were also all over her dress, and in her hair.
Something else came to mind. The thought was like a snake covered in mud slithering into her focus. It made her feel dirty. The thought was that she had been here before. Many times before. It filled her with a surreal almost distant feeling of panic. None of this was real, and yet it was. It felt as if she had lived a thousand lives, all locked away from the real world, and lost in this garden with the floor of pale stone tiles.
“What’s happening?” she asked, looking up at the monster. Only the monster was gone again. She was alone now with the flowers and the corpses.
She looked down again at the weapon in her hand. The sword was heavy, and covered in strange symbols. The color of the gore against the metal was an intensely deep red. So red that it almost took her breath away.
Anna thought again about what she truly wanted. She looked at the corpses. Her enemies. Was this what she actually wanted, or what she thought she should want. Was this what a queen of a conquered kingdom should crave? For the people who betrayed and took everything from her to be butchered? Strangely, she felt very indifferent about it, and this made her feel guilty. Shouldn’t she yearn for bloodshed, and for revenge? For retribution?
She looked down at her hands again, and the weapon was gone.
“I make this reality,” she whispered.
The corpses and the gore were gone now. A sort of peacefulness came through Anna, and she took in a deep breath. It felt as if she hadn’t fully breathed like this for years. She felt as if she could enjoy the sight of the garden now. That she could admire all of the beautiful and exotic flowers, and the sound of the many little streams and fountains.
She took her crown off, and set it in one of the garden beds.
“I want a future.” she said. “I want a new start.”
Anna opened her eyes, and she was back in the dark. Completely alone. The monster in the corner was gone, and she could see absolutely nothing.
But something inside of her was different.
She came to a place in her thoughts that held a sort of freedom. Although she could not control being locked away inside this cell, she could control how she reacted to it. Creating her reality was having the freedom to choose what this imprisonment meant to her. Defying the ones who took everything from her was not giving in to the dark anger burning deep within her. It was keeping her sanity, and choosing that this was making her a stronger and better person. She was facing her inner demons, and growing from it.
She decided that whatever happens in here, she will be a better and more whole person.
More days passed in a blur, but the anger wasn’t festering in her anymore. She accepted that she may very well die in here. It was ok, and she was ok.
The jail cell door opened from behind her, and candlelight crept in. The light felt bright, and she squinted her eyes.
“Anna?” a familiar voice said.
A voice that was not her own, and not in her head.
Anna’s voice was so try she couldn’t speak. She tried to reply, “Yes,” but it was more of a raspy wheeze.
“Anna, it’s over.” The familiar voice said. “The war is over.”
Anna managed to fully open her eyes. It was her older sister at the door.
“I thought you were dead,” Anna tried to say, but again it came out as gibberish.
“I had thought you were dead,” her sister continued. “Everyone else was executed… But it’s over. The war is over.”
She helped Anna stand up.
“We get to have a new start,” her sister said.
Anna thought to herself, I’ve already decided to have a new start. This will be my continuation of that. I may make new mistakes in the future, but never again the ones of the past. I was free in here, just as I will be free out there to choose how I will react to whatever comes.
They walked out of the jail cell, and Anna said goodbye to the monster that was in the corner, to the devil in the dark.
Copyright 2017 Justin Gedak
Published by Justin Gedak at Shakespir
Written by Justin Gedak
Cover art by Justin Gedak
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Devil in the Dark is a surreal psychological thriller/horror short story set in a medieval fantasy setting about a queen of a conquered empire locked in a jail cell, and seeing a monster sitting in the corner of the room.