Greer was crawling through darkness on his hands and knees; he had no idea where he was or how he’d gotten there. He could remember his name and nothing else. He knew he wasn’t dreaming; in fact, he had the distinct feeling that he had woken from sleep and was now wide awake. The ground beneath him was solid and flat. He crawled along for a while and then stood up. He felt a disoriented for a moment but that passed. He turned around a few times but could see nothing in the darkness. He searched his pockets for a keylight or a book of matches but found nothing. He bit back on panic: there had to be an explanation. Perhaps he had been in an accident and was trapped underground; perhaps he was blind. He listened but heard nothing, sniffed the air but detected no scent or aroma of any kind. He felt no warmth of sunlight on his skin, no cool night air. He called out but no one responded. What could he do? Staying put didn’t appeal to him. He started walking but fear of tripping over an unseen object put him down on his hands and knees again and he felt his way over the featureless ground, helpless and lost.
Greer might have been crawling for hours or days, he couldn’t tell. He felt no weariness, no urge to sleep, no hunger or thirst. As he crept along he entertained theories of where he might be, what might have happened to him; but there was nothing to test his theories against; and his lack of memory made it impossible to press beyond the most obvious questions. Fear was the feeling closest to him as he made his journey and he was ashamed to think that it took no more than darkness to make him afraid. It was this thought that triggered his first memory, something his mother had told him when he was a little boy, afraid to put the light out at night, “There is nothing in the dark that is not there in the light.” He stopped moving, hoping that more memories would follow but nothing more came. He tried to picture his mother, to picture himself as a boy: his mind remained stubbornly blank. He went on, for no other reason than that there was nothing else for him to do.
The sensation that he was not alone, that he was being followed, informed his senses slowly. He stopped and listened and at first heard only silence; but the third time he could faintly, but distinctly, hear a low panting somewhere in the dark behind him. He listened until he was certain that it was real. Robbed of sight he did the only thing he could think of, he sniffed the air. An acrid, animal musk tweaked his nostrils. Whatever was behind him, it stayed put until he started moving again. He could hear it coming closer, the sound of claws on the hard ground, tip-tap, tip-tap, and panting underscored by a low growl. Greer stopped again and his pursuer stopped with him. The animal was panting more rapidly now – it was in pursuit. Greer kept moving, rising to a crouch and running, feeling his way forward with his hand, keeping his ear cocked for the animal that hunted him. It had almost caught up to him when it stopped. Greer stopped too but only for a moment. Perhaps he had crossed an invisible barrier and the animal could go no farther; if that was true, then he had the advantage. He pressed on, putting distance between himself and the thing that hunting him.
Greer tripped over something and fell on his face. He heard voices, hissing whispers, and felt a body wriggling underneath him. He scrambled over the body and stood, ready to defend himself; but no attack came. He heard a man’s voice say, “Another one.”
(C) Vincent Asaro 2014
The complete story will be included in my upcoming short story collection Something In the Dark, to be published December 2014. For details visit my webpage: