There’s a feeling, Elle considered to herself, that can come from darkness.
She clutched the slightly bent tire iron closer to herself as she tried to see further, blinking her eyes in a futile attempt to help her night vision. All around her, the shadows grew deep and thick before congealing into a solid mass of impenetrable blankness.
Elle normally felt accustomed to darkness. She was, after all, a creature of the half-dark, spending most of her waking hours prowling in the twilight. It was always a delicate balancing act; she had to wait until the sun had sank down to kiss the horizon, to the point when most of the other bands of hunters would have already set up their camps and turned in for the night.
But Elle also knew that for each moment she waited, the sun grew a little dimmer, and her window shrank. And if she waited too long, darkness would come sweeping over her like a crashing wave of surf. That darkness brought its own terrors with it, far more ephemeral than the bands of hunters, but just as deadly.
Tonight, the darkness felt especially thick…
Up ahead, she spied the outline of a door, and Elle leapt forward. The door was locked, of course, but she managed to dig the pointed end of the tire iron into the gap and wedge the door open enough for her slender frame to slip inside.
Out of habit, she hit the light switch, even though she knew the power had gone out years ago. It was a habit, left over from those vague memories of when the switches had still worked, when humans had still held off the darkness.
She shone her headlamp around the room, taking in the disheveled appearance. Someone had ransacked this little habitation already, but it looked like they’d just done a quick sweep. There were always more treasures left behind, goodies that a little scavenger like Elle could use.
She was so focused on rummaging through the piles of disorganized goods that she didn’t see the darkness creeping in through the gap between the front door and the frame.
Behind Elle, tendrils of that curiously thick, heavy darkness crept in, sliding along the walls and ceiling. They moved curiously, as though they were two-dimensional, only painted across the three dimensions of the room. They slid over precariously balanced piles of junk without disturbing a single item.
Elle’s hands were deep in the pile, but she wrenched her whole body back with a cry of success as the dented but still sealed can came free. The effort sent her tumbling backwards – and her cry died in her throat as she landed on her back and stared up at the tentacles rapidly combining on the room’s stained ceiling.
“What?” she gasped out, her voice sounding strangled. She tried to aim her light up towards the ceiling, but although the darkness shrank back slightly, it didn’t peel and burn away under her light’s glare.
A scratching sound made Elle spin around, staring with wide eyes at the door. Something was tugging at the door, trying to drag it further open. Something out in the darkness.
“Is anyone there?” she half-whispered, trying to feel around for where she’d dropped her tire iron, her eyes locked on the door’s outline as it rapidly disappeared into that thick darkness.
“No,” came the whisper back, drifting in from a hundred dead, dusty mouths.
Elle’s head whipped around. The words sounded as though they’d come from every direction at once – and as she tried to scramble back to her feet, tiny filaments slid out from the darkness that now painted every corner and wall of the room around her.
“No one’s here,” the darkness whispered softly. The tire iron cut through a dozen threads with each swing, but a hundred took their place, moving in on the terrified girl. “No one is here.”
As those threads wrapped around her limbs, leaching the life and light from her body, Elle tried to scream – but the darkness absorbed even that last cry.
“No one is here.”
And when the darkness in the room seemed to grow less oppressive, less heavy and dense, those words were true.