Dark Form

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is the prologue to my current work in progress, an as-yet untitled horror novel.

It was an outdated, unfamiliar bathroom and Ally stood a few paces behind a man’s back and broad shoulders. He was crouched over the tub. The warm, thick air collected in droplets on the faded brown and cream wallpaper as she took in her surroundings. She hoped the muffled splashing bubbling up through the steam was a puppy, frolicking in wade-high water, or a toddler smacking his hands on the surface, but the clenching in her stomach gave the impression of something more malicious. She realized she was holding her breath.


The man’s back and shoulders wretched, the muscles flexing beneath his sleeveless t-shirt as they focused on keeping whatever it was in the tub. Without thinking, Ally stepped forward, toward the man.


Step.


She could see water splashing into the air and up against the plastic walls of the shower in large sprays. The man didn’t flinch, though the water must have been hitting him in the face. 


Step.


She looked to her traitorous feet, careful that her knees would not touch his back as he swayed and jerked.


She was right behind him and gathering her courage to look up, into the tub, and as she did the breath she’d been holding rushed out of her, escaping involuntarily in a mournful whimper.


Had she not felt the vibration in her throat, Ally would not have believed the sound came from her. It wasn’t a noise she had ever made and the suddenness of it surprised her.


The man had not noticed but the woman he held beneath the water had locked eyes with Ally and her panicked stare seemed to plead for interference. But Ally couldn’t move. She watched the woman’s arms flail against the high walls of the bathtub, her dark hair swirling like smoke beneath the surface, feet kicking water up the dirty shower walls, too shocked to take any action as her brain tried to sort out the situation.


Then the woman’s eyes went wild. Her struggling intensified and she bucked, water sloshing over the side in a wave that rolled across the floor, around Ally’s feet. She was looking behind Ally with fresh terror, as though Death himself had arrived to collect in her last few seconds.


It was then that Ally felt a cold hand, icy enough to chill her skin through her shirt in the stuffy bathroom, on her shoulder.


The shock of it snapped her from her foggy trance and Ally quickly swung around, convinced she would come face to face with a hooded, skeletal figure. No living flesh was that cold. But there was no skull in the tall shadow looming close behind her, sizing her up, she felt. The dark silhouette was a debilitating black at its core; the kind of darkness you lose your balance in, yet blurred at the edges, and the deeper she looked into the blackness, willing her eyes to focus on some - any - detail, the more it seemed to surround her. It lacked any discernible features but was clearly the vague shape of a person, male or female, she couldn’t tell. 
Ally felt the cold of it seeping out and against her, driving itself deep into her flesh and chilling her bones.


The shadow stepped past her and she flinched away. It stood next to the man, folded somehow. She heard whispering but it was either too muffled to make out or in a language she didn’t recognize.


The clench in Ally’s stomach tightened.


The man was no longer struggling to hold the woman down.


As the shadow righted itself to what she assumed was standing, the man swiveled on his heels. Fresh adrenaline rushed her as she expecting him to fix his attention on her. He pushed his hand against the edge of the bathtub and stood up, coming nose to nose with Ally.


Another small whimper escaped her chest. She felt his breath against her face. He had deep brown eyes, the corners of them bursting with lines - and a serene expression.  But he wasn’t making eye contact with her. Instead he looked through her as if she weren’t there. He seemed to think to himself for what felt to Ally like an eternal moment before tromping out of the room and, judging by the sound of it, up some nearby steps.


This was her chance. The thought came like a flash. 


She had no idea where she was or how she’d gotten there but this was her chance to run.


Step.


Ally willed her body to move but it would only slowly and shakily back toward the door, too panicked and terrified of the menacing shadow before her to be effective. Her gaze washed over the woman in the tub, her eyes blank and open, staring up toward the ceiling at nothing.


Step. She moved her left foot behind her.


Muffled yelling came from somewhere deep in the house. A fresh flash of fear surged as she reaffixed her gaze on the black shape, certain it would move and plunge her panic over the edge. She stared, frozen and too afraid of it to look away. But the shadow stood still and it struck Ally that there was no way to know if it was looking at her. And it was arms-length away.


And it just stood there.


Like lightening, her brain flipped through panic-induced scenarios of it turning toward her. Reaching a shadowy hand out for her. Lunging toward her. Smiling at her. The image came with a crash of anxiety that shoved her body into motion and Ally dashed for the door, looking back over her shoulder, sure it would swallow her, but it was gone.


Step.


Through the bathroom door.


Step.


Step.


A dimly lit stranger’s living room. Her darting eyes spotted an exterior door across the open kitchen. She rushed toward it, breaking into a run as she watched the shadow rise up from the darkness of the dirty hardwood floor in front of the door, blocking it. She backpedaled into a junk-covered cheap kitchen table, jerking it sharply a good foot across the floor and knocking some its contents to the floor. 


The shadow stood sentient and she found herself again frozen, eyes quickly darting, looking for another exit but afraid to turn away.


The shadow came closer.


Step.


Ally shuffled back, eyes wide in terror. Scattered items from the table crunched beneath her feet and she struggled to maintain her balance.


Step. Step. Step.


The entity shot toward her.


Terrified, she turned and ran, desperate to put space between her and the menacing darkness. She scanned the front wall of the living room for another outside door as she lunged forward. The door stood opposite the a stairway and she moved as fast as she could toward it, around the furniture, bashing her hip into the couch as she fled. 


She was closing in, reaching for the handle, when the darkness slid in front of the door, out of the shadows of the entryway corner. Ally felt the cold rush in through her fingertips and up her forearm as she pulled her hand back just in time to avoid plunging her hand into it by accident. 


She recoiled, fighting her forward momentum and stumbled back, against the stairs. Not waiting this time to see if the shadow would advance on her, she scrambled up the steep risers, taking them two at a time, sure that the shadow would reach her and swallow her up before she could reach the landing. Each pull upward brought more of the upstairs landing to eye level and in an instant, Ally saw legs kicking against the floor and disappearing, dragged through an open door just inside the short hallway.


Little legs.


A child’s legs.


Fresh terror stopped her cold, shallow breathes burning her anxious lungs as she gasped for air, halfway to the landing.
The shadow-thing hadn’t caught her yet.


Her heart pounded as she turned to look back down the stairs, convinced the dark form would overtake her any second.


But the shadow stood on the first step. It was still formless but clearly watching her this time. Or herding her.


She turned away, anxious for another exit upstairs.


Her attention immediately locked on a large window at the end of the short, upstairs hall and she rushed forward.


Step. Step. Step.


Bathroom door.


Ally’s eyes involuntarily swept into the room as she approached the entryway. 


And again the vibration in her throat expelled a whimper, liberated from what felt like her very core as she took in the horror of her daughter, on her back, one arm extended as though she had been pointing at something above. And her cold blue eyes, sparkless. Blonde hair floating around her colorless face.

Dead at the bottom of the tub. 


The brown-eyed man sat on his knees on a faded bathmat. Smiling at her body.


With a snap turned his head.


And smiled at her.


Step.


A dark rushing came at her fast from the stairs and she turned, her whimper crescendoing to a primal-sounding scream, as she was plunged into shadow. 

 

 

 

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Submitted: May 24, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Kristy Lynn Rice. All rights reserved.

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