The sun went down, long rivulets of shadow running along the tired, worn out cobbles foretelling the coming of the thing. The thing was amorphous, an inky nothingness, that roiling, stygian vapour which leaves an unpleasant metallic aftertaste of despair in the back of your throat. He could feel it behind him, the tendrils of the fetid mist reaching for his ankles. He had never run so fast, fear pumping through his veins, panic rushing through his ears. He had stopped thinking long ago, just legs working to push him away from it, trying to. Senses sharpened to a point he was looking for somewhere to make a stand, fight back. He dare not look behind again, into the vast empty blackness that was inexorably closing in on him. The cold void, he could still feel the icy chill that wrapped around his heart when he first saw it. In that one moment, forever frozen in his head, he knew there was no escape, only an uneasy delay, if he was lucky. Desperate, he scanned the featureless doors along the dimly lit alley for succor. Deep down he knew that anything he did now would only delay the impending. Was it even worth it? Something brushed his arms, something bleak, wet, . All thoughts of hopelessness fled from his mind as the fear took over, hijacking his mind. Somehow, somewhere he found some extra pace. That one door on his right looked ajar, maybe there is a weapon in there…

This was not the first time. It came often, breaking through his walls. He was a drifter, of sorts. He would run from it every time, find that one defensible location and fight back. Each time he would make more elaborate defenses in his new hiding place. Make it home. He tried to eliminate the unsavory by throwing it out beyond his fence. Out the window. Choosing to ignore the fact that these things have a way of accumulating made it easier to live in his new home. He would tune out the inexorable pounding on the door, focusing on smaller issues, decorating his house with things. Inevitable, it would break through and then he would run, again.

He tries to fight it with mixed success. Determinedly hacking away at the darkness. It falls away, slowed by the attack. Like always, it retreats a bit, to recuperate, just far enough that it disappears from view. This time he would build better defenses, a better home. Each time, he uses his masterful ability of self delusion to convince himself that it is never coming back again. Despite all the screaming evidence to the contrary. The stain on the rug only covered by the furniture, its presence denied, not wholly forgotten. Only in his darkest hours will he admit to its presence, his impotence in the face of that horrible incarnation. He knows it, but prefers to deny that his feeble attempts here would only delay it. The memories of that sick smell would fade, forgotten in some tiny box in the depths of his memories, among other bits of repressed detritus. It was however, just that, a delay. Nothing could ever stop it, it would come back, resurface with a vengeance. Stronger than ever feeding on the scraps he was throwing out over his fence.

Somehow, whenever he ran away from it, he would always come up to this one bridge. It was an ugly affair with no apparent purpose, no one used it. He always slowed down when he ran over this bridge, drawn by a mystical voice. It lured him in with a promise of an end to this. If he did what the Voice said, it could all be over, no more running. Sorely tempted, he could never really get the voice out of his head. Even in happier times, he could feel its presence, deep down. Whenever he woke up from a refreshing sleep, it would chime in: see how wonderful it was to sleep and forget everything? Just come to me and you could have that forever. Alluring!

It was always other memories that would pull him back over, onto the other side of the bridge. He resented that, he wanted it all to end. What life was this? To feed your worst fears, nurture it and then run from it? Better to sleep. Oh how sweet it would be to just sleep. Each time, it was harder for the memories of laughter to pull him back from the brink. Every night, after a few blissful hours of slumber, he would wake up and he would groan as reality would shatter his peace. He desired the embrace of this voice, this promise of no more running. The lust for the somnolent oblivion permeated his whole being, the pull of the bridge was just too much. too easy, too near. His resistance grew weaker each subsequent time. In all his new homes, he would stock-pile this laughter during the day. It came in handy every morning and on the bridge. This constant war raged deep down in his mind, in places he spoke of only flippantly, lest someone take him seriously.

He never gave in to the siren of the bridge. Striving to make a life out of the happier memories, he struggled on. In his weaker moments, though, he would always throw scraps out the window, and watch with a horrid fascination as the beast of the darkness fed on it, became bigger and stronger. He could not take his eyes off the thing, the dense billowing stench pulsating with a dark energy. It was beyond death, full of the wretched misery of unfinished business. Of failure and disappointment. One day, he would grow strong enough to fight it, dispel it forever. That day is always tomorrow, never today. Now, the weak moments have accumulated. His throat burns with a sharp aftertaste. Time to run again.


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