Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction
Laid Bare By Nyah Davis
She had begun with the impression that he intended to meet after work, on the corner by the place that sold her favourite coffee, but had left with the inverse of both smile and sentiment. That was the problem with impressions – they were always so assumed, so guessed and improvised and dependent upon human understanding. She felt as though he had opened her up, laid her bare, there, on the pavement, for all to see, promised experience and provided exploit.
But nobody was looking, and that seemed, somehow, worse. He had left her waiting, abandoned, naked, invisible. The crowd had pushed past while she sought through it, swimming with opportunity, drowning in rain, dying with the daylight.
She waited well into dusk, texted, called until her fingers were numb and her phone was a glass shard, cutting into her hand, light sucked out, battery drained until it blinked and flickered out. She checked the address so much that the ink blotched in the rain and bled down the paper, staining her fingertips inky black to match the trails down her cheeks. She hadn’t cried, not yet.
She could feel herself fading, becoming but a silhouette; a gloom in the shine of an eye.
In the dark, the streets of her cosy town warped into a phantasmal maze, pools of yellow light oozing through slices of empty space, winking at pathways but never revealing sanctuary from the shadows. Where it wasn’t black, it was grey and where it was grey, it was passing; fading and appearing with the shift of clouds. A cloak of obscurity, persistent, pressing upon her back. She felt eyes on her neck, scratching, stealing unblinking stares in succession – hunting.
She began to walk. Her steps were loud, but not loud enough to disguise the following taps. Faster.
She convinced herself it was an echo, her imagination, born from suspicion. She breathed, finding comfort when the taps stopped as she did. An echo, surely.
Around the next corner, darkness engulfed every shape, pieces of sharp reality jutting out, thrust upon the pavement, snagging her as she rushed past.
It was then, from the curve of her eye, she saw it. Smouldering, lightless; a shadow. Faceless; a horrifying unclaimed corpus, seared Death’s shade and coming, still. Expressionless, it grinned. It reached and she watched it shrink behind her, crawl inside her, hairs sharp – fear. It caressed its needles under her skin, blooming red roses from the thorns.
With a momentous wail, she broke forth into a sprint, never ceasing, even as it clung.
Diving through the door, legs kicking it closed, she sobbed.
Standing, heavy, she glimpsed her reflection. A visage of empty space, burnt out eyes, a face crumbling into nothing – a shadow.
She felt numb with the horror of the transformation. It consumed sweetly. And soon, she smiled too, for it is possible, of course, that far from being one, we may possess two selves. And this self was finally free. This self wouldn’t be so forgiving.
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