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Run From the Darkness
By RD Rivero



“Run From The Darkness”
By RD Rivero
July 15, 1999

The trees were incredibly tall and wide and they covered the sky almost
completely with their bewildering entanglement of leafy branches.  Only
occasionally were there patches clear enough to catch fragments of the
moon or of passing clouds up above.  A misty haze clung to the earth
down below, it was not a fog, it did not adversely affect visibility any
worse than the darkness of night.  The telltale sounds of owls hooting,
flying, wings flapping, bodies scrapping across branches rang throughout
the forest.  Slowly advancing with the pace of the mist, crawling on the
ground, from the thick underbrush came clear and distinct scuffling,
shifting, rummaging.  Pebbles and rocks on the forest floor would press
and rub upon each other alerting the presence of the unseen, lurking in
the cover of the seemingly dormant scenery.  Cold breezes would ruffle
the trees together to form sounds too gruesome to discuss any further
except to say that they were like echoes of muffled voices, crying out
in fear and terror.
Tygra sped through that harsh, uninviting environment toward a flicker
of light far in the distance.  An unsettling worry drove him without
rest.  He had come through the trail many time before in the day light
hours.  At night he was certainly at a disadvantage but his intuition
was adequate.  The landscape guided him since the trees offered no help
as far as direction or location was concerned.
In a moment of carelessness he took a wrong step.  Tygra slipped on a
few smooth stones and he fell to the ground on his side.  Pebbles
pummeled his arms, chest and face repeatedly his left thigh in
particular felt the brunt of that onslaught.  He felt an unusual
sensation in his hands and joints that made him want to laugh or giggle,
it was not pain exactly.
His movements were sluggish and arthritic.  Groggily, painfully he arose
discouraged and dejected.  The unseen interlopers that he knew
surrounded him were coming closer, ever so closer, like vultures
circling dying prey.  Just as quickly as before, if only more cautious,
he moved on and along to his beckoning destination.
At last, at long last the trees cleared and were gone.  Even the eerie
mist had disappeared along with the pebbles and rocks.  The landscape
opened into a grassy plane.  Its vegetation was unnaturally thin and all
around not a single plant rose higher than a few inches from the ground.

For the first time that night Tygra had a clear and unblocked view of
the sky.  The moon loomed in the heavens, its ominous eye gazed
unblinkingly at the few below awake at that ungodly hour.
The shadow of absolute blackness cloaked the trees such that scarcely a
detail of texture was discernible.  An unbroken circle of swaying tree
tops surrounded the clearing in a way that was both comforting and
terrorizing.  The liquidity of that vision was almost too dreamy.
Overwhelming grandeur, blended with uneasiness, with snatches and echoes
of childhood fears of the night and the dark and the other worldly
creatures that dwelt in the unseeable and unspeakable, things he would
have rather not heard treading through the underbrush, over the forest
floor, things that had no doubt doused him with pebbles when he had
slipped unexpectedly, awed Tygra.
He remembered where he was, it all came back suddenly.  Tygra continued
to follow the beckoning lure of the flickering light from before until
he reached a cabin near the center of that grassy clearing.  He heard a
rippling echo that remained a source of mystery until he had made it
around the back of the wooden structure where he found a small pond that
crossed into brooks and creeks that ran deep into the forest.  The sky
above reflected uneasily upon its turbulent waters.
He caught sight of the mist again.  It had spread up to the border of
the clearing.  It had a faint, green tint.  There was something else,
something flickering deep in the woods, something he did not want to see
again.  Tygra returned to the business of the cabin.  He treaded nimbly
up to the front door and just as he was about to knock it thrust open to
reveal his friend Grune.
"Tygra?  You shouldn't have come."
"They you are in trouble.  Are you all right?"
"I am, at least I think so.  What on earth are you doing out here?  In
the middle of the night?  You know how dangerous --"
"You called me, you're in trouble and you called me."
"Those dreams again."
"Grune, I'm here now, you can't send me back."
"I just -- one was enough, not two, two don't have to -- all right, come
in but be careful."
Grune led the way down the dark, narrow hall.  Tygra silently ran his
hands across the walls.  He felt the coarse, cut wood that seemed to
give the whole cabin a profound illusion of intimacy.  Grune opened a
door unexpectedly.  The flickering light of a crackling fire place
flooded Tygra's eyes.
Tygra noticed that the inside of the cabin was larger, strangely larger
than what the outside of the cabin had led him to believe.  The thought
was fleeting for the cozy den was most inviting.  Gray stones mortared
together in the feel of a old, first earth design was the construction
of the fireplace.
To the left was a small table with four chairs.  In the background was a
similar old-style stove.  The only misplaced item was a metal case
resting on the floor, leaning on to the back legs of a chair.  To the
right were several large drawers and shelves.  There was also a small,
indoor bathroom, perhaps the most modern amenity in the place.  On the
wall next to the fire place was a wooden stepladder to a room above the
right hand part of the den, where the sleeping bags were placed.
"Sit right here."
Grune directed his friend to the chair farthest from the metal case.
Tygra was about to say something when he saw that there was someone else
in the room.  The man had a small frame and was bald, almost totally
hairless.
"That's right, you two've never met.  Tygra, this is, Etreum."  The two
shook hands, Tygra felt intense cold come from the stranger.  They were
strangers still though they had been introduced.
"Etreum was another unexpected visitor."
Etreum and Grune stared for a nervous moment that Tygra observed very
well.  He sensed right away that something was going on, something far
less cordial but he did not dwell on those misgivings any further just
yet.  He wondered if his intuition was not playing some trick on him.
Etreum.
"I still can't believe it.  After all these years this place is finally
yours.  This place, this desolate, lonely place in the middle of no
where that you call paradise.  You were like a kid exploring the
wilderness when you first came to third earth and I could understand.  I
mean everyone wants a tree house at that age."
"Yes, yes, I've always wanted this cabin.  I used to hike up here every
morning in the summer.  When ever I had an excuse to get away from my
Thundercat duties I'd find myself drawn here."  Etreum allowed himself a
slight smile.  "It's mine, Tygra, it's all mine."
"Well, if that's the way it's going to be from now on I'll call before I
show up, especially when it's the middle of the night."
"Just what drove you to come up here?  You never quite answered that."
"Grune and I've been coming up here for years now, like we said but
we've never been in the cabin.  When he said he was spending the night
here when I saw him last this morning I just had a funny feeling, a bad
feeling I'd say.  Then I had this very disturbing nightmare almost as
soon as I shut my eyes to sleep in bed a few hours ago.  It's too bad
that all I remember of that dream now is darkness.  I don't always
forget dreams so quickly.  I was in such a rush to get here because I
knew he was in trouble."
Grune lost his easiness and stood tense.  Etreum was visibly interested
but changed the subject abruptly.
"Why wouldn't you want to come up here at night again?"
"That's just it.  At night.  You know all the creepy things that happen
at night?  I suppose it's 'cause the moon looks so much bigger in the
woods."
"The harvest moon, but you couldn't see the moon, I mean, not all of it
at once, until you got to the clearing around the cabin."
"The trees were tall and they blocked out the sky.  There was almost
total darkness.  Now there's nothing more frightening than darkness."
"I'll grant you that," said Etreum.  "They will run and hide form the
darkness for as long as they can for the darkness is how it ends, not
with fire, not with ice, not even with explosions.  There'll be no
sudden epiphany only emptiness, coldness, coldness.  Yes.  If you think
the nights of today frighten wait until the end of times when we wind
headlong into the open and the infinite."
"If I should ever find myself in that predicament."
"You shall, as we all, as we exist our energies are ordered, in constant
order the there is consciousness. Soon, so soon chaos will rule and
consciousness will cease, will dissipate into the void, like a water
spiral down the drain.  A pathetic end."
"That may be the case but I don't think it'll be happening soon."
"Time has no meaning, Tygra, it's a persistent and stubborn illusion."
"A most enlightening conversation, wasn't it.  What about a nice game of
cards?"
"Anything in particular?" asked Tygra.
"Hearts," said Grune.
"We've only three, don't we need four players?"
"Nothing is impossible, it will be provided shortly."
"I'll take that.  If it's a friendly game what harm can come of it?"
Grune shuffled and dealt cards, he divided the entire deck evenly among
the three players.  One card was left over, it was used to start the
game.  Tygra won those first few games.  He noticed that after every
dealing his friend Grune, to his right, looked older, frailer, weaker.
"So, Etreum, you talk a lot about the end and how all things'll wind
down.  Tell me.  What about the beginning?"
"The beginning?"
"How did it all start?"
"Tygra.  Etreum.  I'll let you two discuss the intimate mysteries of the
universe all you want.  Let me just step out for a moment."  He excused
himself and walked limply to the bathroom.  Grune had become a man aged
in his sixties, not the robust outdoors man of thirty that he had been
only an hour or so before.
Tygra and Etreum were left alone.  Etreum's character changed
completely.  He grew disoriented and stumbled out of his chair.  He
could not walk straight and twice fell to the ground onto his left side,
the same way Tygra had when he slipped on the smooth stone.  The
similarity did not end there.  Collapsed on the wooded floor, Etreum
reacted just like Tygra had when he dodged and fought off the pebbles
thrown at him by what lurked out in the deep forest.
Tygra tried to help the small man up but each time Etreum let out a
great roar.  An animal in pain.  When he managed to get himself back on
his feet, he spoke about the question Tygra had asked.  Even his voice
had altered, now not merely one singular voice but the combination of an
untold number of other tongues that spoke in unison, in a manner much
like what Tygra had heard come from the trees, back in the woods, that
would brush together when the breeze blew.
"From chaos.  From order.  From nothing.  From everything.  From being
and nonexistence.  From all things contrary."
Etreum sat on the table again with his head in his hands in dire pain.
Suddenly Grune returned, much younger and in his twenties.  Etreum's
stable demeanor resurfaced.  He was groggy and promptly excused himself.

"He went crazy, didn't he?  See, I came to your rescue."
"Where the hell'd you find him?"
"This afternoon, when I first entered the cabin.  I have never been in
here before, ever.  I had no idea someone still lived in this cabin.  I
had no idea anyone ever did.  When I bought this whole place from the
Berbils no one in the village told me what I would find."
"Grune, I think it's safe to say that outside you and me no one knows
what's been living in this cabin.  Was he crazy around you?"
"Yes.  Now I tried to escape many times but every time I'd get an idea
he was ready.  Chanting, roaring, I couldn't handle him."
"It's odd that he's calm when he's around more than one person.  What
can we do?"
"He was going bonkers for hours without tiring.  I guess we could ignore
all his barking and hollering it's just that, well, the more he
should've gotten tired, the more I did.  He feels dead, Tygra, he's a
corpse."
"He talks like a demon.  You'd think he was from the future the way he's
talking.  Why would he come here though?"
"Protection.  Maybe he can travel backwards in time.  I don't know but
he's not remotely human."
"What's that metal case there?"
"It's not mine that's for sure."
"While he's out why don't we open it?  There might be a clue within?"
Carefully and silently they brought the case up from the ground.  It was
superbly modern and had no markings or features of any kind on its
surface.  They opened it quite by accident.  Inside were maps of various
parts of third earth, measuring tools, pens and paper and other objects
of such strange geometry that they had parts that would appear and then
disappear.  Grune tried to grab a long, gray ruler and discovered that
it was not as flat as he thought it was, it contained a whole other
dimension that promptly vanished as soon as he let it go.  There were
seven colored spectacles that also shared that extra dimensional
property.  Tygra stuffed the red one into his pocket while Grune was not
looking.  They shut the case and placed it back where it had been just
in time.
When Etreum returned the room darkened in a haze of rolling smoke and
mist.  Only Tygra was alarmed, only he was aware of the change.  Grune
dealt out the whole pack of cards and unlike all the other times before
no card was left over.  Etreum went first with the two of clubs.  Tygra
did not win the game.  Grune dealt out another hand and again no card
was left but there should have been, so Tygra thought, since there were
only three at the table.  Fifty two cards divided into three must leave
one card as a remainder.
Tygra felt dizzy and disoriented but, as with the thickening, misty
haze, no one noticed or cared.  He managed to pay careful attention to
how Grune parted the cards.  The visual evidence was undeniable, the
deck was being divided among four players.  Someone was sitting directly
to Tygra's right, where nothing more than an empty chair ought to be.
As the game continued the phantom player made its presence felt,
especially after it had won the round.  Etreum and Grune had something
to say about the phantom player's turn of good fortune but all Tygra
could muster was a slight grunt.  He was so exhausted, he could no
longer hold his cards steady.  His fingers were stiff, his joints
squeaked the same way from before, after his fall.  He looked to his
left, the phantom figure was cloaked in shadow and in the green mist
that seemed to pour out of the very walls.
Tygra looked at Etreum and Grune.  Both were astoundingly rejuvenated.
Etreum had grown a head full of hair.  Tygra felt drowsy, he was
fighting sleep and the urge to shut his eyes forever.
He got up and excused himself.
"Beware of the trees, Tygra, the trees are the greatest parasites," said
Etreum.
In the small, well lit bathroom he looked into a mirror.  He had an old
man's face, thirty years older than what he ought to be.  Frail.  He
looked out a window and saw that the green mist had engulfed the whole
clearing around the cabin.
"Now don't you think about doing something in there, Tygra, you get back
to the game, we still have a few more hands to play with you," said
Grune.
Tygra did not respond.  He searched for a way out but instead found the
closet.  Grune's dying body was within.  He also looked much, much
older.
"I'm sorry, friend, I didn't know.  Listen to me, you must escape.
That's not me out there and he's already begun a copy of you.  It's too
late for me, my twin's complete but yours isn't, you still have energy,
you can fight him."
Grune's corpse withered into dust before Tygra's eyes, it was gone, not
even the bones had been left behind.  Tygra was running out of time and
without further excuse he smashed the glass window with the lid of the
toilet chest.  Gusts of fresh, foggy air swirled into the stale room.
He threw his whole body out the small opening.
"You can't leave me, you can't leave this place.  Get back!  Get back!
Etreum's attacking me!  Help!  You don't know what you're headed into
Tygra!"
Outside Tygra dragged himself through the clearing to the lake, there he
swam for a while before he let the current sail him down a brook.  His
energy and vitality slowly returned.  The trees echoed Etreum's voice,
they called Tygra to return in vain desperation.
The brook gave way to the river and suddenly the forests ended.  The
night sky was in full view, the heavens were dark but manageable.  The
mist was gone and the trees were silent.
Dry on a moonlit, sandy river bank he remembered the glasses he had
stolen from Etreum's case.  He put on the red spectacles and found what
he suspected all along.  He saw into the future, surrounded by screams
of terror, the universe was rushing onto eternity forever, plunging
deeper into the darkness of death.







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