What The Darkness Hides

- An August/2003 Special Feature -

by Susan Belmont 

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6:30 pm, Central Park, New York City

Brian and Laurie, Jones and Bethany were two couples of friends who lived in the same apartment in Central Park West. They were four young marketing consultants who worked for a Times Square enterprise and who, because of their long dated friendship, chose to share the same place.
That night they decided to run together in the Central Park at the end of the day, as they discussed their new projects and shared ideas.
Clouds were gathering in that autumn evening and rain was to fall at any moment, but they weren't noticing it.

Soon they approached one of the many dark spots of the park, with tall trees flanking its borders. The wind blew on the leaves, shook the trees and spread the smell of humid grass.
Suddenly Brian started to hear noises, low grunts and angry murmurs coming from among the trees. Then he heard the sounds of a child weeping and sobbing lowly and he got worried. Those dark woods could hide anything and cases of violence weren't few, so he diminished his step as his friends continued to run.

"Brian don't do this to me! If you're here tell me!..."

The sounds got more intense and Brian got even more worried, so after taking a quick look at his wife and friends, he went towards the woods. Surely he would catch up with them later.
But once surrounded by the trees, he looked around him and he couldn't quite distinguish from where he had come. How could he be lost if he had walked just a few yards inside the woods? But so he was.

He walked a few steps back trying to trace his way and noticing that he couldn't hear the crying child anymore. He looked to his right and it seemed he saw people running and walking, but when he willed himself to them, he heard a grunt behind him, very close.
Brian turned and his mind went blank.

"Bethany, Brian's gone!" - Laurie exclaimed, looking at her right.
They all stopped running and Jones said:
"He must be tricking us!"
"No, he wouldn't do such a thing!" - Laurie said, getting worried by the moment. She wasn't feeling well about it.

"Let's wait here for an instant. Maybe he got tired and he's resting a little before catching up with us." - Bethany said.
"No, I prefer to go back a little." - Laurie said - "I'm feeling so worried. I want to see if everything's well with him."
"All right, we'll wait for you here. " - Jones told her - "And when you get to him, tell him he should have told us he wanted to stop. We would have waited for him to rest. That silly quitter!"
"You can bet I will!" - Laurie sneered and run away.

Laurie was running, and feeling very tense. She thought strange how that place seemed to be so dark; she hadn't noticed that it was so dismal like that.
Thunders roared in the sky and she looked above her, wondering how long would it take to start raining. Then she heard what seemed to be Brian's voice coming from the woods at her right.
She changed her course immediately and went inside it, but although she screamed his name and looked around, she couldn't find him.

"Brian don't do this to me! If you're here, tell me! You know how I hate this kind of kidding!" - she said as she turned about, but no one answered.
In the instant she was about to call for him again, she heard his voice murmuring and when she turned towards the direction from where it came, somebody beat on her back and she fell down, unconscious.

"Oh, this is so annoying! Now the two of them decided to trick us!" - Jones said after looking at his watch. Half an hour had passed and they hadn't come back.
A soft rain was falling and according to the thunders that echoed in the air, it would be pouring in a moment.

"Let's go back and find them. I just hope the two fools aren't having some kind of private party in the woods. I'd hate to be inconvenient!" - Bethany said and they started to run.
"Ah I don't care!" - Jones mumbled.
When they were just a few yards away, they noticed that Brian and Laurie were running towards them and stopped to wait for them to approach.

"You fools! What were you doing? You got us worried!" - Bethany said.
"And you let us waiting like two rooted plants there! Let's get back home before my flu returns!" - Jones angrily yelled.
"All right, all right buddy!" - Brian said laughing - "We're all right. I was just a little out of breath and I stopped to rest. Then Laurie found me and we hugged and kissed a little, just it!"
"Oh great!" - Bethany murmured.
Laurie only laughed as they ran towards the gates.

Grunts and low hoarse murmurs came from Brian and Laurie's bedroom...

After taking a shower and dining, the two couples went to their bedrooms. The strange happening in the park was superficially forgotten and it seemed Brian and Laurie were perfectly well. 
But Bethany wasn't much convinced, and every time one of them laughed at the dinner table, she felt like shivering and she simply couldn't imagine why.

Now that Jones and she were alone and with some free time to talk, she asked him about it:
"Jones, what do you think happened in the moments they were away from us?"
"Nothing special, Beth. Probably they were only 'rehearsing' for what they're starting to do now." - he chuckled.

"It's just that I can't help but think that there's something sinister about them, which didn't exist before, you know." - she sat on the bed, as she combed her hair.
"Sugar, I simply don't get your meaning! To me, they're the same silly bunch they've always been." - he sat beside her - "You're only tired." - he kissed her - "Let's get some rest, ok?"

Grunts and low hoarse murmurs came from Brian and Laurie's bedroom. Bethany had just managed to start sleeping, and she woke up suddenly and feeling uneasy.
She wanted to wake Jones up, but was afraid that he would only dismiss her, so she decided to gather the little courage she had and face whatever could be happening on her own.

Slowly and silently she stood up from the bed, as she paid attention to each noise. Sometimes they were higher, others they could barely be heard, but they were very bizarre and she wasn't sure if she wanted to believe that her friends were doing such sounds.
Also, why would they be doing those sounds? She couldn't believe that her friends that had always been so very responsible and respectful, all of a sudden turned into two stupid buffoons. They all needed to go to work that morning!

So, taking a deep breath, she opened the door very quietly, and first she took a look outside towards their bedroom's door that was closed. The only light around was the one coming through the gap between their door and the floor.
Feeling more and more oppressed by her fear, she walked through the corridor towards their room and knocked softly on the door.

All of a sudden the noises stopped and she heard one of them walking inside the room towards her. It was Laurie who opened the door, and she smiled sympathetically at her friend:
"Yes, dearest?"
"Oh, Laurie! I'm sorry for bothering you, but I was listening to some strange sounds coming from here and I couldn't sleep, you know."

Laurie frowned. 
"But we're not doing anything, we were just talking. This is so strange!" - she said.
"Yes, we didn't hear any noises." - Brian joined the talk at the door.
"Well, maybe the sounds were coming from outside." - Bethany looked away, frowning. Then she looked at her friends again and said - "I'll prepare myself some tea then, I think I just lost my sleep. Forgive me, please."
"No problem, Beth. I'll join you in a moment." - Laurie said.

Bethany smiled and went to the kitchen. She was feeling very bad now, having acted so precipitously, but the truth was, the harder she tried, she couldn't agree that the noises didn't come from their bedroom.
And the shivers she felt when Laurie opened the door were terrible. She tried to act naturally, but she was very confused and worried. What had happened to her friends?

Her master would be pleased with her...

She prepared her tea and went to the living room, sitting on the coach before starting drinking it. She tried to relax, to breath calmly, but it was no use, she was very tense.
A few minutes later she heard steps on the corridor coming towards her, and recognized them as being Laurie's. She would ask her friend again about what happened that night and be careful to notice if she was lying to her.

But then suddenly the only lights in the room, those that came from the lamps at the sides of the coach, simply turned off.
Bethany jumped from the coach and the cup fell on the ground making such a high noise that seemed to echo through the silent room.

"Laurie! Laurie, talk to me!" - she desperately yelled, looking around but seeing nothing.
The grunts re-started and she started to scream and shake, backing towards the window. But before she reached it, she saw two red eyes shinning in the dark, making her panic even more.
She screamed at it, as tears went down her face, but it was no use.
A grayish hand reached for her neck and pulled her to the being that was in front of her and she only heard one sentence before her mind blanked:
"They're waiting for us."

Jones was suddenly awakened by a cold hand on his back. He turned back and found Brian smiling at him.
"What time is it?" - he looked around and noticing that it was still dark, he swore - "Shit! But it's night still! What the hell are you doing here, man?" 
"Calm down buddy" - Brian calmly said - "We have a meeting."

"What are you talking about?"
"You'll know soon."
Brian's face suddenly changed into a grayish skull, and from his open mouth started to come a dark smoke that forced him to open his and swallow it. However, at that moment, he wasn't conscious anymore.

They went down into the drainage tunnels of the city, so quickly that if they could be noticed by somebody, this person would only see a dark smoke crossing the air.
Deeper and deeper, through very small tunnels that were totally unknown to those who worked or lived there, they went, until they arrived in a huge crypt, where other thousands of beings like them were.

They hadn't a true consciousness anymore, they didn't even have personalities, they were simply instruments of the one that was hovering above them, which looked like a big dark concentrated fog.
Others were arriving at that same instant, and when everyone was there, a sound like a guttural voice came from the fog and ordered its zombie slaves:

"Take as many as you can, the sooner that you take their lives, we'll conquer. The world will be forever dark and so others will be able to join us. This will be our world!"
A thick moan came in answer from all the zombies, as they agreed with their master and went back through the tunnels to do his bidding.

New York City, 6:30 am

Laurie and Bethany were putting the jars of milk and orange juice on the table.
The sun came through the thick clouds timidly, making the sky look very beautiful. The two women were feeling very well, and they couldn't remember what they had done at night, or know what had befallen them.

Their husbands came into the kitchen talking animatedly, and when they saw their gorgeous wives, they went to them and kissed them.
After finishing a good breakfast and getting ready, they went to the hall. Jones pulled the elevator's button and when the door opened, all of them looked at an old gentle woman that lived in the apartment above theirs.

Politely they greeted her and she greeted them back, smiling, as they entered the elevator.
Down it went, and Bethany couldn't help but look at the old lady and morbidly smile at herself. Her master would be pleased with her, that's all she could think of. 
When the door opened on the ground level and the sunlight shone on her face, she woke up from those sinister thoughts and totally forgot them, thinking only about her work.


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Copyright 2003 Susan Belmont