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Nyctophobia

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Darkness is a simple concept – a lack of light in any given place. Simple or not, it is an incubator for fear and survival instincts for most of us. Some call our fear a fear of darkness, but it's more realistically a fear of the unknown caused by separation anxiety, as my psychology class taught me. For me, an average day turned into something horrific, and gave me a lesson about darkness that no psychology book or philosopher can ever teach. Most people will think my story is fake, but I don't care if you don't believe the story, as long as you understand the message.

When I was a child, I lived in a dark cabin in the Northeast. Sometimes, when I was alone - maybe playing in my room with my parents, or maybe playing outside in the forest - I noticed shadows appear in strange places. Sometimes I ignored them, and sometimes I decided to play it safe and dart into the distance. The shadows would sometimes follow, but usually not for very long, and never into the family cabin. I didn't pay much attention to them, because they went away at night, and happened once every few years. I wrote a story or two about them in high school, but didn't really think about them much other than that.

Fast forward past college into adulthood, in the middle of the summer. I returned home from my job as a consultant for a small software company. I lived alone in a small, cheap house just outside of town. One night, I was watching the television in my cold, dark house. In the middle of the program, a boring episode of Jeopardy switched to a simple message saying, “Please stand by”. It gave me a little scare, as the idea of a government being taken over by evil aliens overrode the logical idea that the cable company had made some mistake in their programs. I went to my computer and found that my internet was also out. Even though next to my keyboard was a newspaper, saying “Local cable company receives criticism for frequent downtimes”, my brain decided that it's much more likely that the cable company was hit by a meteor, and we were all going to die.

I knew it was simple separation anxiety. I walked outside to go somewhere – anywhere, to talk to anyone, so that I would know the world wasn't coming to an end, and my internet and cable went out for a logical reason. As I left my house, out of the corner of my eye, a tall, slim, shadowy figure stood by my door. Without a second thought, I ran across the street as fast as I could and into a local twenty-four hour gas stop.

When I walked in, the shopkeeper was staring at his television, which also said “Please stand by”, and then took a look back and noticed that there was no figure by my door and, in fact, the only thing by my door was a little black rake. I slapped my palm on my forehead and felt like an idiot. I bought a candy-bar (as if it would make the shopkeeper stop thinking I'm insane) and went back home to find that the television was back on.

The next day, I was working late with my boss to figure out how to get their software to work with more systems, now that they had gotten the prototype running. Two hours after dark, he finally left. I started getting my stuff together so I could go home, too. As I started shoving papers back in my desk, I noticed a strange, black liquid dripping from one of the lights.

When I noticed that the drips of liquid were going up rather than down, I got the chills. The drips started spreading around a small area. I ran for the door, but the drips were between me and the door-way, and I wasn't about to find out what happens when the drips of black liquid touch my skin. The dull, white walls of the office began to shadow towards that one area. I stepped back a few feet and prepared to sprint.

What I saw next was worse than any of the horror movies I had seen on the television. A shadowy figure rose out of the shadows like a diver climbing out of water. It was no less than eight feet tall and barely fit in the cubical-filled office room. It had thin, demon-like arms but no legs, and was pitch-black except for two tiny, white eyes.

I was so scared I was frozen still for a moment. As I tried to gain the strength to move, another black shadow quickly appeared right at the desk where I was sitting, and a body rose out of it. This wasn't another demon-like creature; this was a body. The demon-like creature stood still, waving its hand at the body. As the shadows faded, I realized that the body wasn't just any body. It was me, gun in hand, brains blown out. The creature was framing my suicide.

I finally regained the strength to run, but I couldn't think of any way out. The options were past the creature and out the front door, or out the fourth floor window. But as the creature began to move towards me, through the chairs and cubicals as if they weren't even there, the shadow moved with it.

As the creature approached me, it gave me an opening to run to the door. I ran around the creature and out the door, down the stairs. As I ran down the stairs, the creature got faster, and just went straight through walls and stairs. The only reason it didn't catch me was because I jumped six stairs at a time.

I burst out the fire escape door and ran into the parking lot. The creature simply followed me at the same pace, as if it knew there was nowhere I could run. I found myself in the middle of the parking lot, with the creature standing over me. The creature raised its arm, and a circle of black fire surrounded me in the office parking lot. I thought it was the end for me.

I thought for a second. My gut said run into town, but I remembered that the black liquid was falling specifically in the most well-lit part of the office, and then I noticed that the shadows were intensified in bright places. I decided to take a huge risk and jumped the fire, and ran into the pitch-black spruce forest that ran along the back of the office. Luckily, the fire-like circle didn't burn me, and I made it. After about thirty seconds of cutting my hands on dense spruce trees, I couldn't see anything in front of me.

It was pitch-black and scary as hell, and I knew the creature, which would phase through the trees, had to be right behind me. I glanced back and saw that the creature did not follow me into the forest at all, like I thought it would. I was halfway up a hill, just enough to look over some of the lower trees and back at the well-lit parking lot a small distance away. The creature stood at the edge of the parking lot, where the light meets the forest. It waved its long, demon-like arms, clawing at the trees as if it were desperately trying to get a hold of me, but it would not walk into the forest.

I remembered something. When I had left my house the other day while the cable was out, I remember seeing a shadowy figure. I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me, but now that I saw this creature standing there, trying to claw desperately to draw me out, I saw that the figure of the creature matches the figure I saw outside my house. Then I remembered something unsettling - the shadows that appeared in the office matched the shadows that had chased me in my childhood.

The creature hadn't simply appeared tonight – it was the same shadowy figure that had been chasing me all my life. Here it is, standing in the well-lit parking lot where someone might see it, yet it won't enter the dark forest. That's when I realized why it wasn't following me – despite the fact that it was a more powerful creature than any wild animal one might find in the woods, despite its paranormal abilities and unknown agenda, despite its ability to fade through matter, it refuses to enter the forest for the same reason I got scared when my cable and internet went out. It won't follow me into the forest, and it didn't follow me into my house, and it never followed me far as a child. It couldn't catch me, because it is alone and even though it could easily kill any creature a forest has to offer, it has imagined its own monsters that hide in the places where its tiny white beady eyes cannot see.

The creature couldn't catch me, because it is afraid of the dark.

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