Steps Against the Darkness


This is a place of demons. 

The thought came almost unbidden to Joshua as he stepped into the darkness beyond the door. The stair on which he stood lit a pale red, enough for him to see its outline clearly but not enough to illuminate beyond it. Beyond it, the darkness was nearly a physical presence. It pressed against the wan light like a flood of malevolence. Joshua shivered involuntarily. The hair on his arms stood up. 

He turned to retreat through the door, but the way was shut behind him. The door had closed so quietly behind him he hadn’t even heard. That unnerved him further. Joshua was an experienced tracker and trail guide. He had hunted everything from skitter-foxes to the wily great bears who lived in the ancient woods of the Green Hills. He was used to the noises of near-silent creatures and the soft tread of men who wished to move quietly. He heard none of those things. 

He heard nothing but his own breathing and the nervous slide of his boots on the stairs that went…where? The angel said they went up but they did not. They went down into the heavy darkness. Into the place that felt in his stomach like the den of a very old and clever predator. 

What is this place? 

“You are on the steps to the top of the lighthouse, Joshua Prime,” said the voice of the angel from…behind him? In front of him? Just above him? 

He dropped to a crouch and his hand grabbed the well-taped handle of the long knife at his belt. “SEVEN BURNING HELLS!” he yelled and his cry fell dead against the darkness. 

The voice spoke again and this time it seemed to come from just above his right shoulder. “Remain calm, Joshua Prime. We are communicating via thoughtwave induction. You have only to think my name and I will hear you. I can speak directly into your mind. This is a Tempus Safe Technology innovation.” There was a definite hint of pride in the last sentence — the first emotion the angel had shown since Joshua arrived. “You may have noticed that the stairs do not proceed upwards. That is one of several critical systems malfunctions currently queued for repair. The malfunction in the temporal anchor system causes the lighthouse to occasionally…drift.”

He slowed his breathing and stood up again, sliding his shoulder up the cool, smooth wall. “Angel,” he started to say out loud before closing his mouth and continuing the thought. “What about the lights on the stairs? Can you light them all?”

“I can not. They are activated by proximity. Many of the systems on the 216 steps are automated. I am sorry for the inconvenience.” The angel’s thought came with a light wave of regret. 

“Sure. Fine.” He said that out loud, confident the angel would receive it, but more for himself. Despite the angel’s obviously helpful demeanor, there was something quite wrong here. For one, he was convinced the angel was not sorry at all. Which meant it was lying. And angels could not lie.

But if it was not an angel, what was it? 

“This is a place of demons,” he breathed in a long exhale and made his way down the red-lit stairs.

The fourth installment of “The Lighthouse” is here. Are you digging it? Do you have questions? Has anything grown clearer? Do you have theories? 

All I can tell you is I have questions and theories too. This is, as I’ve written in my newsletter, one of the more interesting and frightening creative things I’ve ever done. I do plan to clear up a couple small things relatively soon, assuming I find satisfying answers to the questions I have. Stick with me, though. This can only get more fun, right? 

(Photo Credit: stevepb on Pixabay)