Usually the darkness comes in the mail.
Sometimes it comes through the chimney, or through a window open to catch the yellow afternoon sun. Once it came up through the toilet. That was a bad day.
Mostly, though, it’s the mail.
Sometimes the darkness and I go for a walk.
They are not very pleasant, these walks.
Sometimes the darkness and I go for a swim.
The water is very cold. The wind whistles through the reeds.
The darkness tries to drown me. I beat against it with my fists.
It says that it was joking, that I need to lighten up.
Sometimes the darkness and I go to the graveyard.
The darkness says I will be like the names on the stones one day. Bones and dust, under the ground. It says that it will never die, that it will flow always through the world, covering all things. Even my bones.
I tell it that its life is sad.
It tries to choke me, but I hide behind the statue.
While it stalks around the graveyard, angrily yelling my name, I read the tombstones. Beloved mother, infant son, gone home to rest. I would like to rest.
The darkness finally looks behind the statue.
I am dusty bones.
Sometimes the darkness and I go into town.
It gives me money. I buy dolls for it. The shopkeeper looks at me funny. I escape back into the street.
The darkness calls the dolls “creepy”, tears their heads off, and throws them to the ground. Small children watching nearby begin crying.
I stand with my back against a brick wall, in the shadows. I watch the children. Their mouths are open, terrible tiny teeth glowing in the sun.
The darkness eats them, one by one.
Sometimes the darkness and I go to the movies.
I want to watch a black and white classic love story. It wants to watch the latest 3D slasher flick.
I tell it that it shouldn’t put such images in its mind, that violence rots the soul. It says that its soul is blood and guts and dismemberment.
Time passes. Tick tock. Tick tock.
We buy our tickets.
I am dismembered.
Sometimes the darkness and I go exploring early in the morning, when the buildings of the town are empty.
It says that we should break all the windows, destroy the order of the world for the people who are still asleep, so that when they wake up and come here they will be unsure and afraid.
While it is looking for rocks of suitable size, I watch the shadows of the tree branches. They are still. There is no wind.
The building is beautiful in the early sun, and I do not want to defile it. The darkness comes back with a big rock. I take the rock out of its hands and run.
It finds another rock.
The last thing I see is a branch above me, moving slightly in the breeze that just sprang up.
Sometimes the darkness and I go to the beach.
I wonder about the people who live in these tiny houses. Are they tiny people? Do they have tiny lives with tiny spouses and tiny children and tiny food that they eat with tiny utensils? Do they have tiny pets? Do they watch tiny TVs? Do they go to their tiny jobs and swear tiny swears at their tiny boss?
The darkness says that the people who live in the houses are of average size. It also says that the brush around their fire pit is very dry, and that all it would take is one tiny spark.
I stand back and watch, my face reddening in the heat, as a giant fire rips through the tiny houses and renders all the tiny people’s tiny hopes and tiny dreams into tiny ashes.
The darkness dances.
Sometimes the darkness and I go dancing in the rain.
I feel the rain on my skin. I think about it seeping into me and nourishing new growth. The water splashes as I dance on the wet grass, and I am green and shiny and new.
The darkness says that it’s acid rain, that it is the gods pissing on us because we have disappointed them. It says that the rain is corroding my skin, that soon I will be a skeleton.
I say that at least I will be a skeleton who is dancing in the rain.
The darkness sheds its skin and wanders off, its bones dark gray and dripping. It says it has small children to scare and then eat, and that it will be home late.
I pick up its skin when it is gone. I slide the skin on, to protect my bones from the godpiss.
I continue dancing.
Sometimes the darkness and I play in the fountain.
I want to pour soap in the fountain and make pretty bubbles. I like to watch them rise in the air, so fragile, and then…pop! No more bubble. The bubble is dead. Gone. I like how it’s a symbol of the brief beauty of life.
The darkness says no, we should pour zombies into the water.
I ask it where we could get zombies at this time of day.
The light from the rising sun is soft, and by the fountain, in the shadow of the tall buildings, it is cool. I draw the shadowskin I took from the darkness closer.
The darkness looks at its old skin. I think it wants it back.
It says that we are on an ancient burial mound, that it can just call up zombies from the ground right now.
I ask how we can pour the zombies into the fountain once they are up and out and walking around. The darkness does not answer, but it looks at the shadowskin again. Its eyes turn red.
I hear the scrabbling of bony fingers under my feet. The pavement cracks.
Five of the bony fingers reach up and grab the shadowskin. I let the fingers take it. The fingers become wavy, wet.
The darkness splashes in the fountain.
Sometimes the darkness and I go riding on the rainbows.
I wonder what lies at the end of the rainbow. Would it be a pot of gold? Could I slide down the rainbow, going faster and faster, until I slammed into the pot of gold? Would it hurt? Would the gold still be valuable if it had my blood on it? Could I use the gold to pay my hospital bill?
The darkness says that rainbows are unnatural, that color is a fraud played on humans by fickle extraterrestrial beings, that they are watching us and one day they will come down and suck all the color from the world, and then they will enslave us and eat those of us who cannot work. The darkness says that they are called Lovesys. Lovesys No Color.
I ask the darkness if the Lovesys No Colors could be paid off with the gold from the pot at the end of the rainbow.
The darkness says perhaps.
Then it eats the rainbow.
Sometimes the darkness and I sit on the benches in the middle of town and chill for a bit.
The darkness watches the people go by. I wonder what it is thinking.
I am thinking that these people must go home to warm well-lighted rooms, where they eat good dinners with loved ones, and there is much laughter and love. I am thinking of my home, of its shadows and its cold and its bare cupboards.
Does anyone even use the word cupboards now? When I look in the realty advertisements it’s all about 42 inch cabinets.
The darkness turns to me. It says, “The life of a human for your thoughts.” This is its little joke, its way of telling me that my life is worth no more than a penny.
I take a penny from my pocket. I turn it around, looking at the little pictures on either side of it. I throw it into the water fountain.
“Let’s go home,” I say to the darkness.
The darkness fishes my penny out of the fountain and swallows it. It laughs. Then it swallows the fountain, the benches, the people, and their warm well-lighted places.
The darkness opens its mouth. The love and laughter it consumed spills out, transformed into chilling giggleshapes and decaying heartcloth.
I go home and close myself up in one of my bare cupboards.
Sometimes the darkness and I go riding at night.
The darkness drives. I look out the window, thinking of curves and wrong ways and speed.
The trees are dark and dreary, and they whisper of men swinging from their branches, of young maidens wandering into their forest and being swallowed, of cars wrapped around their trunks.
The darkness says “There is no surcease of sorrow.”
I sigh. Out there, in the forest, there are red glowing eyes among the trees. One of the eyes winks at me.
I look ahead, at the white fluorescent lights shining on the empty road.
Sometimes the darkness and I go on vacation.
We walk through green fields, the sun warm on our backs. I stop and sit on a low stone wall near a tree.
The darkness says “Isn’t this land lovely, with the green grass and the tall trees with the soft breeze ruffling through their leaves?”
Its eyes grow round and red, and when it opens its mouth I see a dark red glow down its throat.
“I like the light and the yellow sun and the pretty fluttering butterflies,” it says.
The darkness laughs. I look away, at the trees. I focus on a leaf. I watch it move with the wind.
I hear the howls, the crackles. I feel the heat. My skin grows red with it. But I do not look, not even when the sky burns black and the ground turns to blood.
The leaf falls off the branch and swirls downward to the bloody ground.
I turn and look at the darkness. Its teeth drip with butterfly blood. I look down its gaping mouth. The dark red glow has been replaced with shimmery fluttery ghosts. I watch them dart here and there, frantic to escape their fate. Then the mouth closes, and they are gone.
I tell the darkness I want to go home.
Sometimes the darkness and I talk about death.
I wonder if the Grim Reaper is nice, with a warm bony hand extending from the black robes and gently guiding you into the afterlife.
The darkness says that actually the Grim Reaper puts your soul on a flimsy wooden boat, does an intricately choreographed demonic dance that opens a blue and red void of despair, and shoves your boat off into the gaping maw. Then he waves madly as your soul is consumed by the corrupted spirits of everything you ever loved.
I tell the darkness that I like my version of death better.
It grins and begins to do a demonic dance.
Sometimes the darkness and I go walking along the railroad tracks.
I think of twirling mustaches, of title cards, of grayscale damsels mouthing the words “Oh no.”
I ask the darkness how the idea of tying a person to the railroad tracks became so ingrained in our culture, and what does it all mean?
The darkness says that it would be much more efficient, and also likely to kill more people, to tip the water towers over on to a passing train. It says that it would be very easy, that the towers are as matchsticks against its strength.
I hear the whistle of an oncoming train.
Sometimes the darkness and I go walking on snow-covered bridges.
The snow glows yellow and pink in the setting sun. I can see my breath hanging in the air.
The darkness flows over the bridge. The snow turns dark gray beneath it.
I sit on the railing, looking at the frozen river below. The darkness says, what if someone jumped off the bridge on to the ice. It describes broken limbs, twisted and wrong. It speaks, slowly and lovingly, of brains dashed against the river.
I look out across the hills, where the snow is still yellow warm. My breath puffs out in front of my face.
I shove myself off the edge of the bridge.
My brain is filled with dashes.
Sometimes the darkness and I go hiking.
The darkness pulls itself up a steep hill. It says that everything is red, and red is dead, and the dead are rising, and with the rising of the sun we will join them in their revels inside the red lifeless rock.
Birds fly above us. One drops out of the sky. Dead. It lands in front of me, and its body turns red. One red eye looks at me.
“See?” says the darkness.
The sun is rising.
Sometimes the darkness and I go birdwatching.
I look out over the hills of Monte Vista, and I imagine being a bird. I imagine lifting off into the sky and flying over the trees and the roads and the people, free and uncaring.
I glance over at the darkness. It is standing in the sun with its eyes closed, its arms spread wide. It too is imagining being a bird, flying on the wind.
I tickle its underarms.
It gasps and falls to the ground, helplessly laughing. I go for its feet. It squirms and laughs and tries to roll away from me.
That is when I make the secret bird signal, raising an index finger to the sky, and the birds fly towards us. They descend on the darkness. They rip into its shadowy skin and peck out its eyes.
I fall to the ground and roll around, laughing and screaming, as the birds drop bits of the darkness all around me.