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The music from my phone suddenly stops feeding through the stereo, and as I open my eyes and reach out for it on the passenger seat, there is a sudden and painful tightening across my chest. Something feels wrong.
The field is in complete darkness—and empty, aside from half a dozen footballs scattered across the pitch. The hell? There must have been sixty kids on that pitch when we arrived, not to mention the parents and coaches.
7:01 reads the clock. I remember seeing it at 6:58. I could have only had my eyes shut for a few seconds. Shifting in my seat, and urgently scanning the grounds, I see no other people sitting in their cars, and this unsettles me further. There are no signs of life—no movement—nothing.
The pain in my chest is getting worse, and my mind is racing. I can’t breathe, I need some air. As I step out of the car, the absolute quiet is even more noticeable—an uncomfortable and oppressive silence that is alien and terrifying. No traffic can be heard from the nearby main road. No dogs are barking, no birds are singing—even the breeze has been stolen, and with it the sound of the trees.
Urgently walking over to the field, I shout my son’s name, “Ben!” and it’s impossibly loud. Increasing my pace as I follow the barrier around, I realise the entire landscape is untouched by light, nothing for as far as I can see pollutes this intense darkness. The unlit floodlights that surround me appear so alien as they tower into the night sky—eyes bearing down on me unsympathetically.
“Ben!” I scream again.
Running across to the car, I have no plans—only to find out what the hell is going on. I want my son back.
The tyres spin over the soft gravel and, as I make my way towards the exit, I reach for the phone again—but still no signal. Flicking on the high beam to cut through the impossible blackness, I carefully navigate the country lane until I get to the crossroads and slowly bring the car to a halt. It’s just after seven—the road should be humming—but not one car. I wind the window down, but only to an evil silence.
Pulling away, I switch on the radio, and the cold hiss of static greets me. I leave it on—it’s better than nothing.
As I turn onto the main street, things only get worse. There is no light emanating from the stores or apartments—even the twenty-four-hour supermarket is in darkness. I drive slowly and carefully, all the time praying to see another living soul or to hear a wheel skid, or music or a voice—anything.
I want to be home, for everything to be back to normal. The tears sneak up on me. I feel stupid for crying like this. Helpless.
Trying to focus on the road, I continue to drive through unlit streets and past dark lifeless homes. People cannot simply disappear.
Five minutes and I should be home.
I am not sure what to expect. Part of me is even reluctant to pull down my street, in case—well, in case.
Petrol station on the left—deserted. Dead.
My mind is going crazy again, a torrent of theories but none of them plausible. Only one more street and I will be there.
I wonder why I’m still here. None of it makes sense.
The sign for our street normally brings comfort after the long working days, but tonight it gives me nothing but anxiety and another stabbing pain across my chest. As I turn, I prepare myself for the worst, but it doesn’t stop the feeling of overwhelming sadness as I see our unlit abode menacingly devoid of life.
I stop the car in the middle of the road, fling open the door and run towards our house.
“Mary!” I shout, but with little hope.
My chest feels like it’s ripping in two now, anxiety and grief mercilessly attacking from the inside.
Finally, I reach our path, but as the gravel crunches beneath my feet, I am struggling to get enough air in. Suddenly, all the lights in our house come on at once and then die just as quick—a brief flicker that momentarily illuminates the night. Simultaneous pain surges through me at an almost unbearable level, and it consumes me—owns me. I feel my lip split as the tooth rips through it.
Gripping my chest tightly with my right hand, I continue stubbornly floundering down the path.
“Mary!” I call out desperately.
The house lights flicker again, multiple times, and the pain jolts through me once more, but this time in a series of explosions that send me to my knees. The pain is relentless, and I feel the world beginning to wash away. But I need to make it home. Writhing across the gravel, I finally make it to the doorstep and turn the handle, and as the door opens, the lights immediately flicker with such brilliance they almost blind me—but the accompanying pain sends me sprawling across the doorway onto my back. And I am half-in, half out—staring at the starless night sky.
Suddenly, I hear Mary’s voice, distant, but I hear it, “David!”—throaty, desperate—desolate.
The lights settle into a dull and sporadic flicker.
I try and speak her name again, but my chest feels as though it is caving in, and I cannot breathe. It all becomes clear as I lie here on my back. Half in, half-out.
“Try again!” her voice floats across the silence.
I feel a small surge of pain, but nothing like the ripples that tore through me before.
At least I made it home.
The gaps between the flashes are getting gradually longer—until they become more of a dull pulse. And then they stop.
And the black sky begins to fall on me.
After a 30-year hiatus, Mark recently gave up a lucrative career in sales to pursue his dream of being a writer. His passion and belief have resulted in pieces in many prestigious magazines, including Flash Fiction Magazine, Raconteur, Breaking Rules Publishing, Books N' Pieces, Artpost, Colp, The Horror Zine, Antipodean SF, Page & Spine, Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight, and Montreal Writes. His work has also appeared twice on The No Sleep Podcast and is set to feature shortly on The Grey Rooms and Centropic Oracle. Seven anthologies to date include his work, two of which are on the 2019 Horror Writers Association recommended list, and a further eight anthologies set for imminent release also contain his work. His first collection, ‘Face the Music’ will shortly be released by All Things That Matter Press.
Mark resides in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.
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