The light touches every atom in the room, save for the corner in which she cowers. Even dust particles in suspended animation have a brighter glow than her stone-soured skin. The skyline turns ruby red, seemingly liquid. She sees a snatch through the paneless window, and thinks of blood. She hears wails, screams, and shrieks. They make her knees quiver, adding a chattering tattoo to the blood-curdling chant outside. Trapped by the darkness, she is devoid of the will to move. So she runs a jagged comb through her scrambled innards, to straighten out the mess hidden beneath her hair.
A slice of time, of no important significance, passes before she peers to the heavens again. It must be night; the red is darker, a claret trickling into the ground, pooling out from the clouds. There is thunder, and hail, and gunfire, and the sound of the heavens and the earth trembling in fear, embracing her in different guises of silent solidarity. The thunder is getting louder, coming closer, rushing into her monument of abandon, taking the shape of two feet caught in the motion of panic, and blazing up the stairs. Hysterical cries stab the silence hung in the ruin, and a man can be heard pleading for that which is "his". He wants it. He wants it back. It was his. He should have it. It wasn't theirs to take away. It was his to have. Still bellowing in a trance, he appears in the doorway, foaming at the mouth, and reeking of death, despair, and desire.
"WHERE?!?!?!? WHERE IS IT?!?!? I WANT IT BACK!"
All this ruckus, and the only dignification she allows is a quick flit of the eyes to the door, and her head sinks again. He stops dead in the doorway stupidly, and sniffs at the air. He smells something. The room is lit well enough, but he can't see what he smells. What of that corner, drenched in fear and perspiration, is the only question he can come up with. Madness froths at his parched lips, and caution tethers him to the doorway. The silence in the darkness taunts him, one step at a time. He's close enough to touch it, to lose himself in it. He reaches out to feel the nothingness in this existential abyss. The cold crawls through his veins, the fear frenzied for a fashion, but the foam flecks off, beckoning like a sultry mistress. So he digs deeper into this grave.
She extracts the comb from her torso, breaks off a tooth at the base, and readies herself. She can feel the heat from his roving hand. She waits till he is so close, the sweat from his palm licks the tip of her nose. With practiced force, and sureshot aim, she swings down a delicate hand with all the force of a piledriver, lodging a tooth deep into the loon's wrist.
He has felt fear before, but never seen it. He sees it now, as it runs down his wrist in rivulets. It is a deep crimson, thick, and glutinous. He smells fear too, a scent not unlike rust. He hears fear, high-pitched, immutable, and astoundingly originating from his own vocal chords. "The fear will kill me, it's going to kill me, first it took what is mine away from me, now it's trying to kill me, it's going to kill me, it's going to kill me...."
His auditory vomit reaches her ears, but can't penetrate past her lobes, tucked in and over her earhole to suffocate the nightmares when they come to suck her brains out through her ear-drums. She watches him through uncombed hair, as he stumbles into walls and births puddles around his eyes. His mouth is stretched wide open, and pointing to the sky, as if begging for sustenance, maybe a drop of wine, or mother bird to drop a worm for baby bird to slurp down. She feels an itch on her arm, relieving it with a few gentle strokes of her comb. Still consumed by the fear, he takes on the air of a dog, dropping to all fours, his ass absolutely motionless, his paws dragging him closer to the stairwell. "Must get out of here, must leave, they're going to swallow me whole, they're going to eat me alive, they're going to kill me, they're..."
This, coming from a tannoy in his head, something the doctor told him was his "consciousness", right before the poor gentleman, all dressed in white, threw himself out the window, and morphed into a puddle of sickly-smelling mud. The tannoy must have been amazingly strong to be heard over his fear, even if just for each brief duration where more announcements of death were detailed. His fear still projecting the depths of the grave, he rolls down the stairs, tumbling on his knees towards the doorframe, mouth still open wide, begging for a bite to eat.
Not yet outside, he was fed his worms. They were short, sharp, and explosive, .357 Magnum worms. Downstairs, two cracks pealed out of his short-circuited cranium, one racing fast on the heels of the other. Upstairs, the comb feels itself catch on a tangle of waves, two muffled thumps echoing in her stomach, followed by a more subdued whisper grazing her skin. She draws her knees to her chest, resting her chin on the cusp in the center. Footfalls come slow and deliberate, and the air is different. This is not a loon. This is a maniac.
Black boots stop just short of the threshold, and indulge in the niceties of "you first, please" "oh nononono, please. You. I insist" "no, it's quite alright, I'll be right behind you." The maniac tires of the formalities, and hops over, both boots crossing the line at the same time, both landing equidistant from the point of departure. Glad that no feelings have been hurt, the maniac draws in the stench of stone, and tastes the air for superstitions and witchcraft. Strange, he thinks, that there is so much fear in an empty room. Empty, except maybe that dark corner?
He takes a step forward, bravery taking the shape of a stunning lynx, goading him with its loins. Being partial to animals, this is not a man to be held back. Hind quarters regally swaying from side to side in plain view, the lynx begins to enter the darkness, as flesh begins to molt from bones, and the skeleton turns black until it is one with the abyss. The maniac, whilst obviously devoid of compassion, save for the stirrings caused by exotic animals with seductive mannerisms, is not devoid of mental faculty. He will simply not stand for half a lynx as a reward. Caution forces him to gamble on an error, but holds him close by. Wrangling one hand free, he excavates a small tinder-box from some cache of cloth somewhere on his person. Kneeling, all the better to see nothing at all, he takes a swig of some fine-grade proof alcohol, his craving for an embrace from within being sated, or so it would seem.
The warmth makes him content. He crawls closer, until the tip of his nose shrouds itself from the light salivating over the rest of the room. She breaks another tooth off her comb, and readies herself, casually waiting for the sweat on his palm to touch her face. He readies himself, opens the box, strikes the tinder, and spits out some his fine-grade proof alcohol. Thus, a fire is born, if only for a brief moment, a moment not too brief, a moment long enough for the flames to latch onto her wiry hair, a moment long enough for the flame to drop onto the cloth floating over her frame.
The corner is finally lit up. It burns. It is so bright. A cinder swings off a lock of hair, and lands, miraculously, on the broken tooth held in her hand. The smell of charred plastic mingles with the smell of burnt hair, mixing with the scent of melted cloth, all overpowered single-handedly by the heady incense wafting from her incandescent skin.
She cannot remember the last time she felt fear, but she could feel it now. Like a snake, it slithered through her intestines, forked tongue tickling the stomach lining, before the head forces its way up the oesophagus, pushing defiantly along. There is no sound, no sight, no smell, but the feeling is definite. The head slithers further with every surge, intent to finally come out. She feels the serpent's tongue feeling at her epiglottis, searching for an exit, while still pushing up, forcing progress. The snake is now a knot in her throat. She cannot breathe, or the fear will emerge; she dare not give in, dare not open the gates to the agent of her demise.
Feeling warm, and somewhat playful, the maniac stays on his knees, looking up at this glowing girl, this barest of skeletons, this new toy he has found. Wiry hands sink nails deep into skin, to stem the fire outside her impenetrable fortress. Singed hair grows shorter with every moment. Something seems to move within her, starting somewhere in her gut, slowly slithering upwards, trying to find a route out. It moves into her chest, slowly but surely dragging the waters for a hook. It rises until it begins to fill her throat. He sees her eyes grow wide, and her hands rise to her neck, thumbs pressed over larynx, ready to crush what lies inside.
She'd stab it. Yes, that would work. She'd stab it. She'd crush her larynx, and the splintered bone would kill the fear. It would all go away. She'd have her comb, and her broken teeth, and her darkness in the corner all over again. All she had to do was stab it. She needed to stab it. Her larynx, the bone would surely do the trick.
It would, but for the impatience of a man obsessed with the pleasures beasts can offer. He cocks another round of .357, and stabs her throat for her. Thrice. Bored of his new playmate, the gentleman turns heel, and strides off to find that elusive lynx. She would not deny him. Not again.
Through the paneless window, the sun rises, the sky awash with a thin orange haze. Light, troubled by the commotion, peers around corners cautiously. Finding no reason to be fearful, it wraps around every corner, illuminating the stone walls with the iridescence of pearls. There is no more darkness to be found, after all.