Based on the theme ‘Darkness’
They say it’s just a lack of light, but darkness is a thing. It has weight, and it seeps in slowly, like inertia, or damp in the corner.
It’s deep now, heavy as a stone, and she feels it like mortar that has shored up her cracks.
Laura once used to dream of gliding over great spaces, of the open plains of America and the ice sheets of Antarctica, but now she doesn’t sleep, and the nights are too long.
Her father opens the door without knocking and walks in to wake her. Patches of sun hit him from between the curtains, and he smiles, like he’s feeding off it.
“Time to get up,” he says softly, and she recoils at his hand on her shoulder.
“Thomas,” she says, her voice cracked but forceful. “Leave me alone.”
She stopped calling him dad a long time ago. Ever since she was old enough to understand what was happening.
He leaves her and walks back out without another word.
She stirs, sits up, and watches the shadows on the wall. For a moment they transfix her, as if they might have come from the place where dreams are, where a piece of her always seems to live now. She knows they will move, given time, because the earth never stops turning, but now they look so still, paused. She feels suspended, just like the motes of dust in the sunlight.
No shadow without light.
Her own sun, she thinks, has gone out.
“Still not sleeping?” he asks her when she goes downstairs. He’s making coffee. If he’s in a good mood maybe he’ll make her some, too.
She shakes her head. “No.”
“You need some exercise,” he says, with a hint of impatience. “Get outside in the fresh air!”
He’s feeling good, so he doesn’t see why she shouldn’t be. He’s always been that way. Anything else is outside of his grasp.
Later on, she’ll go out for a walk, just to shut him up. He’ll never understand what lives inside her, but she desperately wants him to see, to feel the worn and dizzying depth of what he created.
That night Laura sleeps a little, but there are still no great open spaces. She dreams instead of circling birds, of muddy hills in the rain and the waiting gallows. When she wakes it’s dark, and the world is still. Its shadows on pause, the air hanging with a substance all of its own.
She rises, feeling the carpet cool beneath her feet as she moves across it, and it feels like she’s walking on water. Downstairs, into the kitchen – the knife. Back up those creaking steps and into his room. He still has his own smell, after all these years, and it’s pungent in her nostrils. She wants to press the tip of the blade to his throat, push it deep into the soft thread of arteries and airways, but she can’t. What’s inside is all hers, and she needs him to see.
She wanders instead to the bathroom, and sits down in the pristine bath, glowing white in the darkness like the enamel of a new tooth. Her heartbeat sounds in her ears, her stomach turns with dread, her breaths begin to shake, and with a gasp she pushes the knife into her own throat.
At first the pain is hot, searing her, and she gags under it as her blood oozes then gushes, pouring down her chest and fingers like a warm river. She feels nothing else, only her sun igniting, burning her from inside the cage of her bones.
At last, she thinks.
She begins to fade, and even the darkness becomes darker. Her blood slows, she can no longer hear her heart, and then her sun is risen, high into some other sky. She is left behind, without its light or warmth, left with nothing, and she feels her nothing like a weight, finally exposed. It feels cold, something like ancient ribs unearthed in old soil, cracked open.
It always feels heavy, facing down that gap inside. An ocean floor, where the sunlight can’t reach. Lockets from long-dead mothers, old letters from gone lovers. That last ever kiss, the final memory you wish you’d held a little closer, the hesitation marks on your wrist. It seeps in, slowly filling up the cracks, and the world is full of cracks.