The Darkness That Has a Name, Evan Anderson
Originally published in Yellow Chair Review (October 2016)
Mama went out for groceries today and didn’t come home. I start to get nervous, so I turn on the tv and shiver under a blanket until men in blue-black uniforms come tell me something that makes everything in my life go upside down and grey.
Darkness takes the opportunity to introduce itself, softer than a whisper, from the walls. Rougarou, is what it says.
Eventually it’s night, and dad is drunk and trying to die on the couch while the phone rings, stops for a while, rings more.
I’m shaking under a different blanket now in my room that feels like someone else’s room. My eyes close and the name comes to me again—this time a whisper wrapped in skin.
From across the room, through fabric-filtered moonlight and sharply angled shadows that cut everything up into unfamiliar shapes, a bony finger stretches and scrapes the sweat-stuck hairs from my forehead.
I try to turn. I really do try, but somehow my neck has become a rusted bolt stuck to rusted threads. He moves into my vision. Wavering and floating crooked above the floor like heat off pavement, he speaks, but it sounds like dad clicking the barrel of the gun to his teeth again. The words are this: “We are isolation and inspiration . . .
. . . we are the weeping cloud. Come with us.”
The air feels like a hot, wet tire pressing against my face. My lungs flex against sheets tightening like a locked-up seatbelt. Words become wet nothing-sounds in my throat. “Monster!”
His mouth gapes. “You need us.”
“You are darkness marred by the light.” Click. “You are beauty that must die, living in a twilight. You are tepid water. God himself would spit you out.”
I close my eyes and pray to god for morning, but I suddenly know that morning is stuck with mama and won’t be coming back, either.
“We will come again tomorrow,” says the shadow, using all of my breath for his words. “One day, when your friends no longer see you, you will remember that we will always see you.”
He is gone. Night bleeds into what everyone else still calls morning. I go to school and then come home and no one notices.
He comes again.
“Be minnnnne,” he bleeds from the mouth, and I can taste the copper tang of his heartbreak. It’s fresh like mine. I cry and cry because I love him as much as I fear him.
I begin to think of him in the night that people call day. Sometimes he becomes a smoke that I inhale, cough, rebreathe. When I talk to my friends at school, they don’t see him, because, I finally realize, they don’t see me. Save me from this nightmare, I try to say with my eyes. But they smile and are polite, and I smile back and suck the darkness back inside.
One day, beneath a darkly shining sun, I feel the sickly cold of a clawed or maybe a webbed foot on one calf and then the other as he climbs on my back. “What are you doing?” The weight stoops me forward, and it feels good so I don’t fight. He pulls his shadow around me like a cloak. “Thank you,” I say. I don't know why, but I feel grateful. He is the only thing in the world that I have earned. We walk hunched and dark.
We never sleep and we never wake but we walk on. We listen for weeping that seeps from under locked doors. We open these doors where broken bodies lie in darkness that the morning tries to deny and push away. “They can’t deny us, forever,” we say, smiling tenderly. We reach across their rooms with our loving fingers and wipe the tears from their eyes. “We will come again tomorrow.”
Evan is a writer living in a bowl of a city surrounded by swamps and brimming with stories and music. His work has appeared in Five:2:One, Monkeybicycle, Cleaver Magazine, Cease, Cows, Gone Lawn, Unbroken Journal, and others.
Find more at his website, https://www.evanmichaelanderson.com, and follow him on Twitter, @emanderson_1.