By Morgan Summerfield
The trees stood as dark silhouettes against the dimming
twilight sky. It was that moment between night and day,
that moment when the creatures of day gave way to the creatures
of night. The larks and sparrows settled into their roosts
for the night, as the dark web-winged monsters of horror
film fame began their hunt. The cats that slept lazily in
the sun now prowled, eyes glowing and ears attuned. The
owl stirred in the distant oak, fluffing its feathers and
hooting its hoot. The rustle to my left was a mystery-a
deer, a raccoon, or an opossum.
The horizon continued to darken and the traces of pink
were devoured by purples and grays. The shadows of the wood
deepened and the tree frogs chirped gaily at the prospect
of the cooling moon. My shadow was lost and the first star
popped into the night sky. I dared not stay a moment longer,
lest I become prey to those that walked the night, those
that relished the darkness and always moved in shadows--among
them the ones that I sought so intently.
Nature's light vanished as my foot met the porch step.
The insects were already hitting the bug zapper, causing
an intense repetitive hissing sound, as they were fried
to ultimate crispness. I stood watching their passionate,
frantic, persistence as they sought that which caused heady
excitement yet bore the promise of grave consequence. I
mused how alike we were. I too was in a passionate, frantic,
persistent pursuit of an excitement that dizzied my brain
and titillated my body-a quest for that which I knew full
well might surrender me to the consequences.
I left the porch and entered the cabin. My ears keened,
I gently eased the screen door back into the frame. I stood
in the darkness looking out into the now blackened space
between the porch and the wood. My eyes strained to see
into the night. Two weeks had passed since I'd begun the
baiting process in hopes of coaxing the illusive creature
into my realm. My time was short and my anticipation growing.
I felt my impatience pushing me toward an impulsive act
that I knew would carry me, just as the insects, toward
my own extinction. Why did I crave this so intensely? Why
was the hunger for it so strong? How could the faded text
of a long forgotten tome, that begged dusting and reeked
of age, push me so hard toward the brink? I've determined,
now, that these are things I will never know.
I reviewed in my mind how meticulously I followed the
painfully exacting recipe of the bait this time. I'd measured
the exact portions and brewed to the precise second. I'd
cooled and cured it for the appropriate number of days.
I'd set it at the waning of the moon, on a starless night,
after a hard rain. My impatience had caused me to rush the
recipe in past attempts. My experiment, now obsession, had
lasted months. I felt my life would some how end, if this
time I could not at least see the creature, though I knew
seeing would not be enough. I wanted to touch it, smell
it, taste it. I wanted to know it intimately, all the while
knowing I would not likely survive such experiences.
The unknown scholar who had set his hand to this volume
imparted such intensity in his words I could not resist
them. They teased my brain, dripped from my lips like honey
and taunted my fingertips with the depth of their impressions.
Though I knew the words were meant to warn, to illuminate
and to protect, they instead drew me into the romance of
the creature. It at first sounded too remarkable to hold
any truth, yet the more I read the more I was convinced
of the possibility.
As I could stand not a moment more of waiting, I grabbed
the knife from the table and stepped back out onto the porch,
all the while the bug zapper reminding me of my risk. Just
as I was about to sweeten the bait, I heard the whoosh as
it moved in the darkness just out of visual range. I stood
motionless, my heart skipping frantically, my body alive,
every nerve on alert. I could not tell if the adrenaline
that raced my pulse was initiated by fear or sheer ecstasy.
I saw its eyes first, almond shaped and narrowed. A strange
moan escaped my parched lips, as it drew closer. I held
my breath and waited. Instinctively I stepped back, as another
appeared--then another. I had not anticipated this. I found
myself courting the danger times three. They sniffed the
air as they followed the scent of the bait that was not
twenty feet from me.
I know not how I willed myself back into the small safety
of the cabin, nor how I made the trip unmolested. Though
I know it will afford only a short reprieve, it affords
me enough time to write this. Whosoever should find these
my last words and read them--take heed of my warning. If
you value your sanity and wish to remain whole, do not breech
the cover of the book that lies here beneath my words. Rather,
set a match to the pages that might otherwise open onto
an intensity of obsession and a path of destruction so powerful
you could not resist. Were I not so hopelessly possessed
by it, I would have already turned it to ash.
Hold the light of day close and keep the darkness from
your soul. Be not a moth to the flame, as I have been. Treasure
the fragileness of your life and live it not in the realm
of what might be, but rather in the realm of what is. Seek
not to know the creature that I have become.
There is no time more to explain. Even now they approach
me and I am losing myself. I have stayed too long, gone
too far, been too reckless. Should you unwisely choose to
follow my footsteps, know that I will be waiting breathless,
guiltless--and hungry for you.
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