Speed of Darkness
A tree friend I made, while writing.
A story for class.
Hey guys, feel free to leave comments and suggestions. This is the first chapter of hopefully, a longer novel I would like to write. Any ideas or comments would be extremely appreciated. Thanks!
The Speed of Darkness
The crowd roared. A roiling, churning sea of people. The floor shook; the black walls wavered against the streaks of deep purple and bright blue. Dwarfed by most of the guys around her, Claibelle jumped up to see the stage and was caught. She surged up and over the boiling mass of bodies. Her stomach dropped but the smile on her face broadened. Music pulsed into the air, ruffled hair, and blasted anxieties from everyone’s heart.
The band was on its feet, jumping, except for the drummer, who was suspended above the stage atop a rotating platform. Claibelle laughed as her body was pushed upwards by a dozen hot hands. Sweat plastered her choppy bangs to her forehead; but she noticed with relish that the air above the rocking mass of people was sweet and cool, unlike the bubble of humid breath and body heat down below her.
The beat grew louder as she neared the stage, two towers of speakers on either side, standing like soldiers. Surfing, her head hung upside down, the band members seemed to be suspended from the ceiling. She wondered absently why no band has ever attempted such a feat before when her ride suddenly came to an end. An impassive beefy face obstructed her view. The burly body-guard grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her easily over the barricade. His body didn’t as much as sway as he hauled her over and dropped her on her feet inches from the stage. He pointed to the side and then turned back to the crowd, awaiting the next floating body. Eyes glued to the faces of Typewriter Serenade, she forced herself to walk around to the side and escort herself once again into the pulsing sea of people.
* * *
“Thank You, thank you, thank you!” Claibelle rushed into the house, dumping her bag on the floor by the door. Music still echoing in her itching ears, she stumbled through the door beneath the stairs into the kitchen. Static clung to the insides of her head, and even her own voice sounded muffled as she sung loudly, “’Sitting on the kitchen counter, still waiting for yooou.’ Mom, it was so awesome. Seriously, the best birthday present ever. Thank you!”
Putting the scissors down on top of the remaining coupons, her mother smiled. “I’m glad you had fun Claibear, but Oh my god, do you smell. It looks like you went swimming in a retention pond with your clothes on. Go take a shower and make sure you don’t tell your dad I bought your ticket.”
“Thanks again mom.” She kissed her mother on the cheek and scurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
Claibelle cranked on the hot water and turned to face herself in the mirror. Peeling off her sweat-drenched black tanktop she inspected her back. Not bad for moshing actually. The only marks visible were a deep purple bruise on her back shoulder blade, snaking its way up to her neck, and one forming, bueish-green, on her left hip bone. She kicked off her boots as the steam started to collect on the mirror, followed by her black leggings and torn shorts. More bruises appeared on her thighs and she sighed. I guess I spoke too soon. She jumped into the shower and stood, eyes closed, with her head back, her long red hair darkening as it collected water.
The grass crunched softly beneath the large boots, bits of brown and black appearing where he stepped. The dog that normally would have barked and snarled at the intruder huddled in the far corner of his dog-house, shaking. An inaudible chuckle slithered its way from the man’s throat. His eyes shone in the moonlight, pits of black. Across from the house he had searched for for so long, a smile uncurled from his lips.
The door scraped against a bent corner of Claibelle’s favorite band poster, “Gladiator For Hire.” She threw her dirty clothes across the room to the clothes hamper, the leggings falling short in the middle of the floor. She drug her computer chair to the door and stood, reaching up to add another piece of tape to the wall behind the age-old poster. Her mother had offered to buy her a new one, since there were so many tears and creases in the current poster, but Claibelle cherished the poster, given as a surprise from her father five years ago. Satisfied with her handiwork, she jumped down and returned her chair to its home beneath her large and cluttered desk. Exhaustion seeped from her bones; five hours of jumping around can really make you tired. She crawled into bed and grabbed the remote from the bedside table. Music fluttered from the speakers on her desk. Beneath the slow wail of guitar, she heard her father come home downstairs and glanced over to her alarm clock: 2am already. He kept getting home later and later. She wondered if her mom was still awake waiting, as she cuddled up against her pile of pillows. Sleep enveloped her quickly, snuffing out all conscious thought.
* * * *
Two hours later, Claibelle woke up gasping for breath. Her blankets had somehow twisted around her body and lay in an awkward tangle over her face. She scrabbled out from under the oppressive heat of the comforter. Her eyes felt glued shut and she struggled past the blurriness to see against the darkness. Her heart was racing; a feeling of dire anxiety blossoming in her chest. This feeling wasn’t new to Claibelle, and would sometimes occur late at night, but right now, it seemed more intense. She felt the need to rush downstairs and warn her parents. But she wasn’t sure what she would warn them about. As her breathing slowed, the anxiety clawed higher into her throat, until she couldn’t swallow. She was suddenly freezing and felt her stomach drop as she realized her window was open and the small table set beneath it was toppled over.
Her limbs were frozen. She could only clutch the blankets, peering frantically into the darkness. The only sound she could hear was the faint hum of the air conditioning unit on the second floor, from outside the window. Every muscle tense, Claibelle moved slowly from her bed and made her way to the door.
Feet slammed against the pavement, paws galloped beside them. Black hair whipped in the wind as Ember tore down the street, his partner Flint keeping pace evenly. The enormous black dog put on a burst of speed and rocketed forward, clearly intent on beating Ember to the scene. Ember rolled his eyes as he forced his legs to speed up. Now was not the time for a competition between man and beast. If Flint wanted to get there first and buy him some time before the demon scum left, great. More power to him. His legs screamed for him to stop but he ran on, intent on finally snuffing out the demon’s would-be soul. He felt the familiar thump between his shoulder blades as the sword swung in its holster beneath his jacket, and huffed out a chuckle. What an interesting night this was turning out to be.
Claibelle’s hand had just closed around the doorknob of her room when she heard a small sigh from behind her. She jolted forward, smashing her knee against the door as she tried to stumble out into the hall. The door blew closed in front of her, nearly cutting her nose from her face. Her voice was lost, an impossibly small squeak coming from her throat instead, as she turned around and saw a man standing in the center of her bedroom. Instantly, she knew he was not a normal human being. His body looked pulled, as if he were seven feet tall without really touching the ceiling. His muscles were defined by his tight black shirt, but there were spiny bumps along his arms and up to his neck. They stood out from under his shirt, looking like rounded off spikes. He stood perfectly still, head cocked to one side, as if he were listening to someone or something she could not hear. Theatrically, he spread his arms wide, hands stretching out, his fingers impossibly long. Claibelle could do nothing but stand with her back to the door, pushing herself as hard as she could, wishing she could phase through the wood.
The man’s eyes refocused on the room before him and he straightened his head. The corners of his mouth turned up and Claibelle wished she could close her eyes. His would-be smile caused her lungs to contract and it seemed impossible to draw air into her body. Fear flamed its way through her soul.
“It seems we’re going to have an audience soon.” His words did not come from his mouth, but whispered through the room loudly.
She was vaguely aware that her stereo was still playing; a harder album pulsed through the room. She wasn’t sure what he meant by ‘audience,’ but she didn’t feel like finding out. She suddenly found her voice, as if a chord had broken in her mind. She opened her lungs to the world. She screamed like a baby for her mother. The sound echoed loudly off the walls in her head, but made an agonizing scratchy gasp from her throat.
It’s a nightmare, a bad dream. Night terrors. But she never had dreams where she knew she was dreaming. Claibelle felt her body seize up as the long man floated toward her. Immobilized, she didn’t even jump as a massive black wolf crashed through the half-open window. The thing wouldn’t have fit through the bottom half, even if it were open all the way. The blinds flapped across the room, various pieces of shutter strewn about. Shards of glass skittered and lay sparkling on the ground, reflecting the moon-light from the new opening in the wall. Where is mom?! She’s the lightest sleeper in the world.
“They cannot hear anything now,” the spiky man whispered without words. He turned back around towards the window, and the wolf baring its teeth. He addressed the charcoal shadow, “Ah Flint, welcome to the show, I trust your wonderful man-friend will be here shortly?” Without waiting for an answer he moved, faster than Claibelle would have imagined possible. And then she was dangling above the floor, his lean but sinewy arms tight around her throat and shoulders. She felt muscle move and noticed the spikes on his arms lengthen. She tried screaming again. She thrashed and clawed at his arms, but he only laughed, feeling the bass of a chuckle against her back.
An inaudible thump vibrated across the floor as the wolf took a step forward. His snarls were too low to hear. His teeth were bright slashes of white against the darkness of his fur and the shadows of the room. Claibelle had never owned a dog, but had always enjoyed playing with their neighbor’s beagle when she was younger. This was nothing similar. The fur on the back of this enormous dog was standing out in all angles. The ridge of its back was shaking with the tension of muscles. And its eyes were intelligent, calculating. She could see it thinking behind those bright hazel orbs.
And a second crash pierced the tension of silence in the room. It wasn’t as loud as the first, just breaking some extra glass out of the frame and crunches from the floor as the old glass was stepped on. A boy, maybe a year or two older than Claibelle, landed a few feet behind the blazing shadow. He had long shaggy black hair that somehow avoided his eyes and face. His dark gray jeans looked worn and old. The black leather jacket fit perfectly, and Claibelle was momentarily shocked out of her fear. He looked like he didn’t belong on the streets of today. There was something about the way he held himself, or how the air around him shone with a different light. It was as if he had walked forward in time, after living for too long. His clothes had an 80s grunge look to them, as did his hair.
He glared at the long man across the room. Claibelle tried to speak with her eyes. Get this freak away from me! She glanced back and forth between the wolf and the boy. Neither of them seemed to even acknowledge the other, their gazed fixed on the man behind her. His body felt warm and cold all at once, and she feebly tried to squirm away from his touch.
“Must I do all the talking? I know you all love to hear my voice, but really. Introductions are needed, I think.” The long man disappeared from behind her and was suddenly against the farthest wall, making a triangle of them. Nothing of the boy and the wolf moved but their eyes, tracking the movement that remained invisible to Claibelle. She sank back to the floor, her legs refusing to stand. He reached over and clicked the largest button on her stereo. “Call me old fashioned, but what are you kids listening to these days? It sounds like all the banshees of the world decided they suddenly wanted fame and fortune.”
“Enough with the chit-chat Drek, we know what you’re here for. What’s with all the theatrics? Take the key,” he paused, “and move on.” She hadn’t heard the boy speak yet. His voice was rough with anger. The wolf had backed up and stood tall next to him, growling low.
For the first time in what felt like ages for Claibelle, the spiky long man turned and looked at her. Hi eyes shone with malice and something else she didn’t like. Her body went cold as he took a step forward and said, “I said introductions were in order. You may call me Drek, if you live long enough to remember it. Hell, you can use it when you scream if you like. Normally though, everyone screams for their mommy’s, their daddy’s.” His spikes had begun to lengthen again, raising up and outward, like a lizard fanning its flaps in aggression. The words still floated around the room as he said slowly; “And these two…are dead.”
There was a whirl of shadow and the wolf snarled, leaping forward. The boy reached behind his back and under the jacket, slinging a sword from a hidden sheath. There was a scraping, hissing sound boiling from Drek’s throat, grinding against Claibelle’s ears. She shrunk back in horror against the door frame, the wood pressing into her bruised shoulder blade. The wolf was a blur, dodging and flitting back, in and out of the light from the window. The boy was jabbing forward with the glinting blade and twisting around with impossible speed as Drek appeared and disappeared in the air around them. They somehow avoided all the furniture in the room, even the broken glass of the window lay untouched on the carpet, glinting like stars. She couldn’t look away, even though she barely understood what she was seeing.
A hideous shriek pierced the room. It rose higher pitch until it became a wail, uncharted for human ears. Claibelle clapped her hands over her ears in pain, her eyes squinted shut.
“No!” The boy dove forward, the blade in one hand something small and unimpressive in the other. The wolf shook its head violently, backing up away from the sound. Pressure increased in the room, the air shuddered. With a loud snapping, the boy passed through where Drek had been and collapsed on the floor. He surged to his feet, whirling around and saw the room empty. A snarl of anger tore from his mouth as he turned and looked at Claibelle for the first time since entering the room.
He strode forward, clearing the space of the room in four strides, grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her to a standing position. “Where is it?”
She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak. She blinked in confusion and horror as the scene replayed itself in her mind. What is going on? Nothing made sense.
“Where is It?!” The boy let go of her and retreated back into the room. His shoulders were shaking. He grabbed the wolf by the scruff of the neck and pulled. It barely seemed to register to the massive black shadow on the floor. It was still shaking its head, pawing at its ears. Claibelle stumbled forward and saw blood running into black fur. She gasped and looked down at her hands. Shards of glass stuck out of her palms in every which way. Blood was trickling down her wrists and onto the carpet.
The boy turned back to her and knelt down in front of her. He eyed her hands and sighed. “What have you gotten yourself into?” he whispered. She didn’t know if he was talking to her, or to himself.