Friday Flash – The Darkening

FrdayFlashBadgeI’ve been copping a bit of (friendly) flak the last couple of weeks because I’ve slipped on the Friday Flash thing. It’s hard to keep up with all the projects that I have going on, especially with people hassling me for the next book and the next Ghost Of The Black novella. Plus I’m working with Blade Red Press on the first anthology, trying to write and sell short stories and keep a bit of freelance stuff on the go. No, I don’t want your sympathy. I’m just making excuses for the irregularity of my Friday Flash efforts. I’m going to be away from home next week as well, and there’ll be intermittent (at best) internet access, so I probably won’t have any Friday Flash for you then either. So, I’ve made a point of putting together a little something for this week. My Friday Flash stories will be irregular, but I’ll do my best to post something as often as possible. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy:

The Darkening

Darkness descended, cold and damp, laying over the small wooden home like a heavy cloak. Orange light flickered briefly in the window, was gone, then appeared once more. Again it flickered, vanished, flickered again. Then it flared briefly and settled into a guttering, pale glow. A cowed silhouette passed by the window.

Inside the gloomy dwelling the haggard figure placed the stuttering lantern on a stained, scored table and returned to his workbench. He was cold. So very cold, down into his ancient bones, but he could have no fire. Fire would not burn in his home any longer. Even his lantern was just a choking flame, hanging desperately to the blackened wick.

The cold was colder now, the darkness darker. He was close. Close to something he opposed so vehemently that his self hatred was outweighed only by the strength of the evil forcing him on.

On his workbench all was ready, the component parts of his magic laid out and prepared. He opened the heavy book that stood on an easel beside the bench. He sighed as he smoothed his long, white beard and took one last, lingering look around his small, dingy home. A place which had been his own for so many years now. The cold stone fireplace, the oakwood table with itโ€™s ornate silver candelabra, empty of candles, his rough, unmade bed. Eventually his eyes returned to the heavy leather-bound book before him. A book which had taken him so many years to locate, containing a magic that had taken him so many years to decipher and master. Finally forcing him to admit that he was weak, that he was nothing. That his entire lifeโ€™s work had been foolish delusion. And it had been a long life.

Everything was in place. The impassive stars above aligned as they were for the first time in hundreds of years. The old man had waited centuries for this moment, weak, broken, tormented waiting. Wearily he began to incant, forming words from the complex script on the page in front of him, giving that script body and power.

As his deep, resonant voice filled the room a soft rushing sound began. It grew, from a rush to a howl, whipping the old manโ€™s hair and beard about his face, lifting parchments and bedclothes to swirl in the air around him. In the middle of the room, in the centre of a triangle of arcane symbols carved into the wooden floor, a darkness began to form. A darkness deep and infinite, and with it a chill so icily cold the old mage could feel it right through his soul.

The old manโ€™s voice rose in volume and power, partly in wonder, partly in anticipation, mostly in fear. Small objects began flying up, joining the maelstrom, spiralling frantically around his head. The howl was deafening, the blackness palpable, the cold impossible. Sheer terror gripped his heart, only the magic keeping him conscious. Then it was over. The howl faded, clothes and small objects dropped lifeless from the air. A calm settled over the old mage, soothing him slightly, as he wiped a drop of blood from his cheek; he knew what to expect.

The darkness before him throbbed, like a huge misshapen black heart. It began to expand, pushing before it the soul-chilling cold. Backed up against his workbench the mage was enveloped in its depths. As it sucked his life into glorious oblivion he pitied those for whom this force would come. Inexorable and unchangeable, he had set the future of the world. As he died the old man was crying for the first time in centuries.

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21 thoughts on “Friday Flash – The Darkening

  1. OK, I just realised that I decided to call this piece “The Darkening” and I posted that vampire themed flash fiction piece a while ago that was called “Darkening”.

    Apparently I like the work darkening. But this time I’ve added a “The” so it’s not the same.

    Shut up.

  2. This is fantastic! Beautiful imagery! You know those times when you’re reading something and it seems to suck you in? That happened for me here. I kind of feel like the old man…

    Nice work!

  3. Great job (even if it was titled similarly to your last one… psh…)! I love your writing style, so descriptive and evocative.

    I’m pretty sad that you’re #fridayflashes will be irregular, but I guess I’m willing to accept it. Boo. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you posted this one, though!

  4. Gary – thanks very much, high praise indeed!

    Stefers – Sorry about that, but glad you liked this one. I’ll post ’em as often as I can.

    mazzz – Here’s a key part:

    “He was close. Close to something he opposed so vehemently that his self hatred was outweighed only by the strength of the evil forcing him on.”

  5. that’s ok Mazz, I got the STORY no problem [nice Alan!] but I had to back up and reread this line because the first time I left off the ed on cowed.
    “A cowed silhouette passed by the window”
    and that just made no sense whatsoever…laughing..

    So we’ll see you in two weeks Alan? poke poke poke…. :0)

  6. Wouldn’t it have been cool, though – if a cow silhouette passed by the window?

    Not sure how I’d have subsequently written that in though…

  7. I feel sorry for the old mage, captured by darkness.
    I was afraid for a minute that it was going to bite off his head like a chocolate truffle, but I guess he had an equally scary fate. No wonder he was crying. Bloody mages never know what they’re dealing with.

  8. Cool word, “darkening”, I don’t blame you for using it twice. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I liked the imagery in this with the dark swallowing him. Pretty dark and creepy. Nice.

    For some reason now, I can’t stop thinking of “Army of Darkness.” lol

    Great tale, though I’m sad that we’re not going to get as much of them…*sniff*

    Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Thanks everyone, greatly appreciate the kind words. And I’m glad that “darkening” has a general seal of approval!

  10. By the way, Ellie mentioned biting the mage’s head off like a chocolate truffle, which is in reference to the flash piece that was recently published in Antipodean SF. This is a similar piece and there is a reason for that. I was working around different ideas on the theme and ended up going in two directions. One turned out to be The Book, which was subsequently published by Antipodean SF and the other was this piece. It wasn’t quite coming together so I left it and concentrated on The Book. Then, in need of a Friday Flash piece, I dusted this off and reworked it. Funny how these things go round like that.

  11. I love this Alan, super description. I’m just joining in on #fridayflash, indeed just beginning the journey of fiction itself. I believe I can learn a lot from you, and I look forward to it.
    Thanks for a great read!

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