This is chapter five in the story Fires from the Dark.
By the time that Sven had gathered his things, said his goodbyes and departed, it was pushing on five o'clock at night; by the time he returned to his home, it was six-thirty.
Pulling up the driveway, Sven attempted to gather his thoughts. What he saw today...the news report, the photo, the look in Andrew's eyes when the report had come on. Was there something he knew about it that Sven did not? Should he share his anecdote with his girlfriend, Lori? Lori. Surely, she would be upset about Sven running so late. Come to think of it, where was she? Looking out across the gravel parking area in front of their house, her car was missing from its usual place of resting, a mass of wet rocks existing in the vacancy instead.
Bringing the car to a stop, Sven threw his head back to relax against the headrest. He rolled his eyes to the side to gawk out of his window. The setting sun had a magnificent effect on coloring the clouds a reddish-orange. Switching his sights back to the rain pitter-pattering on the windshield, he turned his keys in the ignition, terminating the engine.
Heaving a sigh, he opened his door and slid out of the car. The drizzling raindrops cooled his face - he had started to sweat on his way home, thinking of the frightening occurrences he had experienced. As his thoughts drifted from the photo of the eyeless boy to the beast he had seen in his dreams, his head started to feel heavy. He shook the thought away when his heart started beating faster, and jogged up the stairs to the front door.
Fumbling with the keys in his pants pocket, he peered through the window in the metal door, into the sun room. What he could see was darkness and more somber darkness. He pulled the keys from his pants and pushed the key designated "house" (not that he could make out the words; he tried several of them before choosing the correct one) and turned the doorknob.
Stepping inside, he felt around the wall beside the door after shutting it. Locating the light switch, he flipped it three or four times. Bulb's burnt? He thought.
"Damn..." he muttered. He extended his arms and slowly walked towards where he thought the door to the main of the house was. Stumbling over a pile of shoes, he managed to find a rocking chair fitted in between a small shoe rack and a coat stand. Removing his jacket and shoes, he felt his way back to the door.
Feeling for his house key once more, he tried to take a look into the kitchen through the door's window…tried. He still could not see a thing.
Retrieving keys from a pants pocket never seemed more challenging. For some reason - maybe it was his nyctophobia - he could not get them out. When he did, he did so with such force that they flew from his grasp, hit the wall, and dropped to the floor, lost in a mess of shoes and laces.
Mumbling another curse, he knelt down to find them.
He didn't see it, but he heard it. As he found his keys and untangled it from the jungle of strings, he looked up to see the door open and a shadowy silhouette standing just beyond the doorway. With a yelp, he stumbled back a few inches, clambering over his coat and shoes.
The shadow stepped closer. Sven's imagination raced: images of a gray-skinned being, flaps of rotting flesh-like material, in no specific pattern, hanging off its body. Gruesome yellow teeth were barred, the lips and cheeks having rotted through. The empty eye sockets.
Sven's breathing rapidly picked up. He stared hard into the uncertain dark.
"Andrew? W-what happened? What's wrong, Andrew? Andrew!"
"Andrew? Andy, man, where are y- Oh, my God!! What the hell is that?! No...no! Stay away!"
"Waaaah!" Sven screamed, racing backwards on his hands and knees. Sweat emptied from every pore.
The lights flickered on. "Sven!" a voice came.
It took Sven's eyes time to adjust, but he could make out the shape of a woman walking towards him. She knelt down beside him and took his hand in hers. "Sven? What's wrong?"
"Lori...?" Sven said, his eyes beginning to take to the light. Lori was knelt beside him. Every muscle in his body was giving an endless shudder.
"Are you all right? Come on, let's get inside." she said, helping her boyfriend off his back. Holding tight to her hand, he slowly stood up, staggering into the kitchen.
Crossing the kitchen, Terra hopped from the counter and meowed, following the couple into the living room.
In here, Lori helped Sven down onto a couch. "I'm gonna get a rag, okay? I'll be right back." she said. Kissing him softly on the lips, she left for a wet rag. At the same time, Terra entered the room. He strolled across the finished wooden floor and came to a stop beside his master's quivering body. Arrroooow? It went.
Lori returned with a damp cloth in hand. Nudging Terra aside, she knelt down beside Sven, taking his hand. His eyelids were closed, but underneath them Lori could see his eyes in rapid movement. Kissing him gently once more, she placed the rag on his head and pulled a blanket over him. "Sven? Sven, c'mon, talk to me." she asked her boyfriend's body, which was bordering on limp. Giving up, she gave Sven a rub on the arm and left.
"I don't know, Andrew, he just blacked out after freaking out on me..." Lori said.
"...Alright, Lori, explain to me one more time exactly what happened.” Andrew replied.
Lori let out a sigh. She had called Andrew shortly after leaving Sven in the living room, attempting to gather some information as to why Sven was acting so on-edge. Andrew seemed to be avoiding answering her, and she was beginning to become cross with him.
"Listen this time. Sven came home around six-thirty. He came into our sun room. I found him rummaging through a pile of shoes for some reason. It was really dark, maybe he dropped something, I dunno. When I opened the door to, y'know, see why he was home so late, he started to yell, like he was afraid. When I snapped him out of it and helped him into our living room, I laid him down on a couch, and he blacked out, fell asleep, I don't know. Another thing I don't know is what triggered all of this? I know he's afraid of the dark, but even nyctophobia wouldn't bring all of that on. What happened when he was with you, Andy?"
No answer came.
"Andy, please, I need to know. It looks like he's in pretty bad shape. Why is he so scared?"
"I don't know, Lori. Hones-"
"Andrew! Tell me, now."
"Lori, honey, please calm down."
"Drop the "honey" thing. You can't manipulate me. Now, dammit, tell me!" Lori shouted.
"Alright!" Andrew retaliated thunderously. Lori hushed herself at this. "He came over around noon. We sat and talked for a while, went inside, ate something."
"Stop dragging. Just tell me what happened that made Sven act the way he did."
"We sat down to eat and watched some TV. A news report was on. They were talking about another one of the murders that have been happening lately around here. Right in the middle of newscast, this old woman…”
Andrew, silent, thought for a moment. Somewhere, deep in his subconscious, a very bleak and vague memory was dug up. Like he knew the woman…Like she was…
“Andrew!” Lori yelled.
“Wha…I, oh. Yes, yes. She, um she interrupted the newscast. She started ranting on about seeing who – or what – killed the boy. Then, she shoved a picture of the body in front of the camera. Sven puked, and I shut the TV off. After that, he had been acting strange about everything. When I finally asked him if he was all right, he jumped up and almost fell off of the chair he was in.”
“Andrew…do you think that…What…What was wrong with the boy’s body? What was the damage?” Lori asked.
“His eyes were missing.” Came a voice from behind Lori. She spun around to find, blanket slung around his shoulders, Sven, standing in the doorway.