• J. Jamal

Darkness Falls Part 1

Updated: Jan 6

“Just look at this stuff. Nobody lives here, nobody’s ever lived here. Just go get it,” Johnny says, and he makes sense. The grass around the abandoned lot surely hasn’t been cut in years. There’s more “Do Not Disturb” signs today than there was a month ago. This place FEELS as creepy as it looks. Ten dollars says something died here. Or someone. So I’ll be damned if I was gonna be next. “Nah man, not tonight. I can’t even see where it went.” Johnny and I were playing catch with the baseball he caught with his dad at the first Dodgers vs. Angels game of the season. I’m a lot stronger than he is, so it was inevitable that I’d be the one to throw the ball over the fence. My jaw and my heart hit the ground before the ball did. “You throw it, you get it” that’s always been the rule. Always. But not tonight. Not in front of the Payne House. Not me. “You ain’t scared. It was your idea to come down here anyway, Johnny. So you go get it. It’s your ball anyway, you’re the one that’ll have to deep with the questions, to me.” I rationalize it as well as I can, and to his credit, Johnny admits knowing I am right. But the next look on his face, the crave, cowardly demeanor exuding from him made one thing clear: if he was going in, he wasn’t going in alone.

“Hurry up and come on. Let’s get out of here,” I say, pushing him out front. The fence screeches as soon as we open it, startling a group of crows that were resting in the tree closest to it. The long winding walkway seemed to stretch with every step. It was almost as if we weren’t supposed to make it to the front door. I’m even more terrified knowing nobody lives here than I would be if I thought somebody did. Mom said Nobody’s seen Mr. Payne since she was a kid, so it’s really just assumed he’s dead. That and this video on YouTube of a burial in his backyard. It’s old video, and they recorded from across the street, so you can’t make out any faces, even once the camera zooms in. But it’s hard to mistake a casket and wreaths. Nobody’s seen anyone in either of the yards since. Weeds and grass have pretty much taken over by now. Ivy covers the back gates, and “Do not Enter” signs still hang off the ones in front. It’s clear that the property is empty...but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels...heavy. Like someone’s presence is still existing there.

The ball is sitting up in a patch of grass, awaiting our arrival. I should’ve gotten to it first because Johnny, ever the prankster, chucks the ball at the front door, laughing hysterically. “Bro, why would you-“ I grab his arm then hear the thud of the ball hitting the front door. If I wasn’t outside in the open, I’d swear it echoed. Both of our eyes stayed glued to the door. Somebody’s in there, I thought. And we just woke him up. I don’t care how long it’s been sleep. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care who it is. We just woke it up. As you’d expect, moments later, the thud of the ball striking the door gives way to the screech of the door opening. To make matters worse, that screech was followed by the sound of the front gate rolling back into its locked position. We scramble towards the gate, finally reaching full speed after a number of strides. And, well...this wouldn’t be a story worth telling if we made it out, now, would it?

The closed gate means the only way out is this door that is open for the first time in decades. Whatever closed this gate is the only thing that can open it. Reality sets in as we start to make our way back up the ridiculously long walkway. That “weight” I felt walking on the way up? It feels like a ton of bricks now. “You know we’ve gotta go in there now. You know that’s the only way out,” I state solemnly. Johnny doesn’t even answer. Eyes fixed on the darkness behind the now open door, he just...nods and walks. The crows that were resting in the trees are now circling the house. Ominous...doesn’t even begin to describe it. All it was missing was a little bit of thunder and lightning, some rain and screams, and you’d have a helluva horror story.

“You go first.”

“Nah, you go first.”

“Just go first.”

“Are you kidding me? You threw it. You’re lucky I’m coming at all.”

He went first. Johnny knocks on the half open door, just to make sure whatever is on the other side is ready to kill us, I guess. When he says hello, it echoes through every story of the house. There seemed to be some movement in one of the top stories once he spoke, but we couldn’t make out what it was. The sound began making its way down the stairs, so we made our way down the stairs to the porch, and before we knew it, an even bigger flock of crows flew through the door, right at us. He screamed, I screamed, we both ran to the middle of the yard, crouching before they flew over head. Once they’re gone, we look up at each other and laugh, I guess both of us finding solace in the fact that the other was just as scared. In that moment, everything was okay, we didn’t even notice the door swinging back open or the darkness waiting for us behind it. It’s funny how laughter does that sometimes. Makes you forget how much danger you’re actually in. But once the laughing is done...once the joke is over...the minute you turn back around...you’re staring right at a figure standing in the darkness you’re heading straight into. An even darker...terrifying figure. A terrifying figure...made all the more terrifying. Because it’s staring at you.

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