The dark

In the lowness, in the depths, where blind things sleep and limbless forms slink palely through the shallows: this is where the light does not willingly venture. The light is a friend of open spaces, airy places, the tops of things. In plumbous silence, the light is afraid.

Things are clearer in the dark. There is no glare to blind you, no being watched to guide and bind you. In the dark colours are defunct; the myth of beauty is debunked. When water falls it is the rain of lost ages, millennia easing through rock, hard with history and bone.

The dark horse

It stood by the side of the road, not rocking. There was dust in its hair and a crisp packet under one hoof.

The children were not allowed to play on it. It had appeared in the night and no-one knew where it had been. It stayed for four mornings; by the fifth it was gone.

Philip, who had never been entirely normal, missed it more than most. His bedroom window was next to the tree; he had visited the horse under cover of darkness. That was the summer, his mother always said, when Philip finally lost touch with reality.

The sound

This was what terror felt like, then. Through the thick blackness the sound forced its way, popping to the surface by their ears in great damp dark dank bubbles.

It was a bit like snakes, if snakes had countless tiny gnarled legs and torn papery wings and could run and swim and climb and fly and go wherever you could, and know where you would be going and get there first and be waiting on the safest branch and in the snuggest crevice and whisper in countless unknown tongues, except you knew what they meant and they never meant well.

The moment

The forest was dark and there was howling behind every tree. They followed the signs as far as they could, but after the clearing where the axe split the rotting stump there were no more, or else they had been covered by leaves and damp shadows. So it was they came to be there when she returned, and spun the underwater light into a gossamer trapping, and caught them in the moment, and let the moss and the moths and the wolves and the forest creak and growl and grow around them until the next children came to find her.

The charming man

The charming man sat opposite her. He wore a snakeskin hat and a suede shirt.

She tried to talk. He shook his head. The engine was too loud. She tore a corner from his newspaper and wrote her name on the scrap. He smiled a closed smile.

She liked his eyes. All too soon, they arrived. He reached down her bag, held the door for her.

On the platform, her lips extended a goodbye and an invitation. He smiled a wide smile and every dark thing that had ever lived came whistling through the tunnel where his tongue was not.