Aphelion Issue 240, Volume 23
June 2019
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First There was Darkness

by Susan Anwin

Then there was darkness some more, but now there was also light, small and fluttering, like candlelight, but gradually getting stronger. I was lying at the bottom of a staircase. I had no memories of how I got there. Around me there was only darkness and the howling wind and things moving in that darkness, so I quickly scrambled up those steps.

A lifetime later, the scramble slowed to a crawl and I was still nowhere near the top, but at least now I could vaguely make out a structure at the summit, perhaps a gate, outlined by the silent flashes that occasionally lit up the blanket of storm clouds above it. Or maybe I'd better say around it.

As I dragged on my aching limbs I had flashes of a life gone by, faces, events, family, friends, enemies, and lovers. I watched them come up and greet me with every new step, and wave me goodbye as I climbed on.

I did reach that gate eventually, ornate with carvings of unnamable beasts. Things I didn't want to contemplate closely circled above it among the laden clouds.

There was a crack like thunder, and the colossal wings of the gate opened just a sliver. I was blinded by a flood of white light.

As the gap widened and my eyes adjusted, I could make out a hall beyond. Each table was as high as a mountain, each chair leg a giant pinetree and the beings sitting around those tables… my first instinct was to flee, lest I draw the attention of those cyclopean creatures to me and be squashed like a flea… the only problem with that plan was that they were already watching me. I was dwarfed even further under the weight of their unified glare.

I glanced behind me, but the stairs were gone; there was nothing behind me but the all too alive darkness. The Old Ones were watching as I crept along the floorboards. As I did, I noticed the one sitting on the right of the old geezer in the middle, and then it all clicked in place. I was here to see him, he was the one I came here for, the one I was waiting for, the one waiting, sprawling in his seat in all his glowing glory, with that irritating smirk on his face so familiar from my dreams.

Who are you? his voice was a whisper in my thoughts.

Behind the mirage of the handsome youth I saw his true face; a coiling black wyrm with flaming eyes and nostrils and a blazing mane. I reached out to him and the fire came roaring, burning up my world, devouring the life I left behind, and after it died down I answered him loud and clear; "I am you."

One moment my uplifted, beseeching hands were empty, the next I was grabbing swords glowing white-hot, yet curiously not burning my hand.

When I looked back up there he was in front of me, tall, but not a giant like the others, pointing a sword of his own at my throat. "Dance with me then."

I replied to his smirk with one of my own. "Isn't that what I've been doing my whole life?"

2018 Susan Anwin

Susan Anwin was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. Her flash-fiction "Talk of Armadale trees" was featured in the anthology My Favourite Place, published by the Scottish Book Trust in 2012. Her short stories "Fog-People", "Eddie's Lousy Saturday", "You'll die as fish", "People of the Green Cloud", "Dragonfly-man", "Daddy is Driving the Car", "Soul for Sale", "Dark Sister" and "The Man Who Broke Time" were published by Aphelion in 2016 and 2017.

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