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The Darkness

By Curtis Grace


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The stillness of the room brought her to consciousness. Children were not screaming outside at the bus stop. The slow, bass – laced rhythms no longer emerged from her boom box. The buzz of the fluorescent black light lamps no longer mixed with the pouring rain outside. The candy red numbers of her alarm clock were now absent.

            As she opened her eyes, she checked twice to make sure she had actually opened them, for she found no differences in the world where her eyes were shut, and the world where her eyes were wide open. Her eyes darted across her room, hopelessly searching for a reflection of light with which to interpret as color in the seventeen year old girl’s brain.

            She sat up and cautiously swung her legs out from under her sheets. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she stared out the window she had left open the night before. Yet there was only darkness. Very cautiously, she set her feet down on her floor, and shuffled across the room to the light switch next to the door. Her thumb pressed upward on the thin plastic lever, yet the light bulbs in her light fixture stayed dark.

            Katie shook her head.

            “I’ll bet it’s like one o’clock in the morning and the power is out,” she whispered, trying desperately to believe it.

            Remembering the pocket flashlight in her purse, she reached for the door handle and lifted the leather strap of her purse. After searching through it, she removed the flashlight, held her breath, and turned it on.

            Nothing. The thin metal tube only felt awkward to her hands and she quickly replaced it in her purse. Sensing something was wrong, she opened her door and ventured into the hallway. Her hands went straight to the walls feeling along at waist level until they touched hard, smooth wood. Grasping the handrails, she began to descend the steps.

            At the bottom, Katie carefully turned around the stairs and once again brought her hands to the walls. Her feet shuffled across the carpet, searching for objects at her feet that could possibly lead to an accident.

            A sudden, sharp pain originated in her forehead and matched up with a satisfying smack as Katie walked into the laundry room door. Down the hall, in the living room, she could hear her mother.

            “Katie! Close that door so no one else runs into it!”

            Clutching her forehead, Katie obeyed, muttering something about someone else deserving to walk into a door.

            “Katie, we’re all on the couch.” Her father’s deep, scratchy voice came to her from across the living room. Katie shuffled over until she felt the edge of the couch at her toes.

            “What’s going on? Am I gone blind, or can you guys not see either?” asked Katie sitting down.

            “Not since midnight. At midnight the electricity went out and the sun still hasn’t come out,” explained her mother.

            “What time is it now?” Katie felt her wrist, realizing her watch was still upstairs.       “I don’t know, but I’d guess around 9:00 AM,” replied her father, just to her right.

            “The watches don’t work.” Katie’s little sister Tracy gave her input.

            “Yeah, my flashlight didn’t work either,” said Katie.

            The family sat in complete silence for nearly an hour, listening to nothing yet yearning for the sounds they had once taken for granted. The hum of the family computer, the high-pitched hiss of the television, the deep hum of the refrigerator, they were all gone, replaced by dead, cold, silence.

            The tranquil silence was broken by a knock on their door. The four jumped at the sound.

            “Who’s out and about at a time like this?” asked Katie’s father, as he stood to answer the door.

            As he slowly made his way to the front door, Katie rose and approached the back door, the one that led to the back porch. She fumbled for the doorknob until her fingers closed around the cold metal. She turned the knob and pulled the door open.

            Stepping out into the unbelievably warm air, her eyes immediately went to the sky, where she anxiously awaited the arrival of the sun. But there was nothing. The sky outside was as dark as the house. She could hear the wind blowing, and she could feel the slight breeze. But she couldn’t see the trees bending slightly to the will of the gust. Disappointed, she returned to the house, closing the door slowly behind her.

            “Katie, that was the school guidance counselor. There’s no school until they can find enough brail-readers to help the teachers. And since there’s no way they’re going to, I’d plan on not going,” said her father, as he slowly retreated back down the hallway.

            She shrugged her shoulders. School meant nothing to her except a place to further her education. She had friends, but she allowed no one close to her, close enough to become attached, at least. She wanted to go far away after high school and wanted no regrets about leaving people behind

            “Daddy? What can we do if we can’t see?” asked Tracy, seven years old.

            “I don’t know. We’ll make something of it.”

            “I’m going for a walk,” announced Katie, standing.

            Her father laughed, her sister giggled, but her mother remained silent. When Katie didn’t join in the laughing, her father stopped.

            “Wait. You’re serious? You can’t be. You couldn’t see a fly if it was in your eye. You can’t go for a walk.” His tone was very stern and serious.

            “I’m not going far, just to the end of the court and back a few times. I’m never out of hearing range, and if I get lost, I’ll just yell. You can yell back, and I’ll know which way to go.” She paused, waiting for his permission.

            “Be careful,” was all he had to say. His fear of his daughter wandering in the darkness was countered by the revelation that no one would be able to see her.

            Katie smiled and shuffled her way to the front door, where she knelt down and put her shoes on. As she stood and reached for the door, she had a sudden impulse to bring her purse. But the purse was all the way up the stairs. So she opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

            She found it quite easy to navigate the sidewalk. Every three or so feet, she would feel her feet scrape across a crack. If she started to go off the sidewalk, the soft grass, greatly contrasted with the hard concrete, let her know to adjust her angle. The breeze still blew across the black landscape, warm and comforting. It was like no breeze she had ever felt.

            “Ouch!” She reeled back in pain, grabbing her shin. She had become too confident in her walking, and just when her speed was almost normal, she hit the corner of the small bench.

            Deciding a break was worth the effort she had put forth to walk a quarter mile, she sat down and leaned against the back of the bench, turning her head towards the sky. She still saw nothing except the pure, consuming darkness that enveloped her life. She knew there was a sky there.

            “It’s crazy, isn’t it?” came a voice.

            Katie leaped off the bench.

            “Oh, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry, please, sit back down. I won’t hurt you or anything. I’m just here, trying to experience this phenomenon first hand.”

            Katie hesitated, and then retook her position on the bench. She could now feel the vibrations of the stranger’s breathing through the wood of the bench. He sounded young, likely around her age. Yet she didn’t recognize the voice.

            “I’m Katie.” She waited for an answer.

            “I’m Robert.”

            Neither of them dared to mutter another word. The warm breeze died down, and the entire world was suddenly silent. She could hear her own heartbeat.

            “How old are you, Robert?”

            “I’m 17. How about you?”

            “I’m 17 too! Wow. What a coincidence. What school do you go to?” asked Katie.

            “I’m home schooled.”

            “Oh. That stinks. I bet you still have to go to school then, don’t you.” Katie laughed, trying to lighten the conversation.

            But there was no response. The warm breeze once again fired up, blowing across the black landscape, enveloping her in a blanket of warmth and security. The darkness that engulfed felt soothing.

            “So, what do you like to do?” she asked, earnestly trying to continue the conversation.

            But before he could respond, Katie heard the familiar call of her mother, beckoning her to return. She stood, and as she turned away, he spoke.

            “You’re beautiful. I can tell.”

            She froze.

            “You speak so well, and your movements are so controlled and perfect. And you have a terrific laugh. I’m honored to meet you, Katie.”

            She was completely taken aback by his unprovoked compliments. She was, by most boys’ standards, beautiful. However, she was also considered the most unattainable. And the compliments from this complete stranger, who could see nothing, made her blush.

            Her mother’s yell once again reached her ears through the darkness.

            “Thank you, Robert. Do you want to meet again? Say tomorrow?”

            “How are we going to know when to meet? None of the clocks work. But, if you’re willing to actually meet me again, my house is directly across the street from this bench. If you can walk a straight line from the bench, you will run into my house.”

            Katie quickly considered it, and without hesitating said yes. She ten turned and shuffled down the sidewalk, yelling back to her mother.


An entire day of the darkness had passed, with citizens only going to sleep when their eyes were too tired to stay open. There were no clocks, no electricity, and no telephones. Even battery-powered appliances failed. There was no knowledge of how widespread the incident was, because all lines of communication were voided by the lack of electricity and the blackness that consumed the town.

Katie stood, with the back of her calves resting against the aging planks of the bench, facing in the direction of what was supposed to be Robert’s house. The warm breeze once again swept across her, comforting her. She stepped away from the bench.

She walked very slowly, one foot directly in front of the other. She desperately tried to stay in a straight line as she stepped out of the grass, and off the curb. Instinct pulled at her to look both ways before crossing, yet her common sense reassured her that there would be no cars on the roads.

As she traversed the road, she tried to imagine how far it was to the other side, and she counted the steps for future reference. After 30 foot lengths, her toe jammed across the solid concrete curb, indicating that she had successfully crossed the street. Continuing on, she crossed the narrow strip of grass before coming to the sidewalk on the other side, and then emerging in a front yard.

“You made it!” came Robert’s voice from the front porch.

“How did you know I was here?”

“I heard you step onto the concrete. Your shoes are really loud.”

As he said that, she suddenly realized she was wearing her father’s tennis shoes, which were quite large on her feet, and would explain why they were loud on the concrete.

“Oh. You’re pretty attentive. Wait, have you been sitting on this porch waiting for me?” She could hardly believe that he had waited, not knowing when she was going to show up.

“Yeah, I don’t have anything else to do. My brother is in my room, asleep on my bed, and my parents have turned the living room into a big gathering area. We’re having neighbors over or something. That’ll be wild,” he said, relaxed.

She concentrated on finding the sidewalk that led to his porch. Instead, her foot sunk in deep mulch as she stepped into his mother’s flowerbed. She muttered a silent curse under her breath, and slowly backed out of the thick mulch. When she again stood on grass, she turned parallel to what she assumed to be the porch. She soon stumbled upon the wooden bottom step, and reaching for the handrail, pulled herself onto the deck.

“What’d you do, run into the flower bed?” He laughed lightly.

“Yeah, I kinda couldn’t see it. But hey, I made it.”

Robert chuckled again. “Yeah, that you did.”

“So, have you heard anything about this blackout, or whatever it is?” asked Katie.

“No, nothing. It’s really weird. Here, if you follow my voice you’ll run into a swinging chair. I’d hate to make you stand.”

Katie obeyed, and sure enough, she soon ran into a porch swing. Putting her hand down to steady it, she took a seat. The supports that held the chair creaked, yet remained strong as she rocked back and forth.

“So, Katie, tell me something. You’re a senior, right? I’m just guessing, but it is fall, and if you’re seventeen and a junior, well, you are a senior, right?” Robert seemed uncomfortable and unsure of himself as he asked.

“Yeah, I’m a senior. Thank everything holy. I hate high school.” Katie was very passionate about not wanting to be in school.

“What kind of things do you do? Are you in any sports or anything?” he asked.

“Well, I’m in National Honor Society, and I’m the President. But other than that, I don’t really do anything else. I enjoy running, but I could never run track or anything.”

“I’ll bet you never even tried to run on a team. I think you could do really well, especially if you enjoy it.” The sincerity in his voice stunned Katie. This guy really cared.

“Why? What do you do?” she asked.

“I run too. I do road races here and there, so I try to simulate track and cross country, but I doubt it’s the same. And you can join a team. I have to train on my own. But anyway. Why aren’t you involved in anything? You have so many opportunities.”

“Yeah, but I hate high school. There’s nothing good about it. Trust me; you aren’t missing out on anything.” Once again her hostility towards school was very apparent.

“How about your friends? Do they do anything?” He was approaching the root ideas that Katie held dear.

“Well, no, not really. You see, I don’t have my very own group of friends. I mean, I have lots of friends, and I hang out with them a lot, but I don’t have anyone that I could tell anything to.” As she spoke, she realized that she was at that very moment spilling her guts to almost a complete stranger.

Robert had no comment, and could follow up with no immediate question. Her response was completely the opposite of what he had expected. She was not the social party animal. She was the introvert who disguised herself as an extrovert.

“Why?” He finally found his voice.

“Well, I really want to go far away. And if I’m attached to someone, or a whole bunch of people, I’m going to have a hard time leaving. And I’ll never be successful in life if I’m attached to people I’ll know for only four years.”

“But you have no best friend? You can’t confide anything in anyone? How do you handle things?” His voice grew concerned and curious.

“I guess not. I just deal with it myself. It’s not that hard. So anyway.” She yearned to change the subject.

There was a long silence. The creaking of the chair was rhythmic, and the warm breeze slowly floated onto the porch, seemingly wrapping Katie in its warmth.

“How are you handling this whole thing?” she asked, definitely changing the subject.

And so, for another hour, they sat on his front porch, discussing the blackout, and throwing out wild theories. Katie felt comforted by his smooth, nervous voice. And she honestly treasured every minute, and dreaded returning to the quiet house down the street. That warm breeze blew continuously across her as she talked with Robert, and she came to appreciate its comfort. But soon, a distinctive voice reached across the blackness and reached her ears. It was Katie’s mother, and it was time for her to go home.

As she stood to leave, Robert called to her.

“Do you want to meet again? Tomorrow?”

Katie hesitated slightly for effect, yet answered instantly in her head. She loved the company, and Robert wasn’t such a bad guy to hang around either.

“Yeah, I’ll be here. You don’t have to wait for me though. I can knock.” She replied.

And so she started down the trio of wooden steps leading from the wooden porch. She turned onto the sidewalk, and crossed the street.


The darkness continued. And it persisted for nearly two weeks. Across this time, Katie made daily trips to visit Robert, and with each visit left with a greater appreciation for him than when she left. By the time a week and a half had progressed, she made a startling realization.

She had fallen for him. His calm, yet nervous demeanor and his soothing voice filled her head, and she found herself thinking about him at night, as she lay in her bed. Not once had she actually looked at him, yet her thoughts bent around him.

At the same time that she realized it, she realized it went against everything she had planned. She had promised herself that she would never get close to a guy in high school. She planned to meet someone in college, or after college. But Katie found that her previous outlook could not erase the newfound feelings for this boy she had never even seen.

She sat next to him on his porch swing, her head resting on his shoulders. She could faintly hear his heartbeat as they sat there, completely motionless and still. 13 days had passed of darkness.

“Robert?” She sat up slowly.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Remember what I told you, the first time I visited your house? About how I would never let anyone close to me?” She listened earnestly for his response.

After a few seconds, he responded. “Yeah, more or less. Why?”

“I lied.”

She brought her hand slowly up to his face, and placed a kiss firmly in his lips, then pulled back.

“I don’t deserve that,” he said.

“But you do. You’re so kind and understanding.”

“Promise me something.” Robert became very stiff and serious.


“Never hold back from getting to know someone because of what your plans are for the future. You only get to be seventeen once. There’ll be a time to be serious, and dedicated, and on task. But that’s later. Promise me that you’ll make at least one friend that you can confide in, and that you can consider your best friend.” His voice quavered as he spoke, and his muscles tightened. Katie could feel his reaction.

“But I already do. I found you.” She didn’t understand what he was saying.

“Promise me. Promise me and you will see.”

Katie pulled her hand away from his shoulder. She didn’t quite understand why he was saying what he was saying, but she agreed with him.

“I promise that I will enjoy my last year of high school, and I will make a best friend.”

“Good. Now close your eyes.”

Katie laughed.

“Are you serious? You know I can’t see anyway.” She continued laughing.

“Please, just do it. Close your eyes, count to three, blink twice, and you will see.”

Katie shook her head and closed her eyes. She counted to three in her head, and then blinked twice.


The blast of light entered her retina and expanded, leaving a bright red imprint, which slowly faded. She could distinguish several figures, all dark blurs against a slowly focusing, white background. They all hovered near her, seemingly staring at her.

She began to interpret the image before her. There were four people standing over her, and she was lying down. The bright background was illuminated by fluorescent light bulbs, and she was definitely not on a porch. She could hear a steady beeping noise, and instantly realized it matched the beating of her heart.

“Where am I?” The words barely escaped her lips, and it seemed to her that she had not used her voice in years.

As the image focused, she could distinguish her parents, a woman in a blue shirt, and a man in a white coat.

“You’re in the hospital. You have been for two weeks now. We found you unconscious but still breathing in your bed, and we took you here. You’ve been in a deep coma.” Her father touched her forehead as he spoke.

“We don’t quite know why you went into your coma, but we’re looking into possibilities now,” said the doctor, removing his stethoscope to check her out.

“When did the darkness lift? How long has it been?” Katie asked her second question.

“What darkness?” replied the nurse.

Katie realized. There had been no darkness. She had been in such a deep coma, that she had dreamed the most elaborate and eloquent dream imaginable. A dream where there was a perfect sense of time. She had been in a coma for two weeks. The darkness had lasted two weeks, although there was no exact time frame.

“Oh! I almost forgot. This nice young man sent you flowers last week, and he told me to give you this card.” Her mother handed her an unopened greeting card, still in the envelope.

Katie tore open the envelope and removed the card. On the inside was the simplest of messages: “You Promised ---Robert”.



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