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Reaching from the Silence

For Kenny Penn’s Gothic Stories Community Challenge

By Stephen A. RoddewigPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Reaching from the Silence
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

At long last, I thought, locking the door to the house behind me. At long last we’ll get to the bottom of this little issue.

Seizing a bottle of Lagavulin scotch from the kitchen, I paced down the hallway. Throughout the years, I had encountered numerous philosophies and their creators who claimed to understand the inner machinations of life. But all these explanations fell apart before the concept of subjectivity, that petulant objection that all knowledge must make sense through the lens of one’s own personal experience.

I swept through the door to the study, locking that as well. Only whisky would accompany me; all else would be distractions from the task at hand.

Settling down at the oaken desk, I took one moment to survey my surroundings. The window shades were drawn, and the spines of countless books stared down from every direction. I lit the oil lamp, letting their brown and green covers soak in the dim light.

“I will not leave this room until I have captured the very meaning of life itself,” I declared to the authors of these tomes. Speaking out loud sealed the declaration.

As I lifted an ink pen, I spread the tools of my investigation before me. Blank paper, sheets of it, the same place that these thinkers and philosophers had started when they first committed their insights to writing. Where they had tried before to find the single answer, I would now succeed.

One swallow of scotch started to channel the thoughts. Subjectivity suggested that there could be more than one answer to the same question, that perspective ruled all else. Yet I knew there were deeper currents at play, one objective truth. Something bound us together in ways no one has yet to understand, let alone capture.

I wrote out the question at the heart of the matter: What ties us all together?

Another swallow of scotch, and now the pen was moving. These invisible bonds were universal, so it then stood to reason that any man could uncover them if he dove deep enough. Like a code hidden among an ordinary letter, there for anyone to see, yet hidden all the same.

Deeper, I exhorted myself as I paused to inspect my first lines, reaching for the Lagavulin. Deeper.

Wiping away sweat from my brow, I moved to look over the newest lines when the inkwell overturned, smothering the sheet in black. My finger started tracing words in the liquid, leaving lines of light between the dark: Turn back.

The message gave me pause. I had not willed myself to write it; it had simply happened, as if guided by an invisible hand—or an unseen force!

I leaped back into the task with renewed vigor, taking another draught of scotch to dull the ache in my writing hand. I found new thoughts entering my head, ones that had never occurred before. The unfamiliar voice, the unknown source: all convinced me I had tapped into the long-prospected vein. I committed the words straight to paper, worried any forethought might block the spring.

Progressively, a black wave swept over my mind, then my eyes.


When I awoke, the sunlight had snuck through the drapes and stabbed at my eyes. I sat up, finding myself on the floor amid a pile of paper. The next thing I felt was a stabbing pain in my left hand. Scabs had covered over a massive slash through the palm, as if I had turned the fountain pen upon myself.

I stood up, grabbing the closest sheet of paper with my good hand. I inhaled sharply as I read its contents: Fear, written out hundreds of times. Quick examination of other pages found similar ravings.

Dropping these sheets, I found a new message written in red and brown curving across the green carpet.

The Unknown—and our fear of it.

This, I knew, even as I hoped that the message would vanish from sight with each blink of my eyes, was the horrible answer to my question. The death of subjectivity and objectivity. In my arrogance, I had granted permission, and something had reached out to take it.

Even after I burned the carpet, the pages, the table, and the fountain pen that had given voice to this dark entity, the words stayed with me.


Originally published in Diet Milk Magazine’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” series (December 2022) and more recently featured in It's All In My Mind, a collection of short psychological thrillers from Culture Cult (October 2023).

You can read up on Kenny’s Gothic Stories challenge here:


About the Creator

Stephen A. Roddewig

I am an award-winning author from Arlington, Virginia. Started with short stories, moved to novels.

...and on that note: A Bloody Business is now live! More details.

Proud member of the Horror Writers Association 🐦‍⬛


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Comments (4)

  • Novel Allen19 days ago

    We better be careful when we open doors, never know what will come answering. Fear is a great place to start. What does that unknown hold?

  • Hannah Moore19 days ago

    It all comes back to fear.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)26 days ago

    Are not all authors/ writers philosophers to some extent?? We write fiction to relax and entice the mind to come to terms with matters of life and the mind, occasionally things we can't rightly grasp in consciousness. This was a great story! It was thought provoking, tense and so well written Stephen!! Also, I'm noticing Lagavulin seems to be a favourite of yours!! Or at least you character... well chosen scotch if I do say so myself.

  • Kenny Pennabout a month ago

    Just as good the second time, Stephen!

Stephen A. RoddewigWritten by Stephen A. Roddewig

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