What lurks in the darkness of a stormy night?
When the lights went out, she drove to town. The whole village was in the general store buying flashlights, batteries, oil lamps and fuel. She instead grabbed every candle she could get her small hands on. The thick tall ones she knew they were the best for warding; skinny tall ones which she liked because they melted quickly and could use the wax for sealing; and the thick short ones, she knew burned the brightest and longest, which she needed as the dark would not be her friend tonight. All the candles were thrown into the shopping basket she carried on her arm.
When she felt the weight of the basket cutting into her arm she grabbed a couple boxes of matches and rushed to the checkout. She was quickly wrung through, hearing the loud humming of the generators that were powering the registers, working over-time for the mass of people she saw that she knew were as unprepared as her, though she also knew for entirely different reasons. Grabbing the receipt and jamming it into her pocket, Ava stuffed the bag of candles and matches inside her coat and pulling up her hood made her way out of the store. She pushed her way through the people rushing into the store and braced herself against the rain as she made her way to her truck parked at the far end of the lot.
'Shit,' she thought as the thunder boomed and the wind whipped the rain around, driving as quickly as she dared in the waterlogged roads. Pulling into her driveway Ava leaped from her truck, her bag of candles and matches in her arms, and raced to her front porch. She wrestled her house-keys from her pocket, making sure the candles and matches didn’t get wet from the rain pouring down. Jamming her freed key into the lock she pushed open her door, and after stepping inside, slammed the door shut and slid the lock home.
Dropping her bag of candles to the floor she grabbed two of the tall fat ones and placing one at each corner of the door lit them. Ava gathered more of the large candles and going window to window placed one candle in the middle of the window and lit it. Once she had illuminated every window in the house with a solitary candle, she grabbed the rest of her candles and matches from the beside the front-door and her way to the parlour. Lightning flashed, lighting up the room and casting shadows, which Ava was sure she saw moving in a way she knew shadows shouldn't move. Grabbing the last of her thick warding candles she lined them across the doorway, lighting them and creating what appeared to be a wall of candlelight. She saw the lightning flash outside through the window and then heard and felt the thunder boom. Ava felt it rattling the walls of the house and heard the sound travel down the chimney to the fireplace that sat in the corner of the room. She moved from the doorway to the table that sat in the corner, bringing her bag of candles with her. Pulling out the shortest of the candles she set them as a cluster onto the table and lit them, lighting the room. She watched as the shadows cast by the candlelight seemingly danced across the wall. Ava drew in a quick breath as she saw the shadows appear to swell and grow taller up the wall and suddenly rush down the wall, past her feet, and across the floor to the hearth of the chimney. As she watched to shadows disappear into the fireplace, Ava felt her heart stop. She stared blankly at the mouth of the fireplace, where no light flickered or quivered, just a gaping, hollow darkness.
"There…There isn’t…I didn’t…No candle," raced across her mind, willing herself to remember lighting a fire, a candle, a match or anything, in the fireplace, anything to disrupt the darkness. The darkness that was beginning to shift and move within the fireplace, a tangled and gyrating mass. She watched, transfixed, as the shadows slowly seeped out of the fireplace, slithering languidly across the floor. She heard it then, a rumbling laugh, tumbling from the mouth of the fireplace, chased by a sultry baritone.
“Miss me, darling?” The voice spilled into the open space of the room, cocooning Ava in a cold blanket of dread, apprehension lapping at her feet. A low whistle cut through the room, setting the disks of Ava’s spine to lock, her entire being focused on the hearth of the fire and the voice that tumbled forth. “Come now, darling. We haven’t spoken in many a year, yet you have nothing to say? Poor, poor manners, my Sweetling,” the voice cajoled, teasing, but with a detectable undercurrent of displeasure boiling beneath its smooth veneer, holding promises to insidious to speak aloud, but guaranteed the worse was yet to come.