The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 1

by Mark Figueroa | Featured Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen

Chapter 1: The whole me.

The first anniversary of Aiven’s death was a month ago. Since then, I’ve been seeing the shadows again. Tonight isn’t any different. A chuckle vibrates the foot of my bed. I pull my covers over my head, but their beady eyes penetrate my multilayered, cotton shield. I sit up, pressing my back against my headboard, watching the shadows in the corners of my room chanting, “Gaht. Ill se komt Gaht. Gaht!”

It’s getting difficult to breathe. I look out the window, several feet from the foot of my bed. If I can avoid the chuckling mannequin, then I’ll be fine. I made the mistake of locking eyes with one a few days ago; it was like falling out of existence. I was in a gray, formless place. Getting out of there damn near cost me my entire forearm.

The light from the window fades. A pair of glowing eyes tiptoes out of the corner and pauses at the foot of my bed. Fear strangles me. It wants me to make another mistake. “Are you there, God?” It whispers.

Why do I want to say yes? My heart pounds against my ribs.

I try lying down and ignoring it, but I’m too scared to close my eyes. Fuck! Why is my room getting darker? Get a grip, Emery. This is a dream. “It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real!” I blurt out. My body shakes uncontrollably. There are so many of them and their whispers are growing more forceful. “Mom!” I call, to no avail. I glance around the room. Silhouettes block portions of my desk, bookcase, and the indirectly-lit walls.

This isn’t happening.

They aren’t real.

This isn’t real.

“Just stare at the street light outside the window, Emery! Come on, focus!” I shout. Jesus, why am I talking to myself? It never helps! Maybe if—I grab my left forearm and feel the scars written across it. I press my arm to my mouth. Wait! What am I thinking! I’m not going to do that this time!

I study the cone of the streetlight’s glow. At the base of the cone is a perfect, pale-yellow circle illuminating a piece of asphalt and concrete. I have to keep staring at that circle, no matter wha—“What the…” I spit out.

Arms reach up through the concrete; they push down against the ground and raise a head between them. Time crawls like the cool sweat trickling down my face. Fuck, the streetlight is getting dim! “Shit!” I’ve been staring directly at the creature this whole time. I can’t—Shit! Our eyes lock before I can look away. My chest burns. I hold back a smile that doesn’t belong to me. It manages to force its way across my face. The darkness inside of me—it’s calling out to the shadows.

The streetlight flickers and the mannequin vanishes. Oh crap! A heavy, mournful groan shakes the edge of my mattress. The chuckling monstrosity bangs its head against my bed frame. More entities appear in the corners of my room. “Do you see us, Gaht? Does Gaht see you, human?” a woman says softly.

It’s getting darker. Their eyes are brighter. I’m floating! Dammit! I can’t move. “Raaaagh!”

“An offering, Gaht,” a girl whispers. Her small silhouette is visible in the darkness.

I force my paralyzed body to jolt forward. Ice stabs my spine. The girl waves her hand. Thud! My back slams against the headboard. The air is thick. Invisible assailants restrain me. They’re all pulling in different directions! They’re going to kill me!

A black bubble rolls out from the ceiling. Two white beads look down at me. “Gaht?” It asks, piercing my eardrums.

I yank the sheets back over my head, momentarily releasing the shadows’ hold on me.

“Do not forsaken us!” A man roars, ripping the comforter from my drenched palms.

“Aemon!” the shadowy men, women and children whisper in unison.

My body is shaking! “Eeerght!” Small hands squeeze my esophagus until my throat presses against my spine.

“You do not possess him. He possesses you!” the shadows wail. “Take me, Gaht! Gaht, Aemon!” Individual voices beg from all around.

Holy shit! I can see the girl choking me: she’s a black, porcelain mannequin. She tilts her head. Beady white pupils expand in her black corneas. “Gaht!” She yells. Her mouth doesn’t move when she talks. Light specks pulsate beneath her dark, glass-like skin. It’s like staring into the cosmos: stars, galaxies and supernovas trace her body. Her small hands slide into my neck. Her body—it’s sinking into me!

I feel heavy, sick and sluggish and struggle to sit up. My disoriented body wafts from side to side. If this keeps up, I’m gonna’ throw up.

More mannequins with brilliant skin fill my room. It’s pitch black, but I can see their stars and beady eyes. I place a hand on the center of my chest.

I feel it. Time is going to skip.

I yank my left arm and brace myself. I can’t let this happen! “Raaagh!” I clamp my teeth into my forearm. Invisible forces pin me down. A gray orb rises from my solar plexus. The mannequins begin disintegrating; their particles swirl into the orb.

My eyes… I feel so… Heavy…I’m fading. Am I going to—

“Emery! Hang on!”

“G-Aiven?” I stutter.

I pull myself back from the darkness.

A large black dog with cerulean eyes sits on my bed, just below my feet. Light surrounds his body.

“Aiven?” I utter weakly.

A ghostly image of Aiven places its hand on a remaining mannequin’s head. Bright blue light blinds me. My head hits the pillow.

I spike up, clutching my chest. My eyes are so wide they burn. I look up: a gray, empty sky.

I glance down: infinite gray. “Aemon?” I regurgitate. Darkness swallows me.

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