Short Story | ‘The Presence’ by A.A. Trivedi, Illustration by Delilah Buckle
He feels particularly on edge tonight, as he sits rigidly in his mahogany chair. Moonlight falls in a bold stripe across the faded rug in the middle of the living room. The windows are closed but the curtains were drawn carelessly, as somewhat of a hurried afterthought. The silver ray of light that has crept into the room is unwelcome and belongs to a world he wants to leave outside and keep at a safe distance. Tonight of all nights, he can sense the evil presence very clearly as it lingers right outside his door and menacingly threatens to invade.
He nervously looks around and hopes the old structure of his house will provide shelter from the storm that is sure to rage outside. It all looks very calm now but it never takes long to change, he thinks. In fact stillness always sets the stage for mayhem. True to his thoughts, a wind picks up and he hears it howl through the trees nearby.
He hates the darkness and has done since he was a child. His breathing is quickening too and he doesn’t notice the whitening of his knuckles and the coldness of his hands, as he tightly grips the wooden arms of the chair. Holding on for all he’s worth. His mind alternates between an array of panic brought on by involuntary flashbacks of unpleasant memories and pure white noise. He can’t decide which one is less disturbing. He hears a pack of wild dogs intermittently barking somewhere outside. Not again…not this time… he mumbles under his breath, as if his words are the final defense he chooses to invoke against what seems inevitable. The invasion has begun and within himself, he has already made peace that it was over as soon as it began – the moment the light from the full moon found its way into his house. The world outside could not be shut out and now, with the ominous path that has been lit by that glow, he knows he won’t be safe for much longer.
He closes his eyes in a desperate attempt to save the last bit of himself the real light within him before it too, gets snuffed by the darkness. The waves of unpleasant memories that were washing in and out of his head have already faded away and become lost to the darkness forever. His thoughts have been drowned out by the white noise that has possessed him.
Suddenly, he rises from the chair and starts pacing up and down the room. A few minutes pass without incident and then a few more. If he can just hold out and keep his cover he thinks, maybe just maybe, the evil presence that has preyed on him for so long will recede without claiming him. His breathing relaxes a fraction. His pacing seems to help in calming him down. Perhaps it is his fear that marks him out each time and makes his whereabouts known? He decides that he can and will prevail as long as he continues to fight his fear.
The wild dogs have stopped barking and the wind is dying down too. He smiles slightly, more sure than ever before of his own inner strength. He cannot believe that all this time, nights like tonight have bothered, nay, petrified him. Shaking his head, he goes over to the big bay window and pulls back the curtains. He vows silently, that he will face whatever lies outside with his newly-found courage. He peers through the glass. There is no movement outside and all is back to its normal, quiet state. He notes how peaceful everything looks in the light of the moon. His longstanding foe has withdrawn without a trace.
He is just about to close the curtains again and retire for the night when he sees the beast.
His own reflection stares defiantly back at him from the glass pane. His eyes are hungry and his fangs viciously bared. He looks up at the moon and howls into the night, knowing it is time to feed again…
Illustration by: Delilah Buckle