A is for Achluophobia, the Fear of Darkness

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The sounds of the forest slowly blossomed in her ears.  Crickets chirped.  Frogs croaked.  The wind ruffled the newly uncovered Spring leaves, sending them skittering over the ground.  Flies buzzed.  A faint scent of copper, musk, and fur hung in the chilly air.

She bowed her head forward, feebly lifting her hand to meet it, and gasped as pain arced through her body.  She held her breath until the pain eased, squeezing her eyes closed, and ran shaking fingers through her hair.  It was only when she felt the sticky wetness that she noticed the tang of blood on her tongue.

“What happened?” she croaked.  She forced her eyelids–suddenly heavy and unresponsive–open, managing only the barest of gaps through which she could examine her hand, and saw…

Darkness.

Her eyes flew open.  “No.  No,” she babbled.  “It wasn’t even dusk.  It couldn’t be… I was almost home!”  As she became more awake, memories flooded through her.  In a flash, she recalled her hasty, last-minute trip to the store and her relief that she would be home before… She ground her teeth together, unwilling to even think the word.  Then she remembered the streak of tan from the right, the jarring thunk, and her own scream before she could recall no more.

She swallowed, the blood in her mouth mingling with bile as it entered her stomach, and opened her eyes wider.  Shapes swam into view, misshapen and ominous, pressing in close to her.  She clamped her eyes shut again.  “Breathe, Lorene,” she reminded herself.  “Just like Dr. Saunders showed you.”  She tried to ignore the sharp ache in her chest, the thick pounding in her head, the terrifying absence of any sensation at all below her waist, and inhaled, counting steadily.

Inhale.  One, two, three, four.  Hold.  One, two, three, four.  Exhale.  One, two, three, four.  Hold.  One, two, three, four.

The tempo of her breathing involuntarily increased as her fear heightened.  She was injured, alone, and night had fallen.  She could feel the darkness stealing up on her, enveloping her, squeezing.  She had no doubt that if she opened her eyes again, her heart would beat its last as the darkness devoured her.  She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.  Even now, she heard the night whispering to her, caressing her skin, daring her to surrender, to let let its black tendrils constrict around her until there is nothing left.

“No,” she whispered, tears washing tracks through drying blood.  “You can’t have me.”

A cold voice rose unbidden in her mind, vowing, “In the end, Darkness takes all.”

April A to Z Challenge Theme

My very first blog posts were published in an alphabetical sequence, mostly because I had no idea what to write about.  Since then, I’ve posted erratically on a variety of topics and even half-heartedly participated in a few April A-Z Challenges.  In my defense, I’ve also published a novel, had a short story published in an anthology, completed a few children’s eSeries with BigWorldNetwork.com, and narrated audiobooks for a variety of talented authors, so I think I deserve a bit of slack.

In exploring my role as a writer and developing my author platform, I’ve been unable to decide what to do with my blog.  Should I use it as a journal to share my aviation experiences, the antics of my children, or my struggle to improve my health?  What about a loose collection of short stories?  Or all of the above?  I simply don’t know.

What I do know is that I want to be a better writer, and that takes practice, dedication, and more than a touch of fearlessness.  With that in mind, I’m going to participate in this year’s Blogging from A to Z April Challenge by using “fear” as my theme.  My grand plan is to offer you 26 short stories featuring a different phobia each day–except Sundays–giving my creativity and writing skills a much needed workout, and hopefully providing something entertaining for you to read.  With any luck, completing this challenge will also help me banish some of my own fears.

I hope you’ll join me on my dark adventures into the very depths of our fears beginning April 1st.  I’ll do my best to give you the chills.Image