So let's try this one more time.
The prompt for this challenge was Darkness.
Vote for your LEAST FAVORITE entry. (We are going back to the original rule because I can see that voting for your favorite will make this process a lot longer than it needs to be.)
No telling anyone which entry is yours.
No voting for yourself.
Voting will end on Saturday, May 30th.!
So Shiny, So Happy
There are several different kinds of dark; Fred has classified plenty of them over the years, and could tell you, in any situation, precisely what variety of darkness you’re dealing with.
Firstly there’s Vegas darkness.
That’s when you know, theoretically, that it’s night, and therefore dark – but the lights are still bright, so bright, sunglasses-bright, because the entire place turns on every light it has, and defiantly pushes the darkness back out to the desert where it belongs.
Then there’s L.A. darkness, when the city sees the dark as an excuse to put on its party clothes and go out to dance.
There’s street lights, and store window lights, and disco lights, and blacklights… each one blinking on as the sun goes down, and saying “Hooray! It’s night-time! Now, let’s stay up drinking and party until it’s not dark anymore!”
Next is Texas darkness. That’s when you go outside and you can pick out every individual house by looking for its porch light. They all sit there – tiny, friendly points of light – reassuring you that the town still exists, and everything is the same today as it was last week.
As each family goes to bed, lights go out, one by one, until finally you can look out your window and see nothing but stars.
Then there’s Pylea darkness – which probably isn’t actually as dark as it feels, but when your hands are pressed against your eyes, it’s hard to see the flaming torches that mark out the village, or the occasional campfire being used by a hunter, or any of the things that you’re trying to pretend don’t exist.
If you can keep your eyes closed, then you can tell yourself that the darkness you’re not seeing is just warm, safe, Texas darkness. And you never know… one day it might be.
There’s also hiding-somewhere-safe darkness, when you get into the darkest, quietest, smallest place you can find, curl yourself up tiny as ever, and maybe there are just one or two little specks of light you can see through a crack somewhere – and you stay quiet and still, and don’t take your eyes off those teeny specks of light, because if you see anything, anything at all, you’ve got to be ready to run.
Next there’s walking-through-sewer-tunnels darkness, which mostly means dim light, shadows, and flashlights. And also some growling, and occasional fights with scary monsters – but hopefully you’ll have some friends with you who can handle a bit of monster fighting from time to time, so you’ll probably be okay.
Sewer tunnel darkness isn’t nearly as dark as you’d think it is. Especially if you’ve got a flashlight on you.
And last, there’s fire-falling-from-the-sky darkness, which is when the entire sky is black as black gets, and the whole city seems to have gone dark with it, and the falling fire lights everything up just enough to show you how very little light there actually is.
It’s scary, but mesmerising.
…and then there’s this.
Fred’s got so many different forms of darkness figured out, but she’s still got nothing to describe this one.
This is… pretend darkness. Or darkness-in-disguise. Or darkness-hidden-underneath-the-not-darkn
It’s when you can see lots of light, lots of brightness, lots of happiness – but it’s not real happiness, none of it’s real. The light lies, and the smiles are all fake.
But the smilers don’t know that.
There’s darkness everywhere, creeping in, submerging everything, all of it, so dark, so very dark, and you’re the only one who knows it’s there.
What do you call darkness that’s pretending to be light?
Fred closes her eyes, and wishes she was in Texas.
She was beautiful; he had to admit as he watched his Faith gradually succumb to the darkness that had always been inside of her. Even when she disappointed him he was still proud of her because he understood that process of unlearning what you’ve always believed to be true. It was not an easy journey and she was handling it better than he could have ever expected.
He watched as she sank deeper and deeper and his heart swelled with pride and love. She had become a daughter to him somewhere along the path of her transformation and it felt right to him somehow.
And in the end when Buffy had put the beautiful weapon of darkness that he had forged into a coma, it was his turn to sink into the darkness of despair and hatred.
It’s supposed to be just another part of her job, like removing a splinter with a pair of ridiculously blunt tweezers, or scrubbing her own bloodstains out of her cutest midriff top. Her heightened senses compensate for the lack of visual acuity that a slayer is bound to experience on nightly patrols: a slight inconvenience when compared to the metaphoric darkness a slayer was destined to face.
She can almost always sense when a creepy is lurking, slithering, or crawling somewhere nearby, but that’s less reassuring than one might think. (Also, self-timing sprinkler systems? The work of the devil.)
Her first clue that Sunnydale was a not-quite-normal town had been the street lights -- or the lack of them. In LA, the street lights cast reliable pools of amber-colored safety every fifty yards or so.
Buffy is pretty sure that there are places in Sunnydale that the even moonlight has never quite been able to reach. But being the slayer is like being one of those bendy toothbrushes, only instead of combating plaque, she combats the darkness itself.
She brings the sunshine.
Firefly. Set during Bushwhacked.
Tensing…creeping out into the open, peeking around the counter to investigate the racket.
There's just one.
Flying through the air without thought, colliding with flesh, warm and solid and…
Scrambling away, into the dark where the monsters won't see you.
Smiling across the table, you scoop up another spoonful of peas—you'd forgotten how wonderful they taste—nudging Maralyn's foot under the table.
Blue eyes sparkle as she smirks; she got you this time, but little sister won't stay on top for long—your reputation demands it.
You wonder how long it will be before the battle of wits swings in her favor permanently.
No matter; fighting's half the fun.
The peas stick in your throat as the proximity siren goes off.
Trembling—hunker down, quiet now, hold your breath.
No good; they see.
Lunch is abandoned as everyone scrambles to the front of the ship. Whispers reach you quickly, but you don't believe—they don't exist, do they?
But panic spreads rapidly, especially when a loud crash echoes through the galley.
Stomach plummeting, you reach for Maralyn. Your fingers brush the soft material of her pink sweater as the crowd tears her away.
You fight through the throng, pushing and shoving and being stepped on, but you lose sight of her.
The temperature drops; you shudder in spite of the crush of bodies.
And then you see…it.
Too bright; monsters live in the dark.
The air is too clean—it's false.
False and wrong—an illusion, a hallucination—monsters belong in the dark, in the dark with monsters (open them up to see what's inside)
Grasping at the light…blinking…
The monsters return, even in the light.
There's no other word.
You back up, repelled by a walking nightmare.
Slipping on a discarded fork, you fall, and the spell is broken.
Adrenaline floods your system as you scramble away.
Need to hide. Get away.
You huddle behind the cargo, hands clamped tightly over your ears to drown out the screams.
Sharp, slicing through flesh, taste of blood—metallic, rich, satisfying.
Hot, piercing the skin, stretched and unnatural (twisted, grotesque, perfect)
White teeth stained crimson—smile macabre.
You want to wake up.
A familiar sound grabs your attention—she's calling your name.
Peering through the grate you see her, flat on the ground, one of those…things…crouched over her, glazed eyes and gruesome smile, ripping at her clothes while she thrashes, fingers grappling at the smooth floor, eyes searching the room for help.
You can't move.
It pulls a knife from its side, cutting as she screeches, spilling forth—a valentine in pink and red entrails.
Something hot slides down your cheeks.
Cautiously you lift a hand to feel…tears.
You cry until the screams die away.
The monsters win.
Holding you down.
Can't fight the monster.
The Monster wins.
Monsters always win.
Five Scoobies who don't curse the dark and one who lights a candle
When it was dark she didn't have to look at herself. She didn't have to look at her belly and miss the fingers sliding along it. She didn't see her own palm cupping her breast instead of that other palm.
When it was dark it was easier to pretend she wasn't alone. Easier to listen to that soft breath that wasn't there anymore. Easier to softly murmur endearments to the absence beside her.
When it was dark she could deceive herself. That the spot beside her was still warm. That someone would be right back. That Tara was still here.
In low light situations, the brain provides more input on visual perception than the eyes. Shapes and Shades are grouped and identified and perceived through the filter of previous visual knowledge. Thus, unless one is consciously correcting and trained for it, inconsistencies in direct perception get smoothed over into a consistent image. Especially perception of scale is far more dependent on logic than on direct visual input.
That's why Dawn loves the dark nights in Scotland. She can sit out in a meadow, watch the stars and completely ignore the too small trees and boulders. By night she's normal size.
When he was a child, Giles loved the night. He would wait in bed until the house was quiet. Then he'd slip out of bed sit in the open window. He'd listen to the sounds of the night, the rustling of the hedgehogs, the quiet calls of owls, the song of the nightingale. He'd imagine himself out in the woods beyond the garden. Sometimes, when the moon was full, he'd catch a glimpse of deer crossing the meadow. When was a child, Giles loved the night.
But he grew up and the peace of the night was shattered by monsters.
Cordelia Chase loves the night. It's the time to go out and have fun at the Bronze. She likes feeling the boys watch her dance. She loves to lose her body in the stroboscope lights and the music.
She holds court, passes judgement on fashion, boys and the love lives of her girls.
And she'll be damned if she gives it up, just because there's monsters out there. Nowadays she vets the boys not only by social suitability and eye candy status but also by basic standards like having a heartbeat. She's still Cordelia Chase and she loves the night.
The night is Buffy's time. Sure, there's sometimes pain and trashed tops. Sure, there's all the keeping a secret and not really ever enough sleep. During the day, she wants to be normal, to have only homework and boyfriend troubles.
But at night it's different. She never tells anyone, but she actually loves fighting. It's so much better than cheer leading. With fighting, there's that immediate result. The moment the vampire dusts, it's done. There's no competition judges or stupid jocks, just her stake and the dust to be. And less jealousy too.
And of course at night, there's Angel.
Every year in May, Xander Harris comes to California. Not always on the right day, apocalypses and flight schedules being what they are, but every year in May he's there. He waits for the sunset and ignores the girls who are having their own campfire not too far away.
When the sun is down, he lights the candle. He sits down beside it, looks over the crater and tells stories to the crater of what used to be. Like the one about Mrs Kramer's idiot dog or about the little flower shop on Richmond street.
He never mentions the dead.
Spoilers: Season 6, through dead things
She was trying. But it still wasn’t enough. Everyday was a struggle to live, to breathe, to be. She would laugh, and smile, and say all the right things, but no one really knew what it was like. They would never understand, and they could never know, Buffy thought as she smiled over at Xander across the table at the Bronze. She wanted him to see, to notice her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. She was there in body, but not in spirit. They had brought her back, ripped her out of heaven, and all she could feel was nothing except the pain. Everything was so bright, and loud, and hard. Each new day hurt more than the last. And they had no idea.
Buffy watched silently as her friends left the table to dance. She was alone again and she embraced it like a welcoming lover. At least when she was alone she didn’t have to pretend. She was a living doll, moving, speaking, but she was wooden and hollow inside. Around her people laughed and danced. They were all so full of life. Death was more than her gift, it was apart of her.
Alone, Buffy continued to sit at her empty table and observe the crowd around her. She knew he was near. She had felt him the moment he walked into the Bronze. She could always feel him lurking in the shadows, watching her, beckoning her to the darkness that surrounded him. Slowly, Buffy lifted her head slightly. For a moment she thought she caught a glimpse of blonde in the dark. The slayer shifted in her seat, suddenly feeling restless. It didn’t matter that he was there. She had already made up her mind. That thing-- whatever that freak show was with Spike was over. It was a mistake, a mistake she was not going to make again. Being with Spike was wrong.
Slowly, Buffy stood up as if her body had a mind of its own. Her mind protested with every step forward in an internal battle. But she didn’t stop as she mounted each step drawing closer to him. Below her, Buffy watched her friends dance happily unaware of what was happening underneath their noses. Secretly, it gave her a thrill knowing they didn’t know. And at the same time she felt the shame wash over her harshly just as surely as she felt his cool hands caress her bare arms. She didn’t flinch as he stood behind her closely, whispering in her ear. A part of her wanted to protest, tell him he was wrong, but how could she when she felt his hands on her thigh and all she could do was press against him in anticipation?
Again, she felt the shame mingled with the excitement of what they could do and would do together. “Don’t.” Buffy said softly as she felt his hand slide against her thigh. Her protest was feeble in her own ear. It was a token protest, she knew it, and so did he. “Make me,” Spike challenged her. She felt him hesitate for a moment, giving her the opportunity to stop him if she really wanted to. Instead she gripped the hand rail tighter and bent forward.
With each stroke of his body into hers, Buffy began to believe him. Maybe she had come back wrong. Maybe she was broken. Maybe he had been right all along. She kept her eyes opened and watched her friends felling the guilt and the pleasure one for the other. What would they think if they knew what she really was?
Who she really was?
What would they think if they knew what she was truly capable of? What if they knew....? Buffy’s breath caught and hitched in pleasure as he pressed into her, gripping her tighter as they rocked in a slow steady motion. With her eyes still open, she felt herself soaring, than falling into the darkness with Spike...
where she belonged.
Be in me
Drusilla’s eyes say it mostly, the way they always do, inky blackness somehow overlaying the crystalline blue, and the new one simply follows because that is what he is created to do.
Touch my heart
Though shrouded in darkness, she knows his love will burn as brightly as a thousand suns. “William will turn the world on its ear,” Edith whispers to her. The notion makes her laugh as they chase a dream though the desolate midnight.
Madness is mine
Deeply buried, her life is shadow, obscured and hazy through the distracting veil of black-hearted intent. Nothing to see here, move along, Deary - until the next rushing wave of impossibilities washes away her fevered mind.
Guide me though
Dark and devious, the decades fly at the Devil’s pace, the absence of light, of Grace, a trivial thing when his indomitable love is the most lambent beacon, his fierce passion a deafening siren which calls on too many for her liking.
Love is eternal
But not theirs. Not anymore. Beautiful darkness shattered in a dale of sullen golden rays, her black knight is lost to her, swallowed by something...
There were things out there. Out beyond where the light could penetrate. Out where no one could see how wrong they were. Things that watched her, licked their lips and thought ‘fresh meat’.
She wasn’t afraid of those things.
There were things out there. Out in the shadows, at the edge of light. Out were they could pass for normal. Things that watched for weakness, waited for a chance to spread their evil.
She wasn’t afraid of those things.
There were things out there. Out in plain sight, basking in the light. Out where they could blend with the crowd. Things that watched for vulnerability, looked for a chance to take that which wasn’t offered.
She wasn’t afraid of those things.
There were things in here. Things she couldn’t avoid, couldn’t fight, couldn’t even see. Things like doubt, and shame, and fear, and loss.
She was terrified of those things.
In the moonlight, the city looks almost peaceful. The corruption, the hatred, the greedy ambition—everything dissolves under the silvery haze. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine for a moment that time has stopped. That the future, the present, the past; all have blended together and poured out into the sky.
Almost. Hourglass sighed as she sat on the rooftop. She could never hide from the paths of time, though heaven knows she’d tried. College had been a series of bad decisions, attempts to escape the dreams and visions that stalked her.
That’s how she met Moist. She smiled to herself as she remembered that party. Moist looked so out of place, sitting in the corner, nursing his gin and tonic. Back then, he was just the loner from English class, completely unaware of everything that was to come.
Moist was a sweetheart. A little awkward, but caring. And he understood her, he really did. Nights like these made her wonder if they could ever be together, whether it was worth trying for more.
If only she didn’t know how it would end.
Dead Bowie was used to spending nights alone.
As the only undead member of the ELE, he was the only one who didn’t need to sleep. Instead he spent his nights wandering the halls of the League Headquarters.
This night, however, he quickly found that he wasn’t alone. A light still peeked hesitantly from beneath the door of the room given to their newest member.
Dead Bowie opened the door gently and looked in. Dr. Horrible wasn’t there, to judge from the appearance of the figure curled up on the floor. Curled up in a tight ball, arms tight around his knees and teeth resolutely burrowing their way through their owner’s bottom lip, the track-jacketed figure in front of him could only be Billy.
“You know, you’re not supposed to be a civilian anymore,” Bowie mentioned conversationally, leaning against the door frame. Billy didn’t respond except to pull his hands further inside his sleeves. “Unless you get special permission from Bad Horse,” Bowie added, “or it’s necessary to the mission.”
Still no response. Dead Bowie took that as permission to continue. “Of course, you’re new, so Bad Horse won’t actually care for another few months or so. But Normal likes to consider himself Bad Horse’s one-man disciplinary committee, so I’d suggest not letting him see you like that.”
“We never talked about it.”
If Dead Bowie had still had physical reactions, he would have jumped out of his skin at the sound of words coming from the seemingly catatonic man’s mouth. But without reflexes or involuntary muscle movements, he just raised an eyebrow questioningly at the man who still hadn’t directly acknowledged his presence.
“The afterlife, I mean. I mean, it’s not like it’s something that comes up in normal conversation, so it’s not that surprising that we wouldn’t discuss it, but it makes me wonder now that she’s, well…”
“Dead.” Bowie finished the sentence for Billy.
Billy continued as though he hadn’t heard. “I suppose if I’d asked, she would have told me a story about how there was a fairytale land above the clouds where everything was happy and the sun always shone and men and women acted like little kids all day…” He was crying, Dead Bowie noticed; silent tears were flowing freely down his face, slowly turning his white T-shirt transparent. “But I think differently. I think death is empty. Not even darkness, just… nothing. The mind is just a series of neurons firing, and when those stop firing there’s nothing to continue going. Nothing to keep a person existing into some afterlife. So when someone dies, they’re just… gone, forever…” He broke down into sobs.
Dead Bowie considered his words, carefully. Being dead let you do that—there was some disconnect between mind and body, some dampening of the emotions, that made it easier to decide things logically instead of emotionally. Billy would ask him if he remembered being dead. All of them had—Normal out of curiosity, Bad Horse as a kind of test, Tie-Die because she never wanted to make anyone happier than they were and needed to know if killing them would do that, Fury out of some morbid obsession, and Snake Bite for the same reason Billy was going to ask. He’d told them all the truth. He’d told them that the afterlife was a never-ending field of darkness, with no reprieve or glimpse of light anywhere. He’d told them that people existed in that darkness, but that each existed separately, unable to see or touch anyone else. He’d told them that the darkness was so complete that it had permanently stained his vision and he now saw everything through a veil of shadow. He’d seen Normal’s fascination, Bad Horse’s dispassionate acceptance, Tie-Die’s satisfaction, Fury’s glee, and Snake Bite’s despair. He could see Dr. Horrible, or Billy, or whoever he thought he was now, break into a million pieces. But it was nice to not be the new guy anymore, to not have everyone watching him to see if he would screw up and have to be broken and driven from the League. That though complicated his decision.
Before Bowie had a chance to finish deciding, Billy was launching himself at Dead Bowie, eyes wild and hands clutching Bowie’s arms so hard they would leave bruises that short of Normal’s machines would never heal. He started to babble, breathless and clearly terrified of the answer, “But you could, you could tell me, couldn’t you, you could, couldn’t you? I mean, if you remember, you could, you’d know, you’d know what it’s like. Tell me, Dead David Bowie, what is it? What is there after death?”
Bowie considered his answer. Billy looked completely mad. He really shouldn’t be asking that question in such a state. Of course, Dead Bowie being a villain, that didn’t really matter to him. So he answered.
They are entwined together in darkness. It's hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.
They are like twins, housed in the same body this way.
But it does not give them the warm comfort of a womb. It is darkness, in a way that makes them afraid.
She cannot quite recall when she first came into being.
This disturbs her. There is nothing she does not know. She is Illyria.
It seems like she has always existed. Before time, before gods, before this girl Fred's planet was dust in the atmosphere.
She will go back and recall.
Fred doesn't remember being a baby.
She imagines there must have been crying, and soft blankets, and hugs, and comforting smells like cinnamon and flour.
Somewhere in the foggiest corners of her memory, she senses the feeling that she was perfectly safe, that nothing mattered at all.
She misses that.
Illyria flows through universes, stars, galaxies. She is amazed by the things she finds; light, water, colors.
She limits her mind to a lone fern. It excites her.
People would later claim that they had seen brilliant blue lightning dancing around a plant, with no thunder clouds to be seen.
Fred is amazed by the way everything works. The way it makes sense, sometimes, but not others.
She does chemical experiments to learn that, for instance, all of the bath products in the house mixed together tastes funny, or that there are approximately 10,983 blades of grass in her lawn.
She can feel more and more power rising within herself. It runs through her like an alcoholic substance; thick and heady.
Illyria's explorations probe deeper now—she is no longer just observing, but acting.
One day she tentatively vaporizes a sapling.
The sudden, blank emptiness that it leaves makes her giddy.
Fred dashes back to her room, then opens her palms gently to reveal the prize—Ravishing Rose lipstick.
She swipes it over her lips carefully, then rubs them together like she's seen her mother do.
She looks in the mirror, and is surprised to find something close to beautiful staring back.
Illyria amasses followers.
They crowd around her like greedy children—desperately hoping that she will bring them power.
She enjoys how they worship her, listening to poems composed for her with joy.
But soon, she finds them dull. They are a swarm of ants, biting at her ankles.
She wants more.
Fred lies on her bed and thinks about chaos theory.
Her inhale could be causing floods in Malaysia. Her exhale could be sending a drought to Ecuador.
Surely, this proves that she is important.
But a deep wave of loneliness reminds her how incredibly small and insignificant she really is.
Illyria creeps behind him like a shadow. She will not be seen, and she will not be noticed, and she will not be considered dangerous until she has already jumped up and ripped his throat out.
Her rival is formidable, but she has gained power.
No one can stop her.
She's on a plane to California.
Fred thinks about her parents. How they waved her smiling goodbyes, and then let their grins collapse into worry when they thought she couldn't see.
But she's not worried.
This is what she wants, after all—to grow, to learn.
Maybe she's a little worried.
Illyria stands, panting, over him. He is vanquished.
Now that her frenetic blood lust has cooled, she looks at those who gathered to witness their battle, and sees the awe in their expressions.
She is pleased when the crazed, cold look she gives them adds some terror to their admiration.
Fred opens her eyes, blinking wildly, and finds herself in some sort of fairy land.
There are two suns in the sky, and a fresh, magical scent in the air.
She stands up, and a green, ugly thing grabs her and drags her away without comment.
She never liked faries.
Illyria rules over all matter. It has no choice but to yield to her desires.
She senses, distantly, that this, too, will come to an end. It pains her.
But she does not lower herself to such a mortal act as crying or screaming. She merely continues the necessary preparations.
Fred gasps softly at the electrical shock. It's just subatomic particles interacting with each other, she forces herself to think.
She bites her lip and picks up the shovel.
She won't let herself cry. Tears are only a byproduct of lacrimation. They are not otherwise necessary for humans to function.
She did not expect her fall to come so quickly.
She feels a curious draining sensation—as if part of herself is being taken away.
Illyria only has time to let out a choked scream before the last words of the spell are uttered, and she is trapped in the sarcophagus.
Fred likes working at Angel Investigations.
Gunn smiles at her, punching her softly on the shoulder as he buys her a taco.
Even if it can sometimes be...problematic.
Wesley stammers out an answer to her question, blushing and looking away.
Working with demons can cause physical suffering and emotional pain.
She is trapped inside her coffin, but she is not dead.
Illyria can feel the others all around her. Caged inside their own boxes, their energies scream and fight, flexing against their restraints.
But she doesn't resort to such childish whining.
She thinks about her eventual escape. And she waits.
They know what is coming, and they hopelessly resist it.
They slowly melt into one another, forgetting that they ever existed separately. They are Fred-Illyria-Fred-Illyria-Fred Illyria-Fredillyria.
Their thoughts congeal together, until Illyria was born in Texas, and Fred came into existence before time.
Neither of them are able to protest.
Vote for your LEAST FAVORITE entry