CHAPTER TWO

The wind picked up as Adam advanced down the dock, the hanging light swinging considerably overhead, scattering illumination in every available direction. Adam had never been a fan of the dark, sharing a similar phobia to Alice, which had engulfed the conversation between them, in its entirety, during many of their meetings. In fact, thinking back, Adam new very little of the superficial stuff about Alan's wife, Alice, yet he could recall the deep complexities of her condition, and relate it to his own.

Trundling forward at a steady pace, so as not to upset the rickety wooden planks below, Adam was grateful for the vision provided by his car's headlights. Before long, he had reached the end of the wooden dock, and onto dry land, his nausea evaporating almost instantly.

Adam sighed deeply, as he pressed forward onto the accelerator, lining the car up with the lengthy trail towards town. He glanced at the road sign, then to his watch: "Bright Falls, 10 miles", and approaching 8:00PM respectively. Adam had scheduled to pick-up the keys to his cabin at nine, giving him an hour to reach his destination and explore, although he didn't expect much from a sleepy country town at night. With the flick of a switch, the radio crackled into life. A much appreciated audio accompaniment for the drive, Adam thought, as he continued to follow the curvature of the road, towards Bright Falls.

"Bloody tourists..." muttered the captain below his breath, as he inspected the damage left, back at the barge, in Adam's wake. The decking was scorched with tyre marks, and the smell of burnt rubber lingered in the air like a fine mist.

The dock was completely empty, as per usual. This was a journey that the captain had made hundreds of times before, and twice already that day, so why did he feel so uneasy now? Rolling his shoulders, he turned back towards the barge controls; after all, there was little more he could do about the tyre marks. They would need scrubbing in the morning. Yet as the elderly gentleman engaged the reverse gear, the barge simply refused to move. He tried again and again, repeating the motion, with no avail.

With the controls still inoperable, the wind and waves continued to press down on the barge. But as he looked up, the captain could see that the hanging light of the dock stood still, as if the weather phenomenon had localised itself around his boat. Something certainly wasn't right here.

It was at that moment that the sky turned to black, and a visible darkness encroached upon the barge. The captain looked up from the controls as the light of the dock reflected a glimpse of sharpened steel moving steadily forward, onto the barge itself. It didn't take him long to recoil in shock, as he witnessed the true horror of what was before him.

A tall, dark figure stood planted firmly at the edge of the barge, seemingly unfazed by the high winds and rough waters. But what was perhaps more menacing than his presence, was the item that he held tightly in his hand, for the captain could now make it out: the glimpse of steel he had seen, reflected in the light, belonged to the sharpened blade of a hunting knife. As if he could sense the elderly captain's fear, the dark figure began to approach, slowly and methodically, his body almost entirely concealed by shadows, except for the fierce, burning red of his eyes, a truly diabolical glow that couldn't possibly emanate from a human.

"Stay back!" the captain's voice trembled, completely void of authority and entirely representative of his current situation. Glancing desperately from left to right, his old eyes canvassed the back of the boat for a weapon, anything to help prevent the advance of his assailant. The best he could find was a pair of rusting scissors, decades old and worn from frequent exposure to the salt water of the lack. Nonetheless, he quickly took them into his hands, the feel of the cool metal against his skin offering little comfort given the situation.

By this point, the dark figure was upon him. He cried out in horror, striking forward with the scissors in a vain attempt to slow his attacker, but it was no use. Instead of finding their target, the scissors merely connected with the shadows, as if darkness itself was protecting the cloaked attacker. The captain had mere moments to consider this, though, before the strong, brutish figure before him raised his hand, brandishing the hunting knife, and quickly brought it down, connecting directly with the captain's neck.

"The Taken..." The words almost danced through the air, as if they had been whispered by the wind itself. Whether this was describing his impending situation, or the dark figure before him, the captain couldn't be sure, but soon enough it wouldn't matter either way. He didn't stand a chance.

His old, tired body dropped to the floor, blood expelling forcefully from a severed artery. The shadowy figure was meticulous, though, and refused to cease his assault. He stood over the captain, repeatedly thrusting the sharpened blade into the elderly man's body, each additional wound helping to seal his fate.

As the captain took his last breath, his barge now awash with his blood, the shadowy figure dissipated into the darkness behind him, as if it was a spirit, or a ghost, that had temporarily taken on a human form. The captain's eyes became fixed, as his death rattle petered into non-existence. The climax of fatality was accompanied by the sudden blow of the light bulb powering the hanging light on the dock, plunging the entire area into complete darkness. The waters settled and the wind stopped, just as quickly as they had begun. The darkness had taken its prey.

There was something sinister at work in Bright Falls, something that preyed on the weak, and protected by the dark. The town was in danger, Alan had been in danger, and now Adam was, too. Was this what Alice had seen?