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by Anthony Watson

The sky is grey, barely enough light to see by, especially through the car windscreen, but it allows more than the pitch darkness that has surrounded you for the last — what is it now? — three hours.

Three hours, sat in the cold, here in this spot that has meant so much to you over the years. A place of quiet, of solitude — of solace. Tears prickle your eyes as the memories of happier days spent here flood your mind, as the realisation of what is about to happen, in this special place, hits home once more.

Will they understand?

Probably not. What will be left behind will surely only offer up more questions. An abandoned car out in the middle of nowhere. Easy enough to identify it as yours, of course, but no easy way to work out what has happened.

The phone weighs heavy in your pocket and you contemplate again the thought of dialling her number. That would be the easy part; the words you would have to speak are where the problem lies. How could you convince her — anyone — of what has happened? In this day and age? A conversation like that is not one to have on the phone. Face-to-face is the only way. But that would be impossible, too dangerous. The risk is not one you can take. Your life is over. Your decision to drive out here, not home, has sealed your fate, but at least she will be safe. The kids too …

A paler grey now, the sky, and the dark shapes that loom over you are now resolved into trees and bushes. Cold, still cold. Your neck itches and you scratch it.

Not another bloody domestic … Your thoughts when you received the call last night seem the ultimate in irony now. Not just any old domestic this, far from it. Junkies, you’d thought, when the door was broken in, and yes, they’d turned out to be addicts alright. As for bloody …

The attack was unexpected. Who’d have thought such a pale, sickly looking specimen could move so fast?

A line of red draws itself across the horizon, separates the grey of the sky from the black of the land. It’s time.

You turn on your phone, find your favourite photo. The four of you, huge smiles. Happy days.

“I love you.”

The red line grows wider but the tears in your eyes make it hard to see clearly. You pocket the phone and open the car door. Shuffle out and plant your feet into the damp grass.

The orb of the sun peeks up above the horizon and immediately you feel its heat on your skin. No, not on your skin — in it.

An ancient monument stands on top of a hill to your right. This you know from previous visits. Too dark to see now but you know it’s there. Ancient like the thing you found in the house. The thing that …

Your skin burns, a cleansing heat consumes you.

Anthony Watson is co-founder and co-editor, alongside Ross Warren, of Dark Minds Press (www.darkmindspress.com). Dark Minds Press have so far published three collections of dark fiction — Dark Minds, Darker Minds and, unsurprisingly, Darkest Minds. He also runs a horror review blog, Dark Musings (anthony-watson.blogspot.co.uk).

Anthony also writes and was recently published in State of Horror: Louisiana from Charon Coin Press with his story Indigo. He has also been published in Sanitarium magazine, which featured his short story Elder’s End. Forthcoming publications will be his war/horror novella Winter Storm in a six author collection and Forlorn Hope, a short story that will feature in Far Horizons magazine.