The original for this piece can be found at my blog: http://smugglersnjugulars.blogspot.com/2018/06/lights-and-shadows-ii.html
An Adumbrance Betwixt the Light and the Dark
In a ghostly realm where shadows are formidable, and arguing influences of light and dark constantly dance, a beam of brilliance pierced through the ever-present cloud cover and hit the granite ground, which sizzled at the intense touch. The ghoulish patches of cropped grass wilted and burned. Nearby things of black and gray fled, yelping and howling as they galloped, dug, slithered and flew away from the harshness. One wrapped herself in darkness and joined the protective shadow of a nearby outcropping. Gray farseers atop the nearby hills emplaced tinted lenses on their orbs and analyzed this new phenomenon. They witnessed a man striding down the beam, perambulating toward the surface. The stranger was light of everything -clothes, skin, hair, eyes. An alabaster masterpiece. He even glowed slightly, though whether the light was from the man or the beam on which he strode was a matter of debate among the seers. Whichever the case, he was blinding to gaze at.
A sudden eclipse occurred as a large, blind, flying Thing encountered the beam of light and both were extinguished. The man fell the remaining distance to the surface, a tumbling star, as the realm returned to twilight.
He pulsed on the ground, looking to all who saw as if he were an immense lightning bug, a beacon winking away in search of a mate. To all who could not see his light, his presence was warm and intriguing. Small points of light floated on a current of air in his direction.
He heard scuttling noises in the dark as he groaned and tried to sit up.
Silvery threads shot out from the surrounding landscape. A pair of large black spiders came into view from inky pools of shadow and crisscrossed hunting webs over his prone form, seeking to wrap him up in their stickiness.
The light stranger struggled to burn the webbing but could not keep up with the threads. He was soon tied up on the hard ground. The nightmarish spiders advanced, their mandibles making audible clacking noises.
Another piece of darkness, about the size of a person, broke away from the blackest shadows of a nearby outcropping of rock. It was a woman, dressed in draping fabrics of various grays. She clicked and clacked, drawing the attention of the spiders. She threw up her arms and spread wide her cloak, which expanded to a great size and rippled with lights and darks like the ground under a leafy tree that shakes in the gusts of a hot summer day.
The spiders clicked and clacked. Then they turned and scurried away in search of easier prey.
The dark stranger dropped her cloak and approached the light being from the sky.
He had almost freed himself from the tangle of spiderwebs. His clothes however, were stained with their substance. His right leg was also noticeably dimmer than the rest of him. And when he finally rose, he stood with a jerk and an awkward hop. The stranger stood there, looking at her as he picked and pulled at the remaining webbing. He seemed unafraid.
She shielded her eyes with a hand. “Dim yourself, sir. There are many here who feed on brilliance, as you almost found out first-hand.”
He concentrated and looked down at his outstretched hands. His emanations waned. Raising his gaze to the clouds for a second, he then returned her look. “Who are you?”
“I am called Chia. Chia de Ross-curo.”
“I am Epifanio Sea el’O. I have come to learn the secrets of darkness.”
Chia glanced around at the landscape, feeling many eyes upon the pair of them. She shook her head. He was still too bright.
Squinting, she thought. “I cannot hide you, even within my umbra. You emanate much, Bright One. Follow me, mayhap we can sequester over yonder.” She pointed to the left.
He saw nothing and said as much.
“Your light blinds you.”
“The Light is my life! I cannot reduce it any further. To do so would be to risk my death!”
“To not is to risk both our lives.” She raised an arm and covered him with a portion of her expansive cloak.
Instead of blocking his view, Epifanio was astonished at the clarity with which he now saw their surroundings. Despite lighter and darker sections, it was as if the cloth removed a haze from across his eyes. Most objects in view were also outlined in a halo or some sort of colored glow. Their destination was obvious now: a small stone structure near the shore of an inkjet lake. He tried to look closer but the image shook and blurred in and out of focus.
He uncovered himself from the voluminous cloak. Standing as best he could with his injured leg, he proudly proclaimed, “Why adumbrate when I can elucidate?” He folded his hands across his chest and unleashed a flood of light from his body as he uncrossed them. The entire valley was bathed with light.
“NO!” she screamed.
The ground shook beneath their feet. She threw her cloak around them both and pulled him down to the ground, but his light still shone like spotlights through the translucent portions of her garment.
“Have you no sense? You’re sending out a dinner bell!”
Through the patchwork fabric of her cloak, Chia scanned the surroundings. “Look!” a swarm of small, black winged creatures appeared from out of the cloud cover. These creatures spun in lazy circles and figure eights, eating the light as they flew lower and lower, following it to the source. Him.
“Light gliders!” she hissed.
“They seem harmless enough,” he said.
“Turn your light off, Stranger! It’s not the gliders I’m worried about, but what eats their succulent flesh.”
“My name is-” Epifanio paused as clouds of dust rose on a hillside to the west as an avalanche of gray rocks and boulders crashed down. Rumbling noises reached them a few moments later, drowning out the rest of his words as he spoke again.
Epifanio dimmed his light. “So much activity! I knew things moved in the darkness, but I had no-” he stopped and stared again at the falling hillside. Defying logic, the rocks and boulders continued rolling after they reached the flat valley floor. The rocks were rolling toward them!
“By the Stars Above and Below! See what your light has awoken?”
He shook his head in disbelief. “My people tell stories of Hell Below. A place void of light, so nothing sparkles, nothing shines. The darkness rules all and hides beauty from sight. I thought nothing could be worse than that. But this place, this place that attacks and devours the light of life. This must truly be hell.”
“We can debate theology later. Come!” She unwrapped them from the folds of her cloak and grabbed his arm.
Her charcoal skin seemed like a blasphemy against his alabaster flesh. “How dare you!” He tried to jerk his arm back but his leg betrayed him and he stumbled toward her.
Inches from his face, she whispered savagely, “I’ll dare more if you don’t come willingly. You’re risking my life now as well as yours. Now let’s go!”
She pulled him in the direction of the ruins by the ebony lake. The rocks from the avalanche were on the far side, still tumbling toward them.
Limping along as best as he could Epifanio struggled to keep up. The noise from the tumbling rocks grew louder. It was hard for him to tell, but it looked like the rocks would reach the ruins before them!
“We’re not going to make it,” he said to Chia.
“We’ll make it!”
“The crushing rocks are almost there already!” he said, pointing to the ruins.
“We are not going there. We are headed to the lake! We’ll make it!”
“The lake?” Epifanio trembled at the thought and fell down. A lake of inky black. It roiled and burbled. What did its impenetrable surface hide? True fear froze him, a being of the upper air and light. There was no way he would go willingly into that substance.
“I cannot. I will not go into that…that, whatever it is!”
“The Grinders will make you into pulp and devour your light! Let’s go!”
Blasts from ahead signaled the arrival of the rolling rocks at the ruins. They hardly slowed down. A few seconds more and the Grinders, as Chia called them, would be upon them. As close as they were, Epifanio could see that the rocks had openings upon their surfaces.
With a strength born of fear, Chia managed to drag the unwilling Epifanio to the edge of the lake. She pushed him in.
Without a sound or splash, Chia disappeared beneath the surface of the ebony lake. But for Epifanio it was a totally different story. For him the fluid was thick and unwilling. As moments ticked he slowly sank, his screams drowned out by the sound of crushing rocks rolling around the sides of the lake, coming around for him. How would he die? Battered to a pulp by the coming avalanche of sentient rocks, or drowned in a lake of black treacle?
He felt a jerk from underwater. Something was tugging at his legs. He tried to scream louder. He shouted with all of his being and all of the light left in him. It seemed as if a star exploded into being on the surface of the midnight lake, the countryside for miles brighter than it had ever been. Terror pushed Epifanio to his limit and then beyond…
Epifanio’s light went out.