The Long Dark Quiet

Daniel T. Pryor The night would not be fair, and dreams would not come to pass. The sky was obscured by clouds, and the clouds of fine debris that lingered above the waste of the land below would obscure even the clouds. All that could be seen, then, were the wisps of black haze. It was quiet, and the quiet was so disturbing because there was only to be heard the quiet. Not a cry and not a yell and no weeping and no pain and not a single roar were sounded. The sky was misty black and the air was still and the sounds of the earth had been made silent. And across the darkling waters of a river now dead lay the remnants of a gathering place where once the shoppers would delight in their purchase. The buildings barely found their own purchase on the soil, and the structure was scorched and silhouetted against the wispy black of the night. Only a scarce red glow betrayed its presence. The timber of homes and other buildings once proud and gallant across the shore of the dead river now littered the land that had been blown and swept and buried beneath the city that died here. Turning head from here to there and seeing the scattered debris, only the blackness could be more expansive. There was a far, far gaze to gaze to see beyond any of this, and there was no way to see beyond what was here. So began the dream that was a nightmare, but it was a necessary dream. It was a portent, a warning, a shadow in the blackness of the evening, where even shadows were not supposed to be seen. But this was a shadow yet to come, and those are the darkest of all, for they are given to the evils that are yet to be. The last stairwell of the proud mall found on the opposite shore of the river was an ascent to nowhere, and the soiled faces of the masses, bemused and stricken with terror, and some faces hollow for the shock of it all, were lined up to step upon the steps to nowhere. Nowhere was still better than here, where no thing, animate or not, would wish to remain. Even the dead were attempting escape from the quiet. It was an awful silence. Its preternatural echo a vacuum of needs forsaken to the waste of what once existed. All of it still existed, but none of it remained as it had been. One man stood upon the shadows of the earth in the shadow of the haze that hid the moon, which would not cast light to create shadow through the thicket of death. His stare was a vacant glance into the depth of his hope, into the despair of his reason and the tragedy that fell at his feet, as much as it spread across the

battlefield that knew no battles. But the field was now a battle of good and night, of day and evil, of life and worms, of sanity and death. Nothing that crawled gave a damn, and all things that feared the crawling things would run for the stairs. There was nothing at the top of the stairs, but all reason was abandoned. There was no reason for it, just as there was no understanding the reason for this scene. It simply was a scene that could not be ignored. As much as the sight and the echoes of silence were known, they were displaced by the sight of a warm and bright day that was as blinding as the instance of creation! Non sequitirs were more sensible than the change of scene. It all made perfect sense. There was the thought of an old friend, and a return to the sea, a drive across a bridge that spanned the intra-coastal waters and separated the island from the mainland. There was a brief memory and the vision of a new office that was known previously and was yet to be known. All these perceptions were perfectly normal and good, and there was no curiosity in their manifestation, and not a moment of incredulity was felt. And it was silent. Just as quickly there was the sight of the ceiling, and the man emerged from his dreams to see the world about him. The world was still as he had remembered it the previous night, but it was now the morning. And he arose from his bed sheets to face the water that was the river, a serpentine river meeting the gaping junction of the intra-coastal waters that would carry the brackish liquid to the salty sea. Across the river were the stately homes that pronounced the wealth of their inhabitants. Finally there was sound.