Karen Savoy / Sputnik Photography

It all started with darkness. This was a darkness that worsened with each heartbeat, one of clenched eyes that tightened in retreat only to discover more darkness. An invisible finger that writhed against sweating flesh, the wind roaring louder as images of flailing curtains pervaded the mind. Once the eyes opened, however, it all vanished, nothing but a cold empty room staring back, embarrassment flaring. 

This was every day for Jenna Diaz. She felt like a fool for hoping things would change. The shame that titillated was a familiar one. She slid from her bed, the anger boiling. Why! What are you so afraid of! She would shout, her mind replying with silence. The angst boiled on, a buzzing blood jolting her from her room as she wandered around the silent house like a nocturnal ghost, searching for revenge in the haunting of the television. It didn’t matter what was on, all she searched for was the light and some voices that reminded her she wasn’t alone. 

‘’Tonight, on Midnight Horrors we have a story for you, preacher man Nazari Morningstar of the Righteous Dawn Ministries is being accused of, wait for it, the murdering of – ‘’ 

The room suddenly died into black, Jenna being its arbiter as she prevented the fear from refueling. She could barely handle the dark, the last thing she needed was Midnight Horrors. She looked at the ticking clock lit by the moon outside, the Devil’s hour stared back. All Jenna could do was sigh as she sunk into the couch, resurrecting the preacher’s horrors with the click of a button. 

The screen burned alive, Jenna watching the images with a deadness, a desperate sadness that hoped for it all to end. All the sleepless nights, the beating hearts and sweating palms. Why couldn’t she be normal, why couldn’t she be like her little brother who snored away in paradise, never mind that he was alone in a room shrouded in darkness with a cold sky above lit by a distant star galaxies away. A star that was submerged in the endless ocean that is this universe, a universe lurking with unknowns and impossibilities of which we could never even comprehend. What was out there, what was beside her, was there a dead ghost seating next to her, lost in the images of a past life. Jenna didn’t know, but the thought haunted her, the mystery of it all, it refused her rest and peace, it ached and croaked, stroking her skin, whispering warnings that left her in a state of eternal flux.  

Bodies burned in her eyes, federal agents and helicopters circling the sky while Jenna was face to face with the world’s evil. This evil didn’t hide in the ethereal, it walked in broad daylight. Adults and old folk cried on the screen, deep in mourning.  

‘’Hundreds of young innocent souls suddenly vanished in thin air, does he honestly expect us — to—to— to belie – I’m sorry.’’ 

Tears gushed from the woman’s eyes. 

‘’My son was a good boy, he didn’t deserve this, none of those sweet children deserved this…….only a devil can do this, and that man is the devil! I said it, Nazari Morningstar is the damned DEVIL! – ’’ 

Jenna spared herself from the horror, she barely knew what was happening, but she wouldn’t bother, desperate for slumber yet frightened of its darkness. Her eyes shot to the clock, the Devil’s reign raining on, her spirit drowning deeper into despair.  

‘’The Night is dark and full of horrors, but the Morningstar brings with it……..SALVATION!’’ 

Jenna froze, face to face with the devil. His gaze burned her eyes bright, Nazari Morningstar pacing across the screen, preaching to his audience while Jenna wondered how the television turned on. 

‘’The Lord is a God of mysteries; he speaks to us when we least expect it.’’ 

Nazari then looked into the camera, meeting Jenna’s eyes as her unease strengthened.   

‘’A TV turning on in the night, a radio playing in the background, it could even be a sudden memory flashing into your mind, or even a vision of the future. When the lord wants to speak to you, he will. So be ready, but most importantly, DO NOT BE AFRAI – ‘’  

Silence reigned, Jenna blinking as she held her chest, this night was getting more eerie and as her eyes fell on the clock, it hadn’t moved an inch. 

‘’Shit.’’ She muttered. 

Her head then sunk into the cushion, her hand on the remote. She thought maybe she could crawl back into bed, try and sleep. But alone in her cold empty and silent room, no chance. At least in the living room she could hear her brother’s snores, it was comforting. Occasionally, there would be the woosh of a car outside and Jenna would think on how life would be much easier if she lived in a noisier area. 

While most fled from the noise she chased it, she would sleep at a party if she could. The booming music, the stomping feet, no way her thoughts could terrorize her within that chaos, in the madness of it all, serenity would reveal itself as she would flee into that envied slumber. How beautiful it would be. The thought of it drowned her eyes as they grew heavier, her joy simmering as she felt herself falling asleep. Finally

But then it hit her, that strong stare, the hot laser of watching eyes. Was she really alone or had a ghostly presence joined her midst. Had an ethereal visitor finally revealed themselves, sitting right beside her, watching her, stroking her hair with invisible hands? We all have guardian angels her father would say. They watch us and protect us, never leaving our side. The heavenly Father also watches us, observing our every move. Ancestors and dead family members, all gathered high up in the clouds staring down on you. The whole world, the whole universe, past, present and future, united in the watching of you. Every entity holds their breath until you finally open your eyes and then woosh, they’re gone. 

Jenna’s sleep was stolen, the fear prevailing yet again. Slumber would not kiss her tonight and as the clock ticked on, the Devil built himself an immortal empire.  

This wasn’t going to end anytime soon, and the dead television screen rubbed her the wrong way, she could see Nazari preaching on in the black, his sweaty face and burning eyes flaring in her mind. She needed a retreat from this fear, a place where she was fearless, a dream where she was at peace. 

All comics by Thando Bhebhe.

This story was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 2 on Thursday, Oct. 5.

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