I have within me the desire which some call wanderlust. That's a bad name for it. It's not a hot, fast feeling. It's cold. It's slow. It pulls. I've never had both the nerve and means to travel far, so sometimes at night when I lay listening to the world it would become too much, the voice of impulse loud in silence, and I would descend from my apartment to wander dark places.
Most people avoided that part of the city at night. I lived far from the bright center, in a molding outskirt long past its day, but I didn't fear the dark. The quiet was nice. Sometimes I passed people walking dogs, or jogging, but some nights I didn't encounter a soul on my lonely paths, save those in the ethereal cars, ineffective in their transience. I could feel that I was alone. It felt right sometimes.
I lived there for some time, and found places which I came to frequent on my nocturnal circuits. There was a bridge whose rise I could stand on to gaze down the river at the lights of the true city, and there was a vacant lot where I sometimes stood in silence to hear machine noises from below the ground. But there were better places, places that sparked fear and wonder in my heart, places that weren't there all the time. Sometimes as I walked I would find that a familiar place had become momentarily foreign. The shapes of landscape and construct would seem sharpened, and I would feel a subtle energy. I'd listen, and everything would be quiet. Insects subdued their cries, and though the wind blew always, in those places it had no sound, as if holding its breath in reverence. I never noticed myself entering one of those sacred moments. I would just find myself inside one, and stopping, I would draw from it. I knew there was something special, seperate, about those pockets of stillness, and I would feel awe and be filled. There was something wrong about them also, and I would feel fear that woke me up in some way from the daze my patterned life lulled me to. The moment would end once I had felt it. Perhaps by drawing from those things I somehow imbalanced them. They always came back somewhere, so I sought them.
The first time I noticed, I was on a walk along an underpass. It was on a slimy concrete wall where rain water pulled the earth through cracks as it seeped. It was graffiti, which usually doesn't last long here. It was done in the old way, with a marker, dark blue. It read "It is later than you think". I knew the reference, and I thought this was a nice thing to write on a wall. It amused me.
Over time, I began to see the same message elsewhere, on walls, on lamp posts, even on rocks, always in the same dark blue marker. This didn't seem to me like the kind of thing that would become a trend, and gangs generally don't mark territory with philosophy, so the messages presented an interesting enigma to me. Eventually it seemed they were everywhere.
Later there were arrows. As best I know, they all appeared the same night. They were paired with the messages, in the same dark blue ink. They seemed to point towards some single location. Arrows on parallel walls pointed the same direction, and those on surfaces at an angle to this direction were foreshortened to indicate their direction into or out of the surface they marked. Perpindicular walls just had a dark blue dot. I enjoy things that are incongruous to what I consider normal life, so one night I decided to follow the arrows.
I didn't know what or who I would find, so I started off cautiously. From my walks I had a general idea of where the arrows were pointing, and I approached this point along a path which allowed me to be unseen. When I arrived, however, I found only another arrow, and following it I encountered another whose direction seemed to differ from what I though it had been. As I followed further this suspicion was confirmed when I found myself passing the same point twice in different directions. The arrows were changing. Realizing that any furtiveness was likely pointless, I decided to abandon caution and simply follow the sign to its end directly. After a time the arrows seemed to decide on a path, with only an occasional extraneous loop around a block. I walked on and found myself in territory I was unfamiliar with on foot. I walked for miles, and my fatigue grew so that I had almost resolved to turn back when I came upon a new message, written on a decorative boulder of quartz. It was in the same blue ink. It said "here".
I looked around myself. I was in the middle of a rather large park, although I don't know which. It had been closed for the night much earlier, and the lamp posts which marked its path were dark. The boulder and myself were rather oddly placed in the middle of a field of grass. I could see nothing nearby of significance. Then I stopped looking and started feeling, and it was there.
I sometimes started when I found myself in the night's held places, but this instant hit me as a solid shock. I fell to a sit. The world had achieved a fantastic simultaneous hyper reality and surrealness. Darkness, flowing about me, seemed to roil like smoke and crackle like hair on a dry day. It passed through me, and without wanting to I absorbed it. It was very cold, inside. It was deep, eldritch, and more than I could fathom. It was beyond me, so much so that it filled me with terror until I could no longer contain it.
I ran, madly, in a direction I vaguely thought would take me home. I felt the dark which was the night's self following me, and yet always ahead. The world was empty, save myself and it. I fled through streets which should have been filled even at that time and found them empty. In time I thought I approached my place of believed safety, but I could find no sign. At corners and over stops there were no street names, just blank poles. All landmarks eluded me.
Eventually fear overcame my thoughts and I lost myself.
Without knowing how, I was at my door. I ascended with a swiftness possible only as fear bore me, and then I hid in bed until sleep brought morning.
The next day the arrows and the messages were gone, although I'm not sure if they were ever really there. I don't know if it meant me ill or well, but I believe it was some essence of the night itself I met in that park. On previous nights, the places I had found must have been small parts of it. Perhaps it was glad that I had tried to know it and wanted to meet me, or perhaps it displayed its full self to me as a punishment for intruding on its sacred drifting thoughts. I moved away from there a short time later. I still walk at night, but I leave the truly dark places alone now.
This is an original work submitted for The Scary Story Quest.