Alf peered out of the dirt encrusted window at the setting sun. Involuntarily, he shuddered and continued with his preparations for the long evening ahead.
Already he fancied that he could hear the whispering from the lengthening shadows. Moving as quickly as his arthritis would allow, he crossed the room and banished them with a flick of the light switch.
“That’ll fix yer” he muttered, a grin spreading across his toothless mouth. He settled into his favourite chair, poured a cup of tea from his thermos and began the long wait until dawn.
His eyes snapped open. Grunting at the exertion he forced himself to his feet, hobbled to the television, and turned it off. The hiss from the white noise faded leaving the house silent. He looked at his watch and sighed. Just before twelve.
He sat back into the chair and looked around at the piles of paper surrounding him. Old newspapers and unopened mail covered the floor and most of the surfaces in the room, obscuring the fraying carpet.
He picked up a stack of unopened envelopes and started to sift through them.
“You may already have won £100,000 – yeah, I’ll bet I have” he grumbled.
He had almost finished going through the letters, when he noticed another envelope protruding from the folds of a newspaper.
The words on the outside of the envelope caused his heart to lurch in his chest
“Disconnection Notice”. The letter was postmarked as being sent two weeks ago.
He grabbed for the torch on the small coffee table, and with it safely in his lap, opened the envelope with trembling fingers and removed the single folded sheet of paper from inside.
“Dear Mr. Alf Miller,” the letter began.
“This letter is to give you notice that your electricity supply will be terminated promptly at 12:00 am on the day of November 14th…”
A wave of panic and nausea churned his stomach and the letter fell from his trembling fingers. “But thats..” he began
The old wooden clock on the mantelpiece began to chime – each gong sounding like a death knell to the old man. He counted down the ringing until it had intoned all twelve.
The lights in the house went out.
A frightened yelp escaped from Alf’s mouth and he snapped on the torch in his lap.
The white beam burst through the shroud of darkness that had threatened to engulf him, and the shadows retreated from the light, to dance on the fading wallpaper. Shapes moved and twisted in the darkness, and the whispering began – a dry, papery sound, akin to handfuls of desiccated leaves being rubbed slowly together.
“Stay Back!” he yelled at the shadows.
The shadows thickened and writhed, coalescing into another form.
“No!” Alf swung the torch at the mass and for a moment the darkness resisted the burning beam of light, before it dissolved under its intensity. No sooner than the darkness had dissipated however, than it started to reform in the darkest of the shadows.
Alf fumbled in the drawer of the cabinet beside him, groping blindly until his hand closed around two cardboard boxes, held together with an elastic band. As he drew his hand from the drawer he felt a light touch on the back of his hand. It was the touch of fingertips, their skin the texture of leather, gently caressing his closed fist.
Alf did scream then – a short sharp cry of terror. He reflexively pulled his hand from the drawer and the two boxes flew from his grasp – landing at the base of the sofa.
The light from the lantern flickered slightly, and its brilliant white beam became tainted with yellow. The beam dimmed noticeably and the shadows closed in on the old man.
Ignoring the flare of pain in his joints, Alf hurried to where the boxes had landed, waving the beam of light around him like a sword to keep the darkness at bay. The light however was fading quickly. He did not have much time left.
Balancing the torch on his lap, he grabbed the box of candles and matches from their resting place, and with trembling hands removed a candle. He managed to light it on the third attempt. Seconds later, the light faded to a tiny orange glow and the shadows contracted around him. His protective shell of light was now no more than a few feet across.
The shadows began to coalesce once more. Powerless to dismiss them, Alf pushed himself back into the corner of the room and held the candle out in front of him like a shield. The whispering increased in intensity, beginning to form a word. Alf.
She was here now, regarding him with dark, dead eyes. Her head was tilted at an impossible angle, shards of bone protruding from black wounds on her neck.
“Together Forever” she hissed.
“Alice…Why won’t you stay dead!” he sobbed to the apparition.
Alice advanced towards him. She was no more than six feet away from him now, and was probing the edges of the candle light with a detached curiosity. A smile played across her blue lips and she stepped into the light.
Screaming, Alf threw the candle at his long dead wife. It passed straight through her and hit a pile of old newspapers. The papers burst into flames, which in turn ignited the old sofa. The flames spread across the walls and ceiling, devouring everything in their path.
Alice reached for Alf, but the light from the inferno was too bright. Her shadowy form grew insubstantial and vanished like smoke in the wind as her fingers brushed against his cheek.
Alf started laughing.
“I beat you! After 15 years I finally won! I’m Free!”
He was still laughing as he began to burn.
Over the crackle of the flames and his laughter, a voice whispered in his ear.
“Together again my love. Together Forever.”
His eyes widened and as realisation dawned, Alf finally began to scream.
©2009 Graeme Reynolds
Graeme Reynolds is a 37 year old aspiring horror author and self employed software tester.
His stories to date have been published by www.flashesinthedark.com , microhorror.com and spinetinglers.co.uk
He lives in the South West of England with his cats and chickens and is currently working on his first novel – Secret Diary of a Werewolf that he hopes to finish sometime in 2009