Short Story
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
                         The Vicious Void
                                         By Charles E.J. Moulton


 Staring into the bottomless void, where those creature’s eyes should’ve
been, felt like looking into an unsolved mystery.  My heart skipped a beat,
gazing into an abyss as deep as the Pacific Mariana Trench.  I just couldn’t
look away.  The depth of that empty gaze owned an eternity within its grasp.  I
wanted to look away, it wasn’t that.  I just couldn’t.  I wasn’t able to.  
Sometimes, the depth of evil is too mesmerizing to avoid.  The magnetism of
the non-existant eyes pulled me in like Mesmer would’ve pulled in his patients
in the beginning of the 19th century.  Compulsion hit me just as hypnotism
did, in spite of bottomless fear.  My eyes split wide open, cracking my sore
eyelids.  My eyebrows raised up toward my hairline.  My mouth opened to
display a soundless scream.  Nothing came out.  I couldn’t scream.  I tried.  
Nothing came out.  I opened my mouth and tried to shout.  The only thing that
came out was air.

 As the creature’s skeletal jaw opened to display missing teeth, I felt like
Edward Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’.  I held up my hands toward my
cheeks, shivered to the bone, sweating rivers.

 The beast that I gazed at started rocking his jaw back and forth, breathing a
foul stench on me.  It smelled of decay, such as rotted corpses on old
graveyards would stench.  Step by step, this thing walked closer and closer
towards me.

 No escape routes revealed themselves.  I felt like a trapped animal in a
narrow cage, impossible to find relief of any kind.  Where was I?  Standing
against a stone wall?  Yes.  I could see neither to the right or the left.  
Everything was dark.  Then: why, oh, why was this creature illuminated.

 I searched my night dress.  Did it have pockets?  No.  My bathrobe.  Gosh.  I’
d left a candle in there.  Matches?  My hands nervously trembling, I searched
my pockets.  All the while, the beast came closer.  It got itself ready to devour
me.  So, the legend came true after all.  Charon’s hoe reached into this life
after all.

 “You can try to search for the candle, Guinevere,” it said, “but sooner or
later I will get you, anyway.”

 My trembling hand gripped the candle, but it got stuck in my pocket.  I
couldn’t get it out.  I pulled and pulled.  Damn it.  It wouldn’t come out.  Finally,
with a crack, I pulled it out.  The crack sounded like a bone breaking.  The
candle broke into two pieces.  Holding on to the two pieces, I began to cry.

 Matches?  Where were they?

 Cross?  Did I have a cross here?

 I walked away from the wall, barely being able to stay inside my slippers,
trying to find a way out.  The long open hallway ended in a door.  The arches
with their windows toward the courtyard allowed the moon to shine on a stone
gateway.  The light on the other end seemed to hold a glimmer of hope.  The
light existed, after all.  I saw that now.

 The beast saw my hope and closed its mouth as a response to that hope.  
The surprise startled him.  He pulled back, waiting for me to wait, waiting for
me to act.  The withdrawal of his head looked perverse, like a chinless head
cocking his head backwards and sideways in surprised awe.

 I ran.  How I ran.  I shot down that hallway like a bullet.  The beast followed
me, tight at my heels.  As I ran, heading for the light in that room, I searched
my bathrobe for the crucifix that I always carried with me.  Fumbling in my
pocket, I found it, grasped it, clenched it, held it.  Arriving in the room at the
end, I rushed in.

 It was dark in there and the light I had seen was no longer there.  But, yes, it
appeared again.  A candle appeared.  Not my candle, but another one.  Like
a seed of vision, that light suddenly received visual blessing.  At a desk, a girl
sat inscribing sheep’s vellum with feather and ink.  That girl, no, it couldn’t
be.  It couldn’t be.  I looked back at the beast, who threw his head back and
laughed a soundless scream.  I looked at the girl sitting by the desk.  The girl
was me, wearing the same nightgown I wore right now, only the girl had no
eyes.  She had an upside down cross tattooed on her chin.

 I grinned at myself, mud oozing out of my eyes.

 I kept looking back and forth between these two culprits and all I could think
of was me falling deeper and deeper into that trench, drowning, the water in
my ears, the water in my nostrils, the boat up above sinking in the middle of
the Atlantic.

 I died and went to heaven, hell, or both at the same time.

 I don’t know where I went.  I just wanted to go home.

 A demon to my right, a doppelgänger to my left.

 I felt a hand on my shoulder, shaking me, shaking me, shaking me slowly
and then faster.  Like in a dream, that voice seemed distance yet close.  The
girl at the desk blurred away and the beast to my right disappeared into the
sunshine.

 “Honey,” the voice said.  “Wake up.”

 I moaned, spit trickling down my cheek on to the sheets.

 “Honey,” the voice said, this time louder.  “Please wake up.  You’re
moaning.”

 I opened my eyes, very slowly.  At first, I saw only the pink bedsheets.  The
hand that held me was firm and kind. I followed it up to a friendly face.

 My husband’s kind smile met me.

 I blinked a few times, rubbing my eyes.

 “What?”

 “You were groaning,” he said.  “It sounded like a really bad dream.”

 I shook my head, closing my eyes again.

 “Beasts, a copy of myself without eyes, a castle.  Geez, let me dream of
Antigua instead.”

 “Let’s go back there,” my husband joked.

 “Back to our honeymoon,” I responded.

 I shivered. “That dream scared the wits out of me.”

 My husband embraced me, stroking my hair.

 “That feels good.”

 We kissed, we made love, he came into me, shared his manhood and
promised me his eternal love.  The ghosts of my dream were still there, but
they had been intimidated by a strong, male hand.

 Our daughter had noticed none of our lovemaking, her concentration keen
to discover the beauty of toys.

 “How is Kimberley?”

 “Playing with her Cinderella castle.”

 I sighed, forcing myself to get up.

 “I’ll make us some breakfast.”

 “Great,” my husband said. “Ham and eggs on toast?”

 “Anything my hubbie fancies.”

 The shower felt unusually hot, the electric toothbrush felt annoying.  All the
time, I thought of the beast chasing me down the hallway.

 I put on a dress, set the table, made breakfast and then called my family
down to join me, that hot coffee patiently waiting on the oak table.

 “Guys, breakfast,” I cried out.

 Then, as I turned back to put the ham and eggs on the table, my eyes met,
not my husband’s eyes, but Charon’s empty orbs.  The beast, sitting on my
husband’s chair.

 He grinned, spitefully, screaming in a soft voice:

 “Ham and eggs on toast, Sweetie?”

 I dropped the plates, screamed and ran away down the hallway again,
toward the light at the end of the tunnel.
About Charles E. J.
Moulton

His trilingual, artistic,
theatrical upbringing
inspired him to make
artistry a profession.
Like his father Herbert
Moulton, he is a
published author. Like
his mother Gun
Kronzell, he’s a stage
performer. He teaches
voice and drama, paints,
works as a big-band-
vocalist, is married and
has a daughter.