|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Two
07 - Dying of the Light - Michelle
"No," River moaned softly, "Oh God, no!"
Her voice, sounding weak and desperate, resonated through the still, black, night. The moon was hidden behind dark clouds, and there was no trace of light save for the occasional twinkle of a brave star.
River gazed at one star that glittered defiantly, as though it rejected the still, the silence, the utter deadness of that night. Her look went back down to the still body in her arms; she could trace its outline in the faint light of the stars.
"Damon!" she wailed, "Dear God!"
River swallowed as a bitter voice from her head mocked her.
"God?" it said cruelly, "There is no God for you."
"I know that! Just shut-up! Get out of my head!" River screamed at the voice, clutching the body, "Why?! Oh, why?"
The tears flowed freely from her eyes, and she felt her face burn, a sensation she hadn’t felt in so long. She felt the unfamiliar wetness on her cheek, and her body began shaking from her sobs.
"I can fix this," she whispered fiercely, "I’ve seen others do it. I just need... I need..."
Her nostrils were suddenly filled with the scent of someone approaching. Her head snapped up, searching, and her eyes caught sight of a head of long, golden hair, bobbing up and down. She could hear the boy’s breathing, slightly raspy, slightly frightened, and the slap of his footsteps on the pavement filled her ears with the rhythm of his quick pace. As he neared, she began hearing the rapid beating of his heart. She could smell his fear, the beads of perspiration that stung his eyes. River took a deep breath, as though she was preparing to dive under water, and moved quickly from her place under the tree.
Taylor had just left the safety of the hotel to take a short walk outside. The night had seemed so peaceful, and it was much cooler, unlike the hotel, which currently possessed the joy of having a broken air conditioner.
He was on his way back, still a few blocks away, when the electricity of the city died, and the lights around him went out, freezing him in his tracks for a moment.
"Jeez, everything’s broken tonight," he muttered, annoyed.
He started to walk again when he realized he couldn’t see even a foot past his own nose. Taylor let out an exasperated cry. Great, just great, he thought. He glanced at the sky, searching for the moon in vain. All he saw were a couple of dumb stars.
Panic began settling into his mind. He couldn’t find his way back to the hotel, he couldn’t find his way anywhere for that matter. Taylor became increasingly scared, confused. He wasn’t sure what to do.
Somewhere in the night, he heard a girl moan. The agony of her cries pierced the still night air.
"Dear God!" she shrieked.
"I know that! Just shut-up! Get out of my head!"
Her voice was filled with wretched sobbing now.
"Why?! Oh, why?!"
More silence, then something indiscernible.
The night seemed to get even darker. Taylor didn’t think that was even possible, and in his mind something snapped. He bolted, running blindly into the dark. He ran about fifty feet before he collided into a figure draped in some sort of cloak. He tumbled onto the obstacle, and noticed the soft velvet of its cloak as he fell on top of it.
Taylor gasped for breath as he found himself staring into the most enchanting pair of eyes he had ever seen. They were black and glittered with a coldness that repelled him, yet mesmerized him at the same time.
"I— I’m so sorry," he stammered, helping the girl to her feet.
"It’s all right."
The hood of her cloak had fallen from her head, and even in the dark Taylor could make out her delicate features: her small nose and mouth, the silvery-blond wisps of hair that fell about her shoulders wildly, and those eyes.
Taylor stared at her eyes again, unable to stop watching the fire that swirled around within them.
The girl stared back, her face glowing with a pale luminescence. Taylor couldn’t figure out why he could see her so clearly when it was so dark.
"Who are you?" he asked uneasily.
"River," she said simply, her eyes pouring over him.
"Taylor," he offered, feeling suffocated by those eyes, that stare.
"Can I show you something, Taylor?" she asked.
"Sure, sure," mumbled Taylor, "Whatever."
A white hand reached out from the folds of the cloak and took his gently. Taylor started at the coldness of her grasp, but willingly let her lead him forward into the night. If only she would stop staring at him...
As though she had read his mind, she suddenly turned away, and he could see her kneel on the ground, crouched over something.
"Damon," he heard River whisper, "I love you so much."
Who’s Damon? Taylor wondered absently. In a swift movement that was unnaturally quick, River stood up and faced Taylor again, her mouth inches from his own, her right hand resting lightly on his leg. Taylor recoiled slightly, his mind feeling more flustered, his ears reddening.
"Um, River?" Taylor sputtered nervously, "This is getting really weird... I mean, it was weird before but I don’t think—"
"Shush," she interrupted him, "Silly boy."
She said the word "boy" with a scornful air of disdain that confused Taylor, but he tried not to think about it. He could see her so clearly. She had a beauty unlike any he’d ever seen. It was breathtaking, God-like if he dared, but there was also something terribly sinister and empty about it. He wanted to pull back from her, but those eyes held his with ease.
"You are destined for something special, Taylor," she murmured, planting a tender kiss on his lips.
Again, Taylor noticed how cold she was. Despite the almost icy lips that chilled his own, Taylor felt a thrill fill him as her mouth lingered. She brought her mouth next to his ear, nibbling daintily. Her breath was hot and moist, very different from the cold of her lips, and her burning tongue teased his ear. Taylor closed his eyes, hoping to block out hers, hoping he could just get out of the situation. But when he closed his eyes, he could still see them. Black, cold eyes that flashed green.
"You are destined for something very special," she repeated, bringing her hand up to his neck.
Taylor noticed that her hand was no longer cold. Her warm, light touch felt nice, but Taylor felt that it was all wrong.
"I... am... so..." she whispered between kisses, "sorry."
Taylor’s eyes snapped open, but he saw nothing.
Taylor looked about him wildly. He was in a white room, with no apparent way out.
"Where am I?!" he shouted, "What happened to me!"
"Don’t worry Taylor," said a male voice calmly, "You’ll get out of here."
Taylor whirled around to see a guy who looked about sixteen. His hair was dark and slightly wavy, he smiled a friendly grin. His eyes were black and burned with a familiar light that Taylor couldn’t quite place.
"You’re lucky I’m still so weak," he added.
"What?" Taylor asked, confused.
The room suddenly filled with a brilliant flash of light. Taylor was blinded for an instant, and he tried closing his eyes. The white of the light was etched onto the back of his eyelids, and it hurt to look, but there seemed to be no way to escape it.
As suddenly as it had come, the light disappeared. Taylor opened his eyes.
He was lying in a soft bed.
"What the hell?" he muttered to himself, sitting up, "It must have all been a dream."
He lay back down again, relieved.
A girl was lying next to him, breathing softly, asleep.
He stared at the beautiful creature, her delicate nose and mouth, silvery-blond hair that looked so soft.
Her eyes opened deliberately as if they felt his stare. Taylor caught his breath at the sight of them.
Everything came back to him in a rush.
"River," he choked out, "My God, I—"
"Taylor," she cried out. She was surprised for a moment, and then realization seemed to dawn on her.
"Too weak," she spat out.
"Damn it!" she cried in despair, "Five hours? Is that all I get? Five hours!"
"River, what are you talking about?"
She didn’t reply, but instead grabbed his hand, tugging him out of the bed. Taylor followed her as she led him out of the room, and out of what seemed to be a hotel, and once again, into the night.
The streetlights were back on.
Taylor was somewhat relieved at this, and even more relieved when he realized he was being taken back to the hotel he had been staying at.
"I’ll see you again," River said to him at the front doors of the hotel.
It wasn’t a question, and if this had been a date, it certainly was the strangest one Taylor had ever been on.
"Um, okay, I think," Taylor mumbled, and she disappeared back into the night.
Taylor watched his brothers throw around a baseball in the little park. They seemed to be having fun, but Taylor just wasn’t in the mood.
It had been a whole week since the incident with River. Explaining his absence for half of the night had been difficult for Taylor. How could he tell his parents that he’d found himself in a strange bed with a strange girl without knowing how he had gotten there?
He had gone with the story that when the lights went out, he couldn’t see a thing so he had just sat down on a bench and fell asleep there. Of course, his parents were very worried and scared to death of what might have happened to him, but otherwise they had seemed okay.
Someone was watching him.
Taylor could feel it. It was a chilling feeling, the feel of... cold, icy eyes.
Taylor saw the eyes in his mind at the same moment he heard her voice.
He didn’t need to turn around to know who it was.
"Hi, River," he said, feeling obliged to acknowledge her.
She took a seat next to him.
Taylor tried to look away, but he was drawn to her. She looked even more lovely than before, stronger. Her mouth twisted into a somewhat crazed smile.
Her eyes seemed to search him for something, and the green fire danced in her eyes as they found it.
"Very good," she said, as she leaned over and kissed him.
"River, I really think you should know that—"
Her hand felt hot as it caressed his throat.
Taylor struggled to escape her embrace.
The world went a murky gray.
Taylor could see River kissing him, but it wasn’t him. The face of the guy Taylor had seen in that dream seemed to be lurking somewhere beneath his own face. Tears streamed down their cheeks, tears that froze on their faces, then melted and continued on their path.
"I’m sorry, Taylor," said a voice he recognized as the guy in his dream.
"I am, too," said River, "But I couldn’t live without Damon."
"You’re Damon?" Taylor asked, unsure of why he asked this question when a million others bombarded his mind: what was happening to him? where was he?
"I’m Damon," said the guy.
Taylor felt a slight pain in his mind, and the world went black.
Damon opened his eyes.
The first thing he saw was River.
She was so beautiful.
"Damon," she cried, "You left me after so soon last time."
"Too weak," he replied, offering no more.
"I figured," said River, "We’ll make it work better this time."
Damon grunted in agreement.
He was in the white room again.
Taylor looked around for any way out.
"So we meet again."
Taylor turned to see Damon standing a few feet from him.
"Uh, yes," said Taylor, unsure what to say.
"I am sorry."
"You and River keep saying that!" said Taylor, "What are you talking about?"
Before Damon could answer, the room flashed with the white light.
It blinded him, and Taylor closed his eyes.
"Stupid dreams," he muttered.
He opened his eyes, expecting to find himself asleep somewhere.
A baseball struck him in the face.
"Man, Tay, are you okay?"
Taylor blinked. That was weird.
As his vision cleared, he saw his two brothers running towards him.
"Honestly, you’ve been getting stranger and stranger."
"Yeah," said Zac, "Ever since you met that dumb girl."
"You’re always doing that blacking out thing on us, you cut your hair, dyed it for God’s sake, everyone thinks you’re selling out, that you submitted to all that ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘he looks like a girl’ talk."
He could see the annoyance in his brothers’ faces.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about."
They shook their heads and picked up the baseball.
"If you don’t wanna play, then don’t," said Zac angrily, as the two walked away from him.
He didn’t even remember getting up from the bench to play with his brothers. And hadn’t he just been dreaming?
Taylor glanced around him, seeing no one except his two brothers, throwing the baseball back and forth in their backyard.
"Wait a minute... weren’t we just in New York?" Taylor’s frown deepened, "When had they gone home?"
Taylor walked to the front of the house, and saw it was his own house. He wasn’t in a park in New York, a hotel, he was home.
He left the front yard, walking down the driveway and to the sidewalk.
"Hey, love!" he heard a girl shout.
She looked about his age, and she was running down the sidewalk...toward him.
"Me?" Taylor made a puzzled gesture at himself as she neared him, slowing down.
"Who else, silly?" said the girl, giving him a quick peck on the cheek, "I can’t leave to find food for a minute without you coming looking for me can I? You’ve got to spend some time with your brothers...you know, being Taylor?."
Her lips were cold.
Again Taylor had the familiar rushing of memories bombard him, just like they had come to him in that bed a week ago.
She looked at him strangely, her mouth slightly open, her eyes flashing with that green fire.
She was so beautiful.
And so angry.
"A week," she stated flatly.
She didn’t say anything in reply, just turned on her heel and walked away quickly.
Taylor watched her leave, scratching his head.
His hair felt soft and light under his fingertips. But something was different.
Taylor couldn’t place it, it was just weird.
"...you cut your hair, dyed it for God’s sake..."
"No..." said Taylor, his eyes widening in disbelief, "No way!"
He hastened into the house, rushing into the closest bathroom. He flicked on the light, turning to the mirror, and froze.
It had been cropped close to his head, slightly tapered, it was dark, dark and wavy...just like...just like...
The name was thrown at him from the depths of his mind.
Taylor brought his hand up to his hair, willing it to transform back into the long locks of golden blond hair he was used to seeing.
A strange noise came from his throat as he gaped at himself in the mirror.
"This has to be another of those crazy dreams," he said to himself.
"Who said that?" Taylor looked for the source of the male voice.
You can’t see me, but I’m sorry.
"Sorry for what?" Taylor recognized the voice as Damon’s.
I’m not that strong yet, but you’ll see. It’s almost ready.
"Ready for what?!"
She’ll come in the night.
"Come for what?"
Damon didn’t answer.
Taylor lay in bed, sweating. He couldn’t sleep with River out there.
She’ll come in the night, Damon had said.
Undoubtedly he was referring to River.
River... he couldn’t let her get to him. Every time she did, it was the white room...
Taylor sat up quickly, his breathing quickening with the sight of River.
She was sitting at the tip of his bed, looking at him intently.
"Today is the day, Taylor, the special day you are destined for."
She pounced at him, cat-like in the smoothness and quickness of her actions, pushing him back onto the bed before he could jump out. Her hands rested upon his throat and face, stroking lovingly.
"I love you," she said, "Damon."
Her hands were burning hot.
Taylor found himself in the white room again.
"Damn it, River!" he shouted, "Let me out! I’m tired of this!"
He calmed down a little, thinking back to all the other times. Damon had always appeared, and then the light would come and take him out of this place.
Taylor sat down and waited.
Damon opened his eyes, and they were met with the sight of River.
"My angel, my love," he said to her, taking her cold hand in his own.
"It’s over," she said, satisfied.
"When I look into myself, I can see him, you know."
"Really?" River laughed.
"He’s waiting for me, no, he’s waiting for the light...to take him out."
"Let him wait for it," she said dismissively, "It will never come."