His Name is Dark, a short story I wrote for an upcoming anthology, was published on Tuesday, April 27. I had it published as free until yesterday. It now costs money to buy (unless you have Kindle Unlimited), so I thought I’d publish it here for anyone who would like to read it. If you do read it, please consider leaving me a review as reviews help me grow as a writer. Thank you, and I hope you like it.
Alana Salvador heard about Clearwater from a guy named Kevin. A friend, named Kevin. She had laughed when he told her his name because she followed a dog named Kevin on Instagram. He had ignored her laugh and said, “You have to go to Clearwater.” And although she felt guilty for thinking this, she was about 76% sure that Clearwater was fake. Well, at least the Clearwater Kevin had been talking about.
Her friend Kevin was a fucking nutcase, as they say. Diagnosis: Paranoid Schizophrenia. Just like Alana.
And that’s why Alana felt guilty for 76% not believing what he told her. Because she knew how much of a shitty feeling it was when people didn’t believe you because you were officially crazy. Not like “bro, that bitch is crazy” but like, actually, officially on paper crazy. If someone had asked her something like “are you sure… was it the voices…” and then quietly trailed off. But sometimes schizophrenics were delusional, so although it is an unkind question, it is a logical one.
It turned out that the 24% was the more likely statistic, because Clearwater was big and beautiful right in front of her.
She was standing on a cliff made of very dense dirt. Below her was the ocean, but not like any ocean she had seen in California or even in Hawai’i. It had a darkish turquoise tint into it, the tiny waves swirling into it like soap. Directly in front of her were two huge gray rocks in odd shapes, as if they had crashed into each other and dented one another like Honda Civics. One had a stone…dick? Coming out of it? She didn’t know what else to call it. It was long and ugly. On top of the rocks stood little green trees. They weren’t little obviously, but they looked little to her. Like some happy little trees from Bob Ross or something. There were more rocks—or boulders more like—behind it, but these ones were the largest and loomingest.
Behind her was a vast forest. This she knew without having to look back, because she had spent two days walking to come through it. Kevin was very serious about this when he drew her a map on his iPad: you can only get to Clearwater through the forest. That’s the only way.
She had asked about boats, since it was the coast, and he had shaken his head in a way that was almost maniacal. Boats will never make it, he’d said. When she asked why, his gaze pierced into hers. “There’s something out there,” Kevin had whispered, “in the water. Nobody in a boat has ever made it to the cliff, alive.”
That was when she decided she had to see it for herself.
She just stood there, admiring the water, the quiet. She turned her body a bit to the right to admire more of it and found a vast hill with a…castle? On it? It was definitely a castle. The outside of it was a matte gray, so rough that if rain hit it Alana was sure the raindrops would be cut into condensation. The castle itself had three towers with these elongated spires that seemed to gently kiss the sky.
“Do you like it?” a deep voice behind her said quietly.
She inhaled deeply and let the breath out. Without moving her head, she covered as much space as her eyes could take in and found there was nobody around. Nobody around, except this voice. She slowly turned, gently sinking her hand into the right back pocket of her jeans, where the knife her father had given her was.
The tall figure that stood before her was a man. Well, maybe. His sandy brown hair was cut very short on the sides so that the long hair on top waved over it. He had a thin beard that stretched across his jawline and up over his lips. There was a little heat in the cheeks under his dark, dark eyes. Alana was sure they were completely black—she’d never seen eyes so dark.
Awesome. She was about to get murdered.
She looked up at the structure again. “The castle? Yeah, I do. Is it empty?”
He stepped toward her and she gripped the knife in her back pocket.
“No,” he said quietly, in almost a whisper.
She looked up to the castle again. “People actually live there?”
“One person.” His voice was even quieter now.
“Who is it?” Alana asked, and turned back to him.
He must have stepped further forward silently, because he was centimeters from her face. He tilted his head like a quizzical dog and smiled. “Me.”
Alana instinctively stepped back, and the man slipped his arm around her waist. Rocks under her feet fell down the cliff and splashed into the water. She looked down. Her right foot was halfway off the cliff, only her toes keeping hold.
“Careful,” he said, and pulled her close. He smelled like what the woods would smell like if there had just been a massive orgy in the trees.
She clung to him until he let her go. “You are different,” he said, tilting his head again. “What are you?”
What are you? What an odd thing to ask a person.
“What do you mean different?” she said accusingly, feeling slightly offended.
“You made it through the woods without being torn to shreds, for one,” he said, “and you are different. Your mind is different.”
Alana slid the back of her thumb against her eyebrow. “I hear voices, sometimes. See things.” She clamped her lips shut. Why was she telling a stranger such a private thing about herself?
“You are schizophrenic,” he said. It was not a question.
She looked down at her feet. “Yes,” she whispered.
He slid his knuckle underneath her chin and lifted, so her eyes met his. “Do not be ashamed of who you are.”
For the first time in forever, Alana smiled.
“What is your name?” he asked her.
“Alana Iolani Salvador.”
“You are from the islands.”
He nodded once. “I am Dark. Dark Silva.”
He must have caught on to her skepticism because he added, “My mother loved the dark. And she loved me.”
She could not say anything to that.
“Would you like some tea?”
“In the dark castle with a stranger named Dark. Not particularly.”
He laughed; a deep sound that could only come from deep in the gut. “You have a weapon in your pocket. You could always slice me open if I try anything untowardly.”
Seconds dragged on as they stared at each other.
“Okay,” Alana finally breathed.
It was a long walk up a very steep hill to the castle. Dark walked behind Alana and gently caught her from falling a few times. It was much, much bigger up close.
Dark led her into a heavily wooded door, not locked. The inside was very un-castle-like. It was furnished like any regular home—homey and not unusual or scary. It was adorned in warm colors, browns and oranges. There was a TV and a laptop and a smartphone on the coffee table. It was really like any other home, just very very large with very very high ceilings.
Alana followed Dark into the kitchen, which was also very normal. She sat at a small table with two chairs. After some rustling around, he served her a mug with light purple liquid in it. It looked like tea, steamed like tea.
“Is this poisoned?” Alana asked, pointing at the mug.
Dark laughed his laugh again. “My mother used to ask me that all the time. No, it is surely not. It is tea, just like I promised.”
He sat across from her, a similar mug in his hand.
“So,” he said, his eyes widening and a lovely smile on his face. “Why are you here?”
“My friend told me to come here.”
“Probably because I had nothing better to do. But more likely because he thought something was happening here.”
“Something like what?”
“Something mysterious. Supernatural, possibly.”
He looked at her blankly, as if she had just told him something not worth commenting on.
“And how did you get through the woods unharmed?” he asked her.
“Um, I walked for 1 day, slept in the dirt, walked for half a day, and emerged.”
“And you found nothing threatening you?”
He looked at her with that same blank expression.
“What is in the woods?” she asked.
“Wolves,” he said simply.
“What kind of wolves?” she asked.
“The murdering kind,” he said. “I find the remains of people there all the time. I haven’t seen a human here—alive—in many years.
“Why didn’t they kill me?” Alana asked.
“I do not know,” Dark said.
“How long have you lived here?” Alana asked him.
“My entire life.”
“In this castle?”
“Yes, it has been in my family for many generations.”
“Why don’t the wolves eat you?”
“I do not know,” Dark said again.
She looked at his eyes. She didn’t think he was lying, but he could be a good liar. She had no qualifications to determine if someone was lying or not.
He broke the silence. “Where will you go after your…investigation of Clearwater?”
“I don’t know,” Alana said.
“Where do you live?”
“I don’t live anywhere.”
“You are a drifter, then?”
“No. I’ve been in a hospital for five years. My father, who has been my caretaker—I cannot really financially take care of myself,” Alana said tapping her forehead with one finger, “well, he died when I was in the hospital.”
“He did not leave you an inheritance?”
“He had nothing to leave,” she said. “He worked hard all his life to afford to rent a house in California. He had no retirement. He didn’t have anything.”
“So, when you say you don’t know where you will go, what you mean is you don’t have anywhere to go,” Dark said.
“Yes,” she said quietly, very slightly tilting her head forward.
“Would you like to stay here?” he asked, without a pause.
He waited, gazing at her.
“Why would you offer that to me? Do you feel sorry for me, or…? I mean you don’t even know me; I could be a serial killer.”
“You are not,” he said simply.
“And how do you know that?”
“Because I can read your mind.”
Alana’s eyes widened and then she laughed for ten million minutes.
Dark just stared at her.
“What am I thinking now?” she asked.
“That you have to…defecate. Would you like to use the restroom?”
Alana’s eyes widened and her cheeks got very hot. She covered her face with her hands. When she dared to look at him ten million seconds later, he was just looking at her with that blankness again.
“Yes,” she said finally.
He led her to a bathroom, also very normal. After she closed the bathroom door, she heard his footsteps on the stairs, going up, as if he wanted to give her…privacy?
When she came out of the bathroom, she heard Dark’s voice above. She found the stairs and went up. She walked down a long hallway and found him in one of the ten million bedrooms.
“You may sleep here. I have food and clothes and everything you will ever need. If there is something you want, I can order it from Amazon.”
“The wolves don’t eat Amazon drivers?”
Dark laughed. “There is a drop box in town.”
“Will you walk in the woods with me?” Alana asked.
Dark smiled. “Yes.”
They walked in the woods. There was much to learn about Dark, and the woods. But it didn’t really matter much, because she could never tell anyone. She could never tell anyone because she never saw another soul besides Dark.
She stayed that night, and every night, for the rest of her life. Well, the rest of eternity, really. Because from that September day, Dark and Alana never aged a day. They watched the world around them change via the television, but they didn’t. Well, they did a little. They fell hopelessly in love, of course. And they stayed in love forever. In love with each other and the wolves and the water below.
His name is Dark, and she loved him. And he loved her back, as relentlessly as she, him.
She knew that because she could read his mind.