The old man sat in the chair and slowly rocked back and forth, back and forth. The long years had etched long lines in his long face. The dwindling light of the setting sun filtered into the dusty room through the cracked glass. A car horn honked somewhere outside, and its noise blurred into the murmur of people on the streets below returning home from work. A chill in the air reminded the old man of the onset of winter. He shivered and pulled the tattered blanket close around himself. He was tired. It was almost over. His wrinkled eyes softly closed and his toothless mouth smiled. He thought about the thing which had always brought him dreams.
Many many years before in a sunlit valley the snows melted and the water ran fast and cold down the mountainside into the deep deep pool. The clouds sprinted fast across the sky running from the icy wind and the sun followed the clouds and the shadows grew long long long.
At the edge of the valley was a small house with white shingles and a blue fence. A young boy played outside by the pool. He looked at his shadow. It was so much longer than he was. A voice shouted. His mother. Dinner time. He ran towards the house and his shadow ran behind him. Soon the sky was black and the valley was dark except for the light coming from the windows of the house. The boy climbed into bed and his mother pulled his quilt over him. Good night mamma. Good night sweetie. The lights in the house went out and the boy stared at the dark ceiling. He was tired from playing. He curled up under his blankets and his soft eyes closed.
At the bottom of the pool a pair of eyes slowly opened. They slithered out of the water onto the sandy shore and the thing stretched and arched its back high into the night sky and the stars retreated in fear. It growled and flexed its claws and the eyes looked up and shone yellow and red in the moonlight. Warm breath came from the thing's nostrils and froze into a cloud in the cold night air. It followed a scent to the house and crawled in through a window. It slunk over to the bed and the eyes stared at the boy and narrowed and a forked tongue darted out in out in.
The boy was on a gravel road. Something was chasing him. He heard a snarl behind him. He ran and ran. His feet pounded hard against the road and dust rose up behind him. The thing swam through the dust. It was getting closer. Faster faster run faster. His left foot landed and the gravel slid out from beneath it. He toppled forwards. He stretched out his arms to break his fall and the gravel dug into the palms of his hands and stuck, but he pushed up and almost got to his feet. The thing was nearly upon him. Claws, tentacles, and talons reached for him. Before he could stand fully upright, his feet slid out from under him again. He began scrambling along the ground on his hands and knees. He couldn't escape it. Looking down, he saw a shadow engulfing his own. Deep darkness dissolving darkness. The boy screamed and his eyes opened wide in the pitch black of his room and he pulled the quilt close to his trembling body.
Many many years later in a small apartment a woman smiled and her long blonde hair flowed over a pillow. A middle aged man held her tightly and she exhaled warmly against his neck. Outside in the summer night, crickets played a melody for the two lovers. He pressed his hands against the soft skin of her back and felt her body against his and their breath came more quickly and their mouths opened as their bodies moved in unison and time passed unnoticed. Their ecstasy ended and the man closed his eyes and smiled a wide smile and drifted into sleep with her in his arms.
The crickets became silent and the thing clambered through the window. Its eyes looked left and right. It slid into the bed and ran its soft paws up and down the man's naked body. It curled up against him and embraced his sleeping form and rubbed its cheek against his.
The man was in a building. Lights shone down from a ceiling high above. In front of him a long hallway disappeared into the distance. He turned right and saw another endless corridor. He turned all the way around and saw yet another. He ran and ran. His polished black shoes pounded against the smooth marble tiles and the clacks echoed off the hard surfaces. He came to a junction and turned left. He ran and came to another junction then another and another and another. Everywhere he ran the hallways turned. There was no end. No end. He stopped and spun around, looking all around him. Where to go? What to do? His eyes slowly opened. He was sweating. She was sleeping soundly in his arms.
The old man opened his eyes. The room was dark and musty. He coughed and his body shook and he held his hands tight against his chest. His breathing rasped through the phlegm in his throat. His frail limbs were sore and bony. He could feel something near by. He felt it outside the window. It was a part of him. It always had been. Come in. Take me away. My eyes have been open too long. In the perfect darkness he watched it enter. It looked at him and reached out its hands and closed his eyelids. His labored breathing slowed and stopped and he slumped back in the chair.
He was in a valley. The sky was bright and empty of clouds. He ran on the strong legs of a young boy. He ran past maple trees and jumped into piles of red and yellow leaves. He came to a pool and looked deep into it and saw the dark, familiar eyes closing for the last time. Good night old friend.