Brendon lights the kerosene lamp in the attic with the book of matches from the top drawer in the kitchen. He hangs the lamp on the metal hook jutting from the beam on the bare wooden wall. The lamp swings, casting warm, golden beams of light in every direction. When the lamp stills, the light falls directly on Brendon.
Brendon glances out the small, rectangular window, the only one in the attic. The day is dying slowly; the night is rising steadily to overtake the peach-colored sky. Sometimes, Brendon gets nervous. Granted, Brendon is nervous most of the time, but it's more profound during dusk, when he can’t be sure if the sky is darkening of its own accord or if it's the Darkness coming to take him.
The sky is purpling and Brendon closes his eyes tightly, forcing himself to breath steadily. By repetition, his body's natural instinct, Brendon sinks to his knees, his head bowed and his hands coming together in front of him, fingers laced.
Like a flash, in the blink of an eye, the walls of the attic rattle and fear strikes deep, blooming in Brendon's chest. He squeezes his eyes shut tighter and recites the prayers his mother taught him. Brendon's father used to lead the prayers in the attic. The five of them – Brendon, his parents, his brother, and his sister – used to kneel on the floor of the attic and pray for the Darkness (the 'Demons,' as his father always referred to them) to pass them by, asking to be spared.
Brendon whispers the words under his breath frantically. He still believes despite everything that has happened to prove otherwise. Brendon still believes that, if he prays hard enough, whatever is out there, whatever it is killing people, that it will spare Brendon, spare him in a way it hadn't done to his family.
The pane of glass in the lone window trembles violently, but Brendon won’t open his eyes, won't look to see if it's finally his time. The walls still rattle, the floor vibrating against Brendon's knees, dust raining down on him from the ceiling.
Brendon knows he's being selfish. If the Darkness is coming for him, then it must be his time and he must accept it, just as his father had, his mother, his siblings. But he's afraid. He's afraid of dying, of even recognizing the demon that had taken his family away from him.
He's not sure how the idea came to be. His father had journals, books upon books filled with information and studies of the Darkness. The journals had been written by Brendon's grandfather, his great-grandfather, written back when the Demon was just beginning its reign of terror, when people could still leave their homes. It wasn't like it is now.
Brendon's great-grandfather had been the one to suggest it. Brendon's read the journals, poured over them time and time again to the point where he can recite the details off the top of his head, as easily as he can his prayers. His great-grandfather tied the Darkness to their religion and faith and how he was sure it was a punishment meant for those who had sinned. Somewhere, this changed into the idea of the Demon, the Darkness, that needed flesh for penance, a human sacrifice.
Brendon's great-grandfather did it. Brendon's grandfather did it. Eventually, Brendon's father did it. He hugged his cowering, weeping children and kissed his wife and walked downstairs, out the door, and the Darkness had taken him, leaving not even his body behind.
It didn't stop there, though. The Darkness didn’t cease overtaking the sky, the land. No one could venture outside. Brendon's father's death changed nothing. That's why Brendon doesn't understand why his mother went. His mother had done the same once her children were old enough, a twelve-year-old Brendon being held by his brother and sister so that he couldn't follow.
Brendon remembers sobbing, remembers his sister holding him firmly and telling him that it was okay, that God wanted them to do this, wanted their mother to sacrifice herself for the greater good. She said the same thing when their brother offered himself up. She kissed Brendon's forehead when he was seventeen, a year ago, and told him that she hoped she wouldn't see him for a good, long time, that she would be enough.
It never stopped and it never will. Brendon knew. He knew all along, but saying it wouldn't have changed things. He doesn't know what lurks outside, can't possibly fight the unknown. He can hide, though, can hide and pray, and he will for as long as he can.
The shaking of the house and the window swells to an ear-splitting, angry point and, then, just as suddenly as it had come, the noise is gone. Only then does Brendon feel safe enough to open his eyes and let his sweaty palms fall to his sides.
The sky was just as it was before, purple and peaceful. Brendon goes to the window, ignoring the dust that's lacing his shoulders and hair. He goes to the window and peers out at the world he's never once touched. From his window, he can see the house across the street. Brendon cringes, his heart tumbling around in his chest. There, on the lawn of the house across the street, are two people – Brendon's neighbors, though he'd never met them. His parents said the house belonged to a couple named Ross.
Brendon knows the two of them are dead. He knows, because no one lives after stepping foot outside. He had heard once that the couple had a son. He doesn't know if this son even exists, but just thinking that there's someone else who has felt the same thing he has, who has had a loved one lost to the demons that plague the earth, comforts Brendon more than it should, more than he'll ever admit.
He drops to his knees and, once again, begins to pray. He prays for strength, for hope, for protection. He adds prayers for Mr. and Mrs. Ross, thanking them, because the Darkness had skipped over Brendon in favor of the two of them. Brendon can't do much, but he can pray.