Alone in the Dark By D.I. Jolly

Dennis sat with his head on the kitchen table wondering if today would be the day he snapped and flips it over. A bright light shocked him into sitting up and he looked through bloodshot eyes at his wife, whose face turned sad.

“It really scares me when you sit in the dark like that.”

“I’m sorry my love, I… I don’t mean to bring this back into the house with me. I just wish I could find something else and leave this shit job once and for all.”

Emily walked over to sat on his lap and lay her head on his shoulder.

“I know, I know, and you will. I’m sorry it’s so hard for you right now, but I still love you.”

He wrapped his arms around her and for an instant remembered why he got up day after day. She made his life make sense and as long as they were together, nothing else mattered. A smile crept back to his face.

“Let’s open a bottle of wine, light a fire and lose track of time. I’m going to call in sick tomorrow.”

“Really? You never do that, even when you are sick.”

“Exactly. I’m 30 years old, not dead, let’s have a holiday day.”

“Oh… Uummm, ok, let’s do it.”

She jumped up off him and went to the cupboard for glasses. He headed into the lounge, pulled the cushions off the couch and started on a fire. A few hours and a bottle of wine each later, they stared into the fire quietly together.

A sudden and loud knock at the door broke the spell and Dennis looked at the clock.

“Who would be knocking at this hour?”

Emily shrugged as he got up and headed for the door which burst inwards as he got there. It knocked his head hard and he staggered backwards and to the ground. Through suddenly blurry eye he saw three men rush into the house. He wanted to move to stop them but in that instant, his body wasn’t responding. A rough hand grabbed him and pulled him to his feet, then shoved him across the room. Emily came into focus and his mind cleared suddenly. He regained his balance and put himself between them and her.

“What the fuck do you want! Get out of my house!”

One of the men pointed his gun at Dennis and growled,

“Shut up. “

While the other two pulled the couch in front of the door. Fear and rage started to bubble up inside of Dennis, bringing with it an urge to do something stupid, but Emily’s hands on his back kept him sane.

“What do you want?”

The man stepped forward and put the gun against Dennis’s forehead.

“Shut, up… and sit down.”

As he spoke he put his spare hand on Dennis’s shoulder and pushed him hard, causing him to stumble. In his ear, he heard a whisper.

“Let’s just do as they say.”

Slowly he and Emily sat down quietly. The other two men appear and they all started talking amongst themselves. Dennis strained his ear to try and hear what they were saying but couldn’t make any of it out, but did notice one of them constantly looking Emily up and down. A growing sense of desperation to get these men out of his house and away from his wife had started creeping through his mind, and it made his arms start to shake. Suddenly the three men erupted into an argument, all their focus turned to each other, and Dennis’s mind was instantly calm. He turned to look at Emily, kissed her hands and mentally said goodbye.

In one swift motion, he turned back towards the men, stood up and grabbed an empty wine bottle, all set to start the fight of his life. He moved faster than he could ever have imagined and smashed the bottled over the head of the man with the gun while throwing his shoulder against one of the others. He had to win, no part of him was willing to accept any other possibility and it made his hits harder, his reactions fast and his tolerance for pain higher. It wasn’t a perfect Hollywood fight, it was raw and brutal. Dennis could feel that he was bleeding and his one eye was swelling shut and that his jaw was probably broken, but the others were worse. The first man hadn’t recovered from the broken bottle and in a final spectacular motion Dennis ducked under a wild swing, grabbed a chair and smashed it across one of their faces. He turned his ferocity towards the last man standing who had already managed to get the front door open and was halfway down the street.

Dennis stared at the carnage of his home, blood, broken furniture, glass and bodies. But he’d won, he had defeated the invaders and Emily was going to be alright. The calm that came with the thought also stripped him of his adrenaline and exhaustion suddenly gripped every fibre of his being. He staggered towards his wife feeling sanity slip away with every movement. He could feel his consciousness fading but had to see her, had to make sure she was alright. She stared at him, broken, but standing and could hardly believe what she’d witnessed. Her tear-filled smile gave him just enough hope to reach out a shaky hand and stroke her cheek.

A white flash filled Dennis’s vision blinding him for a second and he fell backwards onto the padded floor of his room.

“Hey, what are you doing?’

The nurse looked confused at the apparent anger on the doctor’s face.

‘Why were the lights out in his room?”

“He looked like he was trying to sleep and it’s always so bright in there, I thought it would help.”

The doctor shook her head.

“You can’t do that with this one, when he’s alone in the dark he relieves the day of his breakdown over and over again.”

“What? How?”

“He has been here for almost 3 years. 3 years ago some men broke into his house and tried to hold him and his wife hostage. He snapped and attacked them, trying to drive them out.”

“Oh my god, so the three men beat him into this state?”

The doctor smiled again a little sadly.

“No, he actually managed to superhero the situation. He was battered but he took them down.”

“So what happened?”

“At the last minute just before the police arrived one of the home invaders pulled a gun and shot him in the back…”

The doctor sighed and looked back at the monitors, at Dennis curled up in the corner of his room.

“…The bullet passed right through him and hit his wife in the head. At the last second everything, he’d fought for died in front of him. In that moment he just … broke. Only to have to relive the whole experience every night. It took us weeks to work out what was going on when he first got here. Now we just know to always leave the lights on.”

The nurse bit her bottom lip and turned to also look at him as he reached out a shaking hand and gently wiped the tear from his wife’s cheek before closing his eyes to cry.

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