This story was first posted on Medium, and you can read that version here.
It’s the first of what I plan to be a series of short stories about and/or inspired by phobias, as I think they’re an interesting jumping off point for stories. More to come.
Maya scraped a match and lit another candle. The handful of candles she had lit did not help much, but at least she could see something in the gloomy half-light.
Nothing worked at it should. The electricity had been out for three days. Before that, the water from the taps came out sludgy and brown. The cabin was old, she knew, but she expected to find it in working order. Instead, she found it decrepit and dark. Maya hated the dark. When the lights went out she felt the walls closing in — after the first time it happened, she knew that itcame in the dark.
She was able to fumble for her phone’s flashlight that first evening, and succeeded in finding some matches and candles in a kitchen draw that was full of forgotten domestic detritus like batteries and picture hooks.
The candlelight had forced back the darkness, and Maya could breathe again. The next morning she cycled to the nearest town for supplies — mainly candles and matches.
Since then the wooden cabin had been lit by candles on every flat surface. Sometimes they would go out, even though there was barely a draft. Maya would re-light them almost immediately. Unable to focus on anything in particular, she would gaze out of the windows into the inky darkness outside. Sometimes she felt as though her dark thoughts were being fed by the black-as-night woodland that surrounded and continually oppressed the cabin.
Occasionally something outside would catch her eye. The movement of a tree branch, or what looked like a flicker of light from deep inside the forest. She wondered if anyone was out there. She hoped not, for their sake. It was out there.
It had followed her. Even this far. She could not escape, even here. It was out there, in the forest. Sometimes, when the howl of the wind died down, she thought she could hear the hooves.
When the lights went out on the first night, she saw it.
In the pallor of the candelight, she saw a figure, almost made of pure shadow, in the doorway. Cloven hoofed, head enshrouded in a cowl, it made no move. Maya stood frozen. She could not see the apparition’s eyes, but felt its stare.
It had been a frequent visitor throughout her life. In shadows, in darkness, it would come. Its appearance meant confusion, pain, and death. She thought the cabin, deep in the woods, would provide respite. But when the cabin was plunged into darkness, it returned. The creature disappeared with the light — even dim candlelight — as had always been the case. But Maya knew it was only a matter of time until she would see it again.
Except Maya had a plan. Picking up one of the candles, she held it to the fabric of the curtain until it caught alight. The fire spread quickly. From curtain to wood, soon the whole cabin was burning. Wreathed in smoke, choking with her final breaths, Maya let the light engulf her.