This story isn’t just inspired by the amazing Nocturne show; it was inspired specifically by the events at the end of Episode 8: Welcome to the Darkness. If you haven’t seen it already, then: SPOILER ALERT!!! Do not read this or go any farther until you’re all caught up.

Otherwise, enjoy.

“If you f*cking kill yourself, then we can’t fix it!”

Brian put the barrel of the gun to his temple. His hands and his voice were shaking in a way that betrayed his resolve. “I’ve seen…I’ve seen things-“

“We’ve all seen some shit, Brian!” Briar insisted belligerently, her voice only a few decibels above a whisper. She inched closer, her eyes fixating on the gun in his hand, prompting him to take a defensive step back.

Brian took a deep breath and, in a moment of peaceful clarity, all of the tension in his body melted away on the exhale.

“Welcome to the darkness, Briar…” he bid her adieu.  

“Don’t you fucking do it-“

“…your eyes will adjust in time.”

“Don’t you fucking do it-” 

Briar lunged at him, but a quick squeeze of the trigger halted her halfway through the first step. 

-and then a brilliant white flash of light flooded his mind- 

Brian had never tried online dating before. Like some people, he was scared that the only women he would meet would be crazy or obsessed with their cats or totally catfishing him. But the beautiful woman sitting on the other side of their perfect-for-two coffee shop table was none of those things. 

Her name was Amy. She was smart, she was on the faculty at the local college, and he couldn’t help but notice that she smelled like lavender. Every time he thought he had put his foot in his mouth, she laughed at his dumb jokes. Every time he said something he thought an intellectual like her would find banal, she responded with a smile and an enthusiastic reply. At one point she accidentally burped out loud, catching herself with a shy blush and covering her mouth after suddenly remembering she was on a date. His first instinct was to chuckle and touch her hand, to let her know it was okay and that she hadn’t offended him. Her hand didn’t move; she welcomed his touch. 

and then a brilliant white flash of light flooded his mind-

They had been dating for over a year. He couldn’t see himself living without her. So when she told him about the job offer she’d received from a university on the other side of the country, it hit him like a wrecking ball. But this devastation brought on a moment of clarity.

He asked her to have lunch with him at the coffee shop where they first met. She thought it was strange that he was so insistent about it, but shrugged it off as ‘Brian being Brian’. She didn’t find out until later that he had spent a fistful of cash bribing some studious college kids to move so that he could have the same table they had sat at on their first date. When she finished her coffee and noticed something heavy rattling around in the paper cup, her eyes were big as saucers when she popped off the plastic lid and saw a coffee-stained diamond ring at the bottom. When she looked up, he was already down on one knee, trying not to cry. 

He barely succeeded. She failed miserably. The sound of her own voice saying “Yes! Yes,” over and over again was nearly drowned out by the other patrons applauding his successful proposal. 

and then a brilliant white flash of light flooded his mind-

Nine months ago, he came home from work to see his beautiful wife holding a white-and-purple stick in her hand. There was a plus sign on it. The flood of emotions rendered him speechless, soaking his cheeks with happy tears as he hugged her so tight he feared they both might burst. Now he was by her side in the delivery room and mopping the sweat from her brow. He did his best not to cry out in pain as she squeezed his hand with inconceivable strength during each contraction. 

Before he knew it, the worst was over and a nurse was gently placing a beautiful, healthy baby girl on his wife’s chest. They were both in tears. Amy couldn’t stop stroking and kissing her newborn daughter’s head. Brian was eagerly awaiting his chance to do the same. 

“She’s perfect,” Amy panted breathlessly. 

“Everything is perfect,” he said, his voice quivering. 

“Penny. I think we should call her Penny.”

Brian was so overcome with emotion that he was at a loss for words. He could only nod in approval. 

and then a brilliant white flash of light flooded his mind-

They had been fighting a lot lately. Brian had been fired from his job and money was tight. Amy kept bringing up that wonderful, high-paying job opportunity she had passed over so many years ago in order to settle down and start a family with him. As hard as they tried to keep their discontent to themselves, parent/teacher conferences with Penny’s school were becoming…disconcerting. 

Brian wanted more than anything for his wife and his daughter to be happy. But every effort he made to make their happiness a reality seemed to just make things worse. 

-and then a brilliant white flash of light flooded his mind- 

Brian found himself in a dark room. It was a bedroom. He felt like he was standing there, frozen in time. Amy was lying on the bed with Penny, now ten years old, curled up by her side. Blood soaked the sheets around their lifeless bodies. 

Brian was gaping at them in horror from the foot of the bed. The memory of their frantic, terrified screams permeated the darkness around him. The darkness consumed him, swallowing him up in an infinite void so deep that he hoped he would never hear the sound of those screams again. 

-and then a brilliant white flash of light flooded his mind- 

“How much longer? It…smells in here,” an annoyed voice bellowed loudly enough to stir Brian from his sleep. He vaguely remembered some nightmare about his late wife and daughter before the images flew from his mind like a dandelion in the wind. After blinking away the fog of sleep, he remembered that he was on a road trip with his professor and a few of his fellow students. They were on their way to a lecture which was – in some way – relevant to the material they were studying. 

The dashboard clock on the center console of the professor’s ancient vehicle read 4:30 PM. Without warning, the elderly sedan began to sputter, noxious fumes emanating from the hood of the car and the interior vents. The professor pulled the car over as far as the concrete barriers on either side of the road would let him. The lot of them popped the hood and dumbfoundedly poked and prodded at the engine while trying to figure out what to do about their predicament. 

“I’m gonna go to the bathroom guys-” Briar announced, pointing toward the concrete wall that was separating them from the woods. “I’m, just – I’m gonna go behind the wall but I’ll be right back.” 

“Holler if you need any help,” their fellow classmate, Trick, chuckled. 

“I will!” Briar replied, a hint of annoyance in her voice. 

A few moments later, Briar called out to them from the other side of the wall. “Does somebody wanna come see if they see what I see? Maybe it’s a wild animal,” her voice cracked nervously. 

After a few inappropriate interjections from Trick, Brian shook his head in disgust and volunteered to go help out. Despite the lingering tendrils of a hangover, he managed to lift himself up over the wall. And when he landed on the other side…

…Brian put the barrel of the gun to his temple.

Author: Alethea Ashton

Hi, my name's Ashley (Alethea Ashton is my virtual nom de plume) and I've been an avid pleasure writer since childhood. I've also been a professional copywriter since 2011. PandNTB.com is my personal little corner of the internet where I publish the crazy, funny, sad, thrilling, introspective, satirical, and opinionated stories that pop into my brain sometimes. Variety is the spice of life, so there's a little something here for everybody. Or if there isn't let me know! I love to expand my horizons and try new things. If creative and entertaining fiction isn't your bag, I'm also available for professional projects (white-hat SEO, research projects, marketing/advertising, and the like). Kick back, relax, and enjoy your time here. Lavish praise and constructive feedback are always appreciated.

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