"Light" by Stephen Biseño
Darkness Within Me
by Maddie White
In the garage freezer was a blue, soulless man. I opened the lid and was sickened by the gruesome reminder. Hours earlier, he tried to rob me outside the Black Tavern Saloon. I had gone there to unwind after work every day.
Walking out, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a fist connect with my left cheek. My training took over and I wasn’t outside of a bar, I was in Iran. The gravel in the parking lot was dunes of sand. I had the man down on the ground, but he still tried to fight. My mind told me to stop, but I couldn’t.
My hands constricted around his windpipe like a snake with its prey. I watched his last breath leave his lungs and his lips turn blue. I had lost control over the white-hot anger that coursed through my veins. I wrapped his body in a blanket that was in the backseat of my car and sped home before my wife arrived. I placed his body in the deep freezer and rushed to get tarps from the store.
“Dad?” My six-year-old son rubbed sleepy eyes.
I shut the freezer, feeling hair rise on the back of my neck.
“I think I heard the boogeyman.”
I cursed myself for letting him watch Halloween with me when his mother was out of town for a business trip.
“There’s no such thing as the boogeyman. Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
I nudged him in front of me and locked the door to the garage. I tucked his ninja turtle sheets around him until he resembled a burrito.
“Wait!” he yelled and sat up in bed.
“Batman,” he said and pointed to the small nightlight by the door.
“Are you sure you don’t want to try sleeping without it?” I asked.
He balled his sheets up in tiny fists and I could see fear in his face. This had become a nightly struggle. I checked the closet, under the bed, behind the dresser, and peeked around the door.
“No boogeyman,” I said.
I flipped on the light and pulled the door up until it was cracked. From the hallway I saw my wife flip the kitchen light off and walk to the bedroom.
“You too?” I chuckled and leaned against the doorframe, crossing my arms.
“Oh, like you’re not afraid of the dark.” She huffed and slid under the white duvet.
As I brushed my teeth, I looked in the mirror and studied myself. My once black hair was peppered with gray. Deep wrinkles were etched on my forehead and under brown, empty eyes.
I wasn’t afraid of the dark, I was afraid of the darkness within me.
Maddie M. White is 23 years old and lives in a small town in Virginia. She has loved writing all of her life and was encouraged by her husband to pursue it. She is passionate about mental health and hopes to inspire people with her stories and the characters in them. She is not limited to one genre and hopes to write a few novels someday as well.
Stephen Briseño is a poet and middle school English teacher. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mentor Mixtapes, 8Poems, formercactus, Riddled with Arrows, and Right Hand Pointing. He lives in San Antonio, TX with his wife and daughter, where you can usually find them lounging at a coffee shop. Follow him on Twitter: @stephen_briseno