It wasn’t so much the darkness that disturbed Keith Wells, as it was the sudden nature by which it arrived. One moment the sun was there, doing its best to keep a miserable Ireland happy a year into its abysmal existence post-disaster, the next… nothing. No stars, no sun, no light.
And that, Keith decided, sucked.
He huddled a box of beer close to his chest while panic settled in around him. Dublin city, what was left of it, erupted into a wail. Whomsoever had remained after everything that had gone wrong suddenly found themselves thrown into darkness, and cold, and a terrible sadness falling down on them, descending through their bones and knotting their organs in dread.
The beer was one final comfort in the emptying city. Keith cradled it as he lowered himself to the ground, looking at a contorted Spire and wishing things could go back to the way they were. He stayed out of the way, ducked under the General Post Office’s shelter, masked by a great pillar of stone. People rushed by screaming, crying, weeping, wailing, calling out names incoherently.
What was even the point? He couldn’t see a soul, except for the lights flashing up along O’Connell Street, and a shifting of the darkness above, like a cloud of oil waiting to come crashing down.
For a moment, he almost believed it moved overhead. A tendril, a wisp, a whip. He was sure, for a moment, before he forgot. That was happening a lot, these days. Forget and drown your sorrows. A permanent sorrow, he thought, and tore the box of beer open. There was no point letting it go to waste, even it wasn’t cold.
Well, that would soon fix itself. He felt a chill run down his spine, and up into his ass from the ground. That didn’t help his mood one bit, and it seemed the beer wasn’t doing much, either. He’d gotten it cheap, as cheap as anything went when the supply lines shut down. He cursed the country, downed the beer, and threw the bottle.
“Damn…” Keith said to himself. “Sorry!” He felt a shoe crush his foot, holding his tongue. That lasted as long as the woman’s balance, as she crashed down on top of him. The remaining bottles skidded away out of sight, and she landed her knee into his stomach. He wheezed for breath, casting her aside. “Sorry…” he managed, wincing and examining the damage with his hands, gently.
“No… I…” She trailed off for a moment. “Did you throw a bottle at me?” She didn’t wait for a response. “I’m Niamh.”
“Keith. And sorry. Again.” He felt his face flush, another short lived phenomenon, as the chills grew stronger. “What do you think happened?”
Niamh sighed. People didn’t like to talk about anything that happened anymore, since very little of it made much sense. It saved on the confusion one experienced when no one else’s was added to it. “Honestly?” she muttered. “Honestly… I think this is another one of those things we don’t want to believe in.”
Keith nodded, and felt foolish in the dark. “I figured as much. But… which thing is it this time?”
She seemed to almost laugh, before whimpering. She kept at that for a bit, and he let her. He needed to find his beer again, anyway. “My grandmother used to tell me stories,” she said to him through sobs. “Stories about giants and fairies and monsters and magic, heroes and villains and people unlike anyone, ever. Horror stories, she always said. She loved horror stories. And I guess I did too.”
“Is there a point to this?” he asked her. “It’s just, I think I’m going to freeze to the stone if I don’t get up, and I’d like a good reason to stay.” Keith didn’t like being rude – or as his ex-wife called him, an ignorant S.O.B. – but it had kept him alive up to this point.
Niamh didn’t appear to care. “The monstrous sorrow, she would have said. A dark taint on the Irish hearts and hearths, without form or comprehension. I remember that one well. The Beo.” She snuggled up beside him, cold to the touch. He didn’t think she’d last the night. “If this is it… well, it was nice to meet you, Keith.”
“If this is it…” The darkness definitely moved overhead. “Did you see that?” She shook her head, snuggled against his shoulder. “The sky… it did something.” She started to cry. He could hear her, and feel the bouncing of her head as she let the sobbing take over. “The Beo… damn.”
His heart stopped beating, just for a moment, and he dropped the beer. The glass shattered, too easily, too quickly, icy beer splitting on the pavement. His eyes shook in his skull, his breathing became strained, and while Niamh tried to pull away from him, he felt his grip around her arm tighten. A bone broke somewhere, and not feeling the pain he wasn’t so sure it was his.
Keith Wells didn’t register much after that, viewing the world through shadowy eyes. The sun had come back out, he noticed, feeling a sense of dismay at it. Niamh cried, and his gaze turned down to her, blood on his hand and her wrist crumpled in his fingers. His whole face seemed to twitch, and he yanked her upwards, biting down on her neck and through her throat. Delicious sadness filled him, warm and salty and full of nourishment.
It didn’t take much for him to finish his meal, only a matter of minutes and a belch. “I needed that,” a voice said, his own but lower by an octave or two. He brushed his hands against each other, shedding blood and dusted bones to the ground, staring at the remains of Niamh’s clothes. She was the first person in Ireland to be consumed by sorrow, an entrée and a delicacy.