I glance around my room, but all I can see is my clock. It's a cheap clock with a red digital display that reads: 11:34.
I take a deep breath, rub my eyes and slide out of bed. I've always had trouble sleeping, but these dreams are just making it worse. How can I go to sleep if I know that when I close my eyes I'll just keep falling down?
My eyes adjust to the darkness, turning blacks into a blurry mass of grey and black. I shuffle past what looks like my desk and closet and head out of my room. I can't sleep, so perhaps I'll get a midnight snack or something. The tiles outside my room are freezing cold, the frost bites into my feet making me groan, lazily. I head down the hall, feeling my way along with wall with a hand until I make it into the kitchen. It's not much brighter in the kitchen, but my eyes have started to adjust to the dark. I can make out the kitchen bench and the pantry, so I stumble towards the canned food. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to read labels in the dark. Turning back to the hall, I reach around the wall for the light, closing my eyes so I won't be blinded by the brightness. But, nothing. The light doesn't work. I flick it up and down with an unsatisfying click each time, but it just doesn't turn on.
I let out a sigh and turn back to the pantry. I don't need light, I'll just feel my way around. I reach into the pantry and grab a can. It's tall and thin, so probably asparagus. I try again. I grab a standard can, but put it back, it could be anything from tomato soup to coconut milk. I fumble around until I find one of the mini-cans. I don't know what's in it, but it has a pull-ring, so it must be some kind of snack food.
I peel the lid back and give it a smell, it gives off an odour like some kind of tomato syrup, so it must be baked beans. I shrug and head over to the bench. I've achieved baked beans, maybe I could make a sandwich or something. I grab the bag of bread from the bread bin, throwing it onto the bench, then I open the fridge to get the butter. What the . . .?
The fridge is dark. I put my hand on the shelf and it feels cold, but not fridge-cold, so I quickly close it again, trying to keep what cold there is left inside. That explains why the light wasn't working, there must be a blackout. Except, my clock is working . . .
I figure it must be the safety switch. Every home has one, a circuit that turns off the power if there's a surge, to stop people getting electrocuted. I guess it must have gone off. It's too dark to go turn it back on so, with a shrug, I head back to my sandwich-in-progress. I unravel the bread bag and reach in for a slice, when a powerful, sour smell hits my nostrils. I take out a slice of bread and give it a sniff. Mould. I drop the slice on the bench and I see it. dark patches on the bread. I can't see it in the dark, but it must be a dark green for me to see it at all. I grab another slice and put it on the bench. It too is green and furry. I grab another and another, going through the entire packet looking for a good piece, but it's all covered in mould. How old is this bread?
I put all of the gross bread back in the bag and put it in the bin, then I head to the freezer to see if we've got any more bread. We've got a standalone box freezer, with a lid on top, so I open it up to peek inside. I immediately regret it.
Rotten stink. Dead things, decaying things and soggy things, it was like garbage floating in a bathtub. I can't see properly into the muck, but there was no ice built up around the edges, it had all melted, and there wasnt' the familiar waft of cool air, rather there was a cloud of sour, meaty stench. I stumble back, gasping for clean air, but the smell clings to my clothing, making me feel sick.
Something is wrong.
"Dad?!" I call out. It's late at night, but this is a serious problem. Dad doesn't answer, so I quickly go to wash my hands in case they've got mould spores or something like that on them from the bread. I turn on the tap and put my hand under it, but nothing comes out. I turn it off and on, but all it does is squeak as I turn the tap. I try the hot tap, but it doesn't work either. "DAD!"
I head out of the kitchen and towards my Dad's room. I open the door, not bothering to sneak around or whisper as I head up to the big bed.
"Dad, there's something wrong with the taps," I say, but there's no answer. "Dad?" I ask, leaning down to grab his shoulder, but all I grab is blanket. I feel with both hands along the bedsheet, but there are no lumps, it's an empty bed. "Dad . . . ?"
Where would he be at this time of night? I head out of the bedroom and wander into the living room. It's empty so I head to the study, but no one's in there either. Finally, I check the bathroom, but he's not there or anywhere in the house. He couldn't be working, not at this time of night. I decide to check the garage to see if his car's gone. For all I know, he could be working on his car. Yeah, that's it. He does that to clear his head sometimes. Maybe he can't sleep either, so he's fiddling with his ute - that must be it.
I head for the laundry door, which leads to the back yard and garage, and open it, then grab the handle of the flyscreen door, but it doesn't budge. I fiddle with the lock, but it doesn't move. It must be locked with the key. I peer out into the night, but I can't see anything it is pitch black out there, like I'm staring into an infinite void of darkness.
"Dad?! Are you out there?!" I call, but there's no response, just silence. I bang my hand against the screen door and it rattles wildly, "DAD?!"
I stand there, breathing heavy as I start to panic, but there's pure silence out there. No wind, no chirping crickets, no buzzing flies, no barking dogs, no partying neighbours. Not even any light on the ground or stars in the sky. It's almost like the backyard isn't even there . . .
No, that's ridiculous, there's something there, surely. I head back into the living room and stare out the front windows. I can't see the street. It's impossible, there are streetlights on our street that turn on at night - how could it be so dark?
I head to the other side of the house, now running and race back into my room. I practically slam into the glass as I run at the window to look outside. But there is no outside. There's just black and nothing. How is this possible? I turn away from the window, back into my room, when I see it again. It stares at me menacingly, the glaring red numbers of my clock. It reads: 11:34.
I don't understand . . . the power's out, how is the clock working? and eleven thirty-four . . . wasn't that the time when I woke up? Am I losing my mind?
I step closer to the little clock, pick it up in my hand and stare at the face. It stares back, an unblinking scarlet. This is just unnatural . . .
I grab the cord and follow it back down behind my bedside table. I find the plug at the end, in a power board behind my bed's headboard and give it a yank. It pops out of the wall, so I let out a sigh and stand back up. No more freaky clock nonsense. I glance at the powerless clock in my hand . . . but the face continues to glow red, reading that same time: 11:34.
"What?!" I yell. I hold up the other end of the plug. It's out of the wall, there's no power! How is it still working?! And why?! I grab the clock in both hands "What the HELL is going on?!" I scream. The clock just stares back, so I throw it against the wall in frustration. It rebounds off the door with a bang! and falls on the carpet at my feet. Now breathing heavily, my muscles tense, I look at the clock on the floor. It's still staring up at me, it's face is still a bright red, but now it's upside-down. I do a double-take when I see the face. I kneel down to see it properly. Crouching down on the floor, I look closely at the face of the clock as it looks directly back at me and I read it properly for the first time: hE:ll . . .
I stand up and run for the front door. I have to get out of here! It explains everything. The silence, the blackness & the decay . . . I don't know how long I've been here, but I have to get out. I can't stay a second longer. I open the front door, but again the flyscreen doesn't budge. I grab the top of the door, planning to bend the flimsy metal back and escape through the gap . . . when I see the living room windows, nothing but pure glass.
I head for the TV unit and grab the VCR, since we never use it anyway. With a deep breath, I throw it at the window. The glass shatters beautifully, breaking the silence along with it as the pane becomes shards that drop onto the ground with a light tinkling sound as little pieces skitter across the floor. I head up to the window, tiny pieces of glass cutting into my feet as I step up to the sill. I dig out the sharpest pieces, bleeding only little specks, then look out over the edge. The VCR is just gone. There's no ground outside, it just fell into the blackness, and is probably still falling.
"I have to jump . . ." I tell myself. This has to be the only way out, I have to jump. I don't know where it goes, but anywhere must be better than here. I look back into the living room. The empty living room, there's nothing but darkness. I can't go back in there . . . this is the only way for me. The only way out is to jump. I take some deep breaths and look into the blackness. I can't see any other way . . . I close my eyes and leap from the window . . .
I open my eyes and jolt awake. I'm sitting in my bed, covered in sweat. As I try to catch my breath, I glance around in the pitch blackness. I had that dream again. The one where I'm falling. I just keep falling . . .
I look at the time. The clock on my bedside table has glowing red numbers that tell me the time is: 11:34.