Four flames flickered in the Dark. Man eyed them mournfully: the last remnants of light and love in a world gone cruel and cold. There was a bitter, brutal breeze. The man shivered. The fire fluttered. Three flames flickered in the Dark…
“You’re almost out of time,” Dark said. Weak as a whisper yet mighty as a mountain, Dark was icier than absolute zero.
“No,” Man mumbled.
“Fear is futile.” Dark was behind him now. It had a habit of stretching space to its will. “In the end everyone runs out of time.”
Man remained mute.
“Do you know your name, Man? Do you remember who you are?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m nobody.”
A second blistering breeze.
Two flames flickered in the Dark.
“Why is ‘nobody’ so scared of me? ‘Nobody’ cannot be hurt.”
Man spat, or at least tried to. Saliva dribbled down his chin. Something freezing and fevered and lighter than air caressed his collarbone.
“It will be beautiful. So, so beautiful. No more struggle, no more strife. Peace at last.”
Man took in a brittle breath.
“Go on. Everything is better in the Dark.”
“Who, what, are you?”
“Why do you ask a question you already know the answer to?”
Another breeze. Utterly inevitable.
One flame flickered in the dark.
Man wracked the air with a wet sob.
“Shhhhh. It’s okay. Pain is behind you now.”
“Promise me,” Man whimpered. “Promise me the Dark will be better.”
“You know I cannot lie to you.”
“Okay. I…I’ll do it.”
“Oh, good. Very, very good.”
Man took a final look at the last light in all the world. It was pink and perfect. It was heat, and hope, and happiness, and —
“Now. No more tears, no more sadness. The time is now.”
Man felt the flame. “Forgive me,” he whispered.
Then he smothered it.