A Midnight Errand

New England. April. Five minutes before midnight. The water all around you cannot decide whether it would rather be a mist or a light rain, so you decide to head out on your errand. Better sooner than later.

You step out the door. Insects and frogs scream all around you, a pulsing ululation that lasts all night, every night, until winter silences everything.  The path ahead is just darkness upon darkness, discernible only by the slight sheen left by the afternoon’s rain. The grainy shimmer is the charcoal grey of the cloudy sky, the lightest part of the surrounding darkness. You see a car a long way off, on some distant unconnected road, its lights like a will-o-wisp, scarcely visible among the still-bare trees.

You decide to turn on your flashlight, but that is a bad choice – the shades of black smear together even further, and the pale circle on the ground only serves to remind you of how dark everything else is. The few illuminated drops of rain remind you of how little you can see, how everything around you is moving, but you cannot tell. You’ve ruined your night vision now, so there’s nothing for it but to press on.

It’s beginning to rain, and more heavily. The tiny flickering particles in your flashlight’s beam grow more numerous, and you start to feel your skin grow slick. The chill of the rain reminds you that there was snow not two weeks ago, and not a single tree has a leaf on it yet.

You reach the dropbox, find the opening with your hand, and reach inside. You find a few slips of paper, and pull them out. It’s raining in earnest now, and you are shivering. It’s time to go back. You shield the papers, hoping the ink on them won’t run, hoping their secrets won’t be lost forever. But the rain soaks everything. Your best bet is to run. Turn from the hiss of the rain and the screaming of the frogs, squint your eyes, and run back to the house. You don’t look behind you.

You make it to the white door, grey in the darkness, but shining like a beacon. Closing it behind you, you drop the wet sheaf of papers onto a side table. They’ll dry, and you can look through them later, when your heartbeat has slowed and the shadows faded.

You’re safe, but now you understand what H.P. Lovecraft was talking about.

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