by Doc Quantum
Bonnie Jones-Carter couldn’t think of any rational explanation of why she put her Arrowette costume on before heading over to Beth’s; her intuition told her she’d need it, that was all. She drove the Arrowcar straight over to her friend and partner’s house at a crawl, due to the heavy, dark fog, all the while feeling like something was hovering over her in the darkness, watching her, following her.
Beth Harper’s house was typically suburban and in normal daylight appeared quite mundane. Something was different now; Bonnie could tell that as she approached the house. It was almost as if the darkness had become even more alive around her house than anywhere else. Out of the corner of her eye, she could have sworn she saw figures swirling about, just out of sight. But when she turned to look, all she could see was the pitch-black darkness.
“Beth?” Arrowette called out as she entered the unlocked front door. Her voice echoed as if she were in a huge tunnel, but no reply could be heard. She tried calling out her friend’s name a few more times, but to no avail. Almost blind due to the darkness, she took out a small flashlight to light her way, but found that the light it gave barely helped at all. It was almost as if the fog outside were also somehow inside the house and wouldn’t carry all that far.
Inside the house, Beth heard distant echoes of her name coming from somewhere. It sounded like Bonnie. She tried calling back, but it was as if her friend couldn’t hear her. And the voice had been so distant that Beth began to question whether or not she had really heard it.
By this time she had already found her Flare costume and changed into it, preparing herself with an arsenal of arrows borrowed from Bonnie, among which were some flare-arrows. They would soon come in handy. She left her room and began walking down her hallway. She realized that something was terribly wrong, however, when no matter how far she walked and then ran, she could not reach the end of her hallway. It was as if it had suddenly become a mile long. Even her own pocket flashlight could not see much in the gloom. She tried running back to her room, but no matter how far she ran, her room seemed to be too distant to be within reach once more.
What the heck was going on?
Arrowette had discovered that her friend’s house wasn’t the same as she remembered it, either. After taking a few tentative steps inside from the door, she looked back and found that the door and the wall surrounding it were gone. And all that was in front of her was an endless floor. No walls could be seen or found anywhere around her, no matter how far she walked in a certain direction. And that was not the most distressing part. She literally felt that the shadows around her were alive, and that they were swirling around her and laughing as they brushed against her hair, or her arm, or leg. It was as if they were playing with her. And she was becoming terrified, as she could not see any of them.
She was forced to fasten her flashlight to her belt as she reached for her bow and some arrows from her quiver. If those things came at her again, she’d be ready for them.
Flare was experiencing a very similar situation, although she had taken to lashing out in terror and anger against the shadows with her fists, dropping her pocket-flashlight in the process. It disappeared from sight almost immediately after hitting the floor, and she was now without a source of light, except for her flare-arrows, which she quickly pulled out and lit in succession, keeping the light in front of her as she continued to tread cautiously down the long corridor. But where was Bonnie?
Amazingly enough, Arrowette had managed to keep her wits about her as she continued the trek along the seemingly infinite ground floor. The shadow-beings that she knew were around her had scattered when she shot off a few arrows all around her, but she began to suspect that if they were really trying to kill her, she’d already be dead. She was merely a plaything for now.
She soon began to feel pretty useless. Arrowette was basically trapped. True, there were no walls or bars around her to constitute an actual trap, but in as much as she could not escape her present situation, she was trapped. She had no idea where she was, and she doubted that she could possibly be in Beth’s house, even though she had stepped through her friend’s front door. Somehow, she was in some strange place with an endless floor and nothing but darkness. The shadow-things still rustled about, flitting here and there, but she refused to be scared by them. Someone or something had lured her here, and she wanted to know why.
Bonnie stopped and, throwing down her bow and quiver, she summoned up the courage she had and shouted, “Who are you? What do you want from me?” And although her knees were shaking, she was proud that her voice hadn’t quavered. She looked around, waiting for whatever was watching her to show itself.
All was silence, but for the distant rustling of the shadow-things somewhere around her. This is all so stupid, she thought. Whoever it is, they’re trying to scare the bejeezus out of me. But I’m not going to give in. I’m not going to get scared!
Flare wasn’t scared. She was angry.
Sure, deep down she was scared for her life, but she responded to this fear with anger at her situation and at the pesky shadow-things who were playing around with her, irritating her every chance they got. At one point it got so bad she felt as if she were covered with fleas. And each time she stopped one flea, another one bit her somewhere else. It was not fun.
Hey, Beth thought as she stopped to listen to a faint echo, isn’t that Bonnie’s voice?
She was sure it was, and this was enough to give her the confidence she needed to ignore the shadow-things and begin running in the direction of the voice, despite her lack of light. If Bonnie was here, well, at least she wouldn’t be alone in the dark any longer.
Arrowette continued to just stand there in defiance. She knew it was futile to just keep walking nowhere, and she wanted to meet whoever was behind all this right now. She felt a brush of air behind her and jerked around, flashlight in hand, to see.
What was it? All she could see in front of her was a black void, seemingly darker than everything else, if that were possible. The funny thing was that the void in front of her was roughly the same shape and size as a teenage boy about her age. And it absorbed entirely the light she shone at it, reflecting none back. It was just a black void.
She took a tentative step toward it. It wasn’t moving. She wasn’t even certain as to what she was seeing, or more correctly, not seeing here.
Bonnie took another step, keeping her flashlight close to her. The only way she could even see that this void of light was there was to shine the flashlight beyond the void’s edges. Some of the air glowed from the light of the flashlight, thus enabling her to see its outline.
She traced her eyes down along one side and could see that the void was in the shape of an arm, and as she looked down, she was sure she could see two legs. Following the outline back along the other side, she saw another arm and what must have been the shoulder. Finally, she found the neck and stepped closer as she saw what must have been the head.
Reaching out her hand to touch the void in order to see if there was any substance, her hand passed completely through it, but felt cold as it did so.
She was only about a foot away from this boy-shaped void now, and she tried to touch it again, trying to grab it around the sides, with no luck.
Bonnie peered closer and closer to the void’s head, squinting to see even the barest trace of facial features.
The eyes opened.
Arrowette shrieked as two white slits appeared in the middle of the face, as if looking right at her. She stumbled back in shock, tripping over her quiver of arrows in the process.
The void moved toward her. And spoke.
“Are you afraid of the dark?”
Bonnie let out a scream.
It had felt like an eternity since Flare heard Arrowette scream from a distance. She’d kept on running, however, and refused to let herself be stopped by the flying shadows around her. Beth Harper, the granddaughter of Jim Harper, the golden age hero called the Guardian, wasn’t her school’s best athlete for nothing. She heard her friend Bonnie’s scream and sprinted as fast as she could toward the sound of the voice. No distance could separate her from her friend any longer.
Bonnie’s heart was thumping like a jackrabbit. It had been years since she was afraid of the dark, but this… this thing was putting the fear back into her now.
And yet, the being seemed to be doing nothing to actually harm her. He seemed to be enjoying her reaction to him and the events of this long, long night. In fact, he seemed to be reveling in it. Specifically in the fear she was feeling right now.
Arrowette was not the strongest-willed person in the world, but she wasn’t one to allow herself to be used so. It was obvious this thing was trying to scare her, and she hated the thought of being manipulated like she’d been. Well, enough was enough.
Flare continued to run in the pitch-black darkness of the place, determined to find her friend, with no light of her own to guide her way. She now saw, however, a dim light shining in the distance before her. It could only be Bonnie. She screamed out her name in desperation.
Arrowette began to stand up and swallowed hard, then heard Flare’s voice coming from somewhere. This all had to end now, somehow.
“I-I’m not afraid of y-you,” she stammered, her lips quivering and her legs shaking. She tried her best to compose herself, and she stood her ground as the thing flew toward her, then passing through her as if a ghost.
“I’m not afraid of you!”
“Bonnie!” said Flare, who was now only as far away from her as the length of a football field, and quickly closing the distance.
Arrowette just stood her ground and refused to budge as the thing continued to try to spook her. She was still in its territory, and the thing knew it.
“You’ve won, all right?” Arrowette screamed out at the thing as Flare reached her, hugging her as if they hadn’t seen each other in years. “We’re both scared out of our minds! Are you happy now? We’re utterly at your mercy! But we refuse to play this game any more! No more, you hear me? No more!”
The place echoed with Bonnie’s shouts for a few moments, and then all was silence. Even the sounds of the swirling shadows had disappeared.
The two teenage girls just held each other for comfort, and waited for it all to be over.
It didn’t take all that long.
The darkness began to vanish, and the bright morning sunshine shone in through the windows of Beth’s house. They were back home again, from whatever strange dimension they’d been transported to. And as the last strains of shadow disappeared from the corners, the two girls swore they heard someone say, “Aw, you’re no fun…”
Not long afterward, Arrowette and Flare realized that the entire city had been somehow transported into this strange shadow-dimension, where time and space operated differently. What had been one evening to them had actually been a matter of several days in real time. All the inhabitants of Star City had been frozen in place by the darkness, scared to move lest they lose themselves in the shadows, but were ultimately unharmed. Bonnie was reunited with her mother, Cissie, and Beth was reunited with her parents once more. They’d gotten through the long, long night, and were just happy to see the light of day once more.