Just Ignore Them (JITTER)

Day 3 & 4: What Lurks When You Don\'t Watch

As the final trickle of light escaped his vision, the boy realised one single thing. He had far underestimated how dark his new abode could become. He could not make out a single thing. The gloom swallowed all semblance of structure and left inaudible foreboding in its wake. The faint sounds of the insects and lizards had also seized, devoured by the night.

He had taken the light for granted and felt as though he had wasted time crying and being weak. He despised the choices he made during the day. But he was proud of his sleeping arrangement, at the very least. He lay facing the ceiling, with the leaves covering his body from head to toe. Thoughts swam through his head over and over, like sharks circling their prey, seemingly waiting to silence him for good. But he knew better. He was forcefully keeping his head clear, repeating the same phrase again and again.

”Don think, don think, don think. ”

This worked for a time. For hours, he laid still, unmoving. Nothing but a single digit was moved during his hours of submersion within the ground. The only indication that would lead something to the boy was the sound of his stomach gargling and begging for food. This was not something he could do, or help at this time. He spent his time making an action plan for when the sun breaks through the ceiling.

It was around this time that he realised something was wrong, he saw something move in the corner of his eye. At once, each hair on his body shot towards the sky, terrified. Looking in the direction of his feet, into the distance, he saw a patch of darkness seemingly darker than the others. The boy squinted his eyes, peering deeply into the void. Almost nothing stared back, but the boy had other ideas. His back was drenched with sweat and his teeth began to clatter. The patch of darkness was inexpressive, but the feeling it gave the boy could not be less clear. The feeling was death.

He stared at it, for a time longer than he cared to admit, but it was still. He tried to ignore it, but his eyes were drawn to it. The boy wanted to run away; every fibre of his being was telling him to escape. But he could not move.

He clenched his teeth and calmed himself. After tightly shutting his eyes, over and over, his eyelids began to droop. His breathing calmed. Like a tsunami crashing lazily into a pier, he was cold and wet but he was safe and did not crumble. He closed his eyes tight, pulled up his blanket and slept the night away.

He woke up to daylight nonchalantly gleaming down into his eyes. He sat up and rubbed his eyes before he checked the southern area of the cave, where he had seen something last night. There was nothing. He got up slowly before he laid his blanket into the hole and attempted to clear his mind before heading to his designated toilet area.

The toilet area consisted of but a singular hole in the ground towards the northern end of the cave. Not the most sanitary, nor the most comfortable. But it did its job, besides the smell.

”The sunlight is around the same as when I first awoke yesterday, If I assume that it is spring due to the temperature, there would be eleven hours of sunlight. But for now, I can only tell by the strength of the light. ” He pondered while relieving himself.

The first thing he needed was food, almost immediately. With a somehow clearer head than yesterday, he took the time to inspect the ferns and greenery around himself most carefully.

”Fern, dirt and moss. ”

Nothing of use to him right now. He then began wandering around the lighter areas of the cavern once more. The only difference was that now, after every few minutes, a cautious glance was directed towards the darker south of the cavern. He would have been far more distracted by this, but his stomach was driving this expedition, and it needed to be filled.

It was around half an hour into his expedition when he discovered possible sustenance. Ahead of him, behind a smaller rock formation, a dark cockroach was cowering from the sunlight. The boy took his time to circle the formation clockwise and like a trained hawk, pounced onto the seemingly defenceless creature. His hands flailed towards the stone ground and grasped for anything solid he came into contact with. Retracing his hands, he released one finger and saw thin antennae stick out from under his thumb.

Hastily retreating to the centre of the cavern, he perched himself on the ground and held the creature between both of his hands, inspecting it from every possible angle.

The insect was a standard cockroach, moderately sized and embellished in brown segments along its carapace. It writhed around in his digits, attempting anything possible to escape his greedy grasp.

”A good hunter should pay his respects to his kill. ”

He began to slowly rotate the helpless insectoid towards the ground, head first, and pummelled its head into a slate piece below a total of three times consecutively. A shrill shriek accompanied the action each time before clear liquid trickled from its corpse.

The boy then proceeded to give it one final check before carefully wrapping it in a fern leaf and storing it inside his hole.

”Can you even eat cockroaches? Probably, I think they
e a delicacy somewhere! ”

The relief was palpable on the face of the boy, it was obvious one of his worries had been alleviated for the time being. Knowing he could find food within the cave, he smiled widely.

His next task was to find something to create fire. He knew he needed something to strike against his slate to create a spark. The boy had already planned to use the already wrung moss as fuel for his makeshift fire.

The boy placed the used moss directly underneath the strongest light column in an attempt to dry it out for use as tinder.

Thinking, he knew flint was a good option for a striker, but the task currently at hand was to find it. He could not recall the shape or colour of the stone, but he was confident, as the cave contained stones of various colours and sizes. He began another walk around the cave, before deciding to take a dozen or so steps further into the dark.

He could barely see a few feet ahead of himself. But just as determination was his fuel, his engine was his stomach. Remaining strong, he collected any stone or rock that caught his attention on his travels. He withdrew from the dark and threw everything around his rudimentary base, and continued.

Nothing obvious was standing out for him. So, he stood for a few seconds glancing towards the dark north of the cave, deciding whether to go out further. Placing one foot ahead of another felt like an insurmountable challenge even before heading out deeper, but his own body was warning him not to delve further. Standing still, he could recall the darkness in the cavern last night, and could not move any further, he was frozen. He was afraid. He decided to look for more food for the time being instead.

Coming across two more cockroaches on his travels, he followed the same precise, surgical procedure he had done before. Savagely beating their skulls into stone.

A short while later, he was currently holding a piece of slate in one hand above a small pile of dried moss. In his other hand, he held a darker shard of stone, held at an angle, that he had collected on his travels. He pounded the darker stone against the slate continuously, until the angled stone crumbled beneath his hand. With frustration, he threw the shards of stone down before picking up another discoloured stone.

The dark was growing stronger, displacing the sunlight. The sounds of clashing stones repeated for longer periods after every silent interval. The boy sighed before the daunting harmony of desperation hummed once more. The audience was but a single boy and two rival stones.

His hands were covered with blisters, and his fingers were swollen and shaking. Still, his damaged digits remained clutched around two pieces of stone. Despite the challenge, he persevered. Numbness radiated through his forearms and shoulders. Hope had run out; stubborn arrogance headed this charge.

The situation only changed when he attempted a larger stone. He picked up a lustrous black, sharper piece of stone and pounded it into the stationary slate in his other hand. The sight of tiny sparks plummeting into the awaiting moss below was enough to brim the boys eyes with tears.

Small streaks of blackened smoke rose from the moss pile and drifted leisurely upwards. The boy placed his beaten hands on the dirt and dropped his chest to the ground. He blew softly onto the pile before placing both hands behind the moss, which acted as a rudimentary windshield. The reward was brighter embers with each exhale. He blew incessantly without stopping. The blowing continued until the fire began to gorge itself on the moss.

Not wasting any time, he unwrapped his cockroaches and swiftly placed them on a large, thin piece of slate. This was hurriedly followed by placing the stone on the flickering flames. Sometime later, soft sizzling accompanied the smell of burning. Using the tips of his nails, he picked up one of the blackened roaches, before suspending it beside his gaping maw.

”Dear Lord, may your right hand shield me from any illness. Please. ”

Dropping the food into his mouth, he began to chew slowly. The crispy carapace surrendered beneath his molars and violently released the meat within. Pleasantly surprised by the flavour, he savoured every bite and forcefully stopped himself from swallowing it greedily. He ate and washed the other roaches down with some moss water. With a minimally full belly, he began to look on the bright side of things.

”Cockroaches and moss water. Not the most appetizing-sounding meal, but goddamn … that was **ing delicious. Even a few roaches a day would be enough to at least keep me alive, I just need to hope the scaled snacks keep coming to me. ”

He then had an idea for collecting more cockroaches, far more efficiently than before. He recalled that roaches consume both plant and animal matter. Natures waste collectors.

Fetching the discarded heads from the earlier roaches, he paired each head with one smaller leaf and a few centimetres of moss. Passing the stem through the roach head and moist moss, his lures with complete. He placed his baits in the north, east and west, just past the dim inner circumference of light around the centre dirt patch.

Following his successful baiting, and with night almost upon him, he crawled into his den and covered himself with his blanket. He was prepared for the dark. Believing that his hallucination was purely starvation-induced, he had no worries about sleeping tonight. Almost. The gnawing feeling of terror was pushed deep within himself. Subconsciously wrapping himself tighter in his blanket, he was prepared.

Sleeping was a place where everyone should feel safe. Secure within the own reaches of your mind, where your imagination is the only enemy. But sleeping is not always safe. When you sleep, your body is still stationary in reality, suspended in time. And the real world is not always safe.

A guttural hum cut through the silence. In a moment, the boys eyes snapped open. Swirling in their sockets, his eyes begin to scour every inch of the overwhelming darkness. The fire flickered and faltered without issue. Nothing was there.

Something was there.

He did not move, nor did he breathe. For a time, comparable to eternity, he laid still. Hysterical eyes still pierced every inch of the night, scouring for answers. He was petrified, it felt as though his chest was compacting into itself. He caught his breath repeatedly, only to lose it a few seconds later.

Minutes passed without worry until a shadow seemingly moved in his peripheral vision. He slowly turned his head to look and it was gone like nothing had even happened. Hot sweat rolled from his cheek onto the ground below himself. The dirt moistened and slid beneath his head as he faced forwards once more.

Facing forward, his eyes retracted back in his head. Soon followed by the contracting of his muscles.

While the world spun and distorted, his face was frozen in place. His eyes were brutally bewitched by the scene ahead of him. In the span of a second, the boy doubted everything he had ever known.

A shadow was on the wall. Waving.


Unobstructed by being bathed in the orange radiance cast by the fire, a dark shadow stood proud on the southern wall, feigning for his attention. It appeared to be humanoid, with a head, two arms and two legs. Like a shadow cast behind you on the sunniest of days, it was unordinary. But this time, far from ordinary.

The boy could not move. His body was pinned to the ground by fear, but he could not look away. The shadow gripped his eyes with dread and stole his breath with its mere existence.

The scene of this play changed once more. The shadow had stopped waving, instead, it stood frighteningly still. The darkness surged within its figure, and the radiance of the fire faltered for but a second. The flames returned moments later but the figure did not. It was gone.

The spluttering of the flames basked in the quiet. The boy tried to focus on the dancing of the flames and the sounds and smell of burning moss to force himself to calm. Salty tears seeped from his eyes and hit the dirt with an inexplainable relief. His lips trembled, and his stomach shook like a hive of dying wasps, humming with melancholy and anguish.

He kept his eyes entranced on the fickle flames, staring silently, and suffering in stillness.

The entire cavern began to freeze minutes later. His weeps grew louder, and his body shook in panic. His sweat froze in place, suspended in motion, it did not dare fall.

Amidst the weeping, the wind grew furious and surged through the cave and collided with the unfed flames of the fire. The flames waned; the smoke spiralled into submission. The wind suffocated the fire, extinguishing every trace of light.

Irrevocable darkness swallowed and coated the cavern in seconds. Any semblance of calm he had scrounged together was devoured. He wept for hours. His body heaved in his dirt mound, burrowing further into the wet ground. Not a single thought managed to get through to him. Only terror prevailed.

Hours later, daylight broke the stalemate with the shade. The day had come, at long last.

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