Serial and Milk: Available Darkness – Chapter 1

Serial and Milk: Available Darkness – Chapter 1

cliffhangersHi, it’s David Wright here with the introduction duties. When I was a kid in the late 1970’s, there was this show I loved on TV called Cliffhangers. Each hour-long episode featured three or four stories that unfolded over the course of the TV season. One story was about an underground futuristic city and another was a vampire story. Each mini episode within the hour left you hanging until next week, hence the title, Cliffhangers.

Every week, I grabbed some cookies and milk and curled up in my bed with the lights turned out, waiting for the next exciting installments. This show in a word, rocked my striped tube socks!

The show didn’t even last a season, as I recall, and I was pretty sad when it ended without resolving the cliffhangers!

But it had a lasting impact on me. I LOVED the feeling of building suspense and leaving people hanging and wanting more. In high school, I started writing short stories which I passed to a few classmates. I’m sure the stories were pretty bad, but they were good enough to get the desired reaction. People who normally didn’t talk to me were suddenly coming around and asking for the next installment of whatever story I was writing at the time. It was an amazing feeling!

Now that I have a slightly wider audience, and I’m a more capable writer, I want to recreate the magic which left me spellbound as a child.

I’d been sitting on this story, Available Darkness, for a long time when I met Sean Platt. I love his writing style. I decided to re-write a few chapters of my long stagnant story and send them his way to see what he could do with them. He turned my stale prose into magic. We began passing the text back and forth, each of us adding some ingredients to create what we have here.

This experiment in presenting serialized fiction on the web embraces both the spirit of collaboration that makes the Collective Inkwell and the spirit of creativity-driven community we are fostering here.

We hope you enjoy this story as it unfolds over the course of the next several Fridays. Please leave feedback, help spread the word on your blog and Twitter, etc…  Go grab some cookies and milk and get enjoy the first installment of Serial and Milk : Available Darkness.


The memory rose like a bubble in the darkness.

He was a child, not yet in school, when he first learned of monsters.

He was lying in bed, pillow clutched over his head, trying to drown out the muffled sounds of his parents fighting downstairs. His father was drunk. Again. The threat of violence was palpable in the air, alive like electric currents, causing his hairs to stand on end.

It wouldn’t be long now before the sounds of screaming were replaced by cries and the sickening sound of flesh pounding flesh. Perhaps his father’s blood lust would be sated. Or, perhaps the boy’s door would burst open and the battle continued on the second floor.

He prayed in vain to a God he long ago stopped believing in. A child should not have to lose faith so early in life.

Please, stop him.

Suddenly the house was quiet. That meant one of two things. Either his prayer was answered or, more likely, the monster was coming for him.

The boy pulled the pillow from his head and strained to hear the sounds of footfalls on stairs. He closed his eyes tightly and braced for what was to come. He would pretend to sleep. Sometimes it even worked.

He heard the door creak behind him and tried to camouflage his shortness of breath. Real sleepers breathe deep and heavily. He wouldn’t fool the monster with his rapid breathing. He concentrated and made an effort to slow his breath as best he could.

Light washed the wall in front of him and he heard the door close softly. He waited to hear retreating footsteps, but heard nothing. He was certain the monster was in the room with him. Waiting. He could feel his father’s hateful eyes on him.

He wasn’t sure how long he feigned sleep, but it seemed to be forever. Suddenly, he heard his father’s voice downstairs, followed by his mother’s crying out.

Surprised, the boy figured he must have fallen asleep and missed his father leaving the room. Yet, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t alone. He slowly turned over, pretending to still be asleep. He waited a moment and then risked opening his eyes.

And then he saw the shadow in the corner of his room. A shadow that was not a shadow, but not quite a man.

The boy screamed.

The bubble rose and broke as it crashed into the surface…


Chapter One

The man woke amidst the black, breath barely budging from the shallow prison of his angry lungs.  He tried to inhale but only doubled back into a rasping, retching pile of sod and vomit.  He attempted to lift his leaden head, but could raise it barely an inch. Gravity seemed to crush him from all sides; his arms, he realized with a horrifying dread, were fixed against his sides as though shackled.

His mind scrambled to pull sense from his surroundings.  A horribly long minute later, he realized he was captive in a box.  Buried alive and left to rot beneath the crumbling earth.

I’m not dead, his mind started to scream.

His mouth would only make sounds that refused to render into words.  Nothing but a raspy gasp and a rolling tumble of soil and spit fell from his lips.

Panic set deep and his whispering breath climbed further toward a pant, echoing against the narrow walls of his tomb, keeping time with his furiously pounding heart.

What happened? Why am I buried?

His voice found its way through the suffocation and he heard his own whimpering cries of  “no,no,no” as he tried to shake life into his limbs. The voice was not his own, but that of a frightened child. No, a frightened animal.

His body bristled from a billion pins and needles, impeding his thought and dulling his motion.  With a strength he didn’t know he had, behind a panic that could only be borne beneath the bilious earth, he shoved his forearms madly against the cap of the casket. With a reluctant snap, the nail wormed its way through the wood and the lid of his prison shifted a quarter of an inch.

He clawed, scraped, and pushed at the darkness above him with blunt, awkward blows, blotting the bulkhead with blood he could not see but could smell. He desperately fought his way upwards, using first his arms and then his knees, finally his head; anything to give him leverage. And then his arms shot forward, no longer meeting resistance as the lid lifted and fell to the earth beside him with a thick, muffled thud.

The moon mocked his confusion. He collapsed into the cold dirt, sucking crisp air into his stale lungs in bottomless mouthfuls, then exhaling the old wind in hot gusts of steam which evaporated into the frigid air of midnight.

His body tensed from the nearby sound of movement and he pulled himself upright to peer through the darkness.

He was in the midst of thick woods.  Tree branches pierced the gloaming like ink stained daggers, barely illuminated by the pale silver moon. Shivering, he finally registered his bloodied bare arms and chest. All he wore were jeans, blood soaked jeans.

He would have screamed for help, but something – he wasn’t quite sure what – stopped him cold.

He pulled himself from the casket, his numb foot sinking into the cold soil.  Beside him lay a hole, five feet deep and wide enough to swallow both he and the casket whole. A shovel bulged from a mound of dirt; an invitation for whoever had started digging to come back and finish the job.

Jesus Christ, he thought, I was drugged, kidnapped, and Lord knows what else.

Another sound of movement. A branch breaking.

He realized with a horrible certainty that whatever psycho had dropped him in the dirt, was not yet gone. Not yet done.

He glanced again at the shovel and swallowed.

He forced his body into an awkward sprint, legs wobbly as he stumbled blindly into the night.

Just run.

He prayed not to run into whatever monster brought him here to die.

to be continued…

Read the rest of the chapters as they are posted each Friday. Links to each chapter can be found here.

ci-contest-boxSpeaking of good stories, there’s just one week left to enter our contest to win a free premium Thesis WordPress Theme and other prizes!


    • So how was it? The cookies I mean, not the story? Okay, I admit it. I’d love to know about both.

      • Got all snug, very late, warm milk, cookies, rain and started to read. It was scarey and I had clear pictures in my head. The prologue was incredibly powerful because it was so real. I could see it, hear it and feel it. I really loved this image ‘Tree branches pierced the gloaming like ink stained daggers’. Want to know what’s next. I forgot all about the cookies.

        Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..It’s Saturday and I’m Thinking About Food…

        • AWESOME. Dave and I are loving this project. Nothing would make us happier than an eager audience awaiting a fresh installment each week. Thanks for being here from the beginning.

          Sean’s last blog post..A Cornucopia of Thanks

  1. You are an excellent fiction writer. I never was great at fiction, but I have many started stories! Cliffhangers always frustrate me as I like endings… as long as there is an ending, I love them. Great to meet another writer…. Good luck with this book!

    Julie M’s last blog post..Finding Inspiration from Your Own Writing

    • This story is special because it took two voices and twisted them into one. Not only is it online fiction, it’s online fiction with blended voice!

  2. OK I’m hooked. Bring on next week’s episode already!

    Excellently written guys. Moved at a quick enough pace, long enough to develop a plot but not too long that it was tiring to read (white text on black hurts after a while). A fantastic start.

    • Thanks Marc! When Dave first sent this to me, I read it first thing in the morning with my eyes still gummy. I myself was blown away. A fantastic start indeed.

  3. I read this and thought “Kill Bill.” Looking forward to the next bit! This doesn’t read like a collaboration; it reads like pure synergy, like a brand new author has been built from the best of both of you.
    @Marc, I have problems reading white on black too, but I agree that this was the perfect length and pace.

    janice’s last blog post..How to Feel Happy for No Reason

    • I have no problems admitting, at least on my end, that Kill Bill influenced the way I approached my part of this first section. Great catch.

      “This doesn’t read like a collaboration; it reads like pure synergy, like a brand new author has been built from the best of both of you.”

      I love this Janice. Thank you.

  4. Splendid. Macabre. Fantastically written. Keep it up.

    • It will be our absolute pleasure. Thanks!

    • How about a great one? That’s what we’re aiming for once a week. Thanks for reading, Karen! See you next week.

      Sean’s last blog post..A Cornucopia of Thanks

  5. Hey, all. Thanks for the nice words. I appreciate it. As to the Kill Bill reference, this story was in no way influenced by that movie on my part. I’ve had the beginning of this story written for more than two decades – since I was a teen. I was inspired by something – though I’ll keep what that inspiration was a secret for the time being. 🙂

    I do find it interesting that Sean managed to channel some of that Kill Bill inspiration on his end, though.

    I hope you all come back this Friday and tell some friends to check it out, also. Because the story, once it gets going, will be something that I hope will garner lots of discussion with all the twists and turns we’ve got cooked up!

  6. Unrelated to the story but connected to your comments. Sean: how are you interweaving your replies? I haven’t figured out how to do it in Thesis and there are times it would be useful. Can you do a Blogopolis Blueprint post-ette on it, please?

  7. Hi Janice – It’s David. You will need almost the newest version of Thesis and WP 2.7 and up.

    In your admin panel go to Options >Discussion > and click the option which ENABLES nested comments. Click Save and you should be good to go.

    Simple as that 🙂 and takes less than a minute.

  8. took me a mo’ to stumble over and take time to catch up on your offerings here…cant wait for Fridays after this…. concurrance here regarding the blended voice – a splendid offering indeed!

    • Thanks Trina! We blended it for the first time a couple of months ago. When I looked at it last week, there were parts of the body where I couldn’t remember what was originally there – a blended voice indeed. I’m thrilled you liked it. See you Friday!

      Sean’s last blog post..Deeper Roots For Longer Branches: Writer Dad 2.0

      • that’s interesting that even you are having difficulties with what ‘was’ – a difinitive sympatico I would guess…. that’s poetry in motion – er, prose in motion 🙂

  9. @Dave (and Marc, who emailed)
    Thanks for the heads up, guys, and the newbie friendly instructions. I appreciate it. I did all of those enable-y things so it looks like I’m behind again; I bought Thesis in February and upgraded WP at the same time but things move so quickly in Cyberland!

    janice’s last blog post..Silence for the Writing Soul

    • I can barely keep up myself. Cyberspace moves at the speed of light while we’re here stuck at the speed of mammal.

      Sean’s last blog post..My Daughter Danced For Me

        • Oh, I could totally be a dolphin, or even a pig. I hear they’re pretty smart. They do have that rather irritating swine flu thingy so… er… maybe not.

          Sean’s last blog post..My Daughter Danced For Me

          • Well according to Matt Parkman from Heroes, pigs are actually immune to this swine flu.

            Awesomely strange.

  10. It’s fantastic ! Love it. I have always been a fan of Vampire stories and love the “cliffhanger” effect. Off to read the next installment. The only problem i have is the white on black makes my eyes go funny for ages after i read it. Migrane risk but worth it.


  11. I’m late getting started in this series but I’m officially hooked!

    I know I’ll sometimes tivo several episodes of a show and watch them in mini-marathon mode. This sates my “need more now” compulsion but sometimes I feel like something is missed in my having be forced to wait.

    Hmm, I’d add 24 to the list of favorite current serials….. and now this one too!


    Do You Dave Ramsey?’s last blog post..Bad Money Decisions

  12. I love Chapter 1 and I’m really big on cliff hangers too. That’s been the biggest complaint so far with my podcast novel. I forsee it being a typical ending to my chapters. 😛 Keep up the great work!

    Kimi’s last blog post..Guardians: Angellus Journal 12



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