Short Story: “The Night King”


Like most of my short stories, this one is based loosely on a dream.

It was an ordinary police station, for the most part. The main desk where the sergeant usually sat was situated front and center, with half a dozen desks organized carefully in rows behind. Glass partitions separated a few, more private areas, usually reserved for meetings with juveniles and their parents. In the corner an enclosed space was reserved for the police chief and his office. Behind it stood locked metal doors, protecting the small arsenal and holding area. All of these areas were now quiet though, which made some sense, considering that it was the early morning hours.

That was where the mundane nature of the building ended. Where the light of the day made have filled the room with a rainbow of colors, the bleached moonlight filled it with a high contrast of black, white and gray.

I stood just inside the glass entrance, pump shotgun in hand, clad in dirty t-shirt and jeans, leaning on the metal rail that served as the only protection from what waited outside. I looked to my right at Jimmy, the small, bald-headed cab driver in coveralls who sweated despite the cold, his hands shaking as he loaded the clip on the automatic pistol that lay in front of him on the wooden bench. Beyond him stood tall, thin black Arthur Hickam, the sole survivor from the holding cells, the man I had freed just fifteen minutes ago in an attempt to improve my odds out front. Arthur was frightened too, I could tell, even though he was putting on a brave front. He checked the ammo on his lever-action Winchester for the tenth time, which told me all I needed to know. He licked his lips and looked at the big electric clock on the wall, his breath coming out like puffs of smoke.

“Sunup is in less than an hour,” he growled.

“We won’t last till sunup,” Jimmy whined.

“We will if we keep our heads,” I muttered, trying to sound calm.

“How many of them out there?” Arthur asked, edging his head toward the window without making a profile too obvious.

“Same as last time, I suspect,” I said. “Too many.”

“Maybe,” Jimmy said. His voice trailed off.

“Maybe what, Jimmy…?”

“Maybe the Night King is willing to make a deal?” Jimmy said. “It’s you he wants after all. Maybe he’s willing to let us go.”

“Shoot, Jimmy,” Arthur said. “You ever hear of anyone surviving a confrontation with the Night King?”

I looked at the two others and then outside at the collection of muscle cars, motorcycles and barricades that stood between us and freedom. Then I looked at the bodies of a dozen police officers that lay on the sidewalk and driveway just outside the entrance. Kevlar vests and helmets had not helped them. Whatever weapons the Night King and his followers were using, it cut through them as if they were wet paper.

I stared at the obstacles in front of me and then at my two colleagues, trying to decide what to do. As if in response to my indecision, I saw something I didn’t expect. A white flag on a pole.

“Hold it, guys,” I said. “Something’s happening.” The others leaned forward to see, but I motioned them back, afraid that gunshots would follow their eagerness and curiosity. Instead, a radio-controlled toy car wheeled forward out of the darkness toward the entrance of the police station. It had to weave its way around the police at the entrance, but finally got to the glass doors. I pushed the doors opened carefully and let it in.

“Careful,” Arthur said. “They could have put a bomb on the car.”

I shook my head. “Look at us. They took out a dozen cops no problem. What’s going to stop them from taking out the three of us? No, they want something else.”

A small radio was taped on top of the toy car. I pulled it off. After a moment, it squawked.

“Ernest, is that you?” I heard a voice that sounded familiar. It was Patricia’s. Only I knew that it wasn’t.

“Who is this?” I barked into the radio.

“Who do you think it is?” the voice on the radio asked. Memories from an earlier life flooded my mind. I looked at the two other men, whose faces had gone white.

“Listen, I don’t know who you are, but you’re not my wife,” I said. “She died four years ago.”

There was a pause. The voice came back deeper and richer.

“I can be whoever you want me to be,” the voice said. “Ernest, I can give you things beyond your imagination.”

I bit my lip and turned the radio off. I looked at the two men.

“That was my mother’s voice,” Jimmy said, his voice quiet.

“I heard my little girl’s voice,” Arthur said. “She died two years ago.” He cleared his throat and looked away.

I looked from man to man, wondering what we were facing. I then turned the radio back on.

“Okay, I’m listening,” I said to the radio.

“I am here to make you an offer,” the voice said. “Your time is running out, so you have to decide quickly. Think about all the people you left behind. Your parents. Your wife. Your children. I can bring them back to you. You will be with them forever. But you will need to stay caught in that moment of time. I am the Night King. It has to happen before dawn.”

I pursed my lips and looked at the other two. They looked like they were ready to either run or take the Night King up on his offer: I couldn’t tell which. I deliberated for a long moment before responding.

“What do you want in return?”

“All I want is all of you,” he said, and I felt a chill run down my spine. “I’ll give you your heart’s desire. An eternity with your loved ones in exchange for all of your present misery.”

Something didn’t ring true here. I turned to look at my friends. It was hard to tell what was going on in their minds, and the whole situation seemed more surreal by the moment.

“How much more time do we have ’til dawn?” I asked Arthur. He didn’t respond, but kept staring out the window.

“Time is running out,” the Night King said over the radio, and I sensed a hint of panic in his voice.

“And what will happen if I say no?” I asked, panic coming into my voice as well. I felt that my only choice was to accept his offer, yet for some reason knew that it was the wrong thing to do. I felt in a quandary.

“You don’t want to find out what happens,” he said, his voice rising. “I’ve given you an opportunity to make this choice on your own. Now it appears the choice will be taken out of your hands. You have to the count of three to say yes.”

Please Ernest, I heard Patricia’s voice calling to me somewhere in my head. We could be together again.

I looked out once again and saw the lights of the cars and motorcycles blazing, as well as the eyes of what looked like two dozen large feral creatures just beyond. Above them, I saw the first traces of what looked like dawn.

“One…” I heard on the radio. I turned to look at my partners and realized that I was alone. The two men that I thought were with me were no longer there.

“Two….” came the voice. I gathered up the automatic pistol that lay on the wooden bench behind me and rammed the magazine into position, then pulled the action back to slam one bullet into the chamber.

“Three.”

The air was filled with dust, lights and roaring from cars and motorcycles. I steadied my shotgun against the doorjam waiting. And then it was all gone.

 

The dawn broke across my face in my solitary bedroom as it always did, the curtains parted, the shades left open as I had forgotten to draw them from the night before. I opened my eyes and looked out on a new day, a new dawn.

I sat up onto the edge of the bed, then turned and looked at the dresser where a solitary photo of a woman stood looking back at me and said the same thing I had said every morning for the past four years.

“Good morning, Patricia. I’m sorry.”

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