Charles was too old to be afraid of the dark.
He had thought that it would be one of those childhood quirks that went away by one’s mid-teens. Late teens, at the most. But as the years swung by, and he found himself resolutely pulling the blankets over his head every night, it slowly became evident that he wouldn’t be getting over it any time soon.
It was horribly embarrassing. He tried buying a night light, but all it did was cause threatening shadows to form along every corner. He tried leaving the lights on, but it disturbed his sleep. Charles had long mastered the art of curling up securely under the sheets, a tiny space left for breathing, but it wasn’t something he was very proud of. Still, he could never quite shake the feeling that something was lurking in the dark.
Tonight, however, it was going to be different. Tonight, he had advice from the Internet.
It’s all about training the mind in association, Charles thought firmly, nervously fiddling with the hem of his boxers. Raven had always said that one had to face their fears head-on. She probably didn’t have this in mind, but that was irrelevant.
Charles shivered. For once, the entirety of his body was exposed to the night chill, and cold fear was already creeping through his veins. If he didn’t hurry, he probably wouldn’t be able to get it up at all - and then he’d be embarrassed by the dark as well as terrified. Not an attractive prospect.
He fixed his eyes on the darkest corner, and slipped a hand under his boxers.
He had to wonder what he looked like - pale skin lit by moonlight, wanking at shadows with an expression of abject terror. Despite his diligent strokes, his body was opting for a slow and sluggish response. It was almost depressing.
"It’s not usually like this," he told the shadows apologetically.
The shadows remained silent, which was very polite of them.
Talking to shadows, Charles thought himself, as his eyes fluttered briefly shut. Moira was right. I do need to get out more. Now that he and the shadows had had a brief one-sided conversation, however, he was starting to get into this. Charles had to wonder if it was evidence of a hidden exhibitionist streak.
A flush was beginning to spread along his neck and body. His fingers curled in the sheets, and he gave a soft moan. For a moment, he thought he had caught movement out of the corner of his eye, but he sternly reprimanded himself for an overactive imagination.
"I’ll bet you’re enjoying this," he breathed, announcing to the darkness. "You bloody pervert. This is for you, then."
"Really?" a voice murmured next to his ear, just as Charles ran his thumb over the head of his cock. He came with strangled yelp, twisting around in confusion and banging his head on the backboard. The throbbing pain in his head didn’t help to ease his panic, and his attempt to scramble off the bed was immediately foiled by his sheets - he ended up on the floor, hip bruised and hopelessly tangled. And he was a mess. Wonderful.
The voice chuckled. It, inconceivably, seemed to come from the darkness, which was gathering and surging through the room in a manner that definitely defied the laws of physics. It was every nightmare Charles had had as a child, except he hadn’t been fresh from a wank in any of those.
"You seem nervous, Charles,” the darkness remarked. An unnaturally deep shadow settled next to Charles’ bed. “It’s surprising, after you put on such a show for me.”
Either this was an extremely realistic dream, or Charles had finally gone mad. He was a man of science, and logic dictated that shadows didn’t simply up and accuse you of indecent exposure.
"I didn’t…" Charles squeaked, before clearing his throat. Unfortunately, he seemed to clear the words right out of his throat, and fell silent once again.
"You didn’t?" the shadow repeated in mock wonderment, shifting downwards. Charles received the distinct impressing that it was kneeling next to him, leaning towards his ear.
"I find that hard to believe," it said, and Charles swallowed.