Entropy’s Design By Rick McQuiston

The winding road stretched from Samuel’s front door as if it were attempting to crawl away from the house. Sickly-looking trees lined either side of the gravel-laden path, creating a natural barrier between the road and the surrounding countryside. A biting chill laced the breeze.

Samuel sat in his living room, his hardened gaze focused on the barren patch of land outside the oversized bay window in his home. He didn’t flinch; he hardly blinked from the demands of what lurked in the distance. He couldn’t afford to. He had an undeniable feeling that if he took his concentration off the situation, even for a fleeting moment, it would lead to chaos.

A low grumbling in the sparsely-lit room reverberated off the antique furniture. For brief moment he thought it was his stomach. After all, he hadn’t eaten in three days so it was entirely plausible for his gut to remind him that it was indeed empty.

Samuel stood, his weary body cracking and popping in protest as his bones readjusted themselves. He felt every minute of his age.  His 67 years spent in this unforgiving world tapped on his fragile state of mind, a psyche that seemed to only need a slight nudge in the wrong direction to devolve into suicidal or even homicidal tendencies.

However, in his current situation those didn’t seem to be wholly unwanted aspects of his person. In fact, they might aid him in addressing whatever lurked outside, either helping him confront them or delivering him from their grasp.

He swung his gaze back to the window and the desolate landscape beyond. Nothing stirred other than the swaying, leafless trees, but still, he knew there was something out there, something that churned relentlessly in his own subtle, yet undeniable way.

Time slowed to an indiscriminate crawl as Samuel trained his focus on the corner of the window. There, almost undetectable to human eyes, was a tiny breach in the frame. Where vertical wood met horizontal, forming a once nearly perfect 90° angle, was now the beginning stages of rot.

Samuel stared at the imperfection. How could this be happening to his house? He took good care of it, frequently monitoring the walls, the floors, the roof.He knelt down on shaky legs and studied the damage. The flickering light of the candles in the room didn’t afford him a good view but he managed.

The wood was rotted right at the seam, creating a gap approximately half an inch wide. Chilly night air seeped through the opening, brushing against Samuel’s face.

With anger directing his actions, Samuel forced himself to his feet and immediately began searching the room for something to plug the gap with. 

A handkerchief on a bookshelf did the job.

Samuel’s attention switched back to outside the window. He could sense something beyond the aged pane but still saw nothing.

“What are you?” he cried out, shattering the uneasy silence of his empty home. “What do you want with me?”

As if in response to his outburst a cracking noise echoed throughout the room. It was nearly inaudible, but in the stillness of the house, seemed akin to a mighty oak being felled.

Samuel looked at the dingy glass of the window and watched as a crack formed near the upper frame and began the snake its way down toward the center. In seconds, the window was decorated with a tangle of cracks.

Anger flashed across Samuel’s face. All his life he kept things clean and organized.  Admittedly, age had hindered his ability to keep things straight; aches and pains did have a way of slowing one down, but he still tried.

But this! This was unacceptable. Rotting wood, cracked windows, it was too much for him to bear.

With renewed purpose Samuel rushed out of the room and into the hallway. The corridor was dimly lit by a sole candle perched on a small table against a wall, but it was enough for him to find a closet door. He promptly yanked it open and fumbled for his box of tools. He would fix the window himself before it became worse.

The candle on the table flickered and went out, plunging the hallway into darkness.

The darkness is akin to time itself, gradually, slowly, inevitably overtaking its brethren: light and youth, and eventually the living.

The strange thought startled Samuel to the point of alarm. He didn’t know where it came from, having simply slipped into his head, but he couldn’t ignore it. The dire implications it represented were as chilling as they were undeniable.

With a chisel, hammer, and saw in hand Samuel made his way back to the window. The pane was near breaking so he hurried to address the problem. Movement outside caught his attention briefly, halting his mild progress on the repair, but he carried on.

“I am not old!” he shouted, feeling the strain of his outburst tighten his heart. “And I refuse to relinquish my grasp on this life!”

The darkness outside stirred and amorphous blob of negative energy that moved of its own accord. It developed whip like appendages that slashed with silent efficiency through the cold night as it drew nearer to the house situated on its crumbling foundation.

“Entropy, aim your daggers in another direction! I am not old, surely youthful enough to maintain my existence further!”

But Samuel’s words dissipated into nothingness. They were only hollow beliefs of a stubborn old man who resisted the natural order of decay. It was all around him, encircling his house, closing in for the final strike.         

Samuel felt his body tightening. His muscles cramped and his joint swelled. His blood thinned, bone rubbing against bone, tendons losing their elasticity.

He collapsed in a painful heap, never taking his eyes off what was working its way into both to his house and his soul.

A black tendril punched through the already fragile window. Shards of glass showered down on the defeated man on the floor, immediately followed by a wave of night air that plunged the room into its gloom, snuffing out the few meager sources of light in an instant.

Samuel knew time had caught up with him. It was aging all that it touched, from an old window to the last fiber in his body, and it would not be denied its prize.

Entropy’s design reigned once again.

Rick is a horror fanatic who has over 400 publications to his credit. He’s written five novels (three published), and reads at various schools and libraries in Michigan. Currently, he’s working on his sixth and seventh novels.

Published 2/14/19