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As It Follows
I thought my life would be normal. I was wrong.
Where I’m from, a village called Woodton, people don’t go to school until they realize their dreams for their future. Then, they go to a preparatory school where they prepare for their dream.
I was playing ball with my friends near the forest. I had just turned sixteen, and some of my friends had already left for school. One of my friends kicked the ball in the woods, so I went to go get it. As I walked further into the forest I heard rustling behind me. As I turned, I saw my friend Victor who I thought had left for school two weeks ago. I barely recognized him. His skin was pale and scarred. His eyes were bloodshot. Bags of skin huddled underneath them.
“Victor?” I said.
“Steven?” he walked toward me.
“Victor, what the hell happened to you?”
“Have to get away. It's close to me!”
“What is?! What in the world is going on!” He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me.
“It’s been following me for days. I-I met people, lots of people, at preparatory school, I realized I just, I wasn’t good enough. I knew I’d never be as good as they were. Then It showed up. The first night It came, It clawed my back in the middle of the night. That was Sunday. I run, but It follows me everywhere. Always just steps behind in the day, while everywhere in the night.” He turned as if he heard a noise. I heard nothing. He began to scream. “Just kill me already!”
“What’s with you?!”
“It’s here!” He was chased off by nothing. After running almost twenty feet, he fell as if tackled by air, and screamed as if he were being clawed to death by nothing. Confused, and somewhat horrified, I grabbed the ball and walked back to my game. I thought he had just gone crazy under stress.
I’ve never been so wrong.
In April, everyone had left but me. I was all alone trying to decide what my dream was. I began to believe that I’d never find where I belong. I screamed at my own reflection. I had lost all hope that I meant anything at all.
That’s when it happened.
The sun was setting. I was walking down a dirt path back to my house. I was in the middle of scolding myself for not being able to realize my future. I screamed at myself and that’s when I heard it. A deep growl quietly filled the air. I stopped for a moment, listened intently, then continued. After just five steps I heard a roar as loud as an artillery cannon. I turned. As soon as I saw what was making the sound I fell over in fear. A completely black beast with spikes like swords on both shoulders, black teeth as sharp as nails, and claws as long as daggers, was emerging from the ground as if it were liquid. No not the ground. My own shadow. It roared into the sky, a sound that shook all the trees in the area. The beast snarled and took one step towards me. I struggled to move as if I was made of petrified stone. The beast raised its claws to end my life and I finally snapped. I crawled back and he missed. Then I got up and ran as fast as I could.
After I was ahead by almost fifty yards I stopped looking behind me so I could run faster. I made a sharp right towards the forest. As I ducked into the underbrush I looked back at the monster.
He was gone.
I ran for what seemed like hours until I collapsed from exhaustion. As I slowly stood to my feet, I heard a familiar snarl. I looked behind me. Again out of my own shadow rose the monster. This time I didn’t wait. I bolted and didn’t stop until I was out of the forest, away from the shadows. But that didn’t stop It. This thing didn’t care about other shadows, only mine. It kept following me that day. As the sun fell, I expected It to be everywhere. I was right. Though It couldn’t take full form, It would creep along the walls merging with its shadows. It’s sharpened claws haunted my dreams stopping my sleep. Its growls woke me up in the middle of the night. In the day, it started all over again.
It’s been a week since that happened, and I’m still on the run.
I stop for a second to catch my breath. I wipe the sweat out of my eyes. Within seconds I hear It. I start jogging. After a week, I’ve figured out that the monster is not fast until it’s on you. So most of the time I jog at a medium fast pace. I save running for when the monster is within feet of me and trying to attack.
As I jog I grip my thigh. Two days ago, the monster caught me. When it did, I felt a feeling of sadness stronger than I ever had before. I felt as though I had failed myself, that I’d never be good enough. I felt as though I had been abandoned and I’d never find my place. I felt like running away, curling up into a ball, and crying. It was as if It was made of pure sadness. While I had been struck by this sadness, the monster clawed my thigh. This brought me back to reality. I was able to escape, but my thigh paid the price.
I wish It would just go away.
It’s night now, and I know I won’t make it another. I’m ready to give up. I need a plan or something. Nothing comes. I’m going to either die from exhaustion or It. I decide to let the monster kill me in the morning as I fall asleep. At least it will be quick.
There’s nothing I can do.
In the morning I walk into the middle of the street. The monster again comes through my shadow, larger than ever. I stumble back wondering if I should run. I don’t.
As the monster walks towards me. An idea comes to me, like a moth to a flame. I realize that the monster comes from shadow. It’s literally born from darkness. Just like light beats darkness, I need light to fight it. But it’s been in light. It’s still here. What light can I use? Then it occurs to me.
Victor. He was being chased by this. I couldn’t see it. But he could.
Maybe the monster is within me. Maybe I made my own monster.
I remember that I was down on myself when the monster first came. Maybe It’s not only formed in darkness. Maybe, it was actually created from my darkness.
What if I am the light that can cancel it out.
At this moment I accept that I don’t have a dream. I accept that I still have to find myself and where I have to be. I was so filled with darkness, I didn’t have any light. But now I need light. My light. And to do that, I have to let go of the things I hate. The things I despise about myself.
I look up at the monster.
“You don’t scare me anymore. My darkness is gone”
The monster snarls then slowly fades into the shadows. I collapse from exhaustion as the sun’s light shines on my back.