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The Shadow

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It was a cool evening in late September. Autumn was well on its way in as summer lazily drew to a close. The day had been sunny and warm, but now a brisk breeze blew through the trees and across the meadow. I recall quite clearly. My mother had built a fire in the fire place, warming the house in anticipation of a chilly night and mourn to come. The hours between the sun were always cold in those days. Now she was rocking slowly in her chair, reading the works of Robert Frost and humming a melody I did not recognize. Father had already lumbered off to bed. He had not been sleeping well and mother thought he was worried about the crops as usually. This time of year, he was a tired man. I had just finished my worksheets for math and grammar. So I put the work away and began to doodle. I cannot be certain how long I sat, but when the clock chimed 9, I looked up from my completed daisy patch. Mother had fallen asleep in her chair. I didn’t want to wake her so a decided to drape a blanket over her. Then I worked my way through the living room and kitchen, turning out the lights before heading to my room to prepare for bed. My pajamas were on and my teeth brushed. Walking out of the bathroom to go to my room, I heard three rapid knocks on the front door. I glanced at the clock. It was almost 9:30. I looked to my mother, who was still sleeping peacefully. I looked to the door of my parent’s closed bedroom door from whence came Father’s snores. Finally, I looked to the front door. I walked to the front window and nervously glanced out to the porch. It was dark, the porch light off and the moon rising on the other side of the house. Still, it was easy to see, there was no one there. I shrugged, and presumed that I must have imagined it. Or perhaps Mr. Doug’s old bloodhound was out again. The creature often roamed at night, protecting his livestock from foxes and bobcats and the occasional cougar that descended from the mountain when the mountain streams ran dry. It had been a stifling summer and hadn’t rained in at least a month. This in mind, I started back towards my waiting bed.

I was just at the hall entrance when three more rapid knocks sounded, this time from the kitchen window above the sink. I froze, then slowly turned to look out the window. But I saw no one. Of course, I was short and the window high. I couldn’t see any of the ground, just the sky. Clouds were moving rapidly, trying to cover the light of the half moon. I could hear the wind had picked up, a gust now more than a breeze. I stood for a minute, until the clock chimed the half hour. Then took a step, immediately met with three more rapid knocks, this time from the bathroom window. I waited, as my young nerves frayed and fear pooled in the pit of my stomach where supper was starting to sit uncomfortably. A minute later, three more knocks, from the first window in my parent’s room, then the second, then my room. With each set of three, fear grow stronger, goose bumps collected on my skin, the hairs on the back of my neck stood straight. I knew which window would be next. The one behind me. The big front window in the living room where almost completely transparent curtains hung partially parted. The knocks came. Almost holding my breath, I prayed to God that it would just go away as I quivered in my soft purple pjs. After two whole minutes passed without a sound, I turned slowly, then all at once whipped around to face the large panes of glass. I breathed out a sigh of relief. There was nothing there. I approached the window, wondering if I could see some figure retreating, perhaps one of Ms. Ridley’s teenagers. The liked to play horrid pranks on younger kids like me. I peered through the darkness, but there was no sign of movement all the way across the meadow until you reached the tree-line, where mighty oaks and pines trembled in the fierce gusts every few moments.
Suddenly, three more rapid taps against the glass drew my attention to it, scaring me out of my wits. I tried to scream, but only a strangled gasp worked its way out of my throat. My parents slept on and it stared at me. It was difficult to see as it was just a shadow, the outline of something there but not quite there. I could see its face, but its features were generic, like the drawing of a younger child or undisciplined artist. Where it stood, the darkness was just a shade denser. But it’s eyes, oh God its eyes! They stood out distinctly from the rest of the night. Where it’s eyes were, large and staring at me, there was nothing. Not darkness, but a lack of it. Compared to the shadow drenched area around them, they practically shined with the light drifting unhindered through. It was like if you drew a picture and shaded every area inside but not the eyes. The contrast was so stark. Upon seeing it, it could not be unseen. I saw with great undesired detail as it raised a fisted left hand and rapped thrice more, then simply laid its hand across the glass. I could see it and it knew. It blinked, the light of its eye hole vanishing for half a second. Then it raised its other hand to its lips and in a voice almost indistinguishable from the rustling leaves several hundred yards away, it shushed me. Not that I could make a sound anyway. Fear held me so tight, I thought I might faint. The left hand moved and pointed towards the door. It wanted me to open it. But I could not. My legs shook. Even if I could tell my legs to move, they would surely collapse under me the moment I did. It frowned, and crooked its finger. I heard a click and looked at the knob. The lock had turned. Then the deadbolt slowly turned until it too was open. Finally, I watched as the chain slowly, painfully slowly, slid down its track and fell to the side. It rapped on the window and I looked back to see it once more point at the door. Then it smiled. Its teeth looked, for the most part, normal, save for it incredibly sharp canines. And in that moment, I think fear made me dumb. Perhaps I thought it looked friendly, or that it would spare me if I did as it asked. Whatever the case, I found my feet shuffling over and my hands shakily grasped the knob, turning and pulling. The door swung quietly open. I stepped out and looked at it fully now. It seemed to wear a kind of cloak that stopped inches above the ground. I could not see its feet, if it even had any. It was just floating there. With the door open, it drifted forward. As it passed, it placed a cold hand on my shoulder. Cold, but there. It felt solid. It moved into the living room. The light of the fire did little to brighten it or cause the shadow to dissipate. I think no amount of light could have made it go away. It passed my mother by. The fire flickered, but continued to burn strong as t drifted on. Down the hall now. Towards my parent’s room. It opened the door, with its hand this time and not creepy demon powers. I could do nothing, standing just outside the front door in purple pajamas as a storm was brewing and a chilly breeze gusted straight through the light fabric. I could just see my father sleeping stretched across the right side of the bed. It paused, then turned around and looked at me. It frowned, then closed the door behind it, as if it didn’t want me to see what would happen next. To this day, I am grateful the thing did at least that. For not 10 seconds later, my father screamed. I had never before and not since heard a sound so terrified. My mother was startled awake. She cast a quick, scared glance in my direction. Then a second confused one. I thought for a moment, she might come to me first. But my father screamed again and she dashed into their room. It was my mother’s turn to shriek. I caught a very brief glance of the room. It was spattered in red, across the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and dripping from the bed. Pieces of my father could be seen strewn across the room. Then the creature was there again. Cold clean hands fell across my eyes, shielding them from the carnage with almost impenetrable darkness. It moved me away from the door to the swing and sat me there. Then it was gone, simply vanished, and I was left there, shivering in my pjs as thunder started to rumble in the distance.

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