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Beware the Shadow
Author's note: When I was younger I had a few bad dreams, but a few of them remained consistent and featured the same creature. I would be in my house playing with my family when I'd enter my bedroom and turn on the lights to find a shadow crouching in the corner. Before I could scream, it would lunge at me and I'd wake in terror. I named the fiend: Silhouette and it forever became the object of my fear, despite not bothering me for the past ten or so years. This fear composed me to write about a living shadow, in which I like to think Silhouette lives.
Listen, I don’t have much time so let’s make this quick. My name is Martin Burlock and I live on Clearvard road. You’ve heard of Clearvard right? On the news? Never mind, I’ll explain anyway.
You see, my mum is a nutter and she goes on about the man that lived at the Château down by the park, a Frenchman who wanted to get away from the memories of World War 2, so he moved to England to build a new home – which he demanded be called a Château. People say he left, but my mum says he disappeared.
One day – says me mum – he started to bar the windows and install hundreds of locks on the front and back doors, making sure his house is pretty secure when he leaves and returns. But one day he entered his house, locked the front door, but never came out. People were so used to his habits however, that they thought he exited his house but never went back in, so they associated that theory with him moving away. But my mum knows different, and that got me curious.
Next day, I told my mates about the story and they decided we should all go. All except one.
Mark – being the sensible one – refused to go, so we went without him, at about 8:00 pm so we wouldn’t get in trouble with our mums and dads for being late. Looking back, I should have agreed with Mark, that would have swayed the others to not go I’m sure. But I didn’t, and wherever Mark is, God, he’s lucky.
Anyway, we walked down South Clearvard and in short, it isn’t a place to be when it’s really late. Drunks, hobos, the occasional brawl, not a nice place. But I miss it, it was terrible, but where I’ve been…
It was hell.
We stopped by the local pub on the way to grab a coke and cool our nerves. Tom tried to hit on the girl behind the bar – which is stupid considering she’s almost ten years older, but Tom is Tom – and even sneak a pint. Until the girl’s boyfriend threatened him and William had to take his place.
I should say who we are. You know me, Tom is my best mate and the mad head of the group, we’re as thick as thieves from the very beginning. I miss him.
Then there’s William, he and Mary – the fourth member of our crew – are dating at the moment and have been friends of ours since juniors. Now that I think about it, that was the greatest moment of my life, chatting to my mates, oblivious of our fates, one last laugh before it ends.
Before we die.
When we finished our cokes we were on our way. It was around 8:30 now so we had plenty of time before we had to head back. We walked past the park to where the brick walls turned into the long rusted bars of the property’s fence, like black spears linked together to keep people out. Actually it was probably to keep something in. The gate’s lock was terribly rusted so it took some effort to force it open and get through. It was late autumn, so it was pitch black now, not even the moon and stars dared show themselves, leaving us isolated in the dark with only the half-naked trees and dying stone statues of men and women in what looked like towels and dressing gowns for company. We made it to the front door to find it locked.
“Can we go guys?” Mary whined “It’s getting late and I don’t want to be caught here”
“What’s the matter? Chicken?” Tom mocked with his lopsided grin. Mary hugged herself to keep warm and William draped an arm around her, for comfort and protection. Eventually Tom stopped trying to force the door open and resorted to kicking at a weak looking section of the wall. After several kicks, we created a hole large enough for us to crawl through, Tom first, then William and Maria and finally me.
The inside was vast, if not outdated and dark. The wallpaper was a tasteless cream with red diamond patterns, now peeling and torn. The fireplace had a log in it, but it was wet and covered in a choke hold of moss. A grandfather clock stood to one side, dominant over all other antiques in the room, but was silent and very much dead with age. A true grandfather I joked but no one laughed. Tom said he wanted to check the garden and Mary just walked upstairs without a word, leaving me and William standing awkwardly in the same room. William went to the kitchen, and we talked about nothing in particular. Just how things were going and the footy match last night, you know that sort of thing. When I caught a glance of the back garden I saw a forest of trees that put the park to shame. But everything, except the large patch without trees, was framed and concealed in shadows. Eventually I grew bored and decided to check upstairs for Mary, thinking that there was nothing particularly wrong with the place. The upstairs had a small corridor on either side; my left had a storage cupboard and a toilet as well as an entrance to the attic. The other rounded a corner to show a collection of five doors. I checked on the cupboard and suddenly heard a scream.
It was Maria’s and William heard it too because in no time was he upstairs and opening random doors with me. In the third door we opened, a pair of rats – as big as a DS – scampered off, shrieking in indignation at being disturbed. Maria was standing there, staring at us.
William – who was obviously relieved – threw his arms around her, but she kept on staring.
“A couple of rats aren’t so bad” I panted, exhausted from the sudden worry. But Mary just shook her head and pointed, only then did I realise she was staring at the wall by the door. I went to look and saw a man, all his flesh removed and most of his muscles ripped apart. His yellow eyes staring and his teeth bared in a permanent grin of agony without lips. His torso was ripped open, leaving his intestines dangling and his lungs exposed, his still beating heart covered in a thick, black substance. He was pinned to the wall by three black nails as big as door knobs. One in his throat, and the other two pinning his arms by the wrists, letting the blood bath them.
I couldn’t help it. I screamed.
My throat was raw by the time I stopped. I also found myself stooped over in the corner, staring at my own vomit. William turned pale as snow when he saw the corpse, stumbling backwards with his mouth agape. It still is, like the hinges of the jaw broke and he couldn’t close it. We all stood staring, Mary was now crying in the corner but she didn’t take her eyes away from the morbid scarecrow. I was fascinated by the heart. Whatever that black substance was, it wasn’t natural, and it seemed to keep the heart still beating.
Meaning that it wasn’t a corpse we were looking at.
As if in answer, the unseeing yellow eyes darted to and fro, glancing at invisible threats at all sides. What seemed like a year passed with us transfixed in the sight’s spell, unable to glance away, when we heard a knocking on the door downstairs – the back door in fact. It was slow and continuous with no rhythm what so ever, like the insistent ticking of a clock. It helped snap us out of our spell and we all managed to glance at each other, silently agreeing on one thing.
Time to go.
We sprinted downstairs and I threw myself at the front door. It didn’t move. The locks were gone and the door didn’t even shudder on impact, nor did the handle turn, as if the door had become a part of the wall. The hole was fixed up too, and all hell broke loose. The fire place lit up, but cast neither light nor warmth, the grandfather clock chimed to life, books flew from the shelves of a nearby bookcase, pots and pans clanged together in a cacophony of clamour and I saw a silhouetted figure of a man by the back door. His slender finger tapping on the glass. Mary was screaming for it to stop and I found it hard to breath, and just when the chaos became unbearable…
“OVER HERE!” William shouted, trying to open a door under the staircase. I kicked it and it shuddered, meaning it could be opened. I kicked it again, the furniture flew.
I kicked again, the tapping became a knocking.
I kicked again and the door opened.
William rushed in, then me but then Mary screamed. I saw her on the ground, being dragged away. Her nails were bleeding from clawing at the wooden floor, being dragged towards a solid mass of shadows. I hesitated but William barged past and snatched at Mary’s hand.
He was too slow though.
The poor girl was yanked back as a mass of shadows peeled back like a flower opening, a morbid Venus fly trap…
…Before it snapped shut, consuming it’s victim, Mary.
The shadows melted into the floor but I could still hear Mary’s muffled screams. They weren’t screams of distress though, they were screams of agony, and I knew, from my experience upstairs, that she would be tortured but kept alive. To eternally suffer pain.
With some effort I dragged William through the door and slammed it shut. We were heading down into the basement now, I guess, but had reached the bottom of the stairs to hear the door explode behind us, showering us in wood shards, and in the doorway I saw the silhouetted man stride towards us.
We ran down a long dark corridor, the silhouette in no apparent rush behind us, and found another small room. I found a hatch leading outside and tried to pull William out, but only got shoved back.
“You could have saved her” He mumbled “You didn’t though, you let her die. It’s your fault! YOUR FAULT THAT SHE’S DEAD!” He was right, but it wasn’t the time to argue or fallout. We needed to escape, get help, anything so long as it’s far away from the Château. But William wouldn’t listen, yelling accusations and curses, backing away all the while– I was starting to think he was losing it, getting overwhelmed by the panic. I didn’t see, but when I turned back to William, I saw the silhouette standing behind him. I tried to shout out but I was too slow again, for the silhouette had wrapped it’s arms around William in a bear hug – hardly struggling to maintain control – and suddenly, it’s body lost all mass and form and became solid shadows that started to cocoon my old friend. Soon William was trapped in a dark blanket that made some sort of cast around his body, he started to convulse and spasm as if there was more harm than just suffocation, it was probably killing him inside out. Once again, like the coward I was, I ran.
I ran and ran, it was all I could do. No sooner had I started did I turn to glimpse the figure of a four legged creature bound after me. It looked like a bear, except it had no fur, just a sleek black skin of shadows and no facial features whatsoever. I ran faster, dodging the trees and leaping exposed roots, when I looked back the woods behind me were empty, though I cringed at every passing tree, expecting an assault at any time. I didn’t dare go for the front gate, because I couldn’t risk the time to force the gate open, and it just didn’t feel right to go there, it being so close to the Château, my friends’ grave. It was all my fault. I knew that I could have saved Mary, or at least tried to help, but I just stood there, frozen in fear and unable to save a friend who has looked out for me since ages ago. Then if I had saved Mary, William wouldn’t have blamed me, and there wouldn’t be any mistrust, we could all have gotten out of there. But because of me, all four of us are doomed.
All four of us?
I suddenly halted, hesitating now, remembering the fourth member of our party.
I had completely forgotten him ever since I saw the scarecrow corpse upstairs. Perhaps he was still alive! He may have escaped the Shadow, just like me, and be wondering around the woods, glancing back every now and then to see a sudden shape fly by. Or the Shadow could have ignored him, and he was returning to the house right now. And into a trap.
A part of me wanted to turn around and backtrack towards the house, to see if Tom was still there, and warn him of his impending demise, or to at least search the back garden and look for some trace of him. But I didn’t move. Even if this was true, then it would be a trap for both of us. The likely hood that a shadow had been so smart as to lure one in as bait to lure the other in and kill us both is somewhat stupid. But you wouldn’t have thought that shadows come to life and kill people would you. Whether Tom was dead or alive, the Shadow must expect me to return to the Château, which I didn’t. I turned and ran, tears welling up over the other friend I may have left for dead. My only hope is that he was already dead, because if he was still alive, then I didn’t return to warn him and he died because I left him unawares. A little selfish but I couldn’t wish for him to just reappear unharmed, I knew it was an impossible wish and it still upsets me, that I lost my closest friend but was unsure of whether it was my fault or not.
My only hope of escape was the low wall that circled the park. If I could vault that, then I’d be in the park and from there, I’d reach the street and manage to get away from this nightmare.
I ran and ran, always expecting a shadowed creature to jump out and mutilate me, none did though and still I ran. Eventually I saw amber light up ahead.
The lamp posts at the park!
I picked up the speed. At this point I was exhausted, my muscles screaming at me, lungs working so hard they were practically on fire and my heart beginning a catchy drum beat in my chest. I reached the wall, and all hope died away.
I didn’t forget the railings surrounding the entire property, but I had hoped the low wall was enough to complete the property borders. But it lay behind the barbed, iron spires like a cruel and sick joke, that freedom was there, but out of my grasp. Evidently, the owner took no chances, and I loathed him for it. The gate was my only way out but it was far away now.
Better than nothing I suppose.
I turned to find the silhouette standing there, watching with no facial features. It didn’t try to cocoon me, instead it bloated and bulged, it’s body moulding into a more malformed shape, a mass of tentacles, claws, hands and a single, foreboding maw. One of the shadowed hands gripped my ankle and pulled me closer to the shape. I tried to find a purchase or something to break the hold but failed miserably. Then I tried to reach for one of the railings and cursed my slow thinking not to do so earlier. I missed my chance and now something else grabbed me, and I felt claws dig into my flesh. More hands and claws, and the occasional tentacle, found purchase on my body and I once looked back to see the maw growing wider and wider. Eventually, two tentacles had snaked around my arms to prevent me clawing at the ground, rendering them useless and then I knew that I had lost, though I didn’t stop struggling. One final yank saw me in a standing position, teetering horribly over the maw and practically hovering over it. I had never been so terrified in my life knowing that it’s over, and that I will die in a matter of seconds, but I never stopped struggling, it was in vain but I’d be dammed if I would roll over and die. Hands grappled my torso and face now and before it was over, I whispered an “I’m sorry” to those I didn’t save. Next thing I knew I was falling into darkness.
They say God is all-loving, a completely merciful being, but I have trouble believing he would allow something like that exist. True he turns a blind eye towards everyday suffering, but what I saw was not suffering, it wasn’t even torture, it was so malicious, there wasn’t even a word for it. The event was broadcasted on the news.
“The Clearvard loss” They called it. No one knew what happened to the kids that night, some would’ve thought kidnapping or murder but Mark had told them our nightly plans. I’m glad that he survived. People investigated the Château and as far as I know, the Shadow hadn’t claimed another. But I write this as a warning. I don’t have much time but I told you my story so you know what awaits you should you enter that accursed place. Even if your friend or family decides to go, don’t follow, save your own skin and don’t be the good guy. Once you enter and the Shadow sees you… it’s too late. No one escapes.
And if you’re wondering how I escaped to warn you, let me tell you the secret.