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... Show full author's note »
Chapter OneListen, 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.