The Mermaid – Second Encounter

The second time I saw the mermaid, she was singing.

Now, when most people think of a singing mermaid, they think of the red-haired songstress with a penchant for hoarding, bewitching siren songs, etc.

This was more like… well, imagine an old cat yowling for dinner. Scratchy, off-key and off-putting.

She was in the water this time, her back to me, and she was splashing while squawking a familiar tune.

“Are… are you singing Crocodile Rock?” I asked from the shore.

She gasped and submerged, then resurfaced about twenty feet away, scowling.

“Are you following me?” she hissed, her sea green eyes seemed to glow from the sun reflecting off of the water.

I pointed down the beach. “I am living in one of the beach houses for the summer, I just walk the beach a lot.”

“Whatever. Get a life.”

She was gone with a flick of her strong tail, leaving a wake of bubbles and Elton John stuck in my head.

Listen

The office was silent. Usually filled with the sound of keyboards tapping, mouses clicking and hushed conversations, it was unnaturally quiet. My coworkers all sat still, some with heads tilted, as if listening.

A few moments passed.

“What… what is that?” the intern hissed.

“You hear that too, right?”

“Oh, thank god I am not imagining it.”

“What IS that?”

The chorus of whispered questions died down, as everyone listened again.

“It sounds like it is coming from outside…”

Without speaking, they all stood, and filed out of their cubicles. Other offices were emptying into the hallway, everyone speaking softly. Listening.

“Bells… like, sleigh bells.” One woman gasped.

“No, it is definitely a violin. Beethoven!” Someone else chimed in.

“No one else hears… singing?”

They drifted towards the exit, entranced. I followed them out.

The street was filled with people. Many appeared joyful, as if they were listening to beautiful music. The mass of people was starting to drift down the street, laughing, listening, looking to the sky.

“It’s beautiful.”

“Where is it coming from?”

“It sound like the angels are laughing!”

The crowd grew and grew. People came out of their houses as we reached the suburbs, joining the exhilarated group.

Soon we were at the city limits, open fields and blue sky for miles.

I noticed a small group had stayed back, and did not join the euphoric crowd, who were now dancing and hugging and gleefully cheering to the sky.

I moved towards them. They looked how I felt; fearful.

As I stepped close, a man in front looked me in the eye.

“You hear it, too? Don’t you?”

I nodded.

There was no music from the sky. No bells, no laughter or gentle singing.

I knew without asking that we all heard the same thing.

Screaming.

Screaming and the crackle of flames.

From below.

Hey, Shadow Man

It was following me again.

I could see it out of the corner of my eye; a dark blur of movement here, a darting shadow there.

He was back.

I was very small when I first saw the Shadow Man.

Someone called my name, and I woke with a start. He stood at the foot of my bed. Inky black, ominous, and too real.

I screamed, he was gone. A glass of water and many hugs later, I was asleep.

But he was back the next night, and the next night. Every night thereafter, for years.

Closer he crept. Sometimes taller, sometimes small. He sat on the foot of my bed. He tried to hold my hand. He stood in the doorway, sometimes he laid down beside me.

The worst was when he pushed on my chest. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t cry out. Solid shadow, fear corporeal, he watched.

Night terrors, they told me. Sleep paralysis. Overactive imagination. Attention seeker.

Liar.

I stopped talking about him. At night, I cried alone. I barely slept.

As I grew older, I started to see him during the day. A silent, unwanted companion, stalked my footsteps. Always there, always waiting. Shadow Man.

I tried to ignore him. If I didn’t acknowledge him, sometimes he let me sleep. Sometimes.

Pale and empty, I walked home from school, Shadow Man flitting ceaselessly.

I didn’t notice the woman sitting on the park bench, quietly smoking a cigar, and peering at me. I was used to being watched, as the dark silhouette never left my side.

“Hey, Shadow Man!”

Startled, I whirled to face her. She looked past me, at my pursuer.

“Yeah, I see you, Shadow Man. Leave that child alone.”

Shadow Man stepped forward, menacingly solid, too real.

“You heard me, Shadow Man. Go.”

Shadow Man lurched closer. I swear I heard it growl. The woman laughed softly.

“Oh, Shadow Man. I dare you!”

She took a deep drag on her cigar and blew smoke at Shadow Man. A soft hiss, and he was gone.

Shocked, I stared at the woman.

She laughed again. “That will last you a while. Remember, dear. Sage, cedar and sweetgrass. Hurry home, it is getting darker out here.”

I slept through the night, for the first time in years. Shadow Man was gone.

Until now.

I took a deep breath, and turned around.

Dark, Toothy Things

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“Dark, toothy things.” She said it matter-of-factly, not looking up from her reading. “You should write about dark, toothy things. Things that go bump in the night, winged horrors… night terrors.”

I chuckled nervously and waved my hand as if to shoo away the idea. “What do I know of things that go bump in the night? I can barely sit through a spooky movie without getting jittery.”

She closed her book, and looked thoughtfully out the window. The coffee shop was well-lit and warm, a distinct juxtaposition to the cold, gloomy street outside. “We all know that there is something to be feared in the night. Everyone is at least a little afraid of the dark. It is instinctive, to be wary of the shadows. Isn’t that inspiration enough?”