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.
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.
I took a deep breath, and turned around.