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?”

 

Camping: It’s In Tents

“Did you hear that?” He asked softly, staring over the campfire into the dark forest. We were quiet for a moment, listening to wind whistle eerily through the trees.

“Nevermind!” He laughed. “I thought I heard growling. It must have been my imagination- wait, are you leaving?”

I stuffed my sleeping bag into my backpack and grabbed my car keys. “I saw a hotel at the base of the mountain. I am NOT getting eaten  by a sasquatch tonight. Good luck!”

Blink

I lost a character today.

We had just met, I don’t even know her face.

She winked into my life, and blinked right back out.

I know her hurts, her wants, but I don’t know her story.

I know where she is headed, though she doesn’t know the destination yet.

A little piece of me is out adventuring.

Exploring.

I guess I will write her story when she gets back, if she comes back.

There are many kinds of loss, and this one has a particular kind of ache.

Bittersweet, lonely.

This fragment of my soul is missing, and it hurts.

I hope she comes back, and her story is magnificent.

Turbulence

The sand is hitting my face and bare forearms. I can feel each individual grain sting lightly against my skin, and I can feel the heat from the sun.

I slowly open my eyes, fully expecting to see miles of sand in every direction.

I am still on the plane.

I close my eyes again, try to recapture the feeling, but it is gone.

Why do I feel so detached from my body when I am on an airplane? Disconnected, almost disoriented. Time moves differently in flight, slower or faster, sometimes it ceases all together. The longer the flight, the greater my bewilderment, paralyzed in my seat. Barely able to focus enough to read or watch a movie.

I remember a red-eye flight a few years ago, I was too tired to sleep and felt vaguely euphoric. The lights were low, and most people were sleeping, and then I saw Death. Death was walking down the center aisle, hood dark and masking its face. As Death drew near, it smiled, and leaned in close.

“Would you like any peanuts?”

I had confused Death with a flight attendant.

Again.

Words

An envelope was sitting on my doorstep today. No return address, just my name printed in block letters, stark and official. I cautiously opened it, and pulled out a sheaf of papers.

The pages were yellowed with age, stiff and crackling. The blue ink was faded and pale.

Puzzled, I began to read. The story was unfamiliar, the language flowery, prose-like, an ode to magic and mystery. The secrets of night and the glory of dawn, all wrapped into a few sheets of scribbled notes. Diagrams and equations filled the margins, complex mathematics beyond my comprehension. Theories of gravity and coincidence, planetary alignment, faerie magic and brain chemistry, the Answers were here. It was all here.

The handwriting was mine.

My hands began to shake, the brittle pages trembled. I had no memory of writing these words, filling the lines with such care.

How could I have written this?

The clumsy cursive was unmistakable, the smears from my left hand were an unequivocal signature. I still had ink blots from a letter I had written this morning, freshly marking my skin like a tattoo. The stains matched, mirror images. Like birthmarks, fingerprints; there was no doubt.

My words. How could these be mine?

I stood there for a long time, trying to make sense of it. With each reading, I felt farther away from the conclusion, farther away from what I was supposed to understand.

And then the pages began to crumble.

Disintegrating before my eyes, the fragile words turned to dust, leaving nothing but glitter and ash in my hands.