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Bryan Wolford

 

 

Shadow Man

            "Mommy!  Daddy!"  The scream came down the hall at 1:17AM.  Michael Chase turned over and glanced at the clock.  He sighed wearily.  As Michael turned over to tell his wife Andrea that her six-year-old son was calling for her she cut him off before he could speak.

            "Oh no." she said.  "I got him last night.  Your turn Dad."  With that she turned over facing away from him and pulled the blanket up to her head.  Michael let out another sigh and swung his legs out of bed and stood up.  His legs didn't quite work yet so he wobbled back and forth for a couple of seconds.

            "Mommy!  Daddy!  Hurry!"  The screams were louder this time.  Panic was evident in the child's voice.

            "I'm coming Daniel."  Michael called down the hall.  He scratched his face and felt the beard that had grown while he had been asleep.  He reached Daniel's door and then opened it.  When he switched on the light he found Daniel huddled by his headboard with the blanket pulled up over his head.  Pokemon danced across the fabric as the six year old was shaking.

            "Daniel?"  At the sound of his name the child pulled the blanket down.  Tears were still running down his face.  "What's wrong?"  Daniel tried to talk but nothing came out of his mouth as his chest was heaving with sobs.  Michael walked over and sat down to see if he could get him to calm down enough to tell him what was wrong (even though he could pretty much guess as he had been waking Andrea and him up all week).  He patted Daniel on the back to try and sooth him.

            "M...m...man.  Man at the end of my bed."  Daniel finally spat out.  Michael pulled him to his chest and put his arm around him.  He rolled his eyes and let out a small sigh.  He knew that this was a bullshit claim but he had to do his fatherly duty of convincing his son that it wasn't true.

            "There's no man here.  Look."  Daniel looked around the room and seemed unsatisfied.

            "But there was a man here.  He was right there."  Daniel pointed to the end of the bed.

            "If there was a man in here then where did he go?"  Daniel looked around the room again to try and spot any potential hiding spots.

            "Maybe in the closet?"  Daniel said as he pointed to the other side of the room.  Michael got up and walked to the closet door.

            "Okay.  Let's see."  He turned the knob and the door swung open.  Inside were clothes and shoes.  In the back of the closet was a pile of toys Daniel was supposed to have picked up and put in his toy box that afternoon.

            "See?  Nothing in here.  But I won't tell mom about the toys."  Michael shut the door and turned to Daniel again.  "Now where else could he have gone?"

            "Under the bed?"  Daniel peeked over the side at the floor.  "I think that's where he comes from."  Michael walked back to the bed and looked under the bed.  There was nothing there but a solid floor.

            "Nothing here.  Your room looks to be monster free pal."  Michael stood up and sat back on the bed.  "So what's been bringing all of these dreams on?"

            "It's not a dream.  There was a man here."  Daniel looked like he was about to cry again.

            "Whoa.  Don't cry little man."  Daniel fought back the urge to cry.  "I'm just saying that if he was here then where did he go?"  Michael was starting to get a little annoyed but was trying to keep it under control, as he understood that kids thought all of this stuff was real.

            "I don't know.  I pulled the blanket over my head.  Then you showed up and he was gone."

            "Okay."  Michael patted Daniel on the back again.  "There's nothing to worry about.  Nothing's going to happen.  Even if someone where here, I'm right down the hall.  Okay?"  Daniel nodded his head without much conviction.  Michael sat unsatisfied with his response.  "Alright.  Hold on one second."  Michael got up and left the room.  When he came back he had a flashlight in his hand.  He set it on Daniel's nightstand next to his bed.

            "Now, whenever you think you see something you can just use this flashlight and see for yourself that nothing is there."  Daniel looked over at the flashlight and then back at Michael.  He shook his head and Michael felt better about the situation.  Everyone was happy and now he could go back to sleep.  "Remember, I'm just down the hall."  Daniel lay back down and pulled his blanket up to his chin.  Michael looked back down at the Pokemon characters.

            "How can a kid that likes all of these Pokemon creatures be afraid of the boogie-man?"  Michael thought himself.

            "Good-night Daniel."

            "Good-night Dad."  Michael switched off the light and began to walk down the hall to his room.  He turned back around and looked back at Daniel's room, expecting to see his room going off like a strobe light.  But only darkness was there.  He turned and went to his bed.  He lay down and stared up at the ceiling.  He thought about what it must be like to be six years old at a time like this.  A time where serial killers were a dime a dozen, plane crashes happened a lot more frequently than they used to, and countries were always fighting each other.  Hell, the whole world was probably on the brink of nuclear war more than anyone could imagine.  He remembered being six years old.  But that was in the seventies.  Sure there were problems then, but nothing like now.  He remembered always seeing some sort of monster in his room.  He still hurried a little when he got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

            As he lay there thinking of his youth, he began to drift away.  Down the hall Daniel was anything but drifting away.  He looked around his room and saw many shapes in the darkness.  He reached for his flashlight, and then decided against it.  From his dad's bedroom the light would be too visible.  He didn't want his dad thinking he was a wimpy kid.  So he just lie there and let the shadows creep across his room.  He looked to the left and saw what could be a werewolf.  He could see the long nose and all the jagged teeth.  It could be the tree outside his window, but how could he be sure?  Daniel grabbed the flashlight and pointed it at the werewolf shape.  He wanted to turn it on but was afraid that it might actually be a werewolf.  How would he stop it?  And if it wasn't a werewolf then his dad would be disappointed.  His son was a wimp.  What had the older kid on the bus said?  He would be a... pussy.  Whatever that meant.  He knew it had to be about the same as a wimp.  He slowly brought the flashlight back to the nightstand.  He would wait.  He hoped to fall asleep before he would need the flashlight.  That would get him through tonight, but what about tomorrow night when the man came back?

            He didn't want to think about that now.  The man might be able to tell he was thinking about him and it might come back.  He didn't want that.  He just wished the man would go away.  He was scared to be awake and he was scared to go to sleep.  Sometimes when he woke up at night he'd see the man staring at him.  Or at least it looked like staring.  It was all dark.  Like a shadow.  It was as if the shadow had leapt off of the ground and started walking around.  That scared Daniel the most.  He couldn't see anything.  No nose.  No mouth.  No eyes.  Seeing something staring at you with its eyes wide open was one thing, but seeing something staring at you with no eyes was worse.

            Now Daniel squeezed his own eyes shut trying to keep the thoughts of the man out of his head.  He sat there in the dark pushing his eyes shut as best he could.  They began to water from being squeezed shut so hard.  He began to finally drift away.  He anticipated that he might dream of the new bike he wanted for his birthday.  He had seen it in K-Mart.  It was a red mountain bike.  He already had a bike but it was the smaller one he learned to ride with training wheels.  He had hoped to take the step up to a bigger bike.  His mother had told him it was likely but she wasn't sure if it would be that bike.  It was a little big for him.  And now as sleep crawled closer he put visions of the bike in his mind to try and make himself dream of the bike.

            Suddenly sleep escaped from his mind as he felt a bump under his bed.  Daniel opened his eyes and glanced around the room trying not to move.  He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.  There were shadows in his room but none that hadn't been there before he had closed his eyes.  He looked out of his window and could see the tree outside blowing in the wind.  He relaxed a little.  It could have been a branch hitting the side of the house.  Maybe he mistook that for a noise under his bed.

            As he looked at the tree a shadow seemed to grow right out of the floor in front of him.  The man had come back.  Daniel's heart began beating against his rib cage in fast, spastic movements.  All Daniel could think to do was to close his eyes and keep telling himself that the man wasn't there.  He didn't scream because he didn't want his dad to get disappointed with him again.    He opened his eyes and looked around.  The man was moving closer.  Daniel had to bite his lip to keep from screaming.

            It stopped and seemed to be staring at him.  It was fascinated with him.  Daniel only looked back, staring into the darkness of the creature itself.  It didn't seem to have any features.  It was literally a living shadow.  It moved forward again.  It quickly realized that Daniel was looking at it.  It moved quickly and reached one hand out to touch Daniel.  At that point Daniel finally did scream, and it was the loudest scream he had ever heard.

 

            Michael jarred awake at the sound of Daniel screaming.  He slumped back against his pillow and listened to Daniel wail into the night.  Michael turned his head and looked at the clock.  2:05AM.  Not even an hour's worth of sleep.

            "Damn it." Michael said.  He looked over at Andrea and she was still asleep.  He didn't know how.  That first scream had almost blown out his eardrums.  He swung his legs out of bed again.  He got up and started towards Daniel's room once again. 

            "Me and that boy are going to have to have a serious talk."  Daniel was still screaming when Michael turned the knob and opened the door.

            "Daniel, we have got to... Michael flipped on the light and saw Daniel's feet sticking out from under his bed.  Michael raced over and grabbed Daniel's legs and pulled but he didn't budge.  Michael pulled up the blankets and looked under the bed.  It looked as if Daniel was halfway in the floor.  He had to be imagining it.  It wasn't possible.  Michael pushed the whole bed over to reveal a gaping hole in the floor.  Some sort of portal had opened underneath Daniel's bed.  Inside it was pitch black.  Michael couldn't see the half of Daniel that was in the hole.

            Michael knelt behind Daniel and followed his body with his hands into the portal.  He felt something holding onto Daniel's arms.  He pried open the things hands and pulled Daniel out.  Daniel's face was in sheer terror.

            "Are you okay?'  Michael asked him.  Daniel backed away from the hole and began to cry by the door.  Michael began to crawl towards him when something reached out of the hole and pulled him backwards into the portal.  He plunged into the opening and was then in total darkness.  He felt a thousand hands grabbing at him trying to pull him further into the darkness.  The only light he could see was the opening of the portal, and that was getting further away.

            He began to fight against the pulling but didn't get very far.  He looked at the portal opening again and saw something like a rope come through.  He grabbed at where he thought it might be and felt it hit the back of his hand.  He grabbed again and felt it slide into his hand.  He closed his fist around it and brought his other hand to the rope.  He began to pull himself up, trying to escape from the darkness.  The hands still pulled at him but with his leverage on the rope their effect was drastically less.  He pulled and pulled and he could see that the portal was getting closer.  He kept pulling and after a while he could hear Daniel yelling for him.

            "I'm coming Daniel.  I'm almost there."  Michael called out.  He reached out and from his guess (it was hard to tell with how dark it was) he was only five feet from the opening.  The hands had begun to pull harder, trying to keep him from escaping.   But that just made him pull harder to escape.  As he looked at the opening a hand came through holding an object.  Suddenly the object flared with light.  It was Daniel's flashlight.  Michael looked down and saw hundreds of beings begin to scatter.  All of them were jet black.  Even with the light it was hard to tell how many there were as they all blended together in black.  To him they all looked like shadows.  They all released their grip on him and he thought he heard a series of screeches.  It seemed to Michael that the light actually hurt them.  He pulled himself up and grabbed the edges of the opening.  He took one last look back and saw nothing but black flying around like crazy.  When he looked back at his hands he saw that they were getting closer together.  The portal was closing.  They were closing it to try and get away from the light.

            "Daniel!  Get your arm out of here!"  Instantly Daniel did so.  Michael heaved himself upwards and was bathed in the light from Daniel's bedroom.  Michael pulled his leg out just as the portal closed.  The end of his sock got caught in the portal just as it closed.  The end of the sock was cut off as if it was just snipped off with a pair of scissors.  Michael looked at the end of the rope and saw it was four jump ropes tied together.  The end that had been in the portal was also cut off.  Michael was suddenly glad he got out when he did.  Another second and he would have been limping for the rest of his life.  He looked in the other direction and saw that the other end of the rope was tied to the doorknob of Daniel's door.  Michael turned and grabbed Daniel into his arms.

            "I'll never doubt you again." Michael told him.  Daniel hugged him back.  When Michael looked up he saw Andrea had appeared in the doorway.

            "What's going on?" she asked.  Michael looked at her.  He wasn't sure that she would believe him.

    

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