LEE ANN MCCLURE - THE SHADOW
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by lee ann mcclure
In the darkness, I made my way down the stairs. Every step seemed so loud as I tip-toed as silently as I could. Every ounce of weight made the floor creak so loudly. My hands gripped the bannister tightly as I made my way towards the noise that was coming from the kitchen. I could hear every beat of my heart in my ears so intensely. Ba-boom, ba-boom! In the silence of the night, everything was so over-exaggerated. What would not be heard in the hustle and bustle of a normal day, was now playing like an orchestra in a grand concert hall.
Visually, whilst the mind is so alert, you capture every image more clearly! Walking down the stairs, every shadow, every movement of light catches your attention. The magnitude of all your senses is overwhelming. In a state of fear, you are never so more aware of the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, the goosebumps on your arms or the different odours in the air you would not normally notice.
The sound from the kitchen awoke me with a startle. I lay in bed for a few minutes straining my ears to try and assess the situation. Here I was alone in this house tonight. Housemates away for the weekend, leaving me here alone with this sickness bug that had floored me for the last day and a half. The house had never felt so big and quiet, this being the first time I had stayed alone!
I tried to ignore the sounds, telling myself it was my ill mind playing tricks on me! Instincts would not allow me to do so. I could not possibly be imagining such evident sounds. I found myself in one of those situations, you know the one where you are watching the creepy movie, the victim walks towards the dark room, or into the darkness, and you are screaming at the television "don't be stupid! don't go there!" Well I found myself doing the same thing. My feet were leading me down the stairs, in the darkness, investigating what was going on. What else could I do? Call the police and tell them I can hear noises? Run away from an empty house in the middle of the night? With what? Complete lack of knowledge! It was probably a running tap, the drip hitting the bottom of a plate or a cup left in the sink.
Half way down the stairs now, I leaned over the bannister. Could see the kitchen door was closed. Orange light seemed to glow underneath the door. I swear I saw a shadow moving past too. Fear engulfed me. Felt like I could not move. Stood with my gaze transfixed on the door. This was all real. So very, very real! Something was going on in there. My housemates had definetely left hours ago, that much I do remember. Maybe my mother had popped round to make me some soup? Ridiculous! I was frozen to the spot for only moments, but it felt like hours. What should I do now?
My feet started to move me down further. My eyes scanning as best I could in the dark for something to arm myself with. The umbrella stand beside the door had the only weapon I could find, an old black umbrella. Any other object that could possibly protect me would be in the kitchen! The place I was heading to. "Why?" I asked myself, "run out that front door and don't stop until you reach safety!"
Of course, I didn't though. Before I knew it I was at the door with one hand on the handle, the other clutching tightly the long black umbrella. My heart was pounding heavily against my chest. I could feel it pulsate right throughout my body. Beads of sweat dripped from my forehead down the sides of my face. It was not just the fever! My hair was sticking to my skin and my feet felt cold. Very cold. I paused again at the door, listening carefully, trying to assess where exactly in the room the noises were coming from. Were they at the far end of the room? Or close to the door? I needed to figure this out carefully. I did not want to open this door and meet.....well whatever was in there! Nor did I really want to open the door but, as I said, my instincts were taking me to it. Leading me like a lamb to a slaughter?...
I pushed the door handle down hard and let the door fly open. Again, I was glued to the spot, letting my senses try and work out what was what. There was no light on in the room but that orange glow was brighter. My whole body was rigid with fear and my cold feet shuffled forward into the room. I could feel heat as I entered. There was a large pot sitting on the stove. The orange light was coming from the electric ring. The lid on the pot was being forced up and down by the rage of the boiling water and steam. I almost sighed aloud with relief. Those idiots had left something cooking in their haste to leave earlier! God only knows how this could have ended. Th house could of caught fire!
Life seemed to have returned to my body. I relaxed knowing that there was nobody in the house. Grabbing a dishcloth, I went to the stove. Hand out to grasp the rocking lid, without any warning it shot up into the air. I could not help but scream aloud. What a fright. Suddenly, the water stopped boiling and the steam subsided. I realised that the power was not switched on.
From the corner of my eye I saw movement. My whole body jerked round in that direction, fear again taking its grip. The room was still in darkness, but for the orange glow. It more or less lit up the room well enough for me to be sure that there was nobody else in the room. Turning my vision in the same direction as the movement was heading, all I could see was a shadow against the wall. I couldn't understand it. It was moving, but I was still. I clung to the umbrella like a child gripping its comfort blanket. Nothing would make me let it go, almost as if it was my saviour, but it was my only protection. My eyes strained in the light. The shadow was on the wall next to the door. It had stopped. My brain scrambled to try and put this all into perspective. It had to be my shadow. "Remember my fever!" it was telling me, "fever can make you delirious."
This was not my shadow though. No amount of reassurance or reasoning could change that fact and fact it was. The shape of it now must be it's true form. Almost like a four-legged beast that was climbing the wall. It was like some kind of creature from a fantasy film. Staring intently, I could make out a head turning towards me. Eyes, its eyes looked into mine. How could a shadow have eyes? I screwed my face up to strain hard with my own eyes. Confusion was all over my face.
The water in the pot started to boil furiously again. I slowly turned back round to face it and could see something rising from the pot. It couldn't possibly be! Hair? As it rose up further, it dawned on me what it was. A head! A human head. As it rose higher, my mouth dropped in shock. The face that was rising above the rim of the pot and was becoming clearer. Water dripped down around it, eyes were closed, wet hair clung tightly. Almost fully exposed now, I felt sick to the stomach. I had never known such fear in my life. The face I was looking at was mine. It was me!
I was shaking so uncontrollably now but mesmerised by what was unfolding before me. Felt like I was gulping for air just to be able to breathe. Inhaling desperately, almost choking. My chest was heaving up and down and I was almost cuddling the umbrella into me. I could feel the presence of that shadow behind me, not knowing what it was doing but unable to focus on anything but myself cooking in that pot!
Quickly, its eyes opened and stared back at me. The scream I let out was short and sharp. I shifted backward without even having the ability to move from the spot I was in. I could feel how hot the room was but remember vividly, still, how cold my feet were! There was a whistling sound coming from the pot now, like an old kettle that used to inform you it was fully boiled by making that noise. The eyes looking into mine were red. Lifeless. Staring blankly at me. Was I dreaming here? No again.
Once more that sinister shadow was on the move. Running over the walls with such grace. Over towards the cupboard by the stove. Its eyes were also on me now. I couldn't move. Frozen in fear. Suddenly the pot was off the stove and falling to the floor. I recoiled back, thinking about the scalding water that was going to hit the floor. It never did! No water touched the floor. Where did it go? The pot clattered to the ground with such a racket, and the head rolled towards my feet. My severed head was at my feet looking up at me! I was looking down at myself, knowing eyes were still upon me from over there. Something came to me and I turned towards the open door. A voice inside was telling me to run. Run and do not stop. I found the strength within to start moving. Turning my body right round and making my escape, almost there, but the door slammed shut.
Pulling desperately at the handle to try, I couldn't move it. I could feel myself getting hysterical. The fear that had previously paralysed me, was now pushing me to get myself out of this situation. I turned back around, leaning my weight against the door. The head rolled towards my feet. Dead eyes still looked up at me and the mouth started to open wide. It was almost imitating my own mouth, which was open in fear and shock. I watched in sheer terror as something started to crawl out of the face below me. Coming out of it's mouth and bursting through the eyes, like they were paper, were what looked like cockroaches. Before I knew it, hundreds of the insects were infesting it and crawling towards me. My open mouth was screaming in my mind but no sounds were being made, mute hysteria!
I was more than aware of the shadow still watching intently, as these beasts climbed up my legs like a dark blanket being pulled over my body. They made an eerie sound. Hard to describe. Not quite a squeaking sound but some kind of sick, clicking sound. Still clutching my umbrella, I brought my arms up over my face as the weight of them pulled me down to the floor. Within seconds of them reaching my toes, I was on the floor, with only my head uncovered.
Screaming and writhing furiously, hysterically, I could feel them entering my mouth and crawling down the back of my throat. Suffocating in the taste and feel of them, I was sure this was to be my end. I could feel them eating me from inside to out. I was experiencing death. Flashbacks. Images of my early days. My body stopped fighting and I felt still. I could feel a tear come from my eye as I gave into it. I never thought this was how I would meet my end. Who would?!
Lying there, feeling the life drain from me, I realised all was silent and I opened my eyes. Physically shaking and full of fear, I was lying in my bed, sweating heavily and feeling the damp sheets stick to my body. The room was dark and I was alone. Tears rolled down my face as I came to the conclusion I had been dreaming. I had brought, to my conscious self, all the emotions and feelings that I had been experiencing in the nightmare. I let out a sound and realised everything was going to be okay. I reached out with my hand to turn on the bedside lamp. It didn't come on. I sighed heavily. After the dream I had just had, I was just grateful I was awake and alright! Relaxing, I lay back down.
My erratic breathing was calming, and I felt exhausted. Certainly did not want to go back to sleep, but I was slowly returning to slumber, then something came to me. My eyes were drawn to the corner of the room. Even in the darkness I could see that shadow! Knowing I was fully awake, confused but awake, I could make out those same eyes. What was going on here?
I watched as it moved up the wall and across the ceiling above me. It grew in size almost covering every square foot. Yet those eyes never left mine. No umbrella to hand, the duvet was now my comforter. In a split second I had gone from semi relaxed to paralysis again! Maybe I was dreaming before, but now I am awake and this is real. How could my dream become real? What was this thing?
My eyes looking straight above me, as it was looking down upon me. Like two green circles painted on a large black canvas. I could not turn away. Frozen in fear yet calm also. I could only lie here, watch and Wonder as we gazed at each other. I was not even aware that its dark form was no longer on the ceiling but hovering below it, descending on me. It only dawned on me when I noticed how much bigger those eyes were. It was above me, but only by a few inches. As if somebody was throwing a black blanket over me, I was completely covered by it. Its length and width was over my bed and over me. Still focused on the eyes, its being morphed into mine and I could feel its touch beneath my skin. Crawling under and covering my whole body. Taking over my form like some kind of body snatcher. No words could possibly describe the feeling of it all. I felt not pain but discomfort. Felt like water that was turning to ice. Hot blood that once pulsated throughout my body now felt cool and solid. Feeling it rise up my neck and across my face, I knew that our gaze never once faltered. It travelled into my throat, through my mouth, across my cheeks, over my nose, around my head and into my eyes. I felt the chill of the black demon that was consuming me. My eyes were last to turn to black, when they went, nothing!
Pitch black and unable to move. Suffocating. Lying here dying and not even knowing what it was that killed me. Choking on matter that was merely a shadow on my bedroom wall. "Mummy I love you," the last thought I could think. I had not told her that for years!
Screaming at me to wake up, shaking my body to bring me back to life, Maria and Alex were stood above me as I opened my eyes!
© lee ann mcclure 2011