The Shadow

Taylor Miller, Writer

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Insomnia has plagued my life for twelve years. At first I thought the pale light that reflected off of the moon was the culprit, causing me to see shadows in my dark confinement, or perhaps I was mistaking a pile of clothes for a monster that hid in my brain. Every single time that shadow would drift into my field of sight, I would say aloud ‘It is not real’. Sometimes repeating the simple phrase under my breath as my gut wrenched in an anxious fear. I would scavenge my thoughts, trying to find the source of the heightened holusion that I had been seeing, night after night. 

Could it have been my new position as a paramedic, or perhaps it was the fact that my roommate lures a new man home every night? I fear that one day she will put herself or both of us in danger with this routine. She refuses to believe the danger she attracts. I futilely try to relax before the shadow slinks into view. My heart rate spikes, I swear that I can hear a mumble, It has never made a noise, but now it seems to be humming, I’m almost sure of it. The figure seems to walk closer, and without knowing it, I hold my breath. 

My body stiffens, I pray for my back to sink into the bed, where I can hide from the demon my mind has conjured, but the dark prison cell that my room has become will not let me leave. My thoughts and imagination are my warden in this hell. The figure stills in its movements. My lungs burn as they deflate and refill, pausing once again as I realise that I can now hear it breathing. It’s breathing is labored; harsh, gruff gasps escape the form.   

My lungs fill once again and with this intake, a scent hits me, it is sickening or rotten for lack of better words. With every inhale it gets stronger and begins to burn my nostrils. My eyes widen as the shape seems to paint against my ivory colored wall. It’s hand seemingly dances across its newfound canvas. It walks closer once more, staying stiff for a moment. If I hadn’t known it was a creation of my own mind, I would have mistaken it for staring at me, studying me.  

It creeps away again, nearing the wall it adds a few more strokes with its paint. My eyes drift to the clock on my bedside table, the lime green glow that it emits relieves me and I stare at the time, four fifty-six, four fifty-seven, then four fifty-eight. The creature continues, entranced by its own creation. It moves in a mocking way, exaggerating strides of it’s hand showing either extreme interest or derision. The humming returns, it’s sound, low, deep, and ominos. The noise grows and I realize that It now stands four measly feet from my bed. 

A sudden gulp of air is taken by the shadow and it returns to the wall, dunking it’s hand into the paint and smearing it against the surface, then with a finale swing of its arm it splatters my wall. The droplets piter and pater before the figure turns, stalking closer to me. My eyes widen with fear as it continues to make its way closer. I can not move, despite my best efforts, I am trapped. It leans over my bed. My lungs halt in all action. 

It’s lips come close to my ear. The smell of it’s breath making me sick. It stinks of booze and cigarettes. My stomach twists tighter than it ever has. In a low, hoarse, gravelly voice it speaks. “Enjoy my masterpiece”. It’s claw like nails slash through my tender flesh, shredding it just like a simple piece of paper. The pain hits fast and it’s overwhelming. My eyes quickly shut as I faint. The comforting green light is now gone as my being slips under consciousness.  

My groggy morning state awakens and I flip the covers off of me. I slowly shuffle my way into the bathroom thinking about what happened last night. My hand raises to my hair when my arm begins to sting. (lub-dub) (lub-dub ) (lub-dub) My eyes begin to fill with water and my tears begin to fall, as I notice the three slender gashes running halfway down my forearm. I bound into my room as my eyes lay sight upon the wall. My face goes pale and I begin to feel light headed. The wall is covered with crimson, my face painted against it, every small detail, even the tiny, curricular,  cigarette burn on my cheek that my father had given me thirteen years ago. My back slams against the opposite wall. Everything goes dark after I see the phrase written beside the horrific portrait. 

‘AM I REAL NOW?’

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