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“You’re such a baby!” my friend Elise exclaimed as I held her arm tight when the power in my house went out.
“I am not! I just hate the dark! I don’t know what it is about it, I just always have.” I was frowning, and the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. It’s the truth. I have always hated the dark. No matter where I was. I know- a pretty basic fear for a child. But definitely something you should grow out of by the time you’re 17. But I guess the real reason I’ve always been afraid of the dark is probably because of the monster I always used to see, lurking in the shadows of my room at night, watching me while I tried to sleep. I guess you could say it’s the same way people are afraid of clowns for their whole life because of one traumatic event they experience as a child. But this, unlike those is not an unsubstantiated phobia or fear. That monster is real. And I don’t care what anyone tries to tell me. I know he’s never too far away, and I know that he’s just waiting to get me one day.
I guess the first time I ever saw him was right after I turned four. I was lying in my bed one night, chasing sleep as young children do, and there he was. Just standing in the shadows of my room; lurking there, watching me with these horrible glowing yellow-green eyes. And this gnarly ivory white grin that showed rows of sharp, monstrous teeth. He would just stand there, watching me, breathing deep and heavy with labored and rough breathing. The strange thing though was whenever he would get close enough to touch me, all I had to do was hide underneath my blanket, and he wouldn’t be able to get me. I could still feel him hovering over me, and I could hear his ragged, labored breathing; but he wasn’t able to get me so long as I was hidden underneath my blanket. It was as if my blanket was my impenetrable armor. Sometimes when he knew I was terrified, when he knew he had me at my weakest, he’d whisper to me with a deep dark disgusting voice that matched his breathing.
“One of these nights, little one, that blanket won’t be there to protect you. And I’ll be there to get you. I’ll be there waiting for you, to make you mine.” It always frightened me to hear him say that. He wouldn’t speak to me very often, but when he did, he’d always say the same thing.
And that’s why I was so frightened. Summer storms had knocked the power out in my house, and there I was now, sitting in the dark of my house, no blanket and only my friend Elise there for protection. I clenched her arm a little tighter, hoping it would bring me some sort of comfort. It didn’t. Flashes of lightning poured through the windows and a loud crack of thunder followed soon after every strobe. I sat and watched the sudden flashes of lightning, and the loud booming claps of thunder mixed with the heavy pitter-patter pf the rain drops on the windows. I sat in silence as I wondered where The Shadowman –a name I made up for him when I was a child- was lurking. Wondering when he’d show up to “make me his”.
“You’re trembling, Alice. What in the hell has gotten into you?” asked Elise with a certain level of concern in her voice.
“I just hate the dark. I’ve always hated it. You know that.” I was trying to hide my absolute and utter fear, but I don’t think I was doing a very good job at it. And I knew I couldn’t very well open up and tell my best friend about the shadow monster that’s been following me since I was little. Just then, a loud and ominous thud rang through the house, making Elise and I both jump.
“What was that?” I gasped as I looked toward the sound.
“Probably just a small limb falling onto the roof, Alice. Nothing to get yourself worked up about.” Elise tried to reassure me in a frightened tone. I knew she would think of a logical explanation for the sound, but I knew otherwise. I knew it was him; I knew The Shadowman had come for me. And in that instant, I saw him standing there, grinning that same wicked grin he’d always grinned. And at that moment, my heart was pounding as hard and as loud as the thunder outside. Fear gripped me, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, because I had no blanket and I wasn’t in the warm safety of my bed. Instead, there I was, sitting in the dark on my couch with no protection from him. And there was no telling what he planned on doing to me.
Another flash, and a few feet closer to Elise and I he came. Another flash and a few more steps closer. He seemed to inch closer and closer with every step. I had to try and think of something to get Elise to safety, because I didn’t know if he’d want just me or the both of us. I had to think quickly though. He was creeping closer and closer with every sudden flash of light.
“I’m thirsty.” I lied, so I could get Elise out of the room. “Could you get me some water please?”
“Yeah. I’ll be right back.” She rose from the couch and headed toward the kitchen, and toward The Shadowman. A bolt of fear went through me as I feared he would simply reach out and suck her into the dark abyss that seemed to be his very being. But fortunately, she made it past him as he disappeared with a strobe of lightning. As she exited the room, another flash of lightning threw more light into the room. I was terrified, because I thought he’d be mere inches from my face, but he wasn’t. He was nowhere to be seen. Gone without a trace. Thank the heavens I thought to myself. I quickly changed my mind when instead of seeing him, I heard him. His ragged, labored breathing behind me.
I turned around on the couch to face him, and there he was, looming over me. His eyes glowed brighter than ever, and his grin seemed more ominous than before. He stood silently, stoically almost as if he was awaiting me to scream in terror. But that was just it. I was too terrified to do anything, let alone scream. And as if a comedian had just told him a joke, he began to laugh. He started slowly at first, and then got progressively heartier and louder, until he finally reached a guffaw. Another flash of lightning, and he disappeared, only to reappear in front of me as the darkness swiftly returned. His laughing had subsided, but he was still chuckling to himself.
Then he opened his mouth ever so slightly, and he began speaking with that deep, dark gravelly voice. “Your blanket cannot save you now little one. I have been waiting for this moment since I first laid eyes on you. And now, finally after over a decade of waiting, you will be mine. And there is nothing you will be able to do about it.” His smile grew larger, and more maniacal. And that’s when the true and absolute horror sank deep into my heart. Another flash of lightning came, making him disappear once more like a magician’s vanishing act; and again reappearing in front of me with the enveloping darkness.
“Hey Alice, I’ve got your water.” Elise was coming back into the living room, towards the couch and The Shadowman. He acted as if she wasn’t even there, like the only thing that existed to him was me. He raised his arms, revealing long gnarly disgusting claws that matched his grin.
“With me into the forever darkness you come.” He reached his arms out, and grabbed me by the shoulders, enveloping me in complete and total blinding darkness. For a moment I thought that he’d killed me, and left my body to be found by my beloved friend.
“Alice, where are you?” I could hear my friend Elise behind me. I turned to see her walking around the living room, trying to find me. The glass of water she’d gotten for me still in her hand. “Alice, this isn’t funny. If you jump out from behind the couch and scare me, I swear you’re going to be wearing this water, glass and all.”
“Elise, I’m right here behind you.” I said facing her back.
“Ok Alice, whatever. First you get scared out of your wits over a stupid storm, and then you run off right after I get you the water you wanted. I don’t get you.” She plopped back down onto the couch, letting out a long sigh as she sat down.
“Ha-ha, very funny Elise, I’m standing right in front of you!” I said as I walked closer to her on the couch. Still no response though. “Hello! Earth to Elise!” I practically screamed while I waved my arms wildly no more than a few inches in front of her face. “Please, Elise, answer me.” I began to weep uncontrollably; and then there it was once again, that ragged labored breathing. And that dark, terrifying voice once again played in my ears.
“She cannot hear you little one. You are in my realm now. No one will ever be able to see you or hear you ever again. You’re trapped here with me for the rest of eternity. You are my pet, and there is simply nothing you can do about it.” That same ragged laughter began again as he stood there, watching me weep. And again, the lightning flashed outside. I felt almost as if my whole entire body had been lit on fire for an instant. “And now, like me, you must remain in the darkness. The light will only cause you immeasurable pain.”
The lightning continued outside, and the pain kept coming and going with the flashes. I laid there in my living room floor, crying to myself until I couldn’t take the pain anymore, and moved to my bedroom closet. The only place I knew was entirely dark. I felt completely ridiculous, thinking that maybe I’m just dreaming, asleep on the couch and I’d just wake up in the morning, feeling like a fool. But unfortunately I was dead wrong. I knew I hadn’t been dreaming when I woke up to the sounds of my parents coming home from a short weekend trip, and I was still in my closet- not on the couch as I’d hoped I would’ve been.
I heard the front door opening, and my parents coming into the foyer, dropping their bags behind them. I opened up my closet door, and peered slowly out of the door. The daylight was blinding, and it burnt my skin, but I had to try and make my way down stairs to see them. I move swiftly from shadow to shadow, and finally reached my bedroom door. I opened it and swiftly moved into the shadows of the hallway. As I made my way towards the stairs, still doing my best to stay hidden in the shadows as The Shadowman told me I had to do, I heard my friend Elise stir awake on the couch, and my parents walk into the living room.
“Good morning Elise.” I heard my father say.
“Good morning Mr. Green. How was your trip? Fun I hope.”
“Oh, it was great- except for the terrible storm that rolled in last night.” I heard my mother reply.
“Where’s Alice? I figured she’d be down here with you, what with all the storms last night and all.” My father said.
“I thought so too. But last night, she started acting really weird after the power went out, she seemed completely terrified over a little storm.” She began telling my parents.
“Yeah, she’s always been that way when it came to storms, or whenever the power would go out. She wouldn’t say much, just march straight up to her room and go to bed.” My dad informed Elise.
“Well, she asked me to get her some water, but when I came back, she was nowhere to be found. I searched through the entire house, but I couldn’t find her. I figured she was just playing a prank on me, so I just decided to turn in for the night, since the power was out anyway.” She explained everything that had went on the night before.
“Well, maybe call her phone?” my mom said.
“I’ll try. We didn’t have service last night. I guess the storms must’ve caused some interference.” Elise replied. “I got no response. It just went straight to voicemail.”
“I wonder where she could be.” My mother said almost frantically.
“The worst thing to do is panic.” My dad said. “I’m sure she was just playing a prank on you and fell asleep in her closet or something. Why not give it a little while, and if she hasn’t come down then we can go looking for her.” But, I knew that what The Shadowman said last night was true. I’d never be able to see my family ever again. And they’d never know what happened to me.
Minutes turned to hours, hours to days, and days into weeks. I watched as both my parents went nearly insane when I never turned up. They called the police to report me missing when I hadn’t come back the night they came home. I watched, having to lurk in the shadows, dodging the flashing red and blue lights, and the pain they brought. I had to lurk around and listen to the officers tell my parents that there was almost nothing they could do because there was no sign of forced entry, and all of my things were still in the house. I watched my parents break down and cry. I watched silently in the shadows as they basically became hollow shells. I felt helpless and all alone. I cried a lot, having to watch the pain and heartache my family was going through and there being nothing I could do to make it better.
But sometimes when I get really lonely and upset, I return to my closet to sit by myself and think. And I turn away from the light and stare into the bottomless darkness that has become my new home. And far off in the distance, I can see eyes. Not monster eyes, but human eyes. It took me a long time to realize what they were and where they were coming from, but I finally did. They’re the eyes of the countless other children he’s brought into his realm to be his “pets”. I miss my family and friends, I even miss going to school sometimes. But when I get really sad and lonely, I sit down and look at all the eyes in the distance, and I don’t feel so lonely because at least I know I’m not the only one that’s missing.