Horror Suspense Fiction

I get so tired of telling the story. People love to ask, but they’ve already decided that I made it all up before I even start talking. I get where they’re coming from. It does sound unbelievable. I’m not sure I would buy it, if someone else told it to me, to be honest. I just get tired of telling the story, only to be told that I’m crazy. You understand.

           The first thing people always tell me is, “Maybe it’s just the stress of a new house.” Like I didn’t think of it. Like I’m going to say, “Oh, gee. That solves everything for me. Thanks.” I know they’re just trying to help. But I get tired of it.

           So, yeah. It was a new place. So many jobs these days are work-from-home that I took the opportunity to move out into the country. No more traffic jams, neighbors looking over my fence to ask me if I watched ‘the game,’ crowds of people standing around in front of the broccoli as if they’re the only people in the world that buy it… It sounded like a good idea to me. So, I found a nice place where the closest house is over a mile down the road.

           My new home was beautiful. Two stories, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a covered porch for when I get old and want to sit in a rocking chair and judge people. I might be single now, but that could change. Still sounds like a dream, right?

           It happened on the first night that I slept in the house. The bedroom was still filled with stacks of boxes and other junk, just thrown in. I’d put the bed together but prioritized everything else for another day.

           So, I laid my head on the pillow and closed my eyes. A few minutes later, I opened them, again. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t have a nightmare that frightened me awake. I just felt an urge and I did it, without thinking. It’s hard to sleep in a new place. Everyone knows that.

           My eyes scanned the shadows on the wall and mentally explained the shapes by the junk in the room. One of those things that your mind does when it’s bored, especially when you’re in a new place. That’s when I saw it. On the right side of the far wall, close to the shadow of a coat rack and floor lamp, stood a shadow that perfectly resembled a man. It even looked like he was tall, with short hair. The shadow laid flat on the wall as if he were just standing there, like a mannequin. I could make out a head, shoulders, arms… even hands.

           Of course, I didn’t think anything of it, at the time. I’m a grown man and I know that shadows make shapes. I’m not afraid of the dark. I know that people instinctively see patterns in everything, especially the patterns of other people. So, don’t think I just jumped out of bed, terrified of a ghost or demon or serial killer. I’m not crazy. I’m not. But it did look so damn perfect.

           As I lay in bed, I made a mental map of all the stuff in the room and the light coming in through the window from the streetlamp outside and the full moon and tried to figure out what was creating the shadow, just like all the others. Eventually, I just fell asleep. It’s a good game to play to tire out your mind.

           I spent the better part of the next day emptying boxes and setting up furniture in all their places. I had the week off, so I had plenty of time to get it done. You have no idea how much stuff you actually have until you box it all up and move it to another place. After a long day of unboxing and cleaning and shoving stuff in drawers, I rewarded myself with pizza from one of the local shops. And I watched a movie on the couch and T.V. that I spent over an hour setting up the surround sound for, wondering why I had extra wires and if something would catch fire if I couldn’t figure out where they went.

           I managed to clear out a lot of the stuff that I’d shoved in the bedroom, in the process. When I went to bed that night, the shadow of the man was still there. This time, it was in the middle of the wall, not tucked into the right side. But he was still standing like a mannequin, the same as before. I thought that with less crap still in the room, it would be easier to figure out what was causing the shadow and why it looked so human.

           Without getting out of bed, I examined the remaining stacks of boxes and the drapes that I’d hung up. I looked at the chest of drawers that I pushed into the corner and the pull knobs that poked out the front of it. There was the chin-up bar that leaned against the window and the clothes that seemed to erupt out of the box on the top of one of the stacks. Nothing really looked like it would make such a thing, especially not as proportionally correct as he was. I blew it off as just my perspective from the bed that I refused to get out of.

           While I was mentally searching for the cause of his shape, I noticed that since I hung up the drapes that morning, their shadow was right where the man shadow had been the previous night. So, I assumed that whatever was causing him must’ve been something that I’d moved that day. And as I studied the contours of his shadow to see if it gave any clues, I fell asleep.

           The next day, I got a knock on the door. I normally don’t answer it if I’m not expecting someone. Coming from the city, %100 of the time when someone you don’t expect knocks on your door, it turns out to be someone trying to sell you something. Maybe they want to buy your house at a “better than market price” or sell you the vacuum cleaner that was previously only used in hyper-clean environments like hospitals or my personal favorite, the security system that you can’t afford. So many times, that last one turns out a scam to let people in your house so they can decide if you’re worth the trouble of robbing, later. So, I usually just ignore the knock. And I’m always surprised to find out that anyone opens their doors, these days.

           But this time I was supposed to be away from all of that. It was one of my reasons for moving. So, I answered the door, dying to know who would come out all this way and why.

           “Hi, I’m Marleen, the Mayer of the town, down the road. You must be the new owner,” said a heavy-set blonde woman in a white pantsuit. She smiled at me as if she worked behind the counter of a hotel that I was checking into and held what looked to be a glass casserole dish, covered in a blue plastic top with a pink floral pattern.

I wanted to tell her that she must have the wrong house and that I didn’t order anything. Instead, I chose, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong,” she said with a chortle. “I’m welcoming you to the area.” She handed me the casserole dish. “This is my world-famous apple cobbler. Well, state famous, anyway. Maybe just the town. But everyone tells me it’s the best they’ve ever had.” She continued to smile.

I looked at her with my mouth hanging open. I was waiting on her to tell me what she expected as payment for the cobbler. I don’t do people well. “Thank you,” I said, unable to not make it sound like a question.

“You must’ve gotten a good deal on this place. It’s a lot of house. Is it just you?” She held her purse in front of her. It was as white as the pantsuit.

“A deal? Why would…”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you must’ve seen the story in the news. The house has been on the market for so long, I imagine they reduced the price.” I swear she sounded like she came from a 1940’s movie about stereotypical gossiping church ladies.

“I haven’t heard anything about the house. No,” I said still holding the casserole dish, not knowing how to make conversation with the woman.

“Well, I’m sure you have a ton of stuff to do. Moving is always like that. I’m glad you bought this old place. It’s been abandoned for too long. Enjoy the cobbler.” And she walked to her four-door sedan and drove off.

It was the strangest thing ever, but she was right about the cobbler.

By that day, I was able to take care of the last box in the bedroom and bring the coat rack downstairs, and put it by the front door. And that was more or less, the last of my work in there. When I went to bed that night, the shadow figure that looked back at me from the wall on the previous nights didn’t even cross my mind. I swear. It couldn’t have been further from my mind. Instead, it was filled with what I needed to do the next day to set up my work-from-home office. The cable company had just set up my internet. It sounds boring, but it meant that I could finally watch Netflix and that’s what was in command of my thoughts as I went to bed that night.

As soon as I switched off the lights, I could see the shadow of a man on the far wall. This time, it was directly in front of my bed and looked like it was folding its arms. When my tired brain registered its form, my heart stopped. I fumbled for the switch on the nightstand lamp and prayed to God that it would turn on as it should. Thankfully, it did and flooded the room with light, destroying the shadow.

I took a moment to catch my breath, then got out of bed to examine the spot on the wall where the figure had been standing. That section was just as flat and level as the rest of it. I looked towards the window to see what might be in the way of the light coming from it and it was completely clear of obstacles. I’d already unpacked everything and thrown the boxes in the recycling bin, outside. There was clearly nothing in my room that could cause the shadow.

So, I walked to the window and looked outside. The light sources were still where they were on the previous nights. Well, the streetlight and the light on the front of the barn were still in the same place. The moon was not, obviously. It was no longer full, and its light wasn’t that strong, anyway. The bedroom was on the second floor and straight in front of it and before the barn light was a tree with a full load of leaves. I told myself that must be what was freaking me out and that I should get out and do something, tomorrow. I’d been in the house too long and my mind had wandered to places that it shouldn’t.

I told myself that’s all it was and went back to bed. I laid down, rolled over, and turned off the lamp on my nightstand. The shadow of the man had returned, but it had moved to the near wall, by my bed. I jumped out of it and grabbed the lamp, pointed it at the wall as if it were a flame thrower, and turned it on. The light flooded the room again and destroyed the shadow.

“Christ!” I exclaimed, trying to catch my breath. “What the hell is doing that?”

I turned on the overhead light, grabbed my pillow and comforter, and went downstairs to the couch, leaving the lights on.

When I made my bed on the couch, I made another mental map of everything and where the light was coming from. I laid down and turned off the lamp on the end stand. I told myself to keep my eyes shut and not to look at the shadows, but I couldn’t help it. On the wall that leads out of the kitchen was another shadow that looked just like a man, standing with his arms crossed.

I scrambled for the switch on the lamp, beside me. In all my rush, I knocked it to the floor, breaking the bulb. The sound of it cracking was like ice, just before you plunge into the frozen lake. I ran for the switch on the wall and when I looked back to see if it was still there before flipping them on, I swear the figure had dropped its arms to its side. Then I flipped the switch, and the overhead light flooded the room.

I spent the rest of the night with the lights on and the T.V. playing and didn’t sleep much.

The next day, that woman came back to get her casserole dish.

“Hey, can I ask you a question?” I asked her while handing her the empty dish. “You mentioned that this house was on the news. What was the story about?”

“Now that you ask me, I’m not sure the original story,” she said adjusting her purse strap when she accepted the dish. “But the previous owner always said the place was haunted. There’s been a few of those ghost hunting shows spending nights here, but they never find anything. You know the ones with all the green night videos.”

“Not even weird shadows?”

“There’s always weird shadows on those shows. That’s how they make their money.”

That night, I had a plan. I was going to put an end to the creepy shadows and be done with it. I loved the house and refused to spend my nights like I had been. When I went to bed that night, instead of laying down in bed, I stood by it and turned off the lights. The figure returned, standing to the right of me on the far wall, again. I could see my shadow on the wall, right beside it. I raised my arm, and I could see the shadow of my hand, just a few inches to the left of it. I looked towards the window to see where the light was that cast the shadow and what was beside it that could be causing the man’s shadow. It had to be the branches of the tree and the leaves that hung off of it. But the man’s shape was so perfect.

I’m can’t remember why I did it. Maybe just out of curiosity and wanting to see what would happen. I slowly reached my hand out, just a little, to touch my shadow to that of the form. I stretched out a finger, bringing it within maybe an inch of it. You must believe me when I tell you that the man-shaped shadow turned to its side and grabbed mine at the wrist. I could feel it squeeze and grind my bones as if they were nothing but cashews and walnuts. I could hear them crack under the flesh of my hand and cried out in pain!

The form stood over mine and brought me to my knees as it pulverized the bones of my wrist. I could see it bring its other hand over its head. My god, it was going to kill me. It was going to shatter my skull all over that room and it took its time about it.

I instinctively reached for the lamp on the nightstand, beside me but it was too far away. It wasn’t even close. I tried to stand up to reach it, but the shadow figure threw me back to the ground, still clutching my arm. Then it twisted and nearly wrenched the bone out of its socket. My god, it was strong. I managed to grab one of the legs of the nightstand and pulled. The figure somehow pushed it back and the inertia sent the lamp to the floor.

The man shadow brought its arm up once again to finally crush my skull. I yanked on the electric cord of the lamp and brought it to me. I turned its switch and the room flooded with light, once more. Every wall in the room was bathed in a comforting glow.

I spent the rest of the night in that room with the lamp perfectly situated on top of the nightstand in the middle of the floor as to not cause a single shadow. I didn’t dare leave. None of the lights in the rest of the house were on and I’d always be vulnerable moving through it. So, I stayed, and I sat and constantly made sure not a single shadow existed within the four walls of my prison for the night.

The next day, I put the house back on the market and stayed in a hotel room. It's okay that you don’t believe me. I know the story is pretty unbelievable. But that’s what happened. I never found out what it was or where it came from. But I can tell you that if you see that certain shadow at night when the lights are off and all is quiet, it might not be your imagination.

May 01, 2021 17:07

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