The Shadow

Yorick, is that you?

Halloween is easily my favorite holiday of the year, so I’ve started celebrating a bit early with a spine-tingling writing prompt. (By the way, I’ve just acquired my Frodo costume for the literary-themed Halloween party at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference. Will I meet you there?)

The Prompt: Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back. … What happens next?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.



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206 thoughts on “The Shadow

  1. YoungAuthor18

    FRIDAY NIGHT FRIGHT

    The cool air presses fervently against Tom’ skin. “It’s not that far,” he mutters to himself. True, the walk wasn’t dreadful. It could be worse. Although the night was cold and wet, the cool breeze on his face was nice, Still, there was so many places he’d rather be tonight. It was Friday after all. He could be at his friend Rebecca’s house, who was throwing a small party this weekend at her place. Or he could be at home, like most fourteen year old’s, finally beating the latest video game he had become so wrapped up in. Maybe that’s why his grades were dropping so bad. Perhaps he wouldn’t be out here trying to find the old Bethel house that his history teacher had assigned him to find out more about in exchange for what would be a “little” extra credit.

    Who cared if it was a historical landmark anyways? No one had lived there since the 1930’s. It was pointless; to him at least. Nonetheless, here he was, all alone in the dead of night. In fact, it was nearly pitch black outside. The only light coming from the one lamp post flickering on and off in the distance. This road always freaked Tom out. An eerie feeling creeps up on him, making him turn around. He can’t help but feel as if someone is following him. “Why did I come out here by myself?” Tom thinks to himself. He lets out a deep sigh, regretting the decision that he made. “And why this late at night?” He shakes it off, forcing himself to calm down. He does his best to ignore the dark empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, but something catches his eye. He stops dead in his tracks, swallowing the lump sitting in his throat as he stands there, completely paralyzed with fear.

    Had he just imagined it? He wants so badly to believe he did. It’s not the fact that he saw something that scares him. It’s WHAT he saw that has his heart thumping out of his chest, his palms sweaty, and his legs ready to give out beneath him. It had to be the biggest thing he’d ever seen, and it disappeared in seconds. Despite every muscle in his body wanting him to turn and run, he forces himself forward. He tries to convince himself that it was nothing, that his mind is playing tricks on him. Despite his efforts, he can’t stop the unnerving panic that is building within him. Tom curses at himself under his breath. “It’s all may fault,” he realizes. “Coming out here by myself, knowing that even if I begged, none of my friends would let themselves be caught dead out here. And now I might be caught dead out here.”

    Tom shakes his head, kicking himself for being such a pansy. It could’ve easily just been a dog or something. After all, it is really dark, and he just barley got a glimpse at whatever that thing was. Besides, this wasn’t the first time Tom thought he saw a giant creature lurking in the night. He has a crazy imagination, or his parents think so anyways.

    A few moments later however, Tom realizes that he is most definitely not imagining things. But it’s too late. He’s never heard anything like it. It’s a roar so bone chilling that it makes every hair on his body stand up. Then, it comes charging at him. It’s as if the horrifying beast came out of nowhere.

    The sight of the giant animal makes his skin grow cold. Running on all fours, the viscous creature charges after Tom in a frenzy.

    “OH MY GOD!” Tom screams. His lays eyes on it’s thick brown fur, and it’s razor sharp teeth. It’s gonna tear him apart, and there isn’t a single thing he can do to stop it.

  2. BBwrites

    The walk from the bus stop to Cassie’s house is two songs long. Roughly around 6 minutes.
    One and a half songs if she’s in a hurry.
    Cassie gets off of the bus, pulls her hood up and starts down the street towards her house. She stayed late at work tonight, and it’s getting darker earlier, so although it is only 7pm, it looks and feels like midnight. The streets are empty apart from her figure walking at a quick pace, chased by her shadow in the streetlights.
    She hears a noise over her headphones. A high pitched sound that makes her hair on the back of her neck stick up. A speeding car? A foxes howl? She shakes her head and turns up the volume a little louder.
    Then she hears it again. Cassie stops walking, yanking her headphones from her ears. Crime in the town was on a sudden unexplained high. The locals were on edge, every passerby was a threat. Several abductions had been reported; all blonde females in their mid-to-late twenties.
    Cassie fit this criteria well, which she was all too aware of.
    She takes a quick scan of her surroundings, and sees nothing. She replaces her headphones and continues her walk home.
    “Almost there,” she thinks, as the second song kicks into play.
    She quietly hums along to the song, unable to ignore or shake the sense that she is being watched. The temperature drops. She can see her breath as she hums.
    As she reaches the top of her road, a tall shadow disappears out of her sight around the corner. It was quick, but it was definitely there. Cassie and her own shadow freeze with clenched fists. She hesitates, looking back to the street she just walked down. For a moment she thinks to head back, phone a friend, 50/50? But curiosity gets the better of her.
    Slowly she walks toward the street lamp. The shadow reappears, this time followed by a figure, wrapped head to toe in what appears to be a black cloak. Cassie swallows, getting ready to scream. She opens her mouth and before a sound can even come out, the figure launches at her, covering her mouth with a gloved hand. The figure shushes her gently. Cassie tries to jerk away, her attempts of shouting out dismissed by the figures strong grip. She prays for a passerby, someone to look out of the window at that time.
    But no one does.
    Her blue eyes screaming, she musters all of her strength and shoves the figure into the lamppost. That’s when the figures hood of the cape falls, revealing her face in the streetlight.
    Her bloody, dirt stained face.
    Her unwashed hair falls in long matted blonde curls. Cassie thinks she’s looking at one of the missing blonde girls. But as she studies the girl some more, she realises it’s not one of the missing blonde girls at all.
    It’s herself she is looking back at.

  3. JRSimmang

    THE MONSTER AWAKENS

    I will be found here, under this light, torn and afraid. My master? I have no master. Not any longer.

    Why is it that my kind wanders through the streets at night? At night when no one proudly strolls, where no one shares and gives, where only the rabble-rousers and scoundrels turn their tricks or bite the mud? Am I too doomed to become one of them? I haven’t coin to exchange, but I have none for the taking either.

    No. I long to kiss the sunlight.

    I long to-

    What is that?

    A sound unlike what I have ever heard. My master, a man of many words, had only few sounds to offer my good ear. His last words to me were not like this. Then again, they never were.

    There.

    Among the night breeze and snow drifts. A man. Two men. And two women, I believe. See how they face each other? See how they are not cowering in fear from one another?

    That noise again. It is soft, lilting, like standing on the tips of my toes to catch the moonlight! How gracious a sound as that.

    No, do not stop!

    Keep that melody echoing through the alleyways and into my heart. Is it beating again? Will it ever beat again?

    Perhaps I shan’t wait until tomorrow. Perhaps I shall make my introductions. The air tonight is bitter, but I can only tell from water dripping from my hair.

    “Excuse me,” I try my voice.

    Wait. “Wait!” I shout. They have begun to flee. Why? Why do they torment me so? Am I not human? Am I not worthy of your adoration?

    “Come back,” I scream. “What was that noise you made?”

    “Let me go!”

    “No,” I growl. “Not that noise. I know that noise. It is the sound of impatience, of fright, of solemnity. Face me, repugnance. I am not a monster!”

    “You are!”

    “No!” I shout again.

    “Let me-”

    Inside, she is no different. Inside, she is warm and wet and everything falls out. Where is that sound? My hands are capable of only dismantling. My master, my doctor, has made me for no more. Am I to never hear that sweet sound again? Would I have to leave her body here forever?

    No. The doctor. He will repair her like he repaired me. My sweet fumbling thing, you shall make that sound again, and we will dance together for eternity.

    -JR Simmang

  4. Bushkill

    A Night on the Town

    “Stupid rain.” I mutter to myself, pulling my collar higher and shivering in the dampness. The lamppost around the corner beckons, as if the light it casts offers warmth or salvation. Raindrops explode against the pavement’s wet sheen, dying on impact and melting into their watery grave.

    They attack me with the same vigor, too. My clothes are soaked and clinging to my too damp skin.
    I move to the edge of the light’s halo. Standing on the edge of the light I look toward its source but the howl of the wind drives rain into my eyes and forces my head down in protective homage. I blink the water from my stinging eyes and stare at the glimmering pavement. Around my feet, rivulets run racing from the light and pooling in dark shadows among the pavement’s cracks and dimples. Other shadows dance as a car races by, distorting everything and sending shadows racing in a vain effort to avoid the light and remain hidden.

    When the car is past and the gleam of the lamp reasserts itself over the night, a new shadow stalks forward to chill my soul. In the lamplight and rain-soaked pavement a tall silhouette is darkens the space between me and my goal. This new, shadowy emissary of the night carries a long and slender dagger at an odd angle in its right hand.

    Water glimmers around the edges of the enshrined shadow, sliding back and forth from light to dark in a slick, glistening silver sheen. I notice the head turn slightly and fear that the creature has seen me. My heart jumps into my throat as I notice the dagger move forward. The apparition then begins to glide in my direction.

    As it moves, its form shifts, elongating strangely. I notice the dagger’s position and inwardly shriek as it distorts into a sword. My mind warns me to flee. I feel my breathing coming faster and clench my hand against the cold or for defense, either is possible and now my mind and body are confused by the presentation of events and circumstances. Still, my heart races. I tell my feet to move but they refuse, so I order myself to shout. A strangled croak escapes from a weather-tortured throat and I look up.

    The light from the lamp blasts into my eyes, blinding me. I hear the slap-slap of footfalls as they race toward me. I drop my head more and raise my shoulders, as much against the weather as the imminent threat presented in the onrushing crush of rain and the slap-slap of dread.

    “Hey, buddy, bit of a night out here huh?”

    I hear a strange schshk sound and fear the drawn blade, cringing and praying for the courage to face my foe. An instant later, the rain stops. My vision returns and a smile greets me, as does a smallish man, his aging umbrella a welcome sanctuary.

    1. SummerStars

      I really liked the way you built tension; I totally thought the narrator was going to get stabbed at the end, but I’m glad he didn’t! I like your description, too: “cracks and dimples” in pavement, and raindrops “exploding.”

  5. Jennifer Park

    Barbara regretted having bought a house deep in an alley through which the garbage trucks refused to travel. She also regretted having stayed late at work, arrived home late, had a late dinner, gotten dressed for sleep, and then remembered that she needed to bring the garbage bin back home. She definitely regretted not having killed that pesky neighbor that reported anyone who dared leave their garbage bin on the street past garbage day.

    The rumble of the garbage bin being towed was its protest against traveling up the gravel-paved alley. Surely, it seemed to say, as it did every week, my blow-molded wheels will be worn down to…

    The crunching of the gravel did not sound like it was coming from the bin.

    Barbara ignored it.

    So did the garbage bin, and continued: “I mean… Surely, my wheels will be worn down to…”

    Crunch.

    A tingle ran down Barbara’s spine.

    She stopped, as did the garbage bin. “Did you hear that?” it seemed to say.

    “Yeah,” Barbara replied.

    “Sounded like footsteps.”

    Of course it did. It was probably that pesky neighbor. “F***.”

    “I know, right?”

    “You were saying… about your wheels.”

    “Right. Well… You know what I was going to say. Let’s just get home. I’m creeped out.”

    “OK.”

    The garbage bin was now much more compliant, and they just had to go past the intersection with another alley way.

    But, Barbara froze. There was a shadow coming from the other alley, cast by a distant street light.

    Human, it seemed. But it wasn’t. It did not move like it was human. It was not shaped like it was human.

    “What the…” the bin suggested.

    “Shhhh…”

    “Who… or what… is it?”

    Barbara gave the bin a dirty look.

    The bin shut up.

    The shadow approached the intersection, stumbling, swaying, swinging its arms around. Four arms? Six arms? It was hard to tell.

    Definitely not human.

    Barbara let go of the bin’s handle, which seemed to frighten it. Barbara patted it reassuringly, but more to reassure herself.

    Then, there was a crashing sound, as the shadow collapsed onto the ground.

    Out of instinct and against her training, Barbara inched forward. She could not see anything. She kept moving forward, one step at a time, until she could finally see down the other alley.

    As she had suspected, there was a Kryzliam sprawled on the ground. An assassin. Rookie mistake. The earth’s atmosphere was similar to Kryzlak’s, but just different enough that they became badly nitrogenated with overexertion. Left on the ground, the poor creature would die.

    “Ambassador… You…” the creature mustered. Pleadingly? Contemptuously? It was hard to tell.

    Barbara pouted, considering her options.

    She decided on a high-speed projectile, right through the middle of the creature’s head.

    The carcass would liquify quickly, thanks to the earth’s rich bacterial flora. Even that neighbor wouldn’t mind.

    Barbara returned to the garbage bin, and started towing it again.

    “What was it?” the bin asked.

    “Work,” Barbara replied, grinning.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Wow! I thought I was reading a story set in a very ordinary suburb but then you, very skillfully, pulled it in a direction I was not expecting. The bin was a nice addition.

    2. Jennifer Park

      Thank you, everyone! I was hoping that the turn (back) toward sci-fi was not too jarring.

      @Russ, I’m actually agnostic about whether the bin is talking or our ex-ambassador is nuts. (In the space-traveling future, would we build intelligence into garbage bins? Shouldn’t they then take themselves to the curb? Or at least have better wheels?) She is clearly the biggest “monster” here. All those years of intimidating other planets were clearly bad for her moral compass, and could not have been good for her sanity.

      @JRSimmang, I think in this universe the Kryzliamei are the galaxy’s last hope for freedom from human tyranny. They will return, those plucky freedom-fighters!

  6. pven

    The scene is a dark Midwestern suburban night. A waning moon, just past a quarter, peeks through mostly bare tree branches. The neighbors are all inside for another round of evening rituals: curtains closed, TV lights shining through gaps in the bedroom windows. I notice a pile of damp leaves at the sidewalk’s edge. I poke at it with my toe. It makes the satisfying “shhk-shht” sound of wet newspaper on concrete.

    A minor-key glissando erupts behind and above me,

    “What the eff was that?”

    No one responds.

    “I’m serious!” I pull the VR headset off my face. “What the eff was that noise?”

    A technician – Jacob – checks his notes. “Um… Flexatone. E4 to E2.”

    “Well, thank you for that bit of fascinating trivia. And what was it supposed to be?”

    The crew looks at each other and wordlessly nominates Jacob to continue as their spokesperson.

    “Something eerie?”

    I press my point. “You tell me what in this world makes that sound besides the Flexatone.”

    Silence.

    “Exactly. This is supposed to be VR, people. With an emphasis on the R! We’re not making some B-grade horror flick! Unless I ordered an alien attack, I don’t hear anything real about that noise.”

    I look at my crew.

    “Dare I go on?”

    They confer, checking their notes for the places where more unnatural sounds would invade my senses, and shake their heads.

    “I want this app ready by the end of the month, gang. Halloween is just around the corner. Hell, I’m seeing Christmas decorations in stores. Let’s not miss this boat.”

    It’s nearly midnight when I leave the office. My crisp staccato heels punch through the fluorescent drone that fills the nearly empty parking garage.

    “This could be a good scene for the app,” I think.
    In the distance, someone kicks a glass bottle along the sidewalk. Its scittering reminds me of the sound my crew had plugged into the app – the universe trying to make a point, perhaps – until it shatters in a curt explosion.

    A shadow shifts in the far corner of the garage, moving a diffused divider to the space between me and my car.

    I think about going back to the office and asking security to escort me. The way back to the office looks no less threatening than the short distance to my car. I shake the foolishness from my head and continue, albeit a bit more quickly, with keys in hand and car alarm chirping a welcome.

    I’m ten steps from my car when the shadow coalesces into human form and says: “Hello, Denise.”
    From one of the levels below, a Flexatone crescendo shrilly builds.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Creepy… I loved the way you set up this scene. Then the dialogue comes in and I realize what the actual setting is. Very clever from start to finish.

  7. Smileyface256

    The cool evening air was a nice change from the yellow desert planet in the last dimension Sophie had jumped from. This neighborhood almost looked normal; the red and silver moons in the sky were all that set it apart from a typical Earth suburb. The smell of recent rain made it almost feel like home; Sophie breathed it in as a pang of nostalgia and loneliness clenched in her chest. If only…but no, her home was gone.

    She paused as a strange sound in the distance caught her ear, but shrugged it off after a few more seconds. It was probably some animal she didn’t know about.

    She silently strolled through the neighborhood, rounding corner after corner. It was nice to be in a place that had streetlights–Sophie halted. A long, broad shadow stretched across the sidewalk from around the corner ahead.

    She gripped the knife on her hip and willed herself to be calm. It could just be a local out for a late-night stroll. She could just turn around to…give them some space. Yeah.

    Her gut told her to not turn her back.

    A dark, massive figure stepped into the light. Sophie drew her knife and energy sword and shifted into a fighting stance. The figure threw off its hood with a clawed hand. Its head was covered in scales that glittered in the yellow light. Its mouth pulled back in a smile, revealing rows of jagged teeth.

    “Sophia Kardos,” it (he?) said in a grating voice. “What a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”

    Sophie tried to pretend that her knees weren’t shaking. “How did you find me? According to the Federation, I died over a year ago.”

    “I saw you in Dimension 763-9, and let’s just say that I don’t believe in coincidences.”

    “But-” Sophie ducked and barely avoided a blast from the bounty hunter’s wrist blaster.

    “Let’s cut the chit chat and skip to the part where I kill you!”

    Sophie hurled a knife as she blocked another blast with her sword. Just when she thought she’d get a break in a nice suburban dimension, her past had to catch up with her.

    The knife disappeared into the reptile’s cloak but didn’t seem to do any damage.

    The reptile laughed as he continued to fire. “You’ve got spirit, but I expected more from the infamous little assassin slayer.”

    Sophie stayed on the defensive, trying to find an opening so she could get closer. The bounty hunter had a short knife on his belt, but didn’t seem to have any other close range weapons. His lipless mouth curled up in an overconfident grin. If Sophie could get close enough, she’d have this creep on his face begging for mercy in no time. She hurled a knife directly at the reptile’s face and a stun grenade at his feet.

    He kicked the grenade back and dodged the knife.

    Sophie cried out as the flash singed her leg. The next instant she was on the ground, the reptile’s clawed hands pinning down her arms and the smell of burned flesh in her nostrils.

    “You thought killing me would be easy, didn’t you?”

    Sophie struggled, but the bounty hunter was three times bigger and five times stronger.

    “Humans are pathetic; I thought you would actually be a challenge, but now I see that you killed those Federation assassins by sheer luck.” He wrapped a hand around her neck and squeezed.

    Sophie fought the urge to panic. She still had a few seconds of consciousness. Her left hand was free. She scrabbled along the reptile’s belt until her fingers closed around his knife. Her vision started to darken around the edges. With her last ounce of strength, she yanked the knife from its sheath and plunged it into the reptile’s throat.

    His hand instantly went to his neck and Sophie rolled away as he fell to the ground, convulsing with the urge to breathe.

    Sophie gasped until her breathing was back to normal, pushed herself off the ground and stood over the dying bounty hunter. “You were wrong. I didn’t kill those assassins out of luck. I killed them out of sheer determination. They murdered my friend. They tried to kill me. I’ve lost everything but my life, and I’ll be darned before I let someone take that away from me, too.”

    She gathered her knives, pulled up her scarf and turned away from the reptile. Maybe she was lucky. Maybe her secret died with that bounty hunter. Or maybe she was back to being a wanted fugitive. Either way, it was time to hop to another dimension.

    1. Jennifer Park

      I love the story… and the character… but I most appreciated the pacing of the action. A beautiful short story that is as rich as an entire novel. (Something I’m not so terrific at, so they get a short treatment in my books.)

  8. M.P. McCarthy

    THE SHADOW
    The Town had just completed the streetscape; sidewalks linking various shops and eateries in what was now known as the “Village”. I had walked this exact area earlier today, admiring the construction. The Village was not just sidewalks, but also ornate streetlamps, benches, statues and plantings, giving this part of Town a lot of appeal. Many approving faces soaked in the charm as the sun warmed the cloudless blue sky.
    Now things couldn’t have felt more different.
    My nephew had called around 11:30PM, waking me from my sleep.
    “Hi Uncle Scott, I know its late, but I need a ride home”. He explained the reason and said he was in the Village at the small arcade next to the hardware store.
    “OK”, I said, “I’ll be there in about a half an hour”.
    The parking lot was well lit, the old-fashioned lights doing their job. You could see the midnight mist shimmering under each lamp. The temperature had dropped and the chill in the air had me wide awake.
    The arcade was about two blocks from the parking lot. Unlike the crowd of people who were here earlier in the day, it was now deserted. I could hear my own footsteps as I walked toward the arcade.
    I also heard something else. Something sinister. A strange sound somewhere between a moan and a growl. The sound was methodically repeating.
    As I approached the streetlamp on the corner the sound grew louder, and I saw a shadow being cast from around the bend. The dark silhouette was massive. Humanoid in shape, its arms looked to extend past its knees, with long fingers lengthening into talons. Two large horns protruded from the top of its head. The profile grew larger as it advanced.
    Now it was just around the corner.
    Very close.
    I felt my heart start to work harder. Small beads of sweat began to form on my brow. My mouth went dry. Classic fight or flight, my nervous system shifted into high gear.
    I looked around in hope of seeing another person. There was no one. I suddenly became aware of the fact that the entire area was engulfed in a deafening silence, save the sinister sound and that of my own rapidly beating heart.

    Paralyzed with fear I stopped walking, standing as still as a statue.
    “Who’s there”? The words escaped my mouth involuntarily, loud in the still night air.
    The impossibly black profile froze in place.
    “You know who I am Scott” The reply came in a dreadful whisper. It knew my name.
    “What do you want” I asked, my mouth so dry it hurt.
    “I own your soul, Scott. I wanted you to know”
    “Are you going to kill me”?
    “No, I’ll come for you after the Angel of Death has done his best. Tonight is not your time”.
    The presence instantly vanished.
    I started walking again, now hearing happiness coming from the arcade.
    I began to cry.

    1. pven

      You set a classic juxtaposition between the vibrant youth inherent in the arcade, even the newness of The Village, and the desolation of the parking lot with its old-time lights. This does an excellent job of highlighting Scott’s mortality, and encouraging him to dwell on it.
      That said, you jump to an interaction that leaves us with a significant question. WHY.
      Why does this creature own Scott’s soul? Considering the setting, one would assume it has something to do with youth and vigor. But Scott’s an old fellow, so perhaps not that.
      My point being: a story about someone having his soul in hock shouldn’t be just about the fact that he’s got his soul in hock. There should be something else to it. Again, you’ve laid a scene that could serve as a great backdrop for that something else; I’d love to see that explored.

  9. Rene Paul

    The Shadow

    I should be warm; it’s humid. The air is heavy making it difficult to breathe. My faculties are off, I’m cold.

    Surreal images are dancing in my vision. They’re moving back and forth, darting across and standing in front of an intense light hanging above me. It flickers. Are they mystical apparitions, no, more like human shadows casting a parade of chaotic, yet orderly, movements. Their rhythmic ballet surrounds me.

    Am I dreaming? Can’t be… I’m feeling pain. And, there’s a persistent rattle emanating each time I take a breath. “Please stop!”

    Wait…

    I remember… I was sick. But that was months ago!
    I remember… my wife took me to the doctor. She was persistent.
    I remember… she drove me to the hospital. She was crying.
    I remember a burning sensation invading my body. I kept throwing up, and I lost my precious hair.
    I remember they put me in bed—when was that? Did I ever get up?

    How long have I been here?

    Why can’t I remember?

    A lightning bolt flashes from my chest, my body lifts upwards, not under my control. Again. Again. Odd! No pain.

    Ooh, that’s better. The dance is over, the specters are leaving. The rattling has stopped, I can breathe again. Euphoria fills my being. I’m calm as my spirit is lifted.

    “Who are you guys?” I ask the vestal lights drawing near.

    Below me, a voice, “Doctor… do you want to call it?”

    “Yes, mark the time of death at 10:45 p.m.”

  10. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Oblivion

    The shadow pours onto the pavement like ink on paper, covering the small amount of dim, yellow light cast by the street lamp. His heart falls heavily to his feet and sits there as the shadow shrinks with every step of its creator. And every time the shadow shrinks he wants to lift his legs more because he knows that whatever his casting the shadow is not good. It will kill him. Or, no, his mind suddenly tells him that it will not kill him. It will do something worse. And what will make it worse will be that he will never even understand what has happened. He will simply cease to exist.

    But, his heart weighs down his feet and they cannot move. His thoughts seem to pound on his head like the bars of a prison; his entire being throbbing and ringing with the silent screaming in his head. And finally, a foot meets the shadows, stepping out from behind a corner. It, like the shadow, is black, almost seeming to be an extension of the shadow. Only the light of the moon shining on the dark leather of the dress shoes makes it clear that this is a person.

    Still, his body tells him to run. It is not a person. That foot is the extension of the shadow it seems to be and nothing has changed. But he can’t, and following the foot is a pant leg that blends just as well with the night. Nothing changes. It still feels to him as if the shadow is simply stepping out of the ground.
    It is then that the first sign of humanity makes itself shown. One hand swings out slightly, just as the other foot also begins to peak from the corner. The hands are human. They are not made of shadow. He keeps telling himself that this is a good sign, but still his body tries to pull him from this spot.

    Something is wrong with the hands. They are rough. They know more than any other human hands. For a second, they seem to bleed a blood so dark that as it falls it coats the shadow in a color that is somehow darker. The color of oblivion.

    But the blood is not, and when the body finishes forming from the building corner it is definite proof that this is human. Yet it is not any better. If anything, it is worse to know that what ends him will be the same as him. The body is still black, but the face is human. It is wrinkled and creased in such a way that it looks like the cover of an old, leather book. The face is barely lit by the dim streetlamp, but it’s piercingly gray eyes seem to glow out from its skull covered by only a thin layer of skin. Even brighter is the burning weight of his collar that bleeds from all the darkness.

    It is the light before death, he thinks, that is the bright, white light described by so many. The owner of the shadow finally approaches and reaches out a hand. Everything begins to darken.

    “I am Father McKenzie. I am here to perform an exorcist.”

  11. Kate356

    The sound befits a Michelin star kitchen ; the sharpening of a steak knife against stone. It has no business on the streets. He starts, as a shade cleaves through the street light. He braces himself, death arrives like the stripper at the office get together, that no one dare touch because HR is hosting. Unlike the stripper, death does not disappoint.

    His glad rags are mourning issued. The instinctive knowledge that he is gargantuan and has reduced himself to a digestible portion for your sake alone. His face haunts his hood, unseen, much like a sullen teenager. The source of the noise becomes clear in the scythe he brandishes, and the Whetstone.

    “You can’t touch me!”

    The man is pallid, trembling. His brogues stutter backward into a cairn of autumn leaves.

    “You can’t touch me” he repeats, gathering himself.

    He tugs at his lapels and summons his inner banker ; haughty, and a little frenetic, on account of the cocaine.

    “That is true” the reaper agrees.

    The man looks relieved. He believes the tiger that tells him it is toothless. Clearing his throat, he continues at a self-conscious pace. It makes him appear constipated. The sharpening of the blade resumes. The man halts, takes a deep breath, and turns back around.

    “You mean to scare me?”

    The hood hangdogs.

    “I’m not frightened. You’re not an uncommon sight around here”

    With this established, he strides once more, but the grind of the scythe is irritating. The lurking, lingering presence, like a snoop over his shoulder. He stops again.

    “What is it…What’s going to try and kill me tonight?”

    The reaper shrugs – I dunno.

    The man’s fists clench as he stalks the scene ; trees, dead leaves, parked cars, garden paraphenlia. He makes a sound of ah-ha and gestures to a banana peel discarded on the pavement.

    “Would that give you a laugh?” he cries, as he mimes the slipping and flailing.

    “I can’t laugh on account of gallstones”

    The man is not listening. This performance is for his own benefit. He finishes, out of breath, and steps over it, all exaggeration. He tuts as he avoids an open manhole. He ducks beneath sparking porch lights. He avoids the careering cyclist. He even misses the still-steaming dog droppings.

    “You’ll not mind wasting a night?” he queries of the reaper, confident in his defiance.

    “You consider it a waste?”

    “If no one dies”

    “The night is not young. It’s arthritic. It doesn’t require such excitements as death”

    “I thought you were one and the same”

    “Oh, no. We’re not affiliated”

    “Then why do you strike under the cover of darkness?”

    “I wake up late”

    The man stops, because this is his door, and their date ends here.

    “You did scare me this evening” he admits.

    “I know”

    “You shouldn’t creep around”

    “I don’t. I’m always there”

    The man huffs and fishes out a house key. He heads inside, to the remonstrations of his partner and the chitter of his chimp-like children. The door shuts on the robed figure outside. The reaper sighs and consults his Rolex, the one luxury he allows himself.

    It’ll be another three minutes yet.

    1. pven

      You know, a stripper at an office get-together can be analogous for SO many things.

      Cute, quirky little piece. You appear to have gone out of your way to find innovative ways to describe things.

  12. J.Fujimaru

    The Memory of Mangoes

    Very few know that the mangoes in Guinea are, in fact, the best. They are smaller and redder than their famous Philippine cousins and dripping with the nectar of a country swathed in the gentle humidity of Atlantic Africa, just between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, a sweet spot for mangoes. It is a secret by accident. No one comes to Guinea for a vacation. There is no Mount Kilimanjaro. The Big Five do not roam the hills. The capital is not an ancient wonder filled with spices, sitting elegantly on a beachy coast. It is the harsh smothering truth of rapid unplanned urbanization and rancid corruption. Even the smooth paved roads of neighboring Sierra Leone become wild and untamed when they hit the boarder. The mangoes do not have an easy road to travel.

    Once a volunteer from Japan had smuggled a bundle in her check-in bag hoping to share with her close ones the gustative joys of this “exotic” fruit that she had bragged about for a whole two years but the little jewels never made it past a confused officer who took one look into the bag of bruised, fermenting mangoes. He confiscated them. It could be said that the truth never made it past the customs gate in Tokyo but it was the plane ride that killed the mangoes.

    The truth doesn’t travel much. But sometimes a Guinean will go very far. This expat will peer into his delicate glass of “mousse au chocolat et sauce à la mangue” then, on the way home, he will whisper into the white ear of the woman standing beside him, creating a beautiful contrast of color like the dessert they had earlier. He will boast of the mangoes back home. She will laugh, thinking it only an unsuccessful euphemism, and the secret will go no further. Clearly, the nostalgia for Guinean mangoes only goes so far. After a generation or two, or a whisper or three, it will already be forgotten.

    Mamady, however, does not want to forget.

    The delta waters have already sunken into the ocean, exposing sand beds and piles of trash where the pigs will rummage through during the day, but it is night and the air still clings to the rainy season, sitting heavy and clay-like on the boy’s narrow shoulders. He has waited the whole season and it has finally come to an end. This time three years ago, they sat at the dock, just as Mamady is now, and talked about nothing in particular in that way that boys do, trying to ignore the very real possibility that they might never see each other again. Then suddenly the older one turned away and said, “I wish I could eat one last mango.” But they both knew that this impossible last wish could not be granted. It was not the season for mangoes. Nor is it now. He is probably a man by now; the crackling voice on the phone suggests so. He is living his urban dreams in a cold European city where the fruit of another climate replaces his sweet memories. But the way that Mamady remembers his older brother is as a boy sentimental about mangoes. It was the last time he saw him.

    That is why Mamady is at the port. Now that it is his turn he can only think about mangoes. He should think about his family, his mother, his two younger brothers and his baby sister, even his stepfather, who has never been unkind to him. He should think about the pretty Aicha from Camayenne. With a few more encounters and a bit more flirting she could easily become his girl. He should worry about the unknown ahead of him but all he can think about is that he should have eaten more mangoes before the rainy season started. Now it is too late.

    Maybe he should just stay. If he feigns sickness tomorrow he will not have to leave for Dakar. While he waits for his second chance he could have another season of mangoes. But does he have to leave? He could just stay. Maybe it is his fate to stay in this country. Who knows what will happen to him if he ignores this fate and goes off to Dakar and to whatever country from there.

    The boats sway in the night. Their bright colors are muted and the water pushes them rhythmically against each other pealing off more paint. A wind begins to push inland. It scrambles the dark clouds and covers the cool indifferent face of the moon. Thunder roars. Mamady gets up, searching in the dark for the storm cloud, ready to make a run for it. There is nothing. The few lights of the city flicker off and Mamady is left in the dark. He listens for the rain but it is silent. Almost silent. There is a small steady click, slower than his pounding pulse. It approaches.

    The lights flicker on and from the corner of his eye Mamady can see a long shadow. It grows. He dares not look behind him, instead he holds his breath and stands as still as he can as the shadow grows to an impossible height, twice as tall as the squat shadow of himself. It is standing behind him; if it breathes he would feel it. It reaches its long arm across. A giant hand falls on Mamady’s shoulder. He can hear the click of the man’s wristwatch counting the slow seconds of silence.

    “Vous allez bien?” he greets the man, uselessly.

    The man orders the boy to turn and face him. His voice is deep and hollow. Mamady obeys.

    The man is no man. It is a tall sepulchral figure with sharp hunched shoulders. It’s mouth is etched into a tree bark face that is weary and disappointed, but set into this same face is a pair of unrelenting eyes with black pupils and bright oppressive whites.

    “Diallo,” it begins, “Mamady Diallo. What do you want?”

    “I…? I don’t want anything.”

    It yells in a whisper in an old language Mamady does not understand. It is wearing indigo robes, illuminated like pale stars on a foggy night. They flutter celestial in the dark. “You want everything.”

    Mamady lowers his head confused and too scared to meet the figure’s eyes.

    “You want to stay but you want to go. You want everything.”

    “No, I don’t want to go but I don’t want to stay in this country,” Mamady challenges the figure. “You see, I don’t want anything.”

    The figure grunts. It is a laugh of sorts.

    “This country doesn’t have anything for me.”

    “Then go.”

    “I can’t leave my mother behind. And I have two brothers and… my sister,” the boy explains to the figure but it knows all of this and it knows that the boy is only talking. Of course his family wants him to stay but they need him to find work to send home money. They want him to find a better future. The figure waits in silence for another answer.

    “I’m afraid of what will happen. I don’t know if I can ever come back. What if it’s terrible over there?”

    “Terrible? Of course it will be terrible. Some of them will hate you. They will make you feel unwanted. You’ll feel like the dirtiest pig rummaging through unwanted scraps. Everything will be strange. Worse, you’ll have no family there. It will be more terrible than anything you can imagine. Are you scared?”

    The boy nods.

    “But, if you find a place in all of this it could be better. Maybe better than anything you can imagine for yourself here. Maybe you’ll find a family. Maybe you’ll meet your brother. We’ll see.”

    “I will miss the mangoes.”

    The figure lets out a laugh that rises from the red dirt of the city. The short hairs on Mamady’s body vibrate. There is a change in the flow of his blood. Now he understands who the figure is. For different people it has different forms. For the giggly young girl with her eyes to the stars it is a book of horoscopes guiding her through her early pubescent years, the years she will make many wrong choices, but that is what those years are for, aren’t they? For the serious career woman with a tiny portion of the world on her shoulders it comes in the form of flowing charts and diagrams to lead her and her team to the best solution. For the ancients it came in the form of pale broken bones or the stars or cards. For Mamady it is one of his wise elders dressed in the beloved indigo robes of his culture.

    Mamady has made a decision. He looks up to thank the figure but it is gone, so he makes his way back to his humble family home just across from the mango tree. It is a towering tree rising high above the squatter homes and the crumbling port buildings, and so ancient it remembers the time when the city was just an island and when the Portuguese first landed. It is said that the bodies of the first Portuguese are buried in that tree. It is said that it is haunted.

    1. JRSimmang

      It’s great to see you back this week!
      You’ve woven such an enthralling tale. I think character motivation is explicit in this piece, and you’ve deftly illustrated the internal struggle Mamady is having with abandoning his family. This would need just a little cleaning to be ready for submission.
      There are times where exceeding the word limit is warranted. This is one of those times.

      1. J.Fujimaru

        Thank you JR. It’s great to be back!

        I’m glad it doesn’t feel too long. It’s always a bit difficult to keep the word count down when I’m writing about a place that’s probably unfamiliar to most. I guess scifi writers do it all the time…

        I’ll take your advice and go back to fix this up. I got a bit impatient about posting and didn’t read it over enough. Thank you!

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      J., this is amazing writing, breathtakingly beautiful. The first three paragraphs were so rich and captivating that when you introduced Mamady I was ready for that story. I agree with JR, this needs to be submitted for a wider audience.

      1. J.Fujimaru

        Oh gosh, thank you Reatha! At first I thought JR meant “submission” as in posting to this forum. I haven’t thought at all about submitting it anywhere else but maybe in the future I will. Thank you!

  13. screwsazan

    Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  14. ReathaThomasOakley

    The shadow

    Marie squatted in the sand behind the board fence, lifted her skirt and carefully positioned herself. When the house overflowed with out of town relatives for funerals, or cousins or uncles kicked out of their own houses, the horrible bathroom was never vacant, so Marie would escape to behind the palmettos where Granny’d once had her garden to do her business.

    The dank air hit Marie’s exposed lower body like a slap, but even when she was finished she didn’t move for a moment, holding her forehead on her open palms, listening for sounds in the inky dark.

    “What have I done?” she whispered when she realized the sounds were the wind in the dried palm fronds overhead. She then stood and righted her clothing, wrapping the thin sweater around her chest.

    As soon as she’d known her mother and aunt were asleep, Marie had slipped from her cot and felt through the pile of clothes in the corner, but couldn’t find the wool skirt she’d worn to school or her socks and shoes. She had found, in the kitchen without turning on a light, change she needed for the phone call. Money Granny kept in the china cup for the paper boy, tomorrow they’d know some was missing. Now she shivered in a cotton sweater and sandals in October.

    But, she’d had to get out of the bedroom her mother and her twin sister had shared since their births, where Marie’s small bed sat like an after thought between the mismatched chests of drawers. When Marie’d figured out about babies, she’d wondered how she and Junior ever got made.

    She knew about Gary, her little brother. She’d come home from school one Friday to find a bony, very white man hunched over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table, fumbling with a pack of Camels and Granny hissing, “Not in my house he ain’t smoking.”

    “Marie,” her mother’d said, “come give your daddy a hug.” But, she’d run out the backdoor and that night her mother had slept in Junior’s room on the other side of Granny’s. She didn’t know where Junior slept. Sunday afternoon Uncle Ed drove her father back to Chattahoochee, and seven months later Gary, with the same last name as hers, was born.

    Sometime later Marie’d listened from the back porch while Mama read a letter to Granny. “Huntington’s Chorea, they say, ain’t no cure.”

    “Ha!” Granny’d hooted. “Jest cause it’s got a name don’t make it different from what it is, sin, I tell you, sin already got a name.”

    Now Marie flexed her fingers, remembering her father fumbling, remembering how hard it was to find the slot for the dime in the pay phone outside the bar way south on Riberia. She wished she could ask Junior, but he’d left for the Army soon as he could, and now his letters were all about some place called Vietnam. She’d tried to find it in the big atlas in the school library, but couldn’t. Besides, if he was home he’d want to know why she was out, peeing in that vacant lot, and she couldn’t ever tell him.

    Marie’d figured Frank would be upset, but he’d been furious.

    “What the h3ll you doing, leaving a message like that?”

    “I was hoping you’d be on break or something, I thought–”

    “You thought! You thought telling the dispatcher in that whiny little girl voice for Officer Parks to call you was a good idea?”

    “I have to talk to you, tonight, Frank, please, don’t be mad.”

    “So, tell me,” she’d heard him light a cigarette, “tell me now.”

    “On the phone? Frank, please.” She’d started crying.

    “Yes, now!” He’d yelled.

    “Two months, Frank, I ain’t had my period for two–”

    “God dammit. You’re telling me. . .” She couldn’t find enough breath to answer, nodded even though she knew he couldn’t see her.

    “I gotta think,” he’d said. Marie had waited. “You told anybody? Your Mama or that snake of a granny you got?”

    “No, Frank, just you, right now, but pretty soon they gonna notice. What we gonna do?” Outside the phone booth the bar had been closing, and two men were staggering toward her. Marie’d turned her back, tried to stand up taller.

    “I know this doctor,” Frank’d finally said.

    “Frank, that ain’t right, is it? That’s against the law, against God.” She’d wiped her nose on the sweater cuff. “Ain’t there any other way? You and me, maybe?”

    “You stupid, stupid girl,” he’d hissed, just like Granny, Marie’d thought, and hung up the phone.

    Now, on the dark, broken sidewalk, Marie listened for the sound she’d been following before she’d had to stop, the click, click of the rigging in the shrimp boats across the San Sebastián. She walked past the ice plant to the docks where old men fished almost every day, and sat, leaning against a railing post. The white of her plastic sandals gleamed against the dark water. She closed her eyes and remembered when they were new, two Easters ago. Now they were too small, cracked and her feet were so cold.

    She must have dozed because she didn’t hear the other sound until it was loud behind her, the sound of heavy leather boots on the wooden planks, mixed with another, lighter sound, handcuffs, she thought. Then the sounds stopped and she smelled the cigarette.

    “Frank?” She opened her eyes and saw, in the light from the back of the ice plant, a dark shadow all around her.

    “Yeah,” he answered, and on her right she saw the tiny flare of the cigarette, and a hiss when it hit the black water. “You stupid girl,” he said, and the shadow moved.

    “Frank?” Marie was suddenly so tired. “Please, Frank, don’t hurt me.” He was so close she heard him stop breathing. “Don’t hurt me much.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Reatha, you always write with such power. It’s the minute details in this piece that I adore. Heavy substance, strong narration, and effective character building create a frighteningly realistic image of the late 1960s. Although, I feel like this was set earlier than the draft for Vietnam, early 50s maybe.
      Superb.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, JR. This is set in 1960, when I first heard murmurings of Vietnam, pronounced “Vet Nam” by members of my family. I cut this way down, taking out lots about Junior, who would have just been hearing the same things. I might do more with this, your comments encourage me.

    2. writer_sk

      Reatha- For me, one part that stuck out was Marie noticing that the white of the sandals was no longer new. I thought that was a strong use of symbolism.

      I got confused about what she Marie was anc also had to look back to see if frank had been introduced earlier.

      Other than that great flow and drew me right in until the shadowy end.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you. As I wrote above, I cut lots out, including more about the icelant and character details. Marie is 15, her mother can hardly wait for her to be sixteen so she can quit school and go to work. If I do more with this I’ll introduce Frank sooner. Thanks again.

    3. MoiraiTQ

      This is wonderful! While there was definite speed involved, it read slowly in my mind. Will need to know more about Frank.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I think I have a little background on Frank. I do recall him from earlier stories. The atmosphere created here is almost too sharp but I do know it exists just like your descriptive verse. You write so easy, I know you do, it just pours out of your mind as fast as you can type. It sounds like a conversational take on a real life experience and it haunts me. One of the most powerful stories you have written. My heart just bleeds sometimes when I read you, Why?

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, thank you. I think I’ve had Franklike guys before. You’ve asked before where some of my stories come from. While my immediate family shared a lot with Annie’s, many of my characters, like Marie, are based on cousins, etc. I’ve wanted to tell her story for a very long time.

    4. J.Fujimaru

      Reatha, I found this one to be the most frightening. I think any woman, even those who grew up after the 1960’s, can relate to this fear.

      I would love to read a longer version of this story because it seems that there’s a lot of color to each of the characters here. Granny’s character really comes through. Without explicating writing it out you show us how much power she has in the household and over Marie.

      I like the ending. It leaves me terrified and unsure for Marie. What kind of relationship is she in? How literal is that last statement? Goose bumps!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, J. I should write more about beautiful, tragic Marie. Good catch on Granny.

        I’m so behind on reading, but am intrigued by the title of your story. Will go there next.

    5. Critique

      This is a wonderful piece Reatha. The writing flowed with a natural ease as if it was just that – easy to write from skill and a rich imagination.
      I’m worried for Marie. What will happen to her?

    6. SummerStars

      I adore your dialogue. It’s amazing. I really enjoyed your story overall, but I think the dialogue and diction of the characters is my favorite part.

    7. pven

      As always you create a world rich with detail and characterization. I think (oh dear lord, I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Reatha Thomas Oakley piece) that in this case there’s a bit too much detail. You kind of knew this, since you were cutting lots out. For this scene, a bit more could have been removed.

      Stuff like:
      “When the house overflowed with out of town relatives for funerals, or cousins or uncles kicked out of their own houses, the horrible bathroom was never vacant, so Marie would escape to behind the palmettos where Granny’d once had her garden to do her business.” This is a brilliant detail, very vivid, strong storytelling, not right for here.
      The episode with the bony, very white man. Although it set things up wonderfully for that “Jest cause it’s got a name..” line from Granny. Which is valuable for the scene later, with Frank. But the episode adds little more to Marie’s situation with Frank.

      I get the sense that this is from a larger story, one in which the pieces all fit better and flow brilliantly. In which case, my notes here are little more than minor commentary of a scene, out of touch with the bigger picture.

  15. JRSimmang

    If we could have the windows open, please? I like to hear the wind when I play this piece.

    Thank you.

    Thank you for coming.

    I hope you enjoy this piece. I chose it myself, and my teacher thought it was a little advanced, but I worked really hard on it. I learned that Rachmaninoff wasn’t written for fifteen-year old fingers.

    It’s a fond memory, Delilah. We can keep talking about it.

    No, I’m fine.

    It is damp, and yes, the dampness hurts my knees, but I’m an old man dammit, and if I want to take a walk, I’ll damn-well take a walk.

    I will set the metronome to 72. This is also the average beats per minute the human heart makes. I chose this because I want you to be in the music, if that makes sense. The orchestra behind me will guide you through what I believe to be Rachmaninoff’s most important work.

    I do hope you enjoy.

    What? No. I’m fine. Just… a little winded.

    Tic, tic, tic, tic.

    The hardest part is waiting bars and bars for my entrance while not getting caught up in the violin and cello. I can get so distracted by them. By their talent. By the talent I wish I had.

    God, this piece is gorgeous.

    I could tumble into its cascades. I could trip into the glades of its decrescendos. The harmony is found in the space between what’s heard, the space between the 8th and the 16th. Genius is hard to define, but I believe that it’s this simple recognition of silence and its impermanence that gets us close. I have to clear my eyes before I begin.

    I lift my fingers to land them on the ivory.

    Yes, Delilah, a stop next to that streetlamp. I believe that’s in order. I must be getting old. I can usually make it the full way around before having to stop.

    No, no. I feel fine otherwise. You’re very sweet for asking.

    There are few moments I would wish to remember so vividly. I play the hills of opus 5 as a child, feeling the strength in my legs and the air in my lungs, clawing to the top to find the sun perched on its fragile precipice, [tic tic tic] close enough to touch and why would I deny myself the pleasure? My fingers are no more than instruments, and my instrument is more to me the universe than the star-splattered parchment above me. There is a shadow around me. It is my heart. It is my passion. It is coming to cloak me in my sublime recognizance.

    I am aware suddenly of the siren.

    Outside.

    The wailing and [tic tic tic] crashing.

    The first rumblings of the napalm seeping into the walls.

    Now, Delilah, I bear an enormous weight on my chest. Am I having a heart attack?

    [tic tic tic]

    The wall! There! The room is going to collapse, yet my fingers will not stop. My body betrays my abandon, and I remain transfixed on the opus, on the desire of my piano, on the desire of my body to rest against the warmth of the flames.

    Thank you, yes.

    [tic tic tic]

    Can you hear it?

    The metronome? It is returning. I can almost touch it. Ha! 72. How stunning. The orchestra. It plays. It continues to play to this very evening!

    68. Yes, you may remove my shirt. Remove my flesh. Remove my forbearance, my countenance while the orchestra plays on. Lift me, my friends, to the heavens.

    41.

    The shadows of my past. The Shadow of my strings that have made me dance. My life, my dear Delilah, my last performance. My last breath on that stage.

    My day I knew that they would fly overhead, that they would [tic tic tic] beckon me to the afterlife.

    And, yet, I still played.

    I still played.

    Is it come, Delilah? Is it surrounding me?

    I shall be as Rachmaninoff, tumbling inward, bleeding in lyrics. Thrust me into the shadow, Delilah, and let me drift.

    -JR Simmang

    1. writer_sk

      JR, wow, so I just loved the unique voice you gave your character. He spoke the way an intellectual would speak. I also thought you captured his urgency to describe his experiences with his symphonies to Delilah.

      Finally, even though the reader had a sense of what was going to happen, you were able to hint at it, create sympathy and acknowledge his life in music and history with Delilah.

      I liked the use of “tic, tic, tic” —it added a rhythmic quality to the story.

      I thoroughly appreciated this. It was perfectly written.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      JR, I loved it. I like the way you guide us through the narrative with the music playing along. I can almost hear Rachmaninoff. You described beautifully the way that art, time and memory haunt the soul of the artist.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Count me in on this also, Beautiful setting to music. One plea request, please don’t try this with Stravinsky. Even Stravinsky doesn’t understand Stravinsky.

  16. manya

    The Shadow

    I am standing outside the door of my home, fiddling with the keys trying to open the lock. It was a long exhausting week; and the continuous rains had made the drive back from office little challenging. At present, I just want to have a relaxing bath and spend the remaining night in solitude. Very soon I find myself setting up my bath; lights switched off the only light that I see are from the candles, an instrumental music playing in the background, handful of Epsom salt goes into the tub, few drops of my favorite lavender essential also added to the running water and finally I am ready to step-in for a soothing soak in my tub.

    All of sudden I am woken up by a loud banging noise coming from other part of the house. I quickly wrap myself in my bath robe and run down the stairs to inspect the noise. I carefully look through the living room and kitchen to find any sign of the source of noise; but everything seems to be fine. I assume that sound might have come from outside or some passing vehicle honking loud; after all I had dozed off and might have exaggerated the sound. After few more gazes here and there I decide to pour myself a glass of red wine. While pouring myself the drink I observe the date on calendar; it says 13th Oct, Friday. Ah! It’s Friday the 13th, the unlucky day; a faint smile appears on my face. I pick-up my glass and cozy myself in the corner of my sofa to continue reading my novel from where I had left it. This is my favorite routine for all my Friday’s.

    Unexpectedly I am interrupted by the sharp ring of my landline phone. The ringing took me by surprise as people rarely dial on landline nowadays. It’s almost mid-night; this makes me concerned. I pick up the receiver of my phone and say hello! Another hello after a pause, I could not hear any response; the line goes dead. I am on my way back to my sofa, when the phone starts ringing once again. This is now becoming suspicious; I start to feel dampness lingering in the air. I once again receive the call and muster the strength to say hello. There is silence on the other side, I can now hear my heart beats, every single thud in my chest. Suddenly the lights of my house start flickering and then its goes off. It is completely dark inside my house, but I can see light spilling in through the window curtains from the street lamps outside. To my horror, I can now see a long shadow growing bigger and bigger near my window. I can feel drops of sweat trickling down my forehead and am beginning to shiver with fear.

    I gather all my courage to move towards the window to scrutinize the object that is lurking on the window. I move closer inch by inch, open the window to peep outside. All of a sudden a hand sprang up and makes a tight grip around my neck sending chills down my spine. I can feel my entire body drenched in sweat.

    With a jolt I open my closed eyes and find myself in my bath tub, sweating profusely. I take a while to realize whatever I experienced was a dream, just a bad dream. A relaxed smile comes across my face; I am glad to hear my heart beats. I step out of bath and am taken by surprise when I hear a familiar banging noise and unintentionally the same sequence as my dream starts unfolding.

    1. JRSimmang

      Welcome to WD, Manya! It’s lovely being introduced to your writing.
      You were able to keep the pacing quick, and the minute details you included add to the overall enjoyment of the piece.
      There are areas that could use a little tightening, and times where the tense shifts from present to past. Overall, a little more showing and less telling would do much to propel this piece into another stratum. What I mean by that is taking a description of action and describing the action (“Unexpectedly, I am interrupted…” becomes “A single tone, piercing and high, cuts through the air and jars me from my reverie, causing the book to tumble from my fingers” [okay, that’s a little melodramatic]). And, this is just nitpicky, the dream reveal is a device I don’t use because I’m not partial.

      1. manya

        Thanks for your valuable feedback. This piece is my first attempt at writing 🙂
        I definitely need to write more and learn from all the feedbacks. Thanks again.

  17. writer_sk

    A DARKNESS

    Though he dreaded and even feared it, TJ accepted that darkness was a part of his life. During an uncommon lull in foot traffic through the ordinarily bustling café, TJ added a splash of cream to his coffee and watched the eggshell color swirl around in the black before almost disappearing save for the overall tone brightening to a lighter shade of black. His slow sipping ceased as the bell on the door signaled the arrival of customers. TJ sprung to life, bumping up the volume on the 1940’s big band instrumental on the overhead system as he passed the stereo.

    The eight o’clock showing of the 80’s movie, Halloween, had just gotten out at the local cinema and wrapped in scarves and sweaters for early Autumn weather, patrons wanted a hot cup of coffee before late appetizers and drinks in town. TJ’s warm smile, dark good looks and friendly demeanor hid his darkness and no one knew how he felt during those busy nights at the coffee house.

    Girls from the local college popped in and ordered hot chocolate. The buzz of conversation intermingled with the hum of the dishwasher and the hiss of the frothing wand. The vibe was relaxed and jovial.

    Time flew as TJ pushed the long broom around, picking up stray cups, saucers and straw wrappers. He wiped down tables that weren’t in use and restocked the sugar packets and stirrers. Leaning against a freshly bussed booth, he flirted with the women sitting there, returning their smiles with a wink and small talk. He took used mugs from the group of moms heading out, put them on the counter and held the door for them, each small act of good will eating away at his darkness.

    Before he knew it, Frank was cleaning the bathroom, Angie was mopping and TJ was counting out the till for the night. He remained on, lingering pointless and aimless over the stack of clean aprons, adding more coffee bean sacks to the already full shelf. He touched each coffee urn station double-checking it was turned off, staying longer, clinging to the feeling of life and energy that had flowed through the place less than an hour ago. Once home, to his one-room apartment, he’d turn on the lights and television, do his exercises, take a shower and eat something. He would finally lie down to rest and wait for the dark feeling to come over him, late at night he would receive it.

    On the way home TJ focused on the task of getting there, putting one foot in front of the other. Just up ahead and around the corner, in his sight, the street light ticked, sputtered and went dark. He crossed the street, walking faster. TJ watched the cold, dark shadow. He could see his apartment complex up ahead, he watched as the neighbor girl he’d never asked out, pulled her full laundry basket upstairs from the laundry room.

    He was almost home. The shadow rose and fell, rose and fell. At the bottom of his stairs, he stopped, it stopped. He had known it was only his own shadow all along. Just as the darkness was part of him but didn’t define him, the shadow he cast was momentary, inconsistent and came and went, while the porch light he’d left on for himself guided him forward, home.

      1. writer_sk

        Thank you, Reatha. I wanted to do a horror story but it just isn’t my genre so I stuck with this type of character I’ve written before…

        Thank you for reading and commenting.

    1. Big Tastey

      thank you for commenting on my story writer_sk. I gained an insight into my own writing when you re-wrote the last few lines of my story and for that I thank you again. I like your story. You are an accomplished wordsmith. As a token of my gratitude I have re-written a bit of your opening to perhaps give you an insight into your own writing, hopefully in the same way that you have given me. So here goes–
      Darkness was a part of TJ’s life. Where other people saw light in the world, TJ saw only shadow. He accepted the darkness, but there were times when he also feared and dreaded it.
      –that was fun! thanks again.

      1. writer_sk

        Tastey- thank you so much and thank you for the compliments.

        Yes, I like what you wrote for mine! I especially agree with the inclusion of the word “shadow” early on, which I overlooked. I really appreciate the insight.

        I am glad you’re ok with my suggestion, don’t know what overcame me – I do not usually re-write people’s work!

        Look forward to reading your entry next week. Best.

    2. JRSimmang

      Sarah, I think you’ve created a genuine character here, and this is a grand introduction. I’m curious as to what TJ will do with the shadow (either metaphorical or actual) since it seems to have a life of its own. I would consider revising for comma splices (“he watched as the neighbor girl… pulled her full laundry…”, “Once home to his apartment…”) and continuing this story.

      1. writer_sk

        JR-Thank you.

        I have always had a problem with comma splices. I remember getting a college paper back in which there were 14 instances of comma splices or something. Now I can correct it – it’s on my mind!

      2. Kerry Charlton

        You know for some reason, I felt this was absolutely beautiful writing. My heart went out your MC. I’ve seen so much sorrow and fear in people thru the years and it just gets worse. Some fear death, especially at my age, I look at it a different way,

        ‘Just you try to close me down. You have no idea what kind of fight you’ll have on your hands, so move away’.

  18. ShamelessHack

    Dampness lingered in the midnight air.
    Scott sprinted down the pitch-black alleyway, fear and revenge consuming his dark and wounded soul.
    His breath caught in his throat as he saw light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead.
    His strides faltered as a shadow stretched across the pavement.
    It was a familiar shadow. The shadow of a man.
    The shadow of…

    The Doctor

    The Doctor was there, standing a few yards ahead, damp mist swirling around his form.
    Scott instantly slowed to a halt and stared.
    “Crap, why does he have this effect on me?” Scott thought feverishly. His resolve had instantly turned to ambivalence, hesitation…or was it a twisted kind of love? A love for The Doctor?
    No!
    “Where do you think you’re going, Scott?” It was The Doctor’s unhesitating, insinuating voice. “Were you contemplating killing me? Is that it?” The Doctor shifted his weight from foot to foot.
    Scott pulled out a Glock 9mm pistol. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I was contemplating, you sicko.”
    Unruffled, the Doctor stepped closer to Scott, his bald head gleaming in the low light. “What have I ever asked of you, Scott? What?”
    “That’s not the point, psycho,” Scott began to stutter.
    “I’ve never asked anything of you, Scott, anything. Except…”
    Scott cringed. He knew what was coming.
    The Doctor looked down his nose at Scott. “That’s right, Scott. All I ever asked of you were the sharks.”
    Scott lowered his gun, and knew he couldn’t do it. Knew he couldn’t kill his own father.
    “That’s right, Scott.” The Doctor raised a pinky to the side of his mouth. “Sharks. Sharks with friggin’ laser beams strapped to their heads.”
    Scott fell to his knees, his gun dropping to the ground. He looked up at The Doctor. “You are such a…”
    “Shh!” the Doctor said.
    “You’re a dipsh…”
    “Shh!”
    “But, you…”
    “Double Writers Digest shh!”
    “Stop that!”
    “Creative prompt with a shh!”
    “Stop!”
    “Ssh!”
    As the two segued into their bizarre nightly ritual, dampness lingered in the midnight air.
    Light spilled from a streetlight up ahead.

    1. writer_sk

      I like your style! The lead up was serious and intriguing. You did a nice job combining serious writing with comedic writing.
      I was surprised it was Dr Evil, good one. Where was his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth?!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I feel like I fell off a bridge when you changed course. My God, the first part was indeed frightening. Sometimes I wonder where you get all these idea from. Your brain must be chock full of these thoughts.

  19. LunaShrimp

    Nope. Nope. This is not happening, not tonight.

    Just stay calm, you just have a block until home, I attempt to reassure myself. I speed up, so I am nearly jogging at this point. You’ll be safe there.

    I sometimes wonder, when it’s daylight, how often I have told this lie to myself.

    As I round the corner, I see someone walking my way.

    My cute neighbor, Kyle, saunters down the sidewalk ahead of me. He’s dressed in some pop culture reference, I now, but I’m not exactly sure which. Something about the leather jacket, the machete, and the bleeding mark on his wrist had me shivering. Despite the feeling, Kyle smiles when he spots me. A hand raised in greeting. “Oh, hey Mari. Have good luck with getting candy?”

    I smile vaguely and nod. I need to get inside before something happens.

    Kyle’s smile falters. “O-okay. But, uh, I wanted to ask you about…” his voice fades. His gaze shifts to something just over my shoulder.

    I glance back, but no one is there. “What, cat got you tongue?” I try for humor to diffuse the awkwardness. I freeze when I see the darkness hovering near Kyle.

    “No, don’t-!” I plead. I reach out a hand to stop Kyle, stop the shadows. But it’s too late. Kyle stops smiling. Now, he’s crying, tears trailing down an ashen face. A small single shot of darkness protrudes from his chest. Something inside him gurgles. His mouth gapes open, blood trickling down his chin

    I lower my arm and watch impassively as the life bleeds out of his eyes. At this point, nothing I could have done would have mattered. I’d end up just like him. The spike retreats, allowing the body to fall to the ground.

    I watch as the shadows pull at the pale corpse, roaming over like hungry fingers. Ever so slowly, it overcomes the body, until there is nothing left. No sign that a life left this world too early tonight.

    I turn to walk away and pause when I hear the ringing. That kind when the silence is too overwhelming. They say your brain makes up the ringing to take the place of the silence, but I know what it really is. It means they are close.

    But they are satiated for now. A sacrifice made in innocent blood. Or really, not so innocent blood. I wonder what Kyle had done in his past to obtain their interest. I know what I had done. And that is something I will take to my grave.
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    I don’t mention this to my family. They think I’m insane. But I’m not really. After all, you see them too, don’t you?

    They’re those shadows that lurk in the corners of your vision. They follow you, making you think you see someone. But you reassure yourself no one’s there.

    They are the dark shapes that cross your walls in the meager moonlight, dancing ominously. But you’re no longer a child, right? Monsters don’t exist.

    They are the prickly feeling of someone staring you down in the middle of the night. But no one’s there. The street’s empty. Or so you say.

    So, dear reader, take heed. These shadows hunger. They watch and they wait to claim their next victim. I learned to watch for them. So, should you.

    Who knows, maybe their next victim is you?

  20. Critique

    next?
    Shadows

    The leaves cracked like gunshots under his battered brogues in the dead air, barren trees arched the lane, and at the end a thick fog cloaked the street lamp distorting branches into grotesque monsters that threatened to devour him. Henley thrust trembling fingers into the pockets of his filthy Chesterfield and strained to see through bleary eyes.

    A slight noise halted him in his tracks and the breath seized in his throat. There it was, a faint tap, tap, tap. The sound in itself was innocuous but in light of recent events each tap caused Henley’s heart to hammer faster and sour bilge to flood his throat. He swayed, almost fell but freed his hands in time to steady himself against the trunk of a tree.

    Earlier that evening after downing pint after pint in a dark corner of a pub he’d passed out. When the owner went to lock up and found him under the table, he threw him out.

    “Stay away.” The owner yelled. “We don’t want the likes of you polluting our village.”

    The unfairness of it all Henley fumed, when a bloke couldn’t mourn the passing of a dear friend with a few pints. A game or two of darts when he knew Robert was three sheets to the wind – he’d cleaned out Robert’s meagre savings. Robert came again and again, snivelling, begging – on his knees no less.

    “Henley as a friend to a friend I beg you. It was a game. I didn’t know what I was doing. My wee bairns and the wife need to eat.” Tears streaked Robert’s cheeks.

    Henley hated snivelers and Robert was turning out to be Captain Sniveler. He pushed Robert away and advised him to take his lumps like a man.

    Then, Robert hung himself.

    At the wake Robert’s wife charged up to Henley, hit him with her fists and spit in his face.

    “Murderer. You did this. You’re the scum of the earth.” She screeched. “I hope you rot in hell.”

    Tap, tap, tap.

    A fearful idea now took shape on the fringes of Henley’s wasted brain. He could see beyond the street lamp’s feeble light a shadow steadily looming larger. The tapping gained ground too.

    Henley thought of Robert lying stiff and cold in a wooden box and unreasoning terror swept over him.

    Henley fell to his knees when he turned to look back into the hostile darkness from where he came. He struggled to stand and felt a damp chill settle on the top of his head. Icy tentacles corkscrewed tightly around his neck, crept to constrict his torso and back, extended down both arms to his fingertips, then down encompassing both legs to the ends of his toes.

    Tap, tap, tap.

    Henley looked up, a scream dying in his throat.

    A formidable figure shrouded in black stood over Henley and in his raised right arm he wielded a long rod with a sharp curved blade on one end.

    Frozen in place, the last sound Henley heard was the determined swoosh of the blade as it sliced through the air.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          If terror can be called art, then you are a painter of mystery and scorn and then finally death. Wow, you put me on my knees with this one, marvelous writing form, Rich with descriptive detail.

          1. Critique

            Thanks Kerry. Horror is not my genre and methinks this was a bit hard hitting – the Grim Reaper is no respecter of persons – he comes for us all – whether we’re rascals or filled with goodwill.

  21. SummerStars

    The air is cool and you can feel it pressing up against your lungs as you breathe in and out. The air balloons inside of you, stretching your skin and your ribs and you, all that you are. It is night and you are walking on the sidewalk in the quiet cool darkness.

    And then there is a sound you don’t know. A tapping sound; it is not quite heavy enough for thudding, but not sharp enough for tapping nor hard enough for clicking.

    So, tapping. You are walking and there is tapping. It gets louder as you get closer and so you breathe in the wetness of the clean autumn air and try to keep your insides inflated.

    But the tapping (tap tap tap tap tap) is getting closer which makes your throat tighten and your insides shake, and you do not have the coolness inside of you anymore; it is around you, tangled up in your hair and your skin, but you are running now and you are heat. Burning, pulse racing, and the street is dark and the sky is spangled with bits of glass and the street lamps are your saving grace because you are heat and the air is cold and the tapping won’t stop and you don’t know what it is.

    The tap tap tapping is the only thing you hear now. It consumes you. You forget the sky and the stars and the fresh cool air of midnight because now all and everything is the tapping. The regular, stiff, tapping, the almost-familiar music of some lost song, and you are struggling to keep the air in you.

    Your cheeks are wet, wetter than the air, and warmer. Tears are stumbling across your cheekbones as you run and then the streetlamp darkens and your insides collapse as the last of the cool midnight breath in you disappears.

    You stop.

    A woman walks by.

    Long dress, high heels. That is all you remember as you stand there on the sidewalk, holding on to the streetlamp for support. It is smooth and dark and wet against your warmth. You press your now-cold hand to your cheek, your neck, your lips. You linger in the cold. You thank the silence. You breathe in—cool wetness of night inflating your insides once again—and walk on. Your hands tremble. Everything trembles. But you’ve got the coolness of air, and it pulls you back.

    It pulls you back, and for now, that is enough.

    1. Bushkill

      I like the way you tie up the story in the last line. It’s finished, but not really. There is more to be said about what is troubling the MC. What fears are hiding behind the facade?

      It makes one wonder….

  22. Big Tastey

    I was on my way home from the Merry Mart with a carton of cigs and some milk for the kid. I had just gotten off from my late shift, and it was close to midnight as I walked down the darkened streets of the borough. Tired from my shift, I went into cruise control, walking along mechanically, until two cats fighting in an alley made me jump as I walked by. It put me on edge and then I started seeing and hearing stuff that wasn’t there. I heard a rattle coming from a dark spot up ahead and I thought for sure it was a snake, but it was just another cat poking through some garbage. Then I heard a noise that froze my heart. It was the click-clack of stilettoes on concrete.

    I should have turned and ran but I was in shock, not thinking straight. I was hoping it was just another cat but in my heart I knew who it was. I heard that same click-clack before for years, torturing me, filling me with dread every time I heard those damn stilettoes. I saw the shadow moving slowly, casual-like around the corner just ahead. And then she came into sight under the street lamp, but it couldn’t be her. She was in prison. I helped put her there for abuse and child endangerment. But there she was, bigger than life, with a cold smile on her lips. She stared at me and she smiled even larger, as if this was just a game, and I could see the cruelty and hatred in her eyes.

    “You’re up awfully late.” She said.

    Her voice grated at me. I felt myself shriveling up inside. It had taken so much strength to testify against her in court. I didn’t know if I had any of that strength left.

    “You’re in prison.” I said.

    She laughed at me and stepped closer. She showed me her hand. In it was a handgun. I don’t know what kind it was. I’ve never owned a gun.

    “Does it look like I’m in prison?” she said.

    “Then, how?”

    “I broke out. Bill, where’s our son?” Where’s Jeffrey?”

    “No, you never cared for him. You just want him because you know that hurting him is the only way that you can hurt me.”

    She pointed the gun at me.

    “Then I guess I don’t need you. I can find him on my own.” She said.

    She pulled the trigger. Some part of me heard cats as they ran away as fast as they could. I staggered from the blow. It felt like a sledgehammer had hit me in my gut.

    “You can’t hurt me anymore. And I won’t let you hurt Jeffrey either.”

    I staggered forward and she pulled the trigger again, hitting me in the leg, but I got a hand on the gun and I used my strength to slowly turn it towards her.

    “Jeffrey deserves better.” I said.

    I pulled the trigger and wept.

    1. writer_sk

      Wow, I really thought your take on the prompt was well executed. Specifically, it felt like a real situation and the feelings associated with that came through.

      One suggestion- don’t be afraid to break up the last sentences so that it reads as a quick action: “Knowing my ex-wife’s intentions were pure evil, I lunged forward to grab for the gun. I was able to overpower and shoot her dead as tears streamed down my face.

      “Jeffery deserves better,” I said. Or something. Hope you’re ok with my suggesting that. I enjoyed your story.

  23. JWNYC

    The Shadow loomed before me, but there was no source of it to be seen. Even at night, the row of lampposts and the lights from the buildings up ahead lit the sidewalk enough to reveal that there was nothing there! My skin crawled with the strangeness of it and I quickly whirled around, intending to run as fast as I could, in the opposite direction. I nearly lost my balance, as I suddenly came up short; before me was a new and more terrible horror–total blackness! Where there had been buildings and pathways, cars and streets, all of the normal trappings of my reality, there was now…nothing.

    It was not a flat darkness, like coming face to face with a brick wall. It had an immeasurable depth that seemed to be sucking me forward. It was as if the darkness itself was an unseen spider, and I–trapped its invisible web–had become its prey. It reeled me in, ever so slowly. The sound that had caught my attention moments before rose to a painful crescendo. But, it was not coming from the blackness–it was coming from behind me!.

    I don’t know how I broke free, but I suddenly launched myself into the air–flying away from the darkness and landing not far from the Shadow. Propped up on my elbows, I tried to see the source of the object that was blocking the light. As before, there was none to be seen. As I studied the Shadow, it began to look increasingly like the profile of someone–or something–with a large, protruding brow and a long, hawkish nose. I was big and it was ugly, and it couldn’t possibly be human! I remained there on the ground, mindlessly awaiting the arrival of what I was sure would be the last thing that I would ever see.

    Then, I turned my head cautiously towards the darkness–it had changed to ashen gray, like the tint of a frosted window. It was still there, waiting for me–as I waited for my doom. On the verge of insanity, I regarded the futility of my situation, and I threw back my head and began to laugh madly.

    I soon learned why I could not see the thing that had made the Shadow; it was not down the street in front of me, it was above me–perched on the top of the lamp post! With the clatter of stony wings, a huge Gargoyle descended beside me. It hunched over, as Gargoyles often do, staring straight ahead as if it was unaware of my presence. Then it spoke, in a gravelly voice.

    “What are you laughing at, my little friend?” it asked casually.

    Exhausted from so much terror, I shrugged and replied, “Life sucks, doesn’t it?”

    Low, rumbling ‘laughter’ issued from deep inside its throat. Its seemly permanent scowl transformed into a frightening toothy grin.

    “If you mean the vortex,” it said thoughtfully, “then you are right.” “Why,” it continued, “do you choose to remain in the path of the vortex? Do you not know that it will swallow you whole, at any moment?”

    I did not reply. I could not bring myself to accept my situation, and I was anticipating waking up from this nightmare as soon as I could.

    The Gargoyle rose to its feet, towering over me, and stretched out its enormous arms–as if to embrace me.
    “I would be happy to take you away from here, if you wish.” it said. “I get sort of lonely sometimes, and you’d make such a good…conversation.”

    Without another thought, aware of the slate-colored void creeping forward at my back, I climbed into the creatures arms. It cradled me like a baby, lifted me up, and held me close against its massive granite chest. Its two giant wings extended and flapped up and down, until we rose vertically–like a helicopter–into the air.

    As we left the Blackness behind us, and flew across a still starry night’s sky, I asked the Gargoyle where it was taking me.

    It chuckled, with a hint of menace, and replied, “to a very high building that is my home. I am planning to have you–for dinner!’

    The night became a blur of moving lights, streaming below me. A bitter chill in the air numbed my body, and my mind. A shrill, terrified wail seemed to encompass me, but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

    What happened next was not for me to know. Mercifully, I lost consciousness, and I was enveloped in the darkness, after all.

  24. TisIJustAGuy

    A smile plays on my lips as I make my way down the street. Could you blame me, it was Friday after all. These past few weeks had been increasingly stressful, my workload seems to increase every day, and my new urges don’t help much either, but this little dive I found recently, and the women I meet there, have done wonders for relieving that stress. “Let’s just hope my wife doesn’t find out.” I mused under my breath. Of course, I feel bad about the things I do, but ultimately what I do helps us, if I’m less stressed I can be a better husband, right? These thoughts dance and poke at my mind the closer I get to my newfound haunt, but all that changes when she crosses my path. A petite young woman, probably no older than 21, with beautiful, long brown hair and criminally long legs. I straighten up and do my best to look more confident. Hopefully, the night would treat me well once again. I see her turn the corner under the streetlight, it seems we’re heading in the same direction, how lucky for me.

    I glance toward the streetlight and notice movement out of the corner of my eye. Turning sharply I scan the surrounding area but can find no signs of any person. “Must have been a dog or just a trick of the shadows.” I begin on my way again heading to the corner with the streetlight. That streetlight, a shining beacon in the night, its light spills out down the street, illuminating the area, almost reaching all the way to where I was standing. As I approach the edge of light it begins to evade me, always staying a step or two in front of me.“I’m just imaging it, the product of a troubled mind.” I say to reassure myself more than anything else. Once again I look up and focus on the actual streetlight before me, in some desperate attempt to create an anchor for myself, and that is when I finally realize, I’m going nowhere. Sweat now forming on my brow, I speed up my pace, trying to hurry towards my glowing anchor. And still this light evades me, I break into a full sprint now trying to escape this dark prison surrounding me when my elusive light gets extinguished, by a dark, oppressive shadow, a vaguely man-shaped specter that has intruded upon my luminous guide.

    I freeze, this looming figure mastering my vision and pulling my eyes to his. Oh god those paradoxical orbs, those eyes filled with an icy fire, a blazing blizzard that threatens to swallow me whole if I rest my vision upon it any longer. I turn to escape this monolithic shadow and a solitary bloodcurdling peal of laughter follows me, snapping at my heels and threatening to flatten me if I don’t move as fast as feet will carry me. My plan of a hot-footed escape is crushed underneath the shadow of that figure once again as my eyes fall upon an identical scene. A crushing cloaked figure separating me from my guiding beacon. My once friendly light now betraying me as the figure looks even more menacing against the streetlight’s glow. I turn to escape in the opposite direction, but once again the figure permeates my vision. Now frozen by those eyes again, I stand watching this specter approach. Closer and closer he draws filling me with an intense feeling of dread and guilt.I can now make out more about this man, a long hooked nose perched between those paradoxical eyes and a long blood red scarf covering the rest of his visage. No, this is no man, this is a demon. A malicious fiend sent to torment me, those eyes speak of a hell not known by living men. That nose a horrific beak waiting to snap at my soul. And that scarf, a blood red tongue lashing out, trying to grasp me and drag me screaming into this devil’s grasp.

    However, this specter does not know, I am a demon too. I pull the straight razor from the inside pocket of my jacket and brandish it at the figure moving towards me and once again I pull my voice from my quivering bowels. “Don’t you dare come near me! I’ll cut you! I swear it!” I puff my chest and do my best to appear more confident than I actually am, I normally only use the razor on women, but tonight I can make an exception. To my surprise the shadow stopped, it regarded me with an amused curiosity like how one may observe a child, or small animal lashing out with vapid rage. Once again an oppressive, crushing peal of laughter escaped from the demon looming before me. Finally, the fiend spoke, a voice with the same oppressive quality of its owners laugh, but with a slippery insidious quality that almost numbed me to the danger in front of me.

    “Oh you’ll cut me will you.” The voice tunneled through my ears and pulled a response from my mind, and before I knew it my mouth was moving, “Yeah! I’ll slash you open.” The figure responding, “You’ll slash my throat and disfigure me will you? Gut me like an animal for slaughter?” My voice was once again powered by my thoughts but was somehow pulled from my throat by the shadow in front of me. “Yeah, I’ll bleed you out like-” The devil cut me off with a yell that carried an insidious triumph, “Like you did to all those women? Isn’t that right David Miller!” I was a passenger in my own mind now, with no control over the words spilling from my mouth, the horrible secret I’ve uttered to no individual ever, “Yeah! Like all those women. All those women I cut up and left for dead in the alleys of this city!” Dropping the razor my hands fly to my mouth as I am given control of my body once again. “Yes Mr.Miller, I know what you did to all those women. Did you think you could evade justice? Did you think I wouldn’t know? I have hunted you since the first one of your brutal killings, and now I’ll finally put an end to the Butcher’s reign of terror!”

    Tears now collected at the edges of my eyes as I began to plead with the horrible specter before me, “Please you don’t understand! I-I had to do it!” “You had to!” The demon responded, “You had to murder all those women, take all those mothers from their children? Take all those wives from their husbands?” Visions of my wife, my beloved Paula, began to flood my mind. Her sweet perfume she always wore, her long brown hair that was soft as silk, running my hands up her legs and her petite frame as she lies in bed next to me. “I did it for my wife!” I screamed at the shadow. “I did it so that I could protect her from myself! So I wouldn’t hurt her!” My wife is my whole world, and when my, urges, began I knew I had to spare her from the horrors that plagued my mind.”

    The demon, who had retrieved my razor, looked poised to strike, however, he faltered, regarding me with more surprise than I had ever seen in his all-consuming eyes. He discarded the razor before producing a silver pistol from his cloaked form. Pressing the gun to my forehead, he spoke again, his voice losing its previous hypnotic qualities, becoming almost, merciful, “Then take solace in this, your wife will no longer be in any danger.” He pulled the trigger and my life was over in a single flash of noise and light. The last thought going through my mind was the smiling face of my beautiful Paula. As I lay there dying the shadow melts back into the night, heading to bring retribution to another troubled mind.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You’re not the only one hooked. What a scary journey you have written. And to think in so few words you have described a hideous monster in such a way, I doubt it will leave my.memory.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      What a horrifying picture you have painted of this monster with so much beautiful detail and suspense. I also enjoyed the perspective you chose to tell this story and the slow reveal of the character’s background. Very good pacing.

      I think it would greatly improve the way that this story reads if you cleaned up the tenses in a few spots.

  25. ClutteredThoughts

    IT’S EVERYWHERE

    Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back. …

    You blink. It’s just a line of falling leaves, swirling in the autumn wind. You shake your head, chuckling at yourself, and continue walking. The tapping, you realize, is your heartbeat against your sensitive nerves.

    But it happens again, and again. An unlatched gate, shifting ever so slightly. A dark-colored bird swooping overheard, barely visible against the nighttime sky. You shiver, wondering what possessed you to go for a walk so late. The wind catches your hair and flings it in your eyes, and it looks as if a shadow is rushing you.

    You cry out and stop, throwing your hands in front of you. The tapping sound rises and the wind picks up. You’re only a few blocks from home. You start to run, and the shadows follow, always flickering at the edge of your view in every direction. They’re getting closer.

    Your porch light is on, bright as heaven. You stumble into the circle of light gratefully, but beyond the shadows are still approaching. They flit from object to object, and although you know it’s an illusion you can’t help but marvel at the complexity of their motions.

    In the light, your understanding comes back. You’d been made into a character again. With a smile at the starry sky, thanking the universe for the inspiration, you dig out your key, head inside, and start to write, a world and a future spilling out from your short experience.

    Outside, the shadows dance.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Gosh, if I had to go through this every week to write, I’d be as Looney as a hen. Descriptive power you use to set the scene and follow through is excellent. Tension is a perfect sync with your story

    2. J.Fujimaru

      Lovely. I particularly like the line about “your heartbeat against your sensitive nerves.” It definitely describes this kind of nighttime paranoia.

  26. Kerry Charlton

    WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE MINDS OF MEN?

    The weather, being dreadful that evening had chilled Margo to the bone as she made her way toward a small all night drug store located in a New York area, known as ’Hell’s Kitchen’.

    “How on earth did I manage this?’ she thought. Earlier that evening she had received a call from an old classmate down on her luck, pleading for help. Of course she went there to a third floor walk up and found Susan with a bad care of flu, working her way toward pneumonia. And that was why she was in the cold on a scary night.

    She approached a dark alley and hesitated. At the end, Susan had told her was a small drug store. She plunged ahead, her heart beating fast with fear as she noticed a dark shadow creaking across the filthy alley brick pathway. She caught herself from screaming as she stood her ground for a moment. The shadow continued to come toward her, having climbed both narrow stucco walls on either side.

    ‘It wants me to cry, to flee but I won’t,‘ she whispered to herself as she raised her umbrella , ready to swing. The shadow leaped from the wall and wrapped her in total darkness. She swung the umbrella with all her might, but the evil caught it and wrapped itself across her delicate frame. Still she struggled to free herself, when she heard a man’s voice,

    “Hold on, hold on, I mean no harm.”

    She looked and saw nothing but the retreating shadow. “Then why did you grab me?”

    Suddenly a form appeared before her. As it focused, she saw a man around thirty, dressed to the nine’s with a friendly smile.

    “Little lady, I came to help. At the other end of the alley, three thugs wait to do you harm,. Stay here, I’ll be right back..

    He walked into a cloak of darkness as it wrapped around him. The shadow jumped into the wall and traveled to the opposite end of the alley at high speed. Margo could here scuffles and poundings coming from the far end of the alley. Soon she heard nothing, except footsteps walking toward her and the man then appeared again,

    “Are you all right?’”

    “Yes thanks to you, my name is Margo Lane.”

    “A beautiful name for a beautiful lady, I‘m Lamont Cranston.”

    “Can you help me sir? I need medicine for a friend of mine who’s ill and lives a few blocks away.”

    “Certainly, wait just a moment.”

    He whispered into a strange looking device he had pulled from his pocket. Shortly, a black limo entered the alley,

    “I don’t believe I should.”

    “I fight evil every day, little lady, I will help you. Please get in the car, there s a good pharmacy about a mile away. It won’t take but a minute to get there.”

    With that, she climbed in the limo. An hour later, Lamont and Margo left the walkup of her friend, Susan . Lamont had made arrangements for a nurse to come the next morning to help Susan recover. The limo made it’s way to Margo’s apartment.

    She held on to him as she profusely thanked him . They said goodbye at her doorstep as he kissed her on the cheek.

    “Tomorrow, I’ll take you to lunch if I may.“

    “I’ll think about it Mr. Cranston if it’s alright. Will you call in the morning?”

    “First names only, Margo, call you at nine.”.

    1. TisIJustAGuy

      Glad I’m not the only one who thought of The Shadow when I read this prompt. I took a bit of a different approach and once I get it into a decent state I’ll share it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Moirai, drop down to Beebles response to get the back story on the Shadow. As far as wealthy, I would say in half the cases, it rhymes with devious if not worse. I have had clients who were worth many millions, whom.i would trust my life to and an equal amount that don’t deserve anyone’s trust. They are no different than the rest of us.

    2. Beebles

      Naturally I am drawn to your story Kerry – well who wouldn’t be faced with a sequence of post-medieval riverfront sequences from a city centre excavation in Belfast. I don’t know about Cranston, but I would watch that Susan – rendez-vous in the middle of the night… then tells her ‘friend’ there is a drug store down a dark alley where three thugs lie in wait (which there isn’t as Cranston takes her to another a mile away – or is there??) … suspicious all round if you ask me. Great read once again. You are in your element here Kerry!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Beebles, Lamont Cranston Is the Shadow. A wealthy man about town who in the Orient found the secret to clouding man’s minds so they can not see him. This is the introduction how he meets his true love, who is the only person on Earth that knows he is Lamont Cranston.
        The Shadow was born as a radio mystery and lasted on the air for 17 years. So who broadcast as the first Shadow? Well, none other than Orson Wells. So there’s the background.

    3. Critique

      An entertaining read. I thought Margo was a naive – her friend sending her on a suspicious trip down a dark alley for starters – but that ramps up the tension in the story! I didn’t know about The Shadow and that Orson Wells was The Shadow at one time. Thanks for the history Kerry.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Critique, I had to have a little tension there as you mentioned and tried to figure out how to place the time back to 1940 but I was running out of word count. The strange box was authentic
        In the radio show he did have a wireless device he could use like a modern.phone.
        Of course Dick Tracy had a wrist phone he could use also. Little tricks from the 40’s to keep the shows interesting
        Can you imagine 17 years of radio drama.that would have to be close 680 different serial plots.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, a classic tale using a classic character written by a classic (classy?) contributor. Fantastic use of the prompt. My husband and I listen to Radio Classics when we travel, when I can change the dial from 50s music. He had a rock and roll band in college.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Whow Reatha, keep the 50’s on the radio. Glad you liked the introduction. I am toying with it as a first chapter to a real mystery but am still.batttling to get enough time to do it. You would think at my age, I would but then there is my HMW to take care of.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you, I wanted to introduce both characters like an opening chapter. I wanted to continue with a plot but thought with 600 radio shows, I probably would encroach somewhere Definitely film noir.

  27. chandra_wd_writer

    Rumors in Indian villages spread like wildfires; only they can’t be contained by firemen. I still remember that summer when I just turned thirteen. We were in our grandparents’ village for spending summer holidays. Thinking about that night makes my spine tingle even today. But like most teenage boys, I was adventurous and bordering on becoming rebellious.

    That summer the rumor was about an eight-foot giant whom a lot of villagers claimed they have sighted in the nights. Being a kid, I was scared, but at the same time, I wanted to see this giant. I thought I would have stories to tell my friends back in the city when I returned after summer holidays. It’s not often that we heard rumors like these in our city.

    One night the curious kid in me took over the scared kid in me, and I ventured alone into the village past midnight when my grandparents and my younger sister were deep asleep. The village was stretched for ten kilometers on both sides of the makeshift road. In the nights you would see silhouettes of houses against the moonlight from the clear village skies.

    The night I ventured was moonless, and it’s considered an evil night in villages. There weren’t many street lights, and it was almost like walking with your eyes closed.

    I carried a torchlight and a long iron rod that I picked up from leftover scraps at the construction site near the village’s bus stand. I slowly started walking towards the temple where villagers often mentioned seeing the giant. If it’s not for the giant, I was afraid some stray dogs would chase me to death. Dogs ruled the village in the night. You often hear cries of dogs in the nights from the fights between dog gangs.

    I reached the temple in fifteen minutes, and the streetlight tied to the tree in front of the temple lit the area just enough for the eyes to spot any movement. I took off my flip-flops, closed my eyes, and prayed to Lord Hanuman in the temple to give me the strength to face the giant if he appears. As I opened my eyes, I saw a huge shadow enveloping my small shadow from the back. My heart almost stopped beating, but my innocent trust in Lord Hanuman gave me the courage to turn back and face the giant.

    As I turned back, I saw no one there. The shadow disappeared. I searched for the traces of footprints in the dirt with my torchlight and found nothing. I found nothing but the small impressions of my flipflops. I thought the giant was scared away by Lord Hanuman, but I wish I hadn’t prayed. I wanted to see the giant. “How cruel Lord Hanuman was,” I thought.

    I started walking back home disappointedly. Did I see the shadow or I just imagined?

    I saw a faint silhouette of a man walking towards me in the distance. I was a kilometer away from my home. As he came closer, I realized it was my grandfather. He probably woke up in the middle of the night and found out I wasn’t there beside him. He knew I wanted to see the giant. I hugged him and started crying before he had a chance to scold me. He consoled me, and I told him I saw the shadow of the giant, but it disappeared immediately. I told him Lord Hanuman must have scared the giant away as I prayed to him.

    Next morning the news spread like wildfire that I saw the giant and Lord Hanuman scared the giant away. No one ever saw the giant after that night. I was happy as I had a story to tell even though I did not get a chance to fight the giant to death. Anyhow, I decided to add the fight to the story. Who would know? I still wonder if I ever saw the shadow or I just imagined.

    I never went to the village after that summer as my grandfather passed away that winter and my grandmother moved to live with us in the city. That’s how my summers in villages ended. I wish I had more stories to tell, but what stops me from creating those?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Me also. I love going back to my childhood to tell some of my stories and I enjoy reading others. You set the scene nicely and handled the tension smoothly.

    1. writer_sk

      Bravo, Chandra

      I especially enjoyed the setting for your story and could see the MC walking with his torchlight and metal pole.

      Look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

  28. rlk67

    It was a dark and stormy night.

    My strange, beagle-shaped animal had just removed his goggles after resting his triplane in the downstairs hangar. I ventured out into the eerie silence, only to stumble into the iced-over bird bath. Good grief. Why me?

    I continued through the mist more quickly, feeling my shoe punting something which felt like a football. Well, there’s a first for everything. I heard a thwacking noise. I shivered for just a moment. Think nice thoughts, like being with the little red-haired girl. I briefly smiled.

    Thwack! I froze. What was that…moving through the shadows? Oh, I don’t care if that stupid dog starves…I gotta get back and….thwack! I felt something sting my neck! A voice whispered to me.

    “Ooohhhh…I am so sorry…I thought you were…” I couldn’t believe it. What’s he doing out here now? And with his blanket, no less?

    “I’m finally trying to get a glimpse of…AHHHH! IT’S THE GREAT PUM…..!” Something rose in the air! We were trapped! The world stopped. Then I heard giggling. Like, dog and bird giggling.

    I threw down the bag of food. “Here, stupid dog. Help yourself.” I left my comrade who it seems passed out on the ground and covered him with his blanket. I starting walked back to the house as the sweet sounds of Beethoven filled the neighborhood.

    The rain fell in torrents.

  29. mydecember76

    Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back.

    But instead you run. You run toward the sound, but it refuses to reveal itself. Your heart beats a loud drumming and as the sound picks up the rhythm in your chest, your heart presses against it ready to burst. If only you could think, if only you could slow down and put your thoughts in order. But the sound is gaining on you and you run. All you can think is to run. Every breath brings pain to your lungs and your back groans in agony. You want to cry out, but your body won’t allow it. No one will hear it anyway, there is no one to help, but then how do you help yourself? It’s now banging away in your head as it becomes part of you. You have no power to fight it and, with your hands over your ears in a futile attempt to muffle the sound, you fall. Collapsing into the sound and the cavernous darkness it has promised.

    You come to at the feeling of a sharp pain in your arm and realize you are in an ambulance. Tears drip from your chin, and despite the half-hearted assurances from the paramedic, you know you will never again be ‘just fine’. That sound and the terrible feeling now live within you. Still unable to breathe, at the hospital you are told that you are ‘just having a panic attack’ and a sedative gives way, finally, to peace and you drift off into nothingness.

    1. ClutteredThoughts

      I wasn’t expecting that ending but my goodness I love this! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who went for a second-person approach as well.

  30. brookefischbeck

    I was 14. I was walking home from my friend, Taylor’s, house. It was the night after Halloween, and everyone in my street was still wishing it was. Candy wrappers lay littered on the street, and jack o lanterns still lay on houses doorsteps. I shivered. I was wearing my mom’s old purple jacket to try to defend myself from the bone chilling cold, which still managed to creep in from time to time.
    A streetlight flickered. I swallowed, determined not to feel scared, all by myself in the dark. If I was scared, then my brothers would be sure to detect it once I got home.
    My footsteps echoed around me, and the streetlight cast a shadow behind me.
    I noticed my shadow was large. Too large, for me. I was a short girl, not as tall as a full grown man. So why was my shadow so long? I picked up the pace and rounded the corner to my street.
    I turned around. The shadow wasn’t there. Icy fear seeped into my heart. This was too weird of a thing for my small town. So I ran, determined to reach home before whatever was playing a trick on me reached me. I stopped, paralyzed, when I saw the shadow standing in front of me.
    It’s thin, long arms reached down and grabbed my face. The second they did, I was freezing with cold.
    “Help!” I yelled, but I knew no one would come. “Help!” I said, weaker. Defeated.
    “Brooke.” It said my name. “Brooke, Welcome to my world.”
    “What?”
    “Welcome to my world.” It said, and that was the last thing I heard before the cold enveloped me and the nightmares began.

  31. Pete

    Four beers in and I cannot drown it out. Nothing drowns it out. Not the hair metal music on the jukebox, or the guys with hairy forearms talking sports. Not the smell of piss in the urinal. It only makes it worse.
    It’s been three months since I’ve…relapsed? The days aren’t so bad, when I stay busy at work and the numbers steal my attention. A few passing urges, fleeting thoughts, but otherwise, I’m able to function, to slide through. But something has triggered me. Maybe how the sleek shine of night takes the window, the glow of lights as the sun slides away and darkness falls that it tugs at me, threatens to swallow me from the inside out.

    People are useless. Homogeneous. Boring. The same girls fill the sidewalks with short skirts and tails dangling and phones. The same boys with togas over fitted jeans. Too much body spray. At least when I give in to the urges, I’m alive.

    Something revs within me. My hands tremble as I pull my hat low and take an alley in the back, fighting for breaths, wondering if my body can maintain this pace, the way my heart gears up, tilting my body like a chassis trying to contain a roaring engine. Then I hear it.

    A trickle in the dark. Quick, shallow breaths. A figure hunched near the dumpster. My breath catches, because how could it be this easy? Why is fate tempting me like this? I clench my drop point blade, relishing the way the handle feels in my fist. The cool air on my sweat.

    I edge closer. Towards the darkness, knowing I should turn and leave, join the drunken, oblivious kids strolling behind me. The ones with earbuds and apathy in their heads. But I hesitate, and…

    She curses, slumps against the wall. Something about her is different. I ease over, two steps and I’m overtop of her, my hat low, breathing her in. I close my eyes and listen…

    “Hey, I’m trying to pee, here.”

    A moon white face. Blood from her nose. Impossibly black hair. I set the knife behind my leg. She rocks back and forth and then she’s up, hopping twice and snapping her underwear at her waist.

    “What are you, anyway?”

    “What, am I?”

    “Yeah.” She looks directly at me. I’ve never been caught before. Noticed. She tilts, fearless, her hair tumbling to her shoulders, her raspy voice something of late mornings, sunshine, breakfast in bed. “Let me guess. Truck driver? No, um, oh, a serial killer, right? Yep, you nailed it.”

    I nod, my smile growing into a laugh.

    She wipes at her tattered dress. “Sorry, I needed some fresh air,” she says, speaking to me as though I’m someone to speak to. “I’m at this party with my sister. Super lame. I’m Jill, by the way.”

    Before I can blink, I blurt out, “Jim.”

    She nods, fishes a cigarette from her bra, sets it in her teeth then reaches in again. A lighter materializes. “Well Jim, do you make a habit of hanging out in dark alleyways?”

    “Yes.”

    “Oh right, serial killer, and all.”

    A spark lights her eyes. I slide the knife back in place. My heart slows. Jill the zombie takes a puff then spins away. She drifts out to the street, a plume of smoke following her like fog as she holds up the cigarette. “Well, I’ll be inside. Don’t go killing anyone, okay?”

    1. writer_sk

      Great work, Pete. The determination of the woman to not even entertain the possibility he could be a killer was handled with such flair, capturing the subtleties of as polite of an exchange a woman could have in an alley with a killer.

  32. Peggy Jo Farr

    Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back. Your curiosity is peaking between the sound and the shadow. Augh! A black cat with a rat caught in its jaw rounds the corner. Your heart racing and mind reeling, thank goodness it was only a cat. Stumbling around the corner you cross under a ladder and suddenly you wonder are you in the worst nightmare you have ever had or is this the reality of having one too many drinks Friday night at the bar?

  33. Arcanum

    Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back.

    “No.” I considered a second time to stay the course. “This is nothing more but a shadow. I was warned it would be a risky task but the pay’s good.” I smiled as I felt my thick pocket.
    The sound became a roar, bellowing towards my direction in protest.
    “F**k NO!”

    I bolted for the opposite direction, not wanting to argue with the creature in question. Whatever it was, it had made its point just as I have mine to escape. Then came the grumbling, accompanied by a heavy breathing rhythm. I surmised that it was galloping and I’d be overrun in seconds. But I whipped out my gun and turned to face my pursuer but it was gone before I could even aim. The lights, the shadows, the wind, all were still like it had always. All that moved was my trembling body and of course the cold sweat that I had to try my best to ignore. I looked above and below just to be sure and to my relief it wasn’t there.

    I held this thick wad of cash in front of me and I swore from this night to never again do errands for that man who lived atop the hill.

  34. AudsOrEvens

    Motherf——!

    John, my husband, slammed his open palm on the dash repeatedly. Normally cool and calm, lately, he’s been incredibly short. Like now. He’s angry. I told him to get gas back in Lovelock. He knows everything though. Now, here we are stranded under some rocky bluff on I-80 between there and Reno. It’s almost midnight.

    “I saw signs for a damn Flying J a few miles up the road.” he fumed, holding his forehead in his hand. “Sit tight and I’ll go get us just enough gas to roll in and get a room or something.” John unbuckled and grabbed an empty SoBe bottle from the trash heap that used to be the back seat.

    “What are you going to do with that,” I protested. “get enough gas to pretend to start the engine?”

    John stared at me for longer than a second. His usual witty comeback made no appearance. Perhaps he was too tired to think of anything. He got out of the car with his stupid bottle and slammed the door behind him. I was alone. I rolled my eyes. What an asshole.

    An hour passed. Then another. I shot him a text that went unanswered. A call went to voicemail. Worry crept in, but I convinced myself that he was safe; that I was safe. He’s probably just now on his way back. As I sat there, I contemplated the nothingness around me. I was amazed by how much there wasn’t. So many stars. No sign of habitation except for the single street lamp about 100 feet up the road. Its eerie yellow glow drowned out by the unnatural blackness.

    I was in between sleep and wakefulness when I heard a thud on the roof of the car. I listened intently. Nothing. All I could see outside were the stars in the sky and the street lamp in the distance. Minutes passed without another sound. It had to be nothing. I reclined my chair and began to doze off again.

    Thud.

    My heart raced as I woke with a start this time. Though it still appeared to be nothing, I got out of the car to investigate the noise. The darkness of the night made it impossible to see anything. As I looked toward the yellow glow of the street lamp, I could barely make out a figure standing beneath it. I blinked. My brain was playing tricks on me. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared. I got back in the car and called John. No answer.

    Thud thud thud!

    I startled. It was morning. The sun was mostly up. I had fallen asleep without being aware of it. Instead of coming from the roof, these thuds came from the car door this time. It was a cop. He was knocking on the window. I felt disoriented as I rolled it down. Where is John? I thought.

    “Ma’am,” he strained. “I need you to get out of the car and follow me.” The piercing seriousness of his voice told me something was very wrong.

    I opened the door and stepped out into the open air. The cop grimaced as he helped me out.

    “Look straight at the cruiser and nowhere else. Get in and wait.” I looked right at the cop car as directed. Panic came over me. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as I walked towards, and got into, the cruiser. I waited for him. My curiosity overtook me. I looked.

    There was John. His decapitated body dangled from the rocky bluff we were parked beneath. Large drops of blood collected at his neck-stump, then, fell onto the roof of my car.

    I screamed.

  35. RafTriesToWrite

    October 31st, 23:58

    It was bright here in our town’s park for a midnight, but no trick-or-treaters in sight. I can already feel the winter breeze oozing its way in my trench coat. I see leaves spread across the park like colored pencil shavings, the streets dicing our town into unfair portions and the trees mid-way shaven into baldness.

    Along across the intersection, near an alley I saw a shadow disappearing into the darkness. Though it was only for a split second my sharp eyes still saw that shadow, but it may be just some random cat crawling its way into its next meal. I walked along faster, not dreading the fact that I chose to walk from my girlfriend’s house than to just take an uber home.

    As I crossed the intersection and made my way to that same alley, I started to hear this sound – this faint clanging sound. It made me stop and look around. The place was still lit up by the bright street lights, yet it’s making my heart race faster than the time I was sky diving with my best friend last month. I took a deep breath and continued my walk.

    After 4 steps, a shadow made its way up at the street light, gripping the light bulb and crashing it. My eyes widen at the sight of the man-less shadow, I consider going back but as I looked behind me, it was pitch black there. Even the street light across the street was not working.

    “W-what’s happening?” I breathed.

    Frightened, I crashed to the ground butt first. The shadow appearing again on the next street light in front of me, I force my body to get up but the fear of dying was not letting me control my body properly. Why did I think that I would die? I don’t know. I keep backing up as the shadow slithers its way onto the last street lamp that I’m on.

    The shadow spiralled its way into the light bulb, covering me in darkness. As I hear the last light bulb being broken, I screamed out of pure fear.

    I hugged my knees, covered my head inside my knees like a cocoon and started crying like a baby. A few moments, something touched my shoulder. I screamed and backed away from whatever was touching me.

    “¿Yddub thgirla uoy era” This guy said. It was bright and sunny, kinda like mid-day. What just happened? Did I really took that long to cry?

    “I’m sorry what?” I asked.

    “¿Ereh morf uoy era” The guy spoke again. Okay I’m freaking out, I can’t understand him. I’m still in the same spot, but something’s different. I dismissed the guy and looked around me. The park, the lights, the sun, the people walking, the words on the stores… It doesn’t make sense, everything was reversed!

    But where’s my shadow?

  36. cosi van tutte

    I don’t know what I’m doing out here in the middle of the night. I don’t. I just don’t. I’d like to say someone tricked me into a really stupid dare, but nope.

    This freak of madness was purely voluntary.

    I decided, “Hey! It’s dark as a tomb outside. Why not go for a walk?

    I guess it seemed like a good idea because it was kind of balmy out and I was feeling hyper. I don’t know.

    Then, of course, this cold, damp mist came sidling in.

    It sure isn’t balmy anymore.

    I’m probably going to get mugged or pneumonia. Those are my only two options. I’m sure of it.

    Oh, look. I’m walking past the decrepit, poorly cared for, possibly haunted graveyard.
    ……

    Gaaaaah! Why did I take that left turn?

    Wait. What is that sound?

    It sounds like…a…heartbeat? Oh, it’s probably me. My heart is pounding pretty hard, but…

    It sounds like it’s behind me.

    I close my eyes and try to visualize where the heart is located in the human body. Is it kind of in between the front and the back?

    I hear heavy breathing.

    Again, probably me. I am breathing pretty hard.

    I’ll just walk a little faster.

    Just in case.

    The heavily breathing whatever keeps up with me. So, walking a little faster obviously isn’t going to cut it.

    I run like mad.

    The breathing behind me disappears.

    I keep running.

    Just in case.

    With just a few long strides, I’ll leave the cemetery far behind me. Probably about five long strides should do it.

    One.

    Two.

    Three.

    Four.

    A black shadow spills out of the nearest lamp post’s light bulb.

    I don’t know what that’s all about, but I sure don’t want to face it. I turn around to run in the opposite direction.

    Yes, that will take me past the cemetery again, but come on! Cemetery versus oozy black shadow? Cemetery wins that round.

    A hand grabs my shoulders and forces me to stop.

    “Please don’t leave.” It’s a man’s voice. He sounds like he’s trying over-hard to be charming. I wonder if that is difficult for him. “I would like you to stay for dinner.”

    His hot breath steams up my neck.

    There are so many clever things I want to say. So many things I want to do.

    But I can’t speak.

    I can’t move.

    And his mouth is on my neck.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Definitely vampire. Loved the MC’s inner thoughts. Seems everyone’s prompt, some ome is really hurting or in trouble. Should we call in Mighty Mouse?

  37. Lex Noël

    “Hello?” the sound of my own voice sends chills down my spine. The dimly lit corner is still and quiet. When will I ever learn? My dad would kill me if he knew how far I parked my car from the party. I always give him a hard time, but time and time again I’m on edge as I walk through the darkness, alone, to my car.

    The damp October air clings to my neck and seeps through my clothes. You always feel just the slightest bit moist in the Midwest, like you’ve stood fully dressed too close to a shower. I hate it.

    I pick up my speed, not the easiest thing to do in gaudy heels, and grab my keys out of my jacket pocket. To click or not to click? If I hit the unlock button now, it gives any potential psychos out there watching me time to get into the car before I do. If I wait too long, they could sneak up behind me while I’m fiddling with the door. Ugh. I swear, from now on, I’m going to listen to my dad and park closer to the house.

    My car is across the street, just past the street light. Thirty feet and I’ll be safely inside. Thank God. I’ve always hated this part of town. Most of it is dark and abandoned. Perfect place for an underage party, or to be murdered. When you’re seventeen, you don’t really consider the latter until you’re walking through a dark street alone at three in the morning.

    Click. Click. Click.

    I freeze. I’m in the middle of the glowing light, exposed. I can’t see beyond its rim, but anyone in the darkness can sure as h3ll see me.

    “Who’s there,” I hiss just above a whisper. I can’t get myself to speak any louder. I’ll freak myself out even more.

    Click. Click. Click.

    The sound is close. Right behind me. I curl my fingers around my sharpest key and make a break for it. I blaze out from under the light towards my car. I hit the unlock button, but my car does nothing. No lights, no sound. What the h3ll? I yank furiously at the handle.

    Click. Click. Click.

    “Come on!” I cry. Wait. I don’t have tinted windows.

    This isn’t my car.

    I start pressing my unlock button like a mad woman. My car has to be close. How could I have forgotten where I parked it? I hit the security button. Thank God! Just ahead of me, my car alarm blares, sending bright red light into the darkness. I run towards my car as fast as my heeled feet can carry me. I’m inches away from the door when I feel an icy cold hand clamp down on the back of my neck.

    “No!” I scream as I whirl around, sharp key at the ready.

    “I hope you’ve learned your lesson, Sarah,” the man’s voice teases. Relief and rage boil through my chest as I lower the key.

    “I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life,” I pant, trying to calm down my breathing. “Sorry, dad.”

  38. Russ

    Ah, it was a cold night. My flesh was covered in goosebumps. My eyes were dried up. My feet were numb in my shoes. My hands were numb. But my heart was pumping. My heart was pumping alright, especially after this sighting began.

    It had just hit midnight. The clock in the air was banging. I was walking at a brisk pace down the street. It was strangely empty. Almost like something out of the Twighlight Zone. It had an eerie feeling. I approached a corner of a street.

    I had been hearing a strange clicking noise while walking, but I didn’t mind it until it got louder. The hair stood on my neck as I noticed it. I stopped walking.

    I was near a corner of a street, alongside a tall brick building. From around the corner of the building, I saw a shadow due to the streetlight overhead. The shadow creeped up along the pavement. It moved closer. The clicking grew louder. I backed up a few steps as the shadow approached me. The cause of the shadow then appeared. It was a man in a wolf mask. The clicking noise was still coming from a place I did not know. The man was in a mask and well dressed. He was in a suit. He walked towards me, and I looked at him. He didn’t look at me. I looked at the mask’s eyes, and they were moving around. It was the most realistic mask I had ever seen. The eyes paused on me for a moment, a wild, eerie look, and then looked away.

    But then I saw something moving behind him, something I hadn’t noticed before. The man had a leash in his hand, and attached to the leash was a hairless, pink, little man. Coming from the little man’s mouth was the clicking noise. Every step or two it would open its mouth, and a strange click sound would come.

    The man with the mask holding onto the leash walked by, hardly acknowledging me.

    After seeing that little, pink man, I knew for some reason that the wolf mask wasn’t a mask at all.

    I stared at them as they went. The wolfman was looking around, moving his head quickly. The little, pink man was trailing along.

    They turned a corner and went out of sight. The clicking sound became fainter and fainter, and it soon disappeared. I stood there in the night, even after the sound of the two were long gone.

    1. writer_sk

      Russ-

      How did I miss this? Little hairless clicking pink man! Eeeek. Chock full of creativity.

      The short sentences at the beginning are effective.

      Creeptastic

  39. jhowe

    Desert Blossom

    Sahara Bloom tugged on the spaghetti straps of her camisole top to minimize her cleavage. A rare desert flower, her father had said about her when he wasn’t drinking. Her breath caught when the shadow on the street moved toward her. What she lacks in thinness she makes up for in girth, he said when he was drinking, at least during her awkward years.

    Sahara was no longer awkward. Her spike heels clacked as she picked up her pace, the footfalls behind her advancing with her. She whirled and caught sight of a figure dodge behind a dumpster. She screamed when the streetlight above her popped and grew dark. She ran, misjudged a curb and went down, her hands and knees scraping painfully on the asphalt. She picked herself up, sobbing, blood trickling down her legs.

    Her street name was Legs Benedict. Her father gave it to her, said it helped her stand out among the prettier girls, girls with more pizazz. The shadow on the street was no longer there. When she started to hurry again, her father stood in front of her, arms folded, rage in his eyes.

    “What the hell are you doing here?” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward him. “There’s not a customer in sight.”

    “I, I was taking a shortcut.” She flinched as he raised his hand and then lowered it.

    He eyed her bloodied knees. “Get back to the house and get cleaned up,” he snarled. “You look like sh!t.”

    “Yes, Father.”

    “You’ll be working a double tonight.” His lips curled and his eyes narrowed. “Or a triple if you have to.”

    A man, homeless by the look of him ran toward them waving a hand gun. Sahara recognized him as the follower by his soiled trench coat. A swift kick from her father sent the man sprawling, the gun clattering to the pavement. Sahara quickly picked it up, aimed and fired. Her father looked down at the dying man and sighed.

    “Give me the gun, baby.” He held out his hand.

    “Start walking,” she said, pointing, her hands trembling violently. A siren sounded in the distance.

    “You’ll go to prison,” he said. The siren, joined by another grew louder. Her father shook his head, turned and started walking. Sahara pointed the gun at his retreating back but lowered it. When the officers arrived with guns drawn, shouting orders, Sahara raised her gun arm and smiled when the first bullet ripped through her.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      This is a very exciting story with well written action. I agree with Raf and Moirai; a back story will help explain the motivation behind your characters. They make such drastic decisions and I want to know why! It could just be a few sentences interspersed among the action sequences. Otherwise the flow and pacing were great.

  40. MoiraiTQ

    Well, this was the prompt I was waiting for. Will be part of my novel.
    ++++++++++++++
    The tingling was undeniable. Topher felt it before he saw it. Even with the few seconds of advanced warning, he was still chilled when the shadow appeared. The way it cut through the night, he thought he actually saw the darkness split open. He stepped into the nearest doorway and waited.

    Topher didn’t have to wait long before the shadow fully emerged into the street. Once that happened, it became the Shadowmaker, one of the most malevolent of all creatures. Normal human beings weren’t aware of the Shadowmaker. It was up to Topher and his fellow Beholders to ensure the safety of Earth. All told, there are about 150 Beholders on Earth at one time and all are able to communicate telepathically.

    This particular Shadowmaker was one of the more powerful creatures that Topher had encountered in a long time. Topher started his chant to turn himself into a shadow. This way he and the Shadowmaker won’t be as apparent to any humans who may be on the street. He stepped out of the doorway and walked quietly up to the Shadowmaker. The cold radiated from it like the heavy mist of Niagara Falls. Topher performed the draping chant as additional protection from the creature. They both stopped about four feet from each other.

    “You are a strong Beholder. It won’t be easy to kill you.” The voice alone would freeze a human’s blood.

    Topher would need assistance from another Beholder to finish it off. With a slight flourish and a few words, he cast the retreat spell onto the Shadowmaker. This caused it to fall back a few steps. It was important for Topher to keep the spell going. In between chants, he sent a help request to the nearest other Beholders who could get here quickly. Within seconds, Marza and Gayla appeared in shadow and draping mode. The three of them stood together and performed the retreat spell. It took their combined talents to force the Shadowmaker back into the shadow realm from which it came. They knew it wasn’t permanent, as it would be back. They just bought themselves some time.

  41. rlk67

    She might as well have been sending me to the guillotine. Where was this mysterious, unwritten contract dictating me to obey her mind-blowing commands? But I knew the consequences for any insubordination. I grabbed the large, black bag and trembled.

    The door itself had a personality. The gargoyle statue on top beckoned me to dare venture outside into the mist. The pointed knob would have demanded my blood had I not put on three sets of gloves. Do not touch the bag directly, my senses had screamed before I was unceremoniously entrusted with this bitter monstrosity. I glanced into the darkness and turned my face from the biting wind. In this world, suicide had its perks. I grunted. Someone would have to kill me first.

    My first creeping steps toward the end of the grim passage. My heart beat faster than it was created for, and very soon would be running on fumes. Ravens flew by at high speed. What was thy purpose of this gruesome exercise? She termed it ‘manhood’. I dare not pause to philosophize even for a quarter-second. I trudged on.

    Toward the final junction I felt that eerie sensation described in horror novels called, Something About To Happen. My wavy hair stood on end for once, and through the wavy branches I saw by the dim streetlight the place of deliverance. The bag was held at arm’s length lest I be cursed by its unhuman contents. I froze in place. That noise…I knew it well. It was getting louder…stronger…but it wasn’t time! I wanted so much to turn back, but certain torture would await!

    I took five deep breaths at once. This would impress my friends, I must remember how to do that. The roar came almost instantly! I mustn’t miss my chance! I tried to run, but my legs were glued together. I tried to jump out of my own skin…the roaring…coming…he’s coming…

    The most vile creature towered over me…his think brown hands waving to the midnight congregation. And then he saw me. I was paralyzed. He approached with amazing agility. Tthat hand came down over mine, and mercifully whisked away the bag. He turned and ran. My ears burned from the roar, and the creature disappeared.

    My body was awakened, and my legs took my back through the awful fog to sanctuary. I closed the door behind. I glanced up. She was staring and nodding slowly. I collapsed into my own fog.

    *********
    “Wake up, dear. It’s time for school, my dear fourth grader.” My mom was too cheery in the morning.

    I was sweating. Oh, it was all just a dream. I exhaled deeply. But then mom came back into the room.

    “See?” she said with a smirk. “Taking out the trash last night for the first time wasn’t so bad, was it?”

    1. GrahamLewis

      Glad to see that someone else took the lighthearted approach. I’m almost tempted to do a thriller just because, even though that was what I was consciously avoiding.

  42. GrahamLewis

    A WHIRL OF RUSTLES AND SQUEAKS

    I was out too late. Halloween curfew was 10, and my friends with the same curfew went home long ago. In small town 1950s our parents saw no need to follow along, and we would have been mortified if they had. They trusted us and the town, usually wisely. But this time I stayed out late and got lost on the other side of town. The other side of the tracks. My mother would kill me, if I were lucky enough to get home alive. A breeze came up and I shivered; my thin skeleton costume did little to keep out the late night October chill, and I had ignored mom’s suggestion of a jacket because, duh, the costume would be covered. For the same reason I left my glasses home. Who ever heard of a skull wearing them?

    I might have known where I was in daylight, with glasses, but at night, under scattered streetlights and the autumn half-moon, with blurred vision, I had no idea. I could make out the occasional street sign, but recognized no names. At 8 years old, the only town map I knew was in my head, and it didn’t reach this far. In the distance a blurred cluster of lights marked downtown, where I could get oriented. Several dark blocks away.

    Each block had a streetlight at each end and one in the middle. Each light was a cone of safety, from which I dashed to the next, through a frightening well of darkness. Almost home, approaching the next-to-last streetlight, in the middle of the block, at the head of an alley, I heard a rhythmic creaking overhead. I froze. An indistinct shadow played across the sidewalk in front of me, back-and-forth, back-and-forth. I stepped back into the alley, and a sudden scurry from behind made me drop my treat bag. A dark blur rushed past my feet into the cone of light, where a shadow dropped down and swooped it up in whirl of rustles and squeaks.

    I ran past and didn’t stop until I got home. Mom was so surprised by my gasping fear that she forgot to be irritated. And I was so terrified that it wasn’t until the next day I realized the shadow from the above must have been an owl resting on the powerline, and the blur underfoot a startled and unfortunate rat.

    But all was not lost. When I went back the next morning I found that the rat’s brethren had made short and messy work of my dropped Halloween treats. And mom decided that was punishment enough.

  43. Pete

    It’s close to midnight, something evil’s lurking from the dark. Under the moonlight, you see a sight that almost stops your heart. You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before you make it. You start to freeze, as horror looks you right between your eyes. You’re paralyzed…

    Wait, sorry, I think this has already been written. Oh yeah,

    ‘Cause this is thriller. Thriller Night!

  44. A. J. Kidding

    I haven’t slept for 28 hours now, and I knew that sleep deprivation had started playing tricks on me. Walking home in this freezing weather didn’t wake me up, in fact it made me more drowsy while giving me an occasional “photo hallucination flash” as I liked to call this strange phenomenon. I continued walking. It was the middle of the night, all I could think of was my bed… and then it happened.

    An eery strangeness, that made me feel a glimpse of unexplained fear. Something was here… that hiss in my ears… Oh God, what was that? I stopped dead in my tracks, fully awake now, knowing that I am not imagining things, and started listening again.

    Cold, dead silence.

    The only thing that could be considered “alive” was the light beam coming from the street lamp above me. I didn’t know what to do, and then I saw it. Void space, a partial darkness made half of the light beam… nonexistent. My fear. My fear was coming for me!!! I turned around and prepared to run but just as I was about to make my first step, the hissing in my ears started again, louder, angrier, possessing me, until I screamed my heart out… the hissing became a word.

    “…resssssst…..”

    “What?” I gawked with a combination of horror and the inability to comprehend my situation.

    I turned around and it was right there, just a step away from the lamp-lit area. This… twisted dark thing, it was like a person tied in a straight jacket, except it was wrapped in its own skin… it shivered every other moment, as if seizuring with a bone crackling noise every time it contorted. What would resemble its head, didn’t have any eyes or a mouth, but beneath its skin mask, I could see parts moving. I was frozen with gripping fear.

    “…sssssleeeeeeep…”

    The creature said, and slid towards me. Now, as it was only a few inches away from my face, I had a physical sensation, a premonition even, that this thing wanted to consume me.

    “N….NO!” I yelled with all the momentary strength I could muster, and the thing flinched back and forth in the blink of an eye. Its seazuring posture movements stopped. The skin where its mouth should be, started ripping sideways slowly, revealing a number and size of teeth I have not seen in an animal before. Its neck, elongating with the same speed of its opening maw, now towered above me, as if preparing to bite off the top of my skull; no, no, no…. I fell on one knee… The presence of this creature made me want to surrender, while wallowing in grief I’ve never felt before… I heard its last hiss, preparing to skewer me from above;

    I bit my lip hard. I clinched every muscle in my body. I brought my fist from my waist, towards the heavens and I jumped up with everything I had!

    My fist went through that things open mouth, straight out of the back of its head; it screeched agonizingly, and slithered back a few steps; those dark feelings that gripped me a moment ago were no more, and now I knew I had the upper hand I made a step to this black flesh thing. Some of the teeth tore some flesh off my fist, but I didn’t feel the pain. This thing was evil. I had to finish it off! It was trying to slide away from the lit area, as to escape in the shadows but I jumped on top of it, and started roaring and bashing it with both of my fists like a silverback fighting for its territory.

    “One more time…” I charged up my hands for a final blow, and when I opened my eyes…

    Nothing! Where did it go? My hand… it wasn’t injured. I was just kneeling down, and nothing was wrong with me. While I was gathering what just happened, I couldn’t decide wheater I was more shocked by what I saw or by the fact that it could have been a day.. a living night dream…

    I got up and continued walking to my apartment building. No irregularities, no supernatural flashes anymore. Got through the entrance. I couldn’t feel the elevator traveling for five floors…

    “What the hell was that?” I said to myself out loud, and pulled out a bundle of keys from my back pocket. Home sweet home. I locked the door, and proceeded to take my clothes off in front of the bed. The fatigue from the previous work shift had finally settled in, and I slammed face down on the pillow, exhaling all the tension. I closed my eyes… then I heard it:

    “…sleeeeep…”

      1. A. J. Kidding

        Wow, I am truly humbled by all of your interest to this short story… I really didn’t think of a continuation, but if you all like it so much, I guess I can do part two.

        Stay tuned, more of “The Shadow” is coming soon.

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