The Shadows

by R.T. Allenson

I take a sip of my tea and relax in my bed; outside, the air was softly billowing, caressing the branches of the old tree leaning by my window. I hear the cats mewing and whining out in the garden and although these bring me a slight comfort, I knew this night would be the same – when the menacing shadows that inhabit my dreams will haunt me endlessly and ceaselessly through an ancient and forgotten wooded vale.

The strength of my eyes fail and the darkness takes me once more to the realm of the sleeping. Instantly, I find myself standing in the middle of the same forest although this time, no shadows and frightful shades accost me.

Above me, the moon was glowing furiously. I surmise that this might be the reason there are no shadows about me, but a feeling of uneasiness passes over my like a cold breeze; the woods are silent – there was no scurrying or birds flapping in the air, only my breath and the beating of my heart resonates.

I take a step and immediately, the ground starts to shake. The trees too, it seems, shake violently as if a great wind had blown past them. There was no randomness in the shaking – they tore their branches and swayed their trunks towards me almost menacingly. I realize now that I am simply dreaming, yet it is as if something is preventing me from waking up.

I turn back and run, yet the sight of the trees are all around me. Eventually, I start crawling on the ground to avoid the branches that are trying to reach me. I feel someone breathing behind me and when I turn around, see a shadow hovering near me.

It had the shape of a man yet it was simply what it was – shadow. It seemed undisturbed by the shaking of the threes and although it had no face, it seemed to look at with a degree of pity and sadness.

‘What do you want?’ I ask meekly, rising slowly and turning to fully face the shade.

‘We were too late.’ It replied in a voice that sounded like a thousand voices speaking in unison.

‘Late for what?’

It inched closer to me and although its sheer appearance terrified me, I felt a sense of warmth in its presence.  ‘We have always come to your aid when you find yourself here in the forest.’

‘We have always rescued you and we always take you back to where you belong even when you run from us.’ It continued. ‘But no more, we were too late. We are sorry.’

‘What will happen to me now?’

It lifted its arm and pointed at the trees. ‘He is coming to get you now. We are sorry.’ In that instant, the shadow faded from my sight and the trees became eerily still.

‘No, come back!’ I tried to yell, but what escaped from my mouth was more of a chirp and not a scream. Suddenly, I felt myself falling to the ground almost as if something had knocked me down from behind, yet I felt no force throw me.

I turned to see my aggressor but I could not comprehend what it was. I could not understand if its contours were an actual shape or something from beyond that my simple eyes could not simply behold. I felt something invisible press me down to the ground, holding me in place and then finally, a sharp pain tearing through my neck as if a thousand needles were piercing my skin.

The invisible thing pulled and I felt a large part of my neck and shoulder tear off my body, painfully and quickly. I saw the pieces of my flesh floating in the air held by an invisible mouth before finally disappearing into a mess of incomprehensible shapes and configurations. As it pressed me down and lay its invisible mouth on the other side of my neck, I knew one thing was clear; I would not wake up tonight.