Flash Fiction: Shadow Man

I woke immobilised, the weight of sleep still pressing upon my limbs even though my eyes were wide open. I could see him there, crouched, leaning against the wall with his head bowed towards me. I had to scream. I had to move!

I shut my eyes in an effort to redistribute my panic, but when I opened them again he was gone – replaced with a box, my backpack, and an old shirt. I blinked and for a split second the image blurred back towards him, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was never here.

I relaxed and took stock of myself. The adrenaline overdose ebbed away, leaving me feeling strangely energised when I had just been paralysed. What a terrifying event. Was I so paranoid that the fear had frozen me? I curled my hand into a fist, just to reassure myself I could move my limbs again.

Where had it come from? I had gone so long without an incident, and while this one hadn’t led me to lashing out the fear was familiar. The trigger was more than the shadows under the dim light of dawn. It was the dream.

“It was a dream,” I said aloud, trying to seal my fears away with the words. I could tell the difference now, between a dream and a visit. This last one had been cobbled together – memories skewed with fears. It hadn’t been real.

Not like when I was younger…

Here under the covers, I felt safe enough to think about it. The man of shadows, who came to pull me apart and stitch me back together, so what I loved was what I hated and what I hated was what I loved. I didn’t know if he was a real demon or just something out of the darkness in my own mind, but once I grew up the visits stopped. I had not.

The visits messed me up, but I was almost free. I wouldn’t tell my therapist about this dream, not now, not when I was about to be released…

The day was bright and sunny, a clear sky with a light tinge of blue. It was glorious, as if it were created just for me, so I could fully appreciate my freedom. I was settled. I was at peace. I was deemed safe.

But the tendrils of darkness still crawled at the corners of my mind, and I wondered…

What if he was real?


Mini Story: These Dead Days

I seem to be the only person who remembers we used to be dead.

Back then, we were so desperate to be alive. Why was I so obsessed? Life fluctuates between monotony and pain and terror. Why did I think I’d be happy if I were alive?

None of the others remember. We used to be friends. I remember back in the dead days, we’d play tricks on the living. We had fun. Now, none of them want to know me. I’m just the weird one who sees ghosts. Which is stupid – the living can’t see ghosts.

I just know they’re there.

The misfortune, the accidents, the mistakes, these are all brought by the dead. I can’t understand how the living can ignore the signs when they’re so obvious. We were literally shoving ourselves in their faces; we were so desperate to make contact. Heh, I had the most fun going through people and mimicking them. Sometimes, I even made them mimic me.

I miss being dead.

The Dead Time is drawing near. That is one thing the living recognise, even if they can’t pinpoint it properly. The Dead Time doesn’t follow seasons or lunar cycles – it is a tide all on its own. I don’t know why I can still feel it. Maybe it’s because I’m meant to be dead.

I don’t recognise the dead one when it comes to me. It tries to do the thing I once loved – puppetry. It doesn’t work so well. I hate that I am so connected to the dead. Why can I feel it inside me? Why remind me of freedom I don’t have? This creature is trying so hard to have its fun.

I decide to let it – I give it my whole body.

When I open my eyes, the gloom is wonderfully soft and comforting. I feel so light – lighter than I ever could while I was alive. The silence is such relief. I want this numbness.

The thing that was dead is surprised at first, but then my eyes bursts into tears and my face breaks into a smile. It is happy.

It is only a matter of time before it regrets its ‘fortune’.

I go back to doing what I loved. A lucky catch is dropped. A frayed wire becomes a fire. A faulty tyre bursts, spinning the living into death. Have I become stronger? Perhaps being alive made me better dead. I become the whisper of wind that tips the scales.

Why was I the only one who remembered that we used to be dead?

The others avoid me. They must be afraid, but I miss the camaraderie, even if I don’t need their help anymore. I play and play and play. I reach for the happiness I had.

It does not come.

I find myself stalking my old body. The thing inside it is laughing with those who I loved when I was dead. No; I am dead. I am the one laughing. I am the one who is loved.

Why is that thing in my body so happy? Why couldn’t I be happy, in the very same body?! Why can’t I be happy? Why doesn’t it work for me?!

Give me back my body!

It slips on the stone steps. I watch it topple forward, finally feeling something akin to relief. I watch my arms rush forward and break in a vain attempt to save itself. I watch my head hit the fifth step and slide down and slump. The rest of the body rises up in a perfect headstand and forces the whole weight onto the neck. It doesn’t break. It doesn’t break. I don’t break.

So I add weight.

The snap is the most wonderful sound I have ever heard. The creature inside my body is dead again, and I laugh. I wait for it to rise so I can mock it. I wait. I wait I wait I wait. Where is it? Is it not dead?

I plunge my fist into the corpse. I cannot feel the heartbeat as I usually do. I cannot feel anything.

Where is that spirit? Where has it gone?

I watch as they bury my body. There are so many people around. People I used to know. People who are sad I have died, or at least pretending to be. Are they all pretending? Please don’t pretend…

Life fluctuates between monotony and pain and terror. I’m meant to be dead. Why remind me of freedom I don’t have? I want this numbness. I don’t need their help anymore. Why doesn’t it work for me?! I don’t break, so I add weight. I cannot feel anything.

So many people have these thoughts. I think all of us have had these at some time. It could be in the past, in the present, or looming dangerously on the future’s horizon. We worry. We hate. We become trapped by others or by ourselves. There are always some of us who wander through life feeling dead. There is always a part of ourselves who feels that life isn’t perfect. We need to remember that we all have our breaking points, and we all need each other. We need to feel. We need to give each other freedom.

Don’t just keep adding weight until you break. Recognise yourself. Recognise yourself in others. Life is more than monotony and pain and terror. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe, but sometimes you don’t know what you have until you lose it.