I wrote this short piece of fiction more than week ago with the intention of publishing it last Friday. Most of the time, I write my Friday fiction the day of, but I was feeling prolific. Normally when I write fiction early like that, I schedule the post, but this time I thought I’d go back and read over the story before posting it.
So Friday rolled around and, because I’d already written the actual fiction, I neglected to add posting it to my to-do list. So I didn’t review it or post it or anything. Yay me.
Now here we are, a week later, and I missed posting any fiction at all last week. My apologies.
The story below is somber and dark. I like it, but then again it totally matched my mood when I wrote it. It might match your mood too, more than you would think.
The metaphor isn’t discreet. Darkness vs. light. We’ve seen a lot of darkness lately. Hate seems to be winning the day. It’s on the news. It wins elections. It sways decision-makers and money-takers, and there have been moments in recent weeks when I felt so engulfed in the shadows that I hardly remembered what light looks like.
It’s odd, I suppose, to embed an ultimately hopeful message in such a dim tale. After all, the only person who understands the danger represented by the darkness, is “crazy.” But then again, hope is, itself, a crazy thing. I don’t think most people have the stomach for it.
Okay. Enough with me waxing philosophical. I would, however, love to know what you think. Please feel free to chime in below in the comments.
(I know you won’t. My readers are a notoriously quiet bunch, but I’m going to keep right on asking you to talk to me anyway. So there.)
in the shadows
The storm is within. I can’t quiet the thunder or dry the rain. And I can’t stop looking up, my mouth hanging open. So I’m drowning. Drowning in the rain.
It started as a curiosity. Of course, you know what that did to the cat.
It was the shadows. Sometimes, even in broad daylight, I could see them looking at me. I don’t know how to describe it. They didn’t have eyes, but I could sense their awareness. The outline of a park bench or the shade of a tree would stare at me, its gaze burrowing to the bone. It made me uneasy, in part because it was intense and in part because I couldn’t say anything to anyone.
Even now, I see the look you’re giving me. You think I’m crazy. Everyone does. I wish you were right, but the truth is your ignorance protects you.
The shadows have eyes. They can see, and think, and sense, and move. Science claims shadows are nothing more than the absence of light. They’re voids created by solidity, that’s what we were taught. But the shadows have a density most people know nothing about.
They aren’t thinkless reflections. They’re inversions. They have lives, and thoughts, and motives all their own.
I remember the day I was walking down the sideway and passed a bike rack. There were no bicycles parked there that day, so the shadow of the thing was all prison bars and even spaces, and I felt it. I felt its watchful presence and its malevolent will. It wanted to hurt me. To consume me, I think. Those bars, had it let itself free, would have divided and shown their true nature. They were teeth, and that particular shadow was hungry. It had been hungry for a long, long time.
Every day people walk right past it, their heels clicking on its incisors, never knowing how close they are to mortal danger.
Ah, but you’re wondering the same thing everyone wonders. If any of this nonsense is true, what keeps the shadows in check. Why don’t they just break free, lifting themselves from streets and hardwoods and walls, and satiate their carnal desires?
There’s a reason they don’t move, and it’s the most unnerving truth yet. They play their part because we don’t know they’re capable of more.
That’s right. If we all knew what the shadows really are, that they can move and that they’re stronger, faster, and more cruel than any of us, they would overtake this world. In a single day, all would be lost. Humanity would be stomped out by darkness, and the world would fall into an eclipse the likes of which astronomers have never dreamed.
It’s only ignorance that keeps them at bay.
Which is why they hunt me. I’m not ignorant. I know. I know their dirty little secret. They may masquerade as innocent marvels, but they’re something else entirely.
Only a few days after I recognized the bike rack shadow’s vile appetite, one of them attacked me. It was the shadow of a street lamp, long and lanky, spread from curb to curb on an isolated road. It tried to wrap itself around my ankle and I only barely escaped. From that moment on, I’ve surrounded myself with light.
I got rid of all my furniture. What little I kept, I positioned against the walls. I unhinged the doors and filled every room in my small house with lamps. I never turned them off. Not one.
Where there are no shadows, there is no threat.
But neither is there rest. Have you ever tried to take a nap at noon, lying out in the sunlight? You can see the sun, a red, spotted light, through your eyelids. That became my life.
I lost my job. I couldn’t pay my bills. The power company threatened to cut me off, and that would have been sure death. So I came here.
“Voluntarily Self-Admitted.” That’s what my file says. I’ve become a bit of a minor celebrity, which is why I think they humor me.
There are 43 lamps in my room. All of them are always on. The bulbs are all LED, so the cost isn’t significant. Still, I know the day will come when someone will decide a more aggressive approach is warranted.
They’ll say all the case studies have been done. Every exploration of my condition will have been made. Some hotshot young doctor will decide it’s time to give “immersion therapy” a try, and they’ll turn out the lights. Maybe one by one. Maybe all at the same time.
And do you know what will happen then? I do.
They’ll come for me. The shadows. They’ll come, and they’ll take me. I doubt they’ll even leave anything behind.
Escaped. Dangerous and on the loose.
But no. Wrong on all counts. Not escaped, but caught. Not loose, but a loose end finally tied.
For the shadows cannot abide an evangelist. They are far too fragile. In a more primitive time, humanity might have been doomed, but in today’s world we could easily win a war against the darkness.
If only we would universally accept the simple fact that the darkness is at war with us. So long as we tolerate their presence, the shadows are content to bide their time. To simply wait.
But the day is coming. I’m not crazy. Mark my words. The day is coming when the darkness, left unchecked, will swallow us all.
By the time you recognize the truth of my words, it’ll be too late.