It was right behind the wine-colored leather settee. A dark murky figure with everything a shadow possesses: Sinisterness. It would shift sometimes, resting on the opposite chipped wall or on one of the various corners around the house.
The first time Matthew saw it, uneasiness pierced him like a razor knife clawing underneath his skin. That night, he missed the ship to the land of slumber. His eyes had frantically scanned the bedroom for any sign of the shadow. The constant creaking of the old walls and stairway only increased his agitation, filling his body with apprehension.
It began with small gestures. Such as the sudden movement of chairs, or the unexpected crash of china utensils. The constant brimming fear inside Matthew changed his joyful character to one of a disturbed and unstable. People began to notice his change in nature, and so the whispers began. Soon, the whole neighborhood knew about his ‘illness’ and how he should be avoided. No one dared to talk to him for fear of any sudden outbursts.
No one. Except for Mrs. Wilson.
She had marched up, past the unkempt garden, to his front porch; straightened her pearly summer dress and rang the doorbell. Chimes echoed throughout the antiquated house. She stood there, wondering how no one in the neighborhood ever thought of visiting Matthew. After all, he was the heart of the community.
“Matthew! It’s Mrs. Wilson, from down the street!” She called out.
Slow padding footsteps approached the door then stopped.
“Matthew I know you’re there, please open the door.” Mrs. Wilson said.
Low muffled muttering was heard behind the Victorian wooden door.
“It’s fine! Stop talking to me! I’ll handle it!” Matthew whispered harshly.
A shuffling noise was heard, and the bolt to the front door clicked open.
“Evening Mrs. Wilson! ” He greeted.
To say that his toned physique remained unchanged is a misunderstanding. His face, once flush and colorful, is now engraved by pale, hollow cheeks. The old beach-perfect frame he possessed is now a pile of scrawny limbs. However, behind all the built-related changes, one aspect did stand out the most.
His eyes, hidden behind the ornate spectacles, glinted a piercing blue color. Blue, so pale that it resembled an iridescent crystal.
Mrs. Wilson gazed at his faltering smile, before replying.
“I-I just haven’t heard from you in a while, so I decided to stop by and see how you’re doing.”
“Oh Mrs. Wilson, always with the kind gestures!” Matthew remarked. “I just fell down a slippery slope these past few months, but I’m recovering now.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that Matthew! May I ask what happened?”
Matthew drew in a breath of hesitation.
“You don’t have to tell me if —”
“You’re a good listener, Mrs. Wilson. Why don’t you come in?” Matthew cut in.
“Oh! Why yes! Thank you very much.”
As she set foot on the polished wooden floor, a small gasp left her ample lips.
The murky air was thick with an unpleasant odor. A smell that was readily unidentifiable; however, she had an indistinct memory of it.
“Problem Mrs. Wilson?” Matthew inquired. His questioning eyes boring inside of hers.
A flash of panic traced over her facial features. “N-no, not at all.” She stuttered out.
“This way please.” He gestured with his hand towards a wooden archway.
She gave a tight smile as her smart shoes clicked away towards the curved opening.
The archway opened to the lavishly decorated living room. Burgundy leather sofas were lined in an L-shaped pattern, surrounding an antique Persian carpet. On the ceiling hung a majestic chandelier. One resembling that of the Victorian age. Lit candles encircled it, adding a shimmering glow to the room.
“It was already furnished.” Matthew’s voice broke the silence.
“Oh! That’s wonderful. Very exquisite.” Mrs. Wilson replied.
“Yes, it is. Especially the shadows in the room, they add a very vital detail to the house.”
Mrs. Wilson froze.
“You know the ones cast by the candles!” He brushed it off with a forced laugh.
An uneasy laugh spilled out of Mrs. Wilson. Why yes of course! The ones from the candles. Why am I so jumpy around him? He’s not crazy. He’s absolutely fine. It’s the neighbors, and all of the community that’s making me feel this way towards him. Oh god! What must he think of me? He probably thinks I am like them. Always jumping to conclusions.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” His voice pulled her out of her bubble.
“Y-yes that would be wonderful!” She replied.
“So, I guess rumors have always been a flying breeze in this town.” He said as he poured the sweet scented tea. Small wisps of smoke danced in the air.
An uneasy laugh forced its way through her mouth. “Anything that goes by this town starts off as a rumor. After some time people start to believe it.”
“Do you believe it, Mrs. Wilson?” His eyes studied her face.
“I-” She glanced at his face for a second. Feeling his intense stare. Of course, he would ask her that. Because of one traumatic incident, people made up rumors about him. Pushed him away into this hole and locked him forever. No wonder he doesn’t go out anymore. “No, no I don’t Matthew.”
“It’s this town, Mrs. Wilson. It creates monsters. And when they show up, people start to get scared and begin to shun them away. At first, it was the whispers. Oh poor Matthew look at him go crazy.” He said mimicking the townspeople with a high-pitched voice.” Then the sympathetic stares, but now it has spun out of control! I can’t even throw the trash without an alarmed look from a passerby. Yesterday evening, this woman covered her daughter’s eyes and told her not to look. As if I am going to assault her.” He said irritatingly.
“Oh my god! I am so sorry Matthew I had no idea it was this bad! I mean I knew about the rumors but this! This is horrendous. Is-is there any way that I can help?”
His eyes darkened, and a smirk found it’s way to the corners of his lips. Mrs. Wilson fidgeted in her seat. An uneasy feeling crept up her back and up to her shoulders, and a small voice at the back of her head screamed the rumors are true.
“I found the monster within me, Mrs. Wilson. They are all around us you know. Hiding in the shadows. All cold and empty from the inside.” The candles began to flicker.
” Matthew, what are you talking about?” She said in a panicked voice.
“It’s okay, I was scared too.” He said ” But once you get used to them you will see the truth behind the reality that we live in. People in this town wake up and think they are living the perfect little life. Like the world is an enormous ball of sunshine. Full of happiness. Well, the shadows told me differently, this is not life. This is wrong and I am going to show these people the real world.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Mrs. Wilson began to make out dark, odd-looking shapes seeping through the walls. Her heartbeat thumped loudly in her ears. No, this can’t be happening.
“Mrs. Wilson, they’re here. They want you to be with them. They will accept you for who you are. Don’t worry the transition is easy. It won’t hurt at all.” At that statement, his eyes faded into a pitch-black color.
Mrs. Wilson sprung to her feet. “Matthew I-”
“No Mrs. Wilson. Look at you. Always finding the good in people. You know what you are? Pathetic. You are drowning in a pitiful pit. All alone. I know that you want out. You want to be free. You are sick and tired of dealing with people’s worthless stories. You need to get out and I know exactly how. You can take vengeance for all the times you were mistreated. You want to know a secret? ” He leaned forward. “You are the one that the makes orders.”
A small section of her hair began to rise up, and a loud blood-curdling scream left her mouth. She bounded towards to door. He heartbeat loud and clear. Only a few meters she thought. I’m close, so close.
But that was when she was wrong.
“Mrs. Wil-son.” He said in a singsong voice. “Where are you?”
She began to rattle the doorknob to no avail.
“You want to play hide-and-seek? I love that game. Better yet I love being the seeker, I have eyes everywhere.” He shouted with a chuckle.
Mrs. Wilson was distraught with fear. Ragged breathing was pumping out of her chest. Her conscious mind began to frantically think of escape plans. She scurried towards the nearest window when a strong force pulled her from behind. She shrieked with fright. Her fingernails clawed at the wooden floor. The shadow dragged her to the kitchen. Right in front of Matthew’s feet.
“Bingo, see I always win!” He exclaimed.
“Let me go please!” She cried out.
“Why are you crying? They’re just toying with you.”
“I’ll do anything please just let me go!” She sobbed.
“Ugh! You are just like them. Let me go! I’m so sorry! Please don’t hurt me!”
“Why are you doing this? I never did anything to you! Please let me go!” She whimpered.
“Oh, I know! I’m just here to relieve you of this burden! Now, you will join me or I will take a different path.” At that, he picked up a sharp kitchen knife from the table.
“N-No no no no….” She lost control. “Look please let me go, no one will know I promise.”
“Oh, but they already know. I am the freak of this town, Mrs. Wilson. Everybody knows not to come up to me. Except stupid, naive ones like you. So, what do you say in or out?”
“Please don’t do this.” She cried noisily.
“I take that as a no.”
Mrs. Wilson began to scream. She writhed on the floor trying to rid herself of the shadows strength. She glanced up at Matthew, who crouched next to her head.
“Such a loss.” He whispered as he caressed her face. He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and stuffed it into her mouth.
“I’m not going to lie.” He said menacingly. “This is going to hurt.”
The knife struck her flesh. Soft and plump. The loud scrunching sound was a sweet melody to Matthews’s ears. Blood began to ooze onto her summer dress. Staining it with a satisfying pattern of blood red. He rotated the knife earning another muffled scream. Sinking it deeper and deeper. After the gleaming knife sank inside, he quickly retracted it. Then, without warning, he began to stab her hastily. In a disconnected pattern. He glanced at her face. The light in her eyes began to slowly fade away. That’s how he knew he must stop. He slowly extracted the knife, and then removed the handkerchief from her mouth.
“Help-p” She croaked.
“Don’t worry everything will be alright.”
One month later:
” The tragic death of the Donovans has let loose a wildfire of chaos. Mr. Donovan, the CEO of Bankers Co. has been found dead this morning in his house alongside his wife and two daughters. The police are still investigating the horrid scene looking for clues. However, they say that the killer is a skilled one that was able to hide their tracks…” The radio droned on.
“How in the world did you pull that off?” Matthew exclaimed.
“We are in control aren’t we?” Mrs. Wilson chuckled.
A prompt of: