I spent the majority of last night and this morning on Reddit’s r/nosleep, reading through all the best short stories of 2014. It inspired me to write one of my own and when it is done, I will be posting it there. For now, I will be posting it piece by piece as I progress with it, for anyone interested.
The Shadow (Title in Works) – Part 1
Recounting this memory to you will be no easy task. I am not entirely sure if what I remember seeing properly correlates to what I actually saw, for the mind tends to play tricks on itself when a massive dose of irrationality hits it like a freight train.
My name is Richard and I am about as much of a low-key, average, forgetful man as any. I’m the guy that you hold the door for at convenience store entrances, we nod at each other, and move on with our lives. Completely unmemorable. There’s been times where I wanted to do much more with my life but I’ve never been one to stay away from the temptations of instant gratification and entertainment to ever work hard for anything in my life.
I work for a delivery company that transports medical files and encrypted hard drives of confidential information from assorted businesses across the state. The job is not difficult, and has a decent rate of pay where I usually clock in anywhere between 45 and 50 hours per week. I’m certianly not challenging myself mentally (or physically, for that matter) but it’s a simple job for a simple man like me.
This particular night that it happened (I dare not speak of it more than I need to for an accurate retelling of this story), I was running late heading back to base. It had been a particularly long day, with many delivery stops several hundred miles away from each other. Why the higher-ups have not optimized the routes, maybe even hired more drivers, is beyond me. But I’m a simple delivery guy, these questions are not for me to ask.
I pulled in to base around 8PM, the latest I have ever taken to get back. Pulling off the highway and onto the back roads of my rural town, the sights of headlights, street lights, and general civilization became less and less. My base is located just outside of town, where you veer off from the main route onto a long, winding dirt road, eventually hooking a right down another dirt road.
Naturally, it was raining, and my wipers were going back and forth full blast, doing nothing but smearing the droplets of water around and obstructing my view. Don’t get me started about how cheap the higher-ups were, they would not replace the windshield wipers until authorities pulled us drivers over and wrote formal warnings to be handed to “whoever is in charge”. The whole thing is bullshit if you ask me. Money apparently means more than the safety of your employees out there.
So I’m pulling into base and everyone is already gone, as I had expected. Normally, everyone leaves around 5, so no one had been around for hours. The only source of light I had besides my dimly glowing headlights to my dying cube van came from the main entrance to the base, illuminating the one vehicle in the parking lot; Mine.
There was a constant crunch of gravel as the weight of my cube van rolled into the lot. I do a quick post-trip inspection, gather my things, lock the doors and head toward the bright light of the main entrance to drop off the keys in the drop box.
That’s when I first saw it.. let’s simply call him, “the shadow”. I dropped my keys in the box hanging just outside the main door, which had been locked for hours now, when I turned to head back down the three steps and across the dirt lot towards my car. As soon as I spun on my heel to head down the first step, I caught something out of the corner of my eye.
He.. IT.. was on the very edge of the light, which originated right behind me. Chills shot up and down my body at this sight even more so than the howling, cold wind and rain. At the far end of the lot, I’d say about 500 feet away, was where we parked the cube vans at the end of the day. Directly across from me, and right next to the cube van I just exited moments before, was a dark figure.
Of course, at the time, I had no way of telling what this thing was. My first logical mental reaction was in rationalizing what I was seeing. It wasn’t just a dark blob, it was incredibly human-like. I could see the outline of a tall, thin, heavily shrouded being just standing completely still. I knew that this wasn’t a trick of the light, as the feeling of being watched was overwhelming.
Not knowing what to do, I called out at the shadow, having no idea what to expect. What if it talks back? If I’m expecting an answer, would that be better or worse?
“Hello? Can I help you?” I clumsily blurted out.
I walked cautiously down the steps, fully aware of every muscle in my body and every creak of the old, wooden steps long overdue for replacement.
When I reached the bottom I thought that maybe from a new perspective, I would realize that this being was a mere falacy; A result of a tired mind and body after an unexpectedly long day.
But no. There it stood, brooding in the darkness. An aura of terror emanating from it’s being. Making no movement.
Making no sound.
Just standing there, watching me.
I couldn’t necessarily see it’s eyes, but the outline of the figure made it unmistakable that his body and intentions were pointed directly at my person. Never taking my eyes off the figure, I slowly made the trek to my car.
Normally, this was a 10 second process which required no effort, but that night… and I know it’s cheesy to say, but it’s completely accurate…it felt like an eternity.
By the time I finally got to my car door, the shadow was still there.. but to my concerned surprise, it was not any more clear. It was still just barely there, with only enough detail to make out the fact that yes, this was indeed a real presence of a spiritual nature.
I shakily reached down to my pocket to grab my car keys. Finding them, I pulled them out frantically, causing them to fall onto the ground.
And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.
In my surprise and out of pure instinct, I took my gaze off the shadow and directed it towards my keys, resting on the cold, damp gravel. By the time I picked them up and went to unlock my door, I suddenly remembered where my eyes were supposed to be set, and looked up in a panic.
For the love of God, maybe looking back so quickly was a bad idea. Maybe if I hadn’t looked back at all, I would not have been in my current predicament. I dont know.. It’s just hard to rationalize what happened next.
I frantically looked up and the shadow was not in the same spot next to my cube van. Instead it was on the other side of my car, yet again directly across from me, still brooding without motion or sound and still just barely visible as a human form.
I inhaled sharply and was paralyzed with shock. After a few moments, I unlocked my car, got in, started it up, and put that baby in reverse faster than anyone could have thought humanly possible. All without taking my gaze off the figure, that was still staring at where I had been seconds before.
I switched my car into drive and booked it out of the lot, gravel flying. There obviously came a point where I could not keep the shadow in my sight, but by God, you best believe I was craning my neck in a way you would only see at a freak show, just to make sure I was as far away from it as I could be before putting my eyes back on the dirt road.
Down both dirt roads I went, flying by, jumping the car at small raises in the road, and taking turns far too quickly for anyone who HADN’T just seen something as terrifying as I had. Still trying to figure out what it was that I saw, I soon caught myself trying to logically come up with the best possibility. It HAD to be all in my mind.. maybe a trick of my sight? After all, I never heard it, or physically felt it.. only saw it. Yeah, that’s what it was. All in my head. So I slowed back down to a normal, non life-threatening speed.
It wasn’t until I pulled back onto the main road that I realized I had been wrong. Now that I was back in civilization, there were a few cars going by here and there, and the lights of the city came into view. Just as I began to turn onto my road, I noticed, again, something in the corner of my eye.
I deperately did not want to look… But it would take a stronger person than I not to give in to the temptation of curiosity.. and you know what they say, “Curiosity killed the cat” Only this time, I had a very strange sense that it wanted nothing to do with a cat and everything to do with me.
So I looked into my rearview mirror.
As the street lights came and went, so did the shadow, sitting casually in my back seat, diagonal from the driver’s position. I almost lost control of my vehicle as I slammed on my brakes to avoid a collision with an oil tanker. I looked back to the shadow and I had no idea what to do, other than to take another swing at attempting to communicate with it.
“What do you want from me?”
The words stumbled out of me in a stupor. I hardly recognized my own voice. Looking deep into the shadow through the mirror I heard a very faint, hollow word in a deep, gravely voice.
Except, I didn’t “hear” it in the physical sense, it was in my own head. It’s hard to explain, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but the shadow communicated to me exactly how it existed… on a spiritual plane, not a physical one.
I stared at the road in front of me for several minutes, trying to fully digest what I thought I had heard. At this point, I was beginning to feel the slightest bit accustomed to the shadow, though he still evoked immense terror.
What does he mean, “Kill” if that is what he said, IF he said ANYTHING?
Does he want to kill me? Surely he would have done it right there in the parking lot back at base if that was his intention. Perhaps his lack of physicality and his disconnect between the spiritual realm and the physical world caused him to lack the ability to harm me? After all, he had never touched me.
That was when another thought grazed over my mind. “Does he want ME to kill?” If so, who? Surely I cannot kill another human being. I am not a killer, I’m just a simple man who gets up, goes to work, and goes home to do menial activities until the sun comes up and everything starts over. I’m nothing special.
“And what exactly do you…” Before I could finish my question, I looked into my rearview yet again, but the shadow had vanished. Though I was a bit disappointed, a wave of relief rushed through me upon noticing his disappearance.
I hardly remember the rest of my drive home. I don’t specifically remember pulling into my small driveway to my apartment, stepping inside and laying in bed.. but I must have been laying there sleepless for awhile because the next thing I remember, the rising sun’s piercing rays shot me out of my stupor.