Cast A Shadow
My mom always told me not to be scared of the dark. She said there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t there in the light too. She was wrong.
At first I couldn’t understand why she was saying that. But I was younger then, and didn’t understand I was different. I didn’t understand that most people were blind to the evil all around them, the evil I could see plainly. And maybe my mom was right in a way. Maybe they were there when the sun was shining or the lights were on, but my eyes could only see them in the dark. And that was still more than “normal” people apparently.
By the time I was eight years old I’d stopped telling my parents there were monsters in the closet and under the bed; they didn’t believe me and made light of the situation. They were wrong. So very, very wrong. Those monsters exist…and they’re terrifying. The monsters would growl and whisper in my ear while I was trying to sleep, threatening to do all kinds of horrible things to me. They wanted to keep me in a continuous state of terror. They enjoyed my fear; it was like they feed on it…and grew.
That was my childhood in a nutshell. And it’s no wonder my parents and doctors thought I had night terrors as much as I screamed. Well, until I learned to get it under control around age eleven so I didn’t have to deal with the adults in my life telling me it was all my imagination. They weren’t though. The monster were real.
Then came the tests to see if I had leukemia. I would develop bruises that couldn’t be explained and they checked me for cancer and other diseases and syndromes that would explain the bruises and the pain that came out of nowhere to cause them. Like I said, I was young and didn’t understand. I just knew the bruises were caused by pain and I had to endure more pain from doctors and hospitals while they ran test after test.
I live a lonely life. I don’t have many friends. Well, none really… It’s hard to make and keep friends when they want you to do kid things like go Trick-Or-Treating and you’re having a panic attack because that’s the night the monsters are four times their normal size and way stronger. But, yeah, I’m now a full-blown freak at school. My parents have talked about homeschooling me many times, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m now fifteen, so I don’t think it will ever happen. I think they hope if they force me to go out into the world I’ll “get over” my fears. That’s not going to happen, obviously. The monsters are real, which means my fear is real. I’m actually worried about my parents. Ignorance isn’t always bliss.
This one time, my dad came to check on me after I’d gone to bed. When he opened my door wider than its ordinary two-inch crack, the light from the hallway cast his shadow against my bedroom wall right beside the monster that was telling me all the violent things it wanted to do to me.
The monster laughed harshly, reached out and into my dad’s shadow, and clenched its mighty, grotesque fist in my dad’s shadow’s stomach area.
My dad grabbed his stomach on his actual body and grunted like he was in pain. He tried to be quiet and quickly closed the door, which removed his shadow and the onslaught of the monster.
The hideous thing turned to me and said, “See, I can hurt you anytime I want.”
And in that moment, I knew it was true. I knew the monsters could hurt me or anyone else they wanted, but it seemed they could only touch our shadows. This happened when I was five years old, so it took me some time to truly understand the limits of the monsters and how they could harm us humans. As I grew older, I began to understand where the bruises I’d suffered all my life had come from.
I learned that I was safer in the dark. I was safer when my shadow wasn’t present. And once they knew I knew, they hurt me even more often, especially during the day; it got really hard explaining why I had so many scratches and bruises on my body. They were stronger in the dark, at night, but they could still hurt humans during the day…and I know they had it out for me in particular. I think they hated me more than most because I could see them and tried to warn others about them; I became a favored target. Halloween was always the worst. Like I said, the monsters are four times their normal size and stronger. They could break my bones that day, and did a couple times before I could convince my parents to let me stay in the house, in my room, in complete darkness the entire day.
Sure, the monsters were there taunting me, but they couldn’t touch me. They couldn’t hurt me in the dark. I had to cast a shadow. I had to be vulnerable.
I learned to hate light of any kind. It’s no fun being beat on all the time, even if the monsters could only hit and scratch me during the day.
My parents grew more and more concerned because I wanted to be alone in the dark all the time; I did invite my parents to sit in the dark with me to try to protect them, but they eventually had to turn a light on… My mom ended up having strange scar tissue around her heart that they found when they thought she’d had a heart attack. Actually, she’d turned the light on and opened herself up to a couple attacks until the damage was bad enough she finally gave in and went to the doctor. My dad ended up having to have intestinal surgery when a slice to his large intestine almost killed him.
They want to take me to a special hospital. They want me to be in this brightly lit room all the time on meds, thinking it will get me over my fear. It’s strange… People consider fear of the dark normal to an extent, but fear the light and you’re suddenly batshit crazy. And, honestly, I was afraid of the dark until I realized it was the safest place to be; it was better to be mentally tormented than physically abused.
Oh, did I mention the school actually thought a couple times that my parents were abusing me? Yeah, be a kid with unexplainable scratches and bruises all over your body all the time and your parents start to look really shady.
But, now, having been through test after test and them not finding anything physically wrong with me, it’s all “mental health issue” this and “unstable” that.
I keep a journal of what I see, what I hear from the monsters, and the things they do.
My mom found it; she read it and cried for days. She and Dad talked about things.
They’ve given me two options, since today’s Halloween.
Either I go outside, or they send me to the funny farm.
They think that if they can get me to face my fear, that if I go outside on Halloween night (when there’s less light than the daytime), that I’ll find out I’m not in any danger. They honestly think I’ll be okay.
I told them I would die. I told them it was a bad idea. I cried and sobbed and begged and pleaded.
They wouldn’t budge.
I’m now sitting in my pitch black room, listening to the monsters with half an ear because I’m sick of their shit and I have a lot on my mind contemplating my own death with either choice. I could go to a hospital, take drugs, and let the monsters bash the crap out of me slowly until I die, or I can just go for a stroll down the street and get it over with quickly.
This world isn’t really for me; I’ve known that for a long time. But I thought maybe I could figure out a way to adapt that would work for me. Apparently that wasn’t going to happen.
The fact that people who are different aren’t listened to hurts. I’m incapable of living life like other people, and because of that, because I don’t fit into their societal mold, I have to be sick or deranged. It’s basically bullshit. It’s basically this twisted human control syndrome that has taken over most people. If you’re different they fear you, they make fun of you, and they think nothing at all about hurting you. I wonder if any of them even stop to think about how being different feels. I wonder if they ever think about how life must be from my point of view. Apparently they don’t care; my parents among the “they.”
The clock on my nightstand reads eight o’clock in its faint glow-in-the-dark hands. My parents said I had until eight-thirty to make my decision, but there’s no point in putting it off.
I stand and move toward the door. I’ve made up my mind. I’ll take the quick death, because I’m tired. I’m tired of the constant pain caused by human judgements, and I’m tired of fighting to have safety from the monsters.
I walk down the stairs and to the front door. I reach out and grip the cool metal of the doorknob. I take a deep breath.
Without saying a word to my parents that I can hear in the kitchen, I walk out into the darkness.
Three strides and I’m to the edge of the porch.
I can hear the monsters growling, getting excited.
I swallow hard and descend the porch steps, one at a time, counting them, reaching four and knowing I’m now on the cement path that leads out to the sidewalk and the street.
Tears run down my face.
The monsters laugh at me, now all around me.
I walk down the path, across the sidewalk, and out into the street.
Street lights illuminate me on all sides, casting multiple shadows of my person in every direction.
More monsters than I can count start running toward my shadows, snarling and salivating.
I turn to face my house, hoping my parents heard me leave, can see me, and will witness my death. Then they’ll know I wasn’t lying and the monsters are real. Maybe my death will save their lives. Once I’m gone, they’ll be the new favored targets. They won’t last long unless they learn to love the dark.
I whisper, “Happy Halloween,” just before the first of my bones snap and I’m dragged to the ground and torn apart from the inside out.
Rebecca Besser is a horror/thriller author who resides in Ohio with her wonderful husband and amazing son. They’ve come to accept her quirks as normal while she writes anything and everything that makes her inner demons squeal with delight. She’s best known for her work in adult horror, but has been published in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a variety of age groups and genres. She’s entirely too cute to be scary in person, so she turns to the page to instill fear into the hearts of the masses.
Copyright © Rebecca Besser 2019