Something woke me in the middle of the night. I don’t know if it was the thunder ringing in the distance, the wind that slammed the heavy rain into the pane of the window, or something else. But as I opened my eyes I realized the light in the bathroom was out. I rolled over and checked on Annabelle who was still fast asleep.
My alarm clock flashed four zeros, meaning that at some point the power had been knocked out. The entire house was dark and if I wanted to get the lights back on, I would have to venture through the entire house and down into the basement to flip the breaker.
I felt a cold chill run through my body. It was as if winter had formed in my very own room, I shivered slightly though I was bundled under the thick comforter and my little sister’s body was pressed to mine.
I reached over my sister and retrieved the flashlight from the top of the nightstand. I switched it on allowing the small beam of light to swipe from one corner of the room to the next.
Satisfied that the room was empty I began to plan how I would make it to the basement and flip the breaker. Particularly, without waking my little sister.
As I swiped the light through the room again in the peripheral of my left eye I saw the vague outline of a man. He wore a fedora hat and a long coat. Just feet away stood another manly figure. It was a simple silhouette with no discernable features. I brought the light back around to where they stood but there was nothing but my yellow wall.
I gently shook Annabelle to wake her. I couldn’t leave her in the room alone having seen — or thinking I had seen — the shadows.
“Annabelle,” I whispered as I shook her gently.
“Wha—what?” She rubbed her eyes vigorously as she woke from her dreams.
“The power went out, we have to go to the basement and flip the breaker.”
The words woke her instantly. She brought her hands down quickly and scanned the darkness. “I’m scared, Melissa. What if they take me?”
“I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”
As we emerged from the safety of my bed I could feel Annabelle’s hands grow clammy. Her little hand shook in my and I could feel her body tense each time she looked around the dark room.
“Okay,” I began. “We will run for the basement and flip the breaker as fast as I can.”
“But what if I fall? What if they find us?” Her voice cracked in fear and tears began to swell at the bottom of her eyelid.
“Trust me,” I told her. It was all I could tell her. My own fear swelled inside me to a point where if we didn’t run for the basement I would have cowered under the blanket myself.
The basement was icy cold. With the storm passing overhead the clouds covered the moon, blocking whatever light may have been able to enter into the small slits near the ceiling of the basement. Annabelle and I ran to the breaker at the far end of the basement.
The smell of mold and mice permeated the room, making Annabelle and me nearly gag. As I reached the breaker I threw the latch open and flipped the switch. There was a slight pause between the click of the breaker and the surge of electricity that ran through the wiring of the house.
Annabelle squeezed my hand and I looked down at her. I could see she was holding her breath and sweat glistened at her brow. The door was about 20 feet away from us. Before I took off running, I squeezed my sister’s hand tighter to make sure that I would not lose grip.
“Let’s go!” I shouted as we both ran for the steps, their silhouettes lined by the lights that were now shining down from the hall above.
Once we got to the stop of the stairs, I slammed the basement door and locked it. The light surrounded us but far down the hall I thought I saw a shadow pass from the left to the right.
The next day at school, I had trouble staying awake. Mr. Blankford was trying to teach us the variables to different angles, but my mind was lost. I was trying to figure out what these shadows were and what they wanted.
As my mind continued to dance around different theories — none of which made any more sense than any other — I was startled back to reality by the ringing of the bell. I jumped up from my seat and ran from the room.
I knew that Annabelle would be looking for me so we could walk home together. She would start getting nervous if I was even a few minutes late — which would happen if I wasted one second in class longer than I needed. The elementary school was right across the street from my high school and between the walls of students trying to get on the buses and traffic in the street, it was always a struggle to get across the street, even on the best of days.
As I stood at the front door of Fox Hollow Elementary school, I overheard a group of kids talking and the blood flowing through my veins froze. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck begin to rise as the words entered my ear and penetrated my brain.
Two young boys and a young girl — perhaps the same age or a little younger than Annabelle — stood at the bottom of the steps in front of the building. whispering among themselves. Still, I heard them.
“What do you think they are?” the boy on the right asked.
“I don’t know. But, I don’t like them,” the girl said. She visibly shook at the thought.
“The one with the hat is the scariest,” the boy on the left said. “It’s like it can see right through me.”
The boy on the right nodded, “I heard they got Sarah Baxter.”
“Got her? Like took her?” The girl asked.
I knew the name. Sarah Baxter.
She had gone missing a few days before. So had another kid, about 12-years-old or so.
What was his name?
Brian Gorman! Two months before, his parents came home to find he was nowhere in the house. No sign of a break in either. Could these shadow figures really be capable of taking kids?
I turned away from the three kids when one of them glanced up at me. As I turned I saw Annabelle running through the door.
“You ready, Belle?”
“How was school?” I asked as we headed down the stairs. I glanced back over to the three kids that had been talking about the shadow figures. They were gone.
“Okay,” she said.
“Yeah. Kids were talking about how scared they are.”
The coldness returned to my chest, “Why?”
“Of the shadow people,” she said looking up at me.
“Who all has seen them?”
“Us and a few other kids. But, they all talk about them.”
I forced a smile down at her to try to comfort her. The rest of the walk home was in silence.
The last twenty yards or so of our walk I began to hear rustling in the bushes as we passed by. The bushes acted as a barrier for the houses on the other side so that the noise of traffic didn’t disturb the inhabitants. Whatever the clamor was, Annabelle didn’t seem to notice. While my hands shook, she looked to be deep in thought about something.
As our front walkway came into view the bushes exploded, sending leaves into every direction. I screamed and so did Annabelle.
It was Mark Camwell. He was in hysterics at the sight of my little sister and me.
“What the fuck, Mark!” I shouted.
“Melissa!” Annabelle gasped at me. “You’re not allowed to curse,” her shock turned to scorning.
“Sorry, don’t tell mom and dad.”
Mark’s laughs began to soften as he walked toward me and wrapped his arms around my waste. “Sorry, babe. I had to. It was too funny.”
He kissed my forehead which caused Annabelle to give us a gagging noise before we headed on the rest of the way home.
“Mark, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, babe. What’s up?” He wrapped his arm tighter around my neck as we passed the walkway to my house. I didn’t feel like being home. Not then, anyway.
“I know this is going to sound strange, but have you ever seen things?”
His expression showed his confusion, “like what?”
He became more uncomfortable. “What do you mean shadows?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Annabelle and I have been seeing shadows. In our rooms.”
“Well the light can play funny tricks on you, so can the dark.” Mark’s short black hair began to dance around as a brisk wind came through. His brown eyes looking at me, almost as if he wished he was somewhere else.
“No, it’s not our imaginations, Mark. They’re real!”
Mark stopped me and grabbed my hand. His eyes held something in them, like he understood what I was saying but refused to believe it. “You know my brother?” he finally asked. “Jared?”
“Yeah, he’s in the Army, right? Why?”
“He’s not in the Army, Melissa,” he said as he looked around, making sure that no prying ears would overhear his words. “He’s in the hospital.”
“I—I don’t understand?”
“My parents sent him to a hospital three years ago. They thought that if he and some of the other kids that had been seeing the shadows went, then they could cure them. Make it so they would stop seeing them and then it would stop the fear from spreading.” Mark lowered his head and shook whatever thoughts were haunting him away. “I’m not scared of them though. I won’t let them scare me.”
“So the only way to get rid of these things is to not fear them?” I hoped that there would be another way. I was already terrified of them. Just the thought of these things coming back that evening petrified me to the very core.
“Yeah,” he said gloomily. “That and light.”
Mark could see the loss in my eyes. He took my hand in his and walked me to my front door. I stopped shy and looked into the foyer. My dad would be on his hunting trip this weekend and mom would be at work. Thus, Annabelle and I would be alone most of the weekend. All I could think of was: what if they come back?