SHADOW

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CHAPTER 25

JONATHAN HURRIED OVER to her house that same night. But first, he put a call to 911, told them there might be something wrong at Samantha’s and then gave them the address.

He found her sitting in the living room, surrounded by three officers who’d been dispatched from the nearest patrol team in the area, looking dazed and rattled at the same time. She’d gotten in her pajama, clutching herself as though she was cold and holding a cup of coffee absentmindedly, rocking slowly back and forth in the chair.

Before Jonathan arrived, the police officers had swept the apartment thoroughly; checked every part in and around the house, checked for finger prints on the doors and furniture, and footprints around the backyards, just in case. Everything seemed pretty normal; nothing broken or tampered with. It was hard to make sense of her claims of someone trying to creep her out, of the doors and windows rattling, of shadows lurking outside the door of her bedroom and of the light switching on and off.

The officers really thought she was mistaken, probably had been having a bad dream, or sleepwalking. Of course, they quickly found out her son was lying in the hospital, hanging between life and death after trying to terminate his own life, and that her boss at work had been found dead just that morning. It was possible that everything had gotten to her and tickled her sanity a bit.

“I’m not crazy!” she told the officers curtly. “I know what I saw and heard!”

“Well, what was it, then?” they asked her calmly. “We’d like to know.”

She was mute, turned away, felt slightly uncertain and embarrassed.

They went about sweeping through the house a second time (shortly after Jonathan got there), but only because she insisted like her life depended on it, and they wanted to clear her doubt that someone had been in her house. Satisfied that everything seemed in order, they told her they were leaving, but asked that she kept her phone within reach, just in case an ‘emergency’ came up again and she needed to reach 911.

“Meanwhile,” said one of the officers, “try to get some sleep, Mrs. Prince.”

She nodded lifelessly. “Sure, thanks.”

Jonathan shut the door after the officers. When he turned around, he pinned Samantha with a suspicious and concerned look.

“How’re you, Sam, really?” he asked her.

She sighed, not sure what to say or how to say it because in actual fact she knew what she saw. But considering how ridiculous it all sounded, to her as well as to the cops, Samantha was starting to second-guess herself.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Did she? Didn’t she?

Looking at Jonathan in despair, she sighed again. “Thanks,” she told him in a melancholic voice. Then she got up and walked back into her room with Jonathan following closely behind her.

“What happened, Samantha?” he prompted her calmly. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, and you were pretty terrified over the phone. Got me really scared.”

“I had a break in, I think,” she told him in a suppressed voice. “There was someone here last night.”

Jonathan was taken aback. “What! Was it a burglar? Did they take anything?”

She shook her head and forced an uneasy smile. “The cops think I’m crazy.”

Jonathan looked at her quietly, puzzled.

“But I’m sure he was there,” she told him in retrospect, almost as if she were talking to herself. “I saw him, he was right there –” she gestured without raising her hands, “– staring at me.”

Jonathan said, “Maybe you were nervous, after all, you’ve been through so much recently.”

She paused, drank some coffee again. “Yeah, maybe.” Then she stared at him curiously, long and hard, in a manner that made him queasy.

“What is it?” he asked quietly.

“Nothing,” she said, and turned away.

At work the next day, Samantha Prince was jumpy as hell. She was nervous, fretful, lacked coordination doing her regulation job, and drifted off during meetings.

Everyone noticed and expressed concerned for her; some even suggesting she took the day off. But she thought otherwise and stayed back, hoping that being busy at work and among friends would lighten her mood and help her feel better.

Then sometime during work, with her head pounding severely, Samantha excused herself to go to the bathroom. She was standing before the mirror with the tap running, washing her face delicately, when the electricity started short-circuiting. The lights in the bathroom and corridors tripped on and off several times, as though there was a breach in the connection somewhere. Each power interruption was brief and intermittent, lasting about a fraction of a second, or about the time it took for a camera to flash during a photo shoot.

Samantha, leaning forward over the wash basin, paused and lifted her face uncertainly, staring at mirror and noticing that except for her, there was no one around in the bathroom. She felt nervous all of a sudden and her panic siren started blaring in her head. There was an uneasy feeling about her just then, an eerie, familiar sensation stirring in her gut as it had done the previous night when she was at home.

And because her eyes were focused on the mirror, she saw the insistent form of a person standing behind her only a few feet away. It was a vagueness she couldn’t quite explain. Many might even pass it off as figment of the mind, because in actual fact, it didn’t seem real. It was more like a shadow.

Yes; an unsteady shadow projected on the wall. But now, she was the only person in the bathroom, and that wasn’t her shadow!

Samantha was instantly gripped with a terror more intense than before. And then to make it worse, the lights kept flicking on and off.

She squinted and looked into the mirror intently, being afraid to turn around or even move a muscle, just to be sure the image wasn’t only in her head. The dark person, almost imperceptible in the shadows, was there alright, watching her with a vile look and tiny, glowing eyes, effectively camouflaged in the dimness. It seemed intangible, without a viable form like a hallucination.

Samantha Prince had no doubt that this thing she was seeing was real as it was evil; she could feel the horror in her bones, welling up on her inside. And there was something else she noticed; the image seemed to be blinking, disappearing and appearing in short bursts like a light switch. It wasn’t as if it remained still, unmoving. Rather, it faded in the split seconds the light flashed and was back there again when the current shorted out.

Samantha kept staring at the figure through the mirror, transfixed and spellbound with her heart beating wildly and threatening to explode out of her chest. She’d unconsciously left the water running, and her hands were now gripping onto the sides of the sink so hard she might have pulled the damn thing out of the wall without even knowing it.

Now the blackout persisted longer than the other times!

Five seconds.

Samantha gasped, her nerves buckling, screaming for her to bolt.

Ten seconds.

Oh, God!

The shadow moved quickly, coming towards her with a raised hand and sharp, deathly claws about to rip through her face.

Samantha spun round with a loud, terrified shriek.

The power was restored just then and a fleet of startled co-workers poured into the bathroom in response to her scream.

But she’d already passed out on the floor.

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