SHADOW

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CHAPTER 34

JONATHAN PRINCE RETIRED to bed late that night.

He’d stayed over at Samantha’s till late evening; they chatted lightly, which was quite helpful to relieve the growing tension for them. Then they played poker, drank coffee and ate biscuits, went through old family photographs that brought back nostalgic feelings. Afterwards, Samantha came down with a headache owing to mental fatigue.

Jonathan fixed her more coffee and a quick dinner, and before leaving, went around the house to make sure the doors and windows were all secured. He reminded her to keep the lights turned on everywhere.

“Even the kitchen and bathroom lights as well.”

She smiled wanly and nodded.

Jonathan paused indecisively on the short flight of steps outside her house, before finally hobbling down towards his car. She stared discretely out of her bedroom window, overcome by a deep, heartfelt reminiscence as she watched him get into the car and drive away.

When Jonathan got home, he was too tired to do any cooking. So he sat up in the living room for a while, drinking beer and watching the Late Night Show. By the time he finally decided to call it a night and turned off the TV, he had downed three bottles of beer. But it was all worth it, because he really felt like unwinding, like hugging someone just then.

Pity he was the only one at home.

There was no denying that he still loved Samantha. But he didn’t want to push her; it would be much better and would work to his advantage, if he gave her time to come around on her own without being goaded. Otherwise, she might snap and everything would explode in his face.

Samantha was still grieving, as was he. They both shared a common burden that seemed, oddly, to be drawing them back together in ways that Jonathan hadn’t premeditated. Yet he was glad.

He got up and went to his room, opened the door and stepped into the darkened space while at the same time reaching for the light switch behind the door. With a soft click, the lights came on.

But Jonathan stopped and blinked with curious uncertainty as though something wasn’t right. He remained at the spot and stared about at the room tentatively. Because, in the fraction of a second it took for the room to come alight after he tripped the switch, Jonathan thought he saw a distinct shape; a tall figure standing at the far side of the room next to the window.

It had been right there!

Jonathan hesitated, his gaze intent on the spot as he tried to puzzle things out, to think clearly and determine if he was lucid enough, considering that he already drank a few bottles of beer before coming to the room.

He knew however that he wasn’t drunk, and he felt quite certain that he’d actually seen a figure in his room. Or was it the lights playing tricks on his senses. He was no science geek, but Jonathan knew by common knowledge that it was possible for someone to think they saw something at times, particular when the lights were dim or unsteady. Shadows bounce off images and create impressions on objects. Perhaps that was what he just saw, a trick of light. He shook his head and paused uncertainly before waving the thought aside.

Then he remembered Samantha’s testimony that she had seen someone in her home the other night, and then also at her office when the lights fluctuated. Everyone, including himself, had concluded she was seeing things as a result of her aversion to darkness, which was explainable. Most kids were afraid of the dark, so their minds construct masquerades to justify and feed their fear.

But Jonathan wasn’t afraid of the dark. Yet he felt almost certain that there’d been a tangible shape in his room. Or was it possible that Samantha had ‘infected’ him with some of her paranoia? That was plausible, as well; people can learn emotions like fear and love from others over time.

When someone speaks about fear or negative encounters around you, you somehow draw from them and tend to experience the same things they spoke about. The mind often work in mysterious ways, which explained why people see images and have nightmares after watching a horror movie. So maybe there had been nothing in the room and his subconscious mind was only busy creating for him what Samantha had experienced.

Yeah, most likely, he thought, exhaling softly.

Jonathan reached out slowly, just to be sure, and clicked off the lights, plunging the room back into darkness. He waited a second or two, then turned on the lights again, watching to be sure he wasn’t mistaken the first time.

Nothing.

He toyed with the switch then, tripped it on and off several more times before finally leaving it on with a relieved, thankful sigh. He also secretly felt embarrassed that he’d been nervous for a moment there. He shut the door behind him, kicked off his sandals and got on the bed, pulled the sheets over his body and closed his eyes with a tired grunt.

Jonathan fell into a bizarre and gripping nightmare the instant his eyes closed. It was so frighteningly graphic, like a horror movie reeling through his mind. The images were alive and surreal, inundated with blood and violence that was so vivid, like he was having the experience in the physical!

There were harrowing screams, sounds of breaking glasses, ear-splitting thundering of waterfalls, and anguished wailings everywhere!

Blood!

Jonathan Prince gripped the bedspread desperately, wincing and stiffening beneath the sheets in fits of spasms. His teeth were clenched, face contorted in feline rage as he jerked, turning his head about from side to side. Suddenly he heaved upward and arched his back, lifting himself off the bed substantially. He moaned in agony, with his eyes still tightly shut, and then muttered incoherent words in a deep, menacing tone.

The scenes in his head kept playing.

There were glasses everywhere. Someone had stepped on the shards, and now there was blood everywhere as well. Footprints of blood that led back to him!

He was back in the crashed vehicle, screaming for help…

The mangled remains of the SUV sitting by the side of the road, policemen and fire trucks littering the scene in slow motion, people speaking inaudibly…

Then they were at the funeral ground, somber looking. The kids lay in the boxes with their little chests heaving softly, loudly, thumping. Their eyes were open, blinking, flowing with blood.

Jonathan kept stirring in his sleep, grunting and moaning in agony.

The hospital. The grim looking nurses staring morbidly like undertakers.

And Alan swimming against rushing currents, washed away by the rising tides, calling out to him for help while yet he looked on, puffing at his cigarette and laughing maniacally.

Anguish.

Then the dark figure in the room with a ghostly, evil ambience, reaching out to suck him into oblivion, to pull him into the dark and steal his soul!

Jonathan started with a great cry, pushed himself up and sat bolt upright with a dazed, panicked look in his eyes. He was panting and sweating dreadfully, staring about in wild-eyed bewilderment. It was supposed to be a dream, ordinarily.

But it wasn’t.

It was something more...

His heart was still palpitating, and he felt an intense pain all over his body down to his bones. It was a queasy feeling, because it brought back the pain he’d felt in the aftermath of the tragic accident three years ago.

Then he felt a taste of something familiar in his mouth.

Jonathan paused, put a finger to his tongue and looked at it with a curious frown.

It was…blood!

Definitely not a dream.

As he rubbed the blood between his fingers uncertainly, Jonathan suddenly got the distinct feeling that there was something amiss in the house. He stopped with apprehension, holding his breath. Then he climbed off the bed and stepped out of his room with grave caution. He made for the living room, picking his steps lightly as though expecting to catch a burglar in the act.

He got to the living room, switched on the lights, and froze.

The place had been turned upside down, taken apart as though a tsunami had run through it; the furniture were destroyed, glasses broken, TV screen busted, blinds and cushion shredded down the middle.

Everywhere was a total mess, and Jonathan’s fingers began to tremble in what appeared to be the start of a neurotic ailment like Parkinson’s.

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