He sits alone by his typewriter. Staring. Staring because he knows not what else to do. Eventually the words will come as they always do, but for now he sits and waits. His hand hovers for a moment above the keys before, forlornly, returning to their incessant drumming upon the table top. He wills his hands to stop, but they will not. This is the way with his hands. Some days they are kind and obedient, others days, like today, they get right up his nose, metaphorically speaking at least. He could have sworn that his right hand just gave him the finger. Probably just my imagination, he thought, No, can't have been. It's been M.I.A. for weeks now.
There it was. The whisper. Joe had been hearing it for at least a week and half now. Softly spoken, straining to be heard, as if covered in darkness.
"Joe." Louder this time.
Joe wondered if it was his muse playing tricks on him, but she had long since deserted him too. Why can't I even write any of this down? He asked himself incredulously. The light started flickering on and off, on and off, over, and over again. His bloody hands again. Pulling the little chain hanging from the lamp. On, off. On, off. Bloody Hell. Maybe I need some sleep. I'm getting nowhere anyway.
"Yes, Joe. Sleep." Chilling.
Joe was really freaking himself out. He tried to get up from the chair but he couldn't. It seemed that his feet had decided on mutiny too. His left leg was bouncing up and down like a fat, drunken idiot on a bungee cord. His right foot was tapping out the same beat that his hands had crafted minutes earlier. Joe felt himself being pulled down into his leather-backed chair. The snug material folding and moulding to his body like a second skin, not letting go. The chair slowly rotated itself back to face the old typewriter that Joe preferred to use over his laptop. There were three letters typed on the page.
He didn't remember typing them and wondered if his hands did. He hadn't heard the keys tapping, nor the caressing thump that the arm gave the page as they kissed their message.
"What the hell is going on?" Joe spoke aloud into the darkness.
And just as surely as it had happened, Joe was free from the dark clutches of his desk chair and on his feet. The deep red leather back of the chair breathing out again in exhaustion of its efforts, cracking and popping as its made its way back to normal. Joe shook his head and headed off in the direction of his bedroom. He kicked off his slippers and pulled his T-shirt over his head dumping it on the mound of dirty clothes on the floor. They had sat there for the last week or so after Christie had walked out. She always did the laundry.
Joe sat down on the edge of the bed, head in hands. When did things start going wrong? Was it when the voice started? Joe couldn't remember anymore, and worse, his hands were tapping on his head, curling into his wavy brown hair and then they twisted with incredible force. He could feel some of the hair starting to break and pull from his scalp. He thought he could even hear it.
"Joe." The whisper was back. He looked around but there was no one in the room.
Am I going insane? Almost instantly, his hands were back in his lap. Unbelievable. Joe threw himself down on the bed and pulled the sheets right up to his chin, not bothering further with getting undressed. He didn't see the point. As he drifted off to sleep, words kept forming in his head, denying him full oblivion.
'Hidden by the covers, he lies unmoving, still
As if he could banish them with just a power of will
But soon they will come creeping out from the murky deep
Striking fear and panic to make the young child weep
His parents don't realize that his fears are oh so real
He hears the creaking floorboards, his skin begins to pale
The itch it starts low down and makes the poor child quiver
As dread spreads through his body, his head, his heart, his liver
The child tries to shout and scream but no noise comes out
Very soon they will be here, and there, and all about
The inky blackness hides their movement and now at last they're free
Whispering in his ears, he senses but he cannot see
The things they say and do, no-one can understand
He snuggles down real small but he's stuck tight in sand
His arms and legs won't function right he cannot move at all
And then he sees a glimpse of one, against the bedroom wall.
It's reaching out towards him, its fingers inky black
And then sweat comes spreading out across his clammy back
It's got so close and cold his breath he can even see
In the dark is when these monsters get to roam round free.
How will he survive the night with evil lurking near?
It's living off his terror and breathing in his fear?
The darkness swirls above him, looking for a way in
He huddles deeper down still, his head all in a spin.'
"Closer, closer, Joe, I'm getting very near
Too Late Joe, sorry, I am already here."
Joe woke with a wild jerk at those last two lines but his arms went nowhere. He was pinned down by the bed covers. He couldn't move. He could feel them tightening as he lay there, cutting into the flesh beneath his chin. He was struggling for breath. He thrashed his head from side to side trying to steal a breath. He gulped and gasped, getting just enough oxygen into his system to scream,
And it did. It was as if it never happened, bar the wet sheets and aching neck. Joe flung the sheets across the room as far as they would go and sat bolt upright on the bed. He rubbed his hands over his neck, his face and through his hair, all the time reaching for his next breath. At least for now, the hands were his. Joe dropped his feet to the floor. It was icy cold. He hadn't heard those words since he was a child. The ending was different then. What had it been? Ah, I remember,
The things they say and do, no-one can understand
Then the lights come on and the shadow men are banned
My dad stands in the light just like a great big glowing knight
The monsters are gone now, at least until tomorrow night.
"Joe. Dad's no longer here."
I am going bloody mad. Joe rushed to the bathroom, spun the sink taps on full and threw water at his face. He reached above the mirror and turned on the little shaving light. It was then he noticed the movement behind him. His shadow shimmered. Almost imperceptibly but it was definitely not usual. Joe spun around. As the shadow lengthened and touched the door, the door began to move, closing itself. Joe knew the door was pretty heavy. It had taken three of them to hang the damn thing.
His shadow had mass. It moved the door. Am I still dreaming?
"No, Joe. You're not dreaming. I'm here. I've always been here. Waiting. Waiting for you. When you get frustrated. Scared. Angry. Depressed. You let me in. There is no escape. I am a part of you. Attached if you will. I am the darkness, the sickness that lives within all. What do think your shadow is?" And then it laughed and didn't stop.
Joe burst from the apartment, barefooted and bare chested. He ran through the night rain, it pounding off him as he ran. His shadow keeping pace, chuckling the entire way. When Joe reached the baseball diamond, he paused and scanned the field. There on the far side, the electric box. It was padlocked. Joe lifted the biggest rock he could find and beat the shit out of the padlock until it snapped. He flung it aside and flipped the breaker switches for the floodlights.
Joe ran into the field, adjusting his angle each time and watched with glee as his shadow got smaller and smaller.
"NO! NO! NO!" shouted the shadow.
When Joe hit dead centre, the only noise he heard was his own ragged breath, the drumming of rain and the hiss as the water steamed off the lights. He slowly sank to the ground, casting no shadow at all. He sat there, letting the rain wash over him. Relief.
"Yeah, fucker! Where are you now?"
Quiet and stillness for a few moments more. Then Joe heard something else. Laughter.
"I'm underneath you."
The last thing Joe heard was a loud crack, as his mind simply snapped.