The Shade

Alone. The trees of the forest around him were just barely visible in the darkness, the faint glowing rays of the moon providing almost no light through the thick canopy of leaves and branches. The silence was deafening, with the only audible noise being the rustle of dead leaves beneath his feet as he turned and viewed his surroundings.

A crack. His head whipped to the right at the sound of a twig snapping somewhere in the shadows. There was nothing there. 

He began to move, slowly, cautiously, towards the source of the sound. He was about halfway to the source of the noise when he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. As he turned, the silence was broken by a sudden series of echoing ticks, like a sped-up clock. The ticks seemed to be sourceless, an otherworldly noise which invaded his mind and filled him with dread. 

As his eyes moved, the horrible being to his left came into view. The creature resembled a massive, hunched humanoid, easily at least twice his height, even leaning over as it was. Its slender body was made up of long, stretched limbs, with four foot-long claws on each of its hands. Its eyes were flashlights in the dark, two large, glowing, white orbs which pierced through the darkness. The monstrous figure was blurry, like an image that wasn’t quite in focus, and yet was very much real and terrifying. 

He felt a shiver go down his back as an unnatural cold swept through the forest. The creature’s massive clawed hand raised slowly with another series of ticks, this time clearly coming from the aberrational horror. The hand shifted left, then right. Left, right, waving slowly. The ticks became slowly louder, as sweat formed on the back of his neck. 

As the noise began to reach a crescendo, every nerve in his body screamed at him to run, to escape, to return to wherever he had come from. He took a step back, then two, then three. Then it was gone. He blinked and the creature was simply no longer there, the ticking ceasing just as quickly as it had begun.

He turned, intending to sprint away, and was met by the same shadowy being, its face barely inches from his. Closer up, he can now see its face in more detail. Each gleaming eye was as large as his hand, and completely blank. The thing had no visible mouth, nose, or ears, and its skin was simultaneously smooth and rough. He could hear its breath, a rasping, low noise which seemed to have no source and yet he could feel the air hit his face. His body was cold, an unnatural sensation that penetrated his skin and locked him in place. 

The thing bent closer, inspecting him. He didn’t know if it was fear holding him in place or something else, some strange force that stopped him from running.

Horrible, sudden pain as the sharp claw pierced his stomach, opening a hideous wound and releasing a waterfall of blood. The claw pulled back, and with a few final ticks, the creature was gone as if it had never been there. He clutched the tear in his skin, trying desperately to hold in the blood as it seeped through his fingers. He stumbled and fell, temporarily relieved from the cold but knowing that it would soon retake him. The layer of grey, withered leaves crinkled, an infinite blanket of death which would soon envelope him.

He awoke suddenly, drenched in sweat but back in his own room. He stood up and dragged himself over to the mirror above his dresser. A pale face stared back at him, with shaggy brown hair sticking to the skin around the greyish-blue, slightly bloodshot eyes, and a thin bit of stubble present on the chin and cheeks.

He took a moment, staring at his shaking reflection. The dream, or rather nightmare, had felt so real this time. Each night for the past 4 days, the same horrible dream, always ending in the shadowy thing stabbing him. But, tonight, something was different. The feelings of dread and the unearthly cold were… different, more genuine. 

He became aware of his heavy breathing and tried to catch his breath. A glint of light caught his eye in the mirror. Turning around, the view from his bedroom window immediately refilled him with dread. Two lights glowed underneath the branches of the tree just outside his window. The lights grew brighter, and the rest of the creature’s body came into view, its thin, shadowy body and claws illuminated partially by its eyes and partially by the beams of the full moon hanging in the black sky.

The ticking began, resonating within his mind. Tck-tck. Tck-tck. Tck-tck. He stumbled back. It can’t be, this isn’t real. The clawed hand reaches up, each of the four, long fingers wrapping around the small outer handle of the window. Creeeeeeak. The unlocked window slowly opened, as the massive hand turned the handle. 

The horrible face leaned forwards, passing through the window. The tall figure, which would likely stand around 20 feet tall at full height, began to climb into his room, squeezing through the open window to move towards him. He scrambled back, hitting the wall. The room went cold as it entered, causing him to shake even more.

He tried to shout out, to call for help, but nothing escaped his mouth, the sound transformed into a simple gasp of frigid air. The thing bent closer, leaning over him. He could feel its rasping breath, sourceless yet freezing. The black claws raised, light barely glinting off of them.

The claw plunged down. He never felt the pain, because everything in his body went numb and his vision turned black. He felt nothing, saw nothing, as life drained from his body. He lay, completely unaware of his surroundings, as his thoughts slowly stopped and his body simply expired.

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