The Shadow - A Short Horror Story by Clover
“I can’t thank you enough for coming over Jen, this storm is horrible!” Mrs. Trey said as she hurried down the stairs to greet me. Mr. Trey smiled as he closed the door behind us – wind whipping violently outside - and proceeded to pick up a piece of note card that was on the front hall table.
“This is our emergency contact information,” he handed the paper to me, “we’ll only be gone a few hours, the party is only a few blocks away so call if you need anything.”
“I just put Jack down; the baby monitor is in the kitchen and the bottles are in the fridge. Other than that help yourself to whatever else may be in there,” Mrs. Trey laughed softly as she fastened her earrings and slipped her black heels on, “we won’t be later than midnight, this storm is supposed to get worse.”
Mr. Trey put his hand on his wife’s back, and gently ushered her towards the door. “Oh!” He turned around and fished through his pockets, “here’s $20 for the pizza, and we asked to have it delivered for 9:30pm.” He winked once as they turned and headed into the wind outside.
After the Trey’s had hustled to their car, I smiled. This was the first babysitting job I’ve had in over a month and it would be so nice to be able to have some spending money again. I loved sitting for the Treys; the baby was always asleep and I had to do little more than eat pizza and watch sitcom reruns until midnight.
I headed upstairs just to see Jack; I wanted to see if he wanted a bottle before I sat down to watch Seinfeld. He has a condition where he is unable to cry, so he makes really cute murmuring sounds instead when he wants something so you have to listen carefully. I peeked into the crib and lightly stroked my finger on his cheek which startled him awake. Jack huffed and gurgled, but closed his eyes again, and was asleep before I could even leave to grab him a bottle.
An hour later I was watching Kramer swim the East River when the wind really started to go crazy. I muted the T.V. and got up to pull the curtains aside so I could watch. The sky was pitch black even for October and the lamps outside cast billowing shadows that seemed to move with the wind. The streetlamp on the Trey’s lawn caught my eye as it seemed to flicker; the light sputtered sporadically then ceased, leaving the shadows to hide in the dark. I watched as a lamp on the end of the street died, then the one beside that one, and one by one I watched as each streetlight was seemingly blown out leaving the block in darkness.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I looked at the fallen leaves outside collect into a mass as the wind pounded against the house, beating the windows like a battering ram so hard I thought they would shatter into me. I didn’t like the feeling of this at all, something seemed off. The lights inside the house twinkled as they wavered - then silently went out - leaving me standing alone in the shadows, cast by a slight glow through the window from the moon. Goosebumps formed as I gingerly ran my fingers down my neck, as I casually laughed out loud. I hated the dark; I was scared of it. I had never heard the wind like this before, or felt such unease.
I decided to call the Trey’s to ask where they kept their candles or flashlights, while the soundtrack of the wind still thrashed against the windows. I felt my way around the living room to the front hall where Mr. Trey left the emergency contact information, bumping myself against the couch or a chair a few times. I grabbed the phone on the way from its cradle and scooped up the paper, holding it up in front of the side-window of the front door to read the number scrawled in ink. I turned the phone on to hear silence – the line was out. I swore out loud as I turned my head to look out the tiny window. The moon lit the driveway as I noticed something being blown outside by the wind, a black cloud. Was that a shadow or an animal? It disappeared as my heart started to race.
As I set the phone and card down on the table it caught my eye again, a black shadow being carried by the wind towards the front door. Something was definitely there - it wasn’t a shadow - and I caught a glimpse of what looked like eyes before it dissipated into the howling wind again. I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm my heart now thundering in my chest. “Impossible” I said to myself, the last of the air escaping my lips as I searched for any explanation that came to my head. I backed up into the hall, away from the window as a swelling black mass came up the front steps and onto the porch. The wind screamed and pounded the front door like a rabid animal trying to break in. I jolted farther away from the door, now my slight discomfort had escalated to blinding panic.
The house shook as the wind slammed again and again into the door, I fell to my knees and gripped the wood threshold as I witnessed the doorknob turning. I yelled out as the door flung opened and slammed itself back, smashing the side window as the wind hurled the glass into me. A frightening, deafening shriek came from the open door, and I had to throw my head in my hands and cover my ears. Wind and black rushed into the house, carrying leaves and glass shrapnel like a freight train. All I could do was lay in a crumpled heap listening to my heart roar, and feeling the dripping sensation of my blood trickling down my skin. My body was paralyzed, the wind holding me down as I heard a sound that filled me with absolute terror - It was a baby’s scream for help.
I forced my legs to work and started climbing on all fours up the stairs, the wind and debris pummelling me to stay on the ground; I had to turn my head to keep from having glass thrown into my eyes. A black cloud at the top of the stairs blasted my ear drums like a jet engine, a mouth forming in an open gape and charged for me. I yelled out as it passed through me in a swirl of black, filling my lungs and making me feel tingly. I punched and kicked the air as I struggled for control over my legs. I ran up the stairs while the glass was flying into me like darts, I tried to shield my face as I looked down to see my skin open and blood streaming down my arms and felt the hot, familiar taste of blood fill my mouth.
I threw open Jack’s door to find the windows blown out, and Jack bright red and screaming for me. He was somehow screaming on the top of his lungs as he was engulfed by the black cloud, holding him up and swirling around him. I ran full speed into the cloud throwing my whole weight onto it as I fell on top of the baby trying to protect him using my body as a barrier. The crib seemed to levitate before it exploded, sending the baby and me hammering into the wall and dropping onto the floor.
I was in the fetal position with jack pushed into my chest, my body wrapped around him. I felt my legs lifting up, and I heard my back cracking and being slashed, my clothes tearing off my body like they were being ripped off by clawed hands. Then as soon as it started it stopped – and all I saw and felt was black.
“Ok, do you mind telling me exactly what happened, Paul is it?” The young officer had her notebook out and her pen was furiously scribbling.
“Ya it’s Paul,” Paul was looking at the ground, “like I said, an order came in earlier tonight for a plain cheese pizza to be delivered here for 9:30pm for the babysitter, I was told she had cash so I didn’t bring the debit machine. I got here a little later than I should have, I got lost, I'm a new driver and I took Fairview Street instead of Fairview Road.”
“So you got here what time would you say?” The officer jotted down everything; you never know what will be important in an investigation.
“A little after 10pm. I pulled up to the house and knocked on the door. I must have stood there for 5 minutes and no one answered, I figured the babysitter was just mad I was so late so she wasn’t answering the door. If it’s more than 20 minutes late my boss gives the pizza for free, and I knew someone was home because all the lights were on, so I just put it on the porch and left.” Paul looked at me, “If I knew this was going to happen I would have called you guys myself, I get stiffed all the time so I thought nothing of it.”
“It’s okay Paul. If you think of anything else please let us know.” The officer turned and headed towards the squad car. The illumination from the streetlamp outside the Trey’s house allowed her to add a few last minute notes. The Chief walked up to her cruiser and handed his own notebook to her.
“I have the parent’s statements here. They said the babysitter was always great and it didn’t seem like her to take off. So we’ll put a cruiser by her house in case she comes home later tonight.” He scratched his head. “Just another flakey teen I guess, taking off to do something more exciting on a Saturday night. Apparently they had to unlock the door to get in, and they noticed she was gone; she must have had a spare key to lock up when she left. All the lights were on, the television was on, and the baby was sleeping away in the crib. They were relieved everything was okay, but they seem pretty worried she skipped out. Well, when she gets home we can make a report and ask her why she would leave a baby alone in a house. May as well head home and get some sleep, Kennedy.” The Chief waved as he walked over to his car and got inside.
Kennedy stood leaning on her open cruiser door watching the Trey’s holding their baby and saying goodbye to the last officer, before vanishing inside. She sighed loudly, and hoped her own teen would be more responsible when babysitting.
The Trey’s were in Jack’s room putting him into his crib, when Mr. Trey with a furrowed brow, spoke first. “It’s just not like her, Meghan. The T.V. was on for Christ’s sake, why would she do that? She loved Jack.”
Meghan scoffed. “Obviously we aren’t very good judges of character, Ross, if we trusted a girl to come into our home and up and leave a baby with a disability alone without telling anyone.” She looked down into the oak crib and smiled at Jack, tenderly adjusting his sleeping hat.
“What’s that?” Ross said, as he caught a glimpse of something. He leaned in and pushed the hat back with his thumb. “Meg, was this always here? Did Jack always have a birthmark above his ear?”
“That is strange isn’t it,” Meghan bent down closer to study the black mark, slightly bigger than a nickel, above Jack’s ear. “I guess that’s the wonders of newborns, you’re always learning something about them.” Meghan and Ross kissed Jack’s head as he slept, flicked the light off and closed the door. As they walked down the stairs Meghan proceeded into the kitchen, rambling about responsibility as she left Ross’s sight. Something glimmered and caught his eye and he stopped in the hall to kneel down to pick it up. He studied it as he turned it over in his fingers. He shrugged and stood up, putting the small piece of glass on the hall table. Meghan was still talking from inside the kitchen, “First thing tomorrow we are calling Jennifer’s parents; I want to give her a piece of my mind as soon as she gets home.”
Jennifer never came home.
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