I could see the Shadow out of the corner of my eye, huddled in the corner of the room. It's always there. Just on the edge of my vision so I never got a good look at it. But it always seemed to take a different shape each time I tried to look at it.
Now it sits, vibrating in anticipation. Waiting for me to put my guard down, so it could strike. A hungry predator stalking it's prey.
I fix my collar in the mirror. Run my hand through my hair one more time, make sure it's perfectly quaffed. I could feel the gel in my hair, still not dry.
I had a date tonight. Michelle. This would be our fourth date and things were going really well.
She seemed to be way out of my league when I first met her. Stunning would be a word that could almost adequately describe this woman. Long, jet black hair, blue eyes and a body that fit perfectly in a slim red dress. Not to mention she had a nice coushy job in finance somewhere. Michelle actually seemed to have her shit together, a huge departure from the norm for me.
The girls that I usually tend to date aren't anywhere near as together as Michelle. My "type" could be described as women who were, in one way or another, emotionally unavailable. I've never broken up with anyone. My relationships only end after she leaves me. Usually for a more attractive and all around better guy. It was a well established pattern.
The Shadow rumbled.
I examine my reflection again. I don't know what Michelle sees in me. I'm average looking, at best. I live paycheck to paycheck off of a dead end job. All I've been my entire life is a...
Take a deep breath.
Rub my hands on my eyes, the world around me goes black. I look in the mirror one more time. I glance at the clock. I'm late. Time to leave.
We're at a party; Michelle and I. Her friends, not mine. Just a small get together with about ten people, casual. We've been dating for about six months now.
I've got my back against the wall, her friend is talking to me about his work. Todd. Or Tom, I'm not sure. He says something's that's supposed to be funny, I laugh. Over his shoulder I can see Michelle talking to her other friend, Lily.
Michelle holds her drink like a cross. Vodka and soda. The usual. She looks gorgeous, the florescent light from over her head shines off her hair. Her cheeks a rosy pink from the alcohol. She catches me staring at her.
The world falls away. The past disappears, there is no future, nothing else matters; it's me and Michelle on an island.
I want to stay there forever.
Todd/Tom says something to me. He asked a question, I ask him to repeat himself. He wants to know what I do for work. The Shadow pulsates in the corner, it's about the size of a kitchen chair.
I answer Todd/Tom. Tell him about my job. Make small talk, go through the motions. God, I hate my job. I just go through everyday a mindless drone. Show up, pound on the keyboard, submit form, go home. Repeat. A poorly trained monkey could probably do my job. I'm suddenly tired. It's too loud in here.
I ask Todd/Tom to excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom. Once I'm there, I close the door and lock it. I put my hands on either side of the sink and stare at myself in the mirror.
I turn on the water, I make it freezing. I cup my hands and just watch the water overflow for a bit. Staring at the puddle in my hand, I examine all the cracks between my fingers where the water escapes out into the sink, disappearing down the drain.
A knock on the door shatters my concentration and I jump. For some reason I feel like I've been caught doing something wrong. In the reflection, it looks like the Shadow has grown. I lean back into the sink, throw some of the cold water on my face and go to leave the bathroom. Time to rejoin the world.
I put my hand on the handle of the door and go to open it, before I do I look in the mirror, one more time.
The sun shines through the window. Outside, it's a nice Spring day. I hear birds singing and the sounds of children playing from the open window.
The Shadow's even bigger now, about the size of a elephant. I keep trying to look at it, but it somehow always avoids my direct gaze. I still can't describe exactly what it is or what it looks like.
Michelle and I have been together for two years now. We've moved in together. I've told her about the Shadow. She didn't seem to understand.
How could she when I don't even understand it myself. How could I explain it to her so she'd know? She supports me still, though. She tells me that she loves me. She promises she does. She looks hurt when I ask her if she's sure.
I plan on proposing to her eventually. I've already bought the ring. I'm just not sure if she'd want that. Or why she'd want to marry me. She's dropped hints that she wants me to propose. But it's probably best if I don't. Best for her.
I quit my job a few weeks ago. I'm supposed to be looking for a new one today, but I haven't gotten off the couch yet. I haven't gotten dressed. Netflix asks me if I'm still here. It's been waiting for my reply for about hour or so now. I don't know.
I hear the door to the apartment open.
Michelle's home. She's gonna be pissed. I think I see the Shadow grow a bit more.
Michelle walks in. I'm still staring at the television. I can't look at her. I hear her purse hit the ground. Even without seeing her, I know she has her arms crossed and her right leg locked.
Yup, she's pissed.
She asks what I've done all day.
I don't respond.
She asks if I've moved from the couch.
I don't respond.
The Shadow vibrates and grows even bigger. It starts buzzing. A loud staticy sound that threatens to drown everything else out.
I catch bits and pieces of what Michelle is saying.
I never used to be like this,
I was happy once,
She's just trying to help,
Let her help me,
Why can't I just be happy?
The Shadow hums louder, it suffocates Michelle's words. It grows, and grows. I can see it now.
And it's fucking terrifying.
It's a dark mass that takes up the entire room and drains the color out of the objects around it leaving everything a bland grey. It grows even more, leaving nothing but the space between Michelle and I. She seems so far away.
I'm panicking, but she's still talking. The Shadow has no eyes, but it's moving with a purpose now, shifting. Something opens inside of it revealing rows of jagged teeth, and behind that, more darkness. A hole within hole that leads nowhere.
It shifts more, and I realize, it's not after me.
It's after Michelle.
I want to scream, I want to fight it, I want to grab a weapon, jump off the couch and send the Shadow back to hell. I want to do it for her.
But I can't.
The Shadow has me paralyzed. It positions it's mouth over Michelle, who's crying now. Oblivious to the Shadow hanging above her, about to devour her.
I just stare at her. Numb now. I've given in. I can't save her.
The Shadow has won.
The Shadow descends and swallows her whole.
The Shadow stares at me. The world stops.
The Shadow shrinks, settles into a shape that's the same size as me. I look back at the television.
Netflix asks if I'm still here. I turn it off.
In the black reflection of the television I just see me. On the edge of my vision I can still see the Shadow. Its settled in next to me on the couch. Waiting.
I don't know what I'll do now. I have nothing left. I feel nothing.
I look at myself in the reflection again.