There had been over two dozen sightings by late April. A tall, dark figure, just outside the corner of one's eye. The mere presence of a shadow. Reporters had mocked. The police had laughed. Those who claim they saw someone- something- were ridiculed and shunned. But everyone began to believe after the first body showed up.
A small girl had found it. She was walking with her mother when she saw something down a dark alley. She had run off to investigate, her mother calling after her. Witnesses say the scream they heard was blood-chilling. When the police arrived, three of the officers had to step away. The scene was locked down quickly after that. The news coverage said that a homeless man had died of an overdose. Onlookers confirmed there was a body, but were emphatic it was no overdose. Nor any ordinary murder. Because what kind of human could turn another human entirely inside out? The young girl was submitted to a mental hospital. She wouldn't stop screaming. The local government tried to keep the matter quiet. They didn't want their citizens panicking, especially not during an already stressful lockdown. But once more bodies began to show up, they moved quickly to put the City on high alert.
More police began to roam the streets. Curfew was moved from eight pm up to six, and people were told to keep noise to a minimum after dark—this didn't help. By the end of May, fifteen bodies had been found, each turned inside out. Horrific smiles stretched across their warped faces. Quickly, the secret service was enlisted. Cameras were installed in all the streets, and for a short while, the killings stopped. Then, inexplicably, the cameras began to shut themselves off. When inspection teams, accompanied by heavily armed protective details, showed up to fix the problems, they were greeted with the sight of bloody words smeared across the walls. 'You cannot see me' was the first message to be found. The locals panicked. They began to send the children away, into the country, in the hopes of saving them from the horror which could lurk in any shadow.
A week later, a body showed up hanging from a lamppost. The words 'you cannot find me' were painted across a shop window. The City's local government put out a statement saying that a serial killer was on the loose and that the people should be wary of how they moved around. "Always travel in pairs, obey curfew, never walking after dark and carry a weapon with you." Another body found the day after the statement, a young boy only twelve. His train ticket to the country was sewn across his throat, and a sickly grin was splashed across his raw flesh. 'Why do you run from me? the note said. 'I thought we were having fun.'
Mobs began to form at night, people searching the streets, hunting for whoever – or whatever- was killing these people. Once more, there was a brief reprieve from the killings. Then, one awful morning, the corpse of a pregnant woman was found- hanging from the powerlines, the unborn child sewn to the outside of her stomach. Painted across the street in her blood was the warning 'You hunt me, like some common animal. Now, there will be more'. The national guard was called in. Patrols roamed the streets every night. The entire country was sealed off. No one in. No one out.
Each day a new body was found. Always a civilian. Always inside out. Coroners and detectives couldn't figure out how the killer was doing it. There was no flaw, no tear in the muscle. Almost as if the killer just reached inside and pulled.
By the end of June, the police had found thirty-two bodies. A note was always left on the nearest wall. Five people had committed suicide. They left letters saying they would rather die on their own terms rather than be killed by this murderer. People began to hole themselves up in their homes. They were stockpiling food to last for weeks before they would have to leave again. Reports flooded in, people seeing shadows moving out of the corners of their eyes—glowing eyes in the darkness. A presence, just behind them. Each time a dispatch team was sent out to the location to investigate. Sometimes they would find a body: others, a scared citizen, who needed comfort. Emergency calls would flood dispatch. People were calling to report anything suspicious. When asked, no one could accurately describe the murderer. Because no one ever really saw it.
But I saw it. It was three am, Friday the 30th of July. I was typing my report on the recent murder when I looked outside. A young man was walking down the street, breaking curfew. There was a hunting knife in his hand. He was looking around him frantically as if he was searching for something. I began to take pictures, thinking that maybe, this was the killer. But something behind him caught my eye. A dark shadow. Tall and thin. I couldn't entirely focus on it, as every cell in my body was telling me 'look away, look away.' I wanted to warn the man. I wanted to scream and pummel the glass, anything to get his attention. But my hands were frozen on my camera, my throat dry. To my horror, the man turned, and the beast lunged. It reached a long shadowy hand down the man's throat, its whole arm seeming to disappear inside him. The man's body jerked, twitching like he was being electrocuted. His limbs flailed around. His eyes bulged in his reddening face. Blood began to pour from his nose.
In an instant, everything went still. Then, the monster began to pull. I was frozen at my desk, trying not to cry out in fear. Inch by inch, the creature pulled the man, turning him inside out as easily as one would turn out a sock. I dropped beneath the windowsill, pressing my back against the wall. It took almost an hour for the beast to finish. Every few minutes, I looked over the sill, and, if I deemed it safe, would take another picture. After a while, I had to stop. I could no longer watch. I began shaking, hugging myself. Trying to control the shaking of my hands. Just trying to breathe.
The next morning, the street was awash with police and forensic teams. As I walked up to the scene, camera in hand, I saw words that made me stop in my tracks. 'I live in the shadows… right behind you.' I spoke with detectives, I gave my statement, trying to. I showed them the chilling images on my camera. One officer threw up. Others began to break down in hysterics. The photos of a living shadow murdering a man, no one felt safe. The pictures were sent throughout the system. Citizens were warned to stay away from the shadows. I booked my ticket out of the City the next day. I was gone by noon.
Three months later, after ninety more murders at the hands of these shadow beings, the City was evacuated. People were put in temporary residences across the country. The government made a final decision. The City would be abandoned. A wall was built around the ghost city, thirty meters high, and two meters thick. Floodlights shone down the inside of the wall so that the guards patrolling the top could see everything that moved. So that nothing could hide. Years later, the City was overgrown. Buildings crumbled, plants overtook the streets. The wall grew thicker and taller every year. No one lived within 50km of the border. No one dared. The City was named 'the shadows playground.' The country pretended it didn't exist. No one wanted to think about the City ever again. The survivors didn't last long. Some left the country. Some were submitted to asylums. Many killed themselves. No one could live with the nightmare anymore. No one could stand the shadows.