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Shadow Men

Dreams of a Child

By JBazPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 9 min read
Top Story - June 2024

"Daddy, do you get scared?"

Gently tucking the superman blanket around my son, I look him in the eyes. "Why do you ask?"

His dark eyes fill with tears but fail to breech his long lashes as they hold back the unexpected storm. I can see his inner turmoil struggling whether he should say more or hold it in. In a whispered voice he softly says. "When I close my eyes they come for me."

Taken back by his nervousness and solemn statement, I hold back a chuckle that I may have unwisely blurted out. Instead, I lean in, placing my hand upon his head. "Who comes for you?"

I feel little muscle spasms ripple throughout his tiny frame as his body tremors. I barely hear his words as he hesitantly speaks. "The shadow men."

"Do you mean ghosts?"

Vigorously shaking his head. "No, they're real, but they fade in and out. Do you see them when you sleep, daddy?"

I am unsure how to answer, if I say no he may feel alone if I say yes he may feel that I cannot protect him. I know a six-year-old shouldn't have to live with fear. Instead, I smile and ask. "Tell me more of these shadows. Do they chase you, or talk to you?"

"They whisper to me, but I don't know how they do it."

"What do you mean?"

Caleb reaches up and gently touches my face then traces my mouth. "They don't have a mouth or a face."

Now the tears fall, fast and hard but no sound escapes, his voice is silent until he whispers. "They say I have to go with them."

“Where?”

His bottom lip quivers, I see him trying to be brave and realize these are the moments when a parent needs to tread carefully.

"Son, you do not have to worry about them coming for you. I will protect you. Now, how about I tell you a nice story, perhaps read you that book with the mouse you like?"

“Daddy are we awake or dreaming?”

“We are awake son, why?”

“Because I hear them.”

His face frozen, eyes wide. The tears flow one drop at a time. I look him in the eye and cannot mask my confusion. Should I be worried that my son hears voices?

I simply ask. “Do you hear them now? What are they saying?”

Tilting his head as if he is listening to something, he nods.

"Yes, they say you know why they're here."

"I'm supposed to know?"

Slowly his head swivels towards the window. A flash of lightning lights up the dark sky. A moment ago, it was a cloudless night, now the wind picks up and the rain begins to pelt against the window pain. He throws his tiny body into mine and grips me tight.

“It's ok." I soothe him. "It is only the rain." Before I can say another word to comfort Caleb, his muffled voice cries. "They’re coming for me tonight. Can I stay with you?"

"Of course you can." I am about to wrap my arms around him, to carry him to our room when he pleads. "Please daddy, tell the shadow men to leave, I don't want to see them anymore."

"Do you see them often?"

He nods his head.

My heart begins to beat faster, but I show no emotion. "Is it always night and raining when you see them?"

Calebs eyes widen. "Yes, sometimes it's raining. Sometimes it's so foggy I can't see them, but I know they are..."

"Lingering just out of sight." I don't understand why I finished his sentence.

He bolts up even straighter. "Yes, they're always there. Until I wake up, but..."

"But what?" I ask.

"But they don't want me to wake up, they whisper to me."

Now I sit up, I am debating on whether I should wake my wife. I feel she handles these situations better then me, but for some reason I hesitate. Instead, I decide to listen for a while longer. My throat goes dry, I keep my eyes upon my son, licking my lips I ask. "What do they say?"

He stares into my eyes; with trembling lips he says. "They tell me its time."

"Time?"

He buries himself under the sheets, and I know what needs to be done. Time to do what fathers do best. I gently peel the blanket back, pick him up, hold him close and begin to walk.

“Caleb, I have a secret that will keep these Shadow men away.”

“In a voice so soft, I barely hear him say. “Really?”

With confidence I reply . “Absolutely.”

In moments we are in our kitchen, I prop him on the counter and smile. The dim under the counter lighting adds a warm glow to the room, wrapping us in a world of our own.

I talk to him while I prepare a magic potion, consisting of warm milk, a dash of chocolate and a pinch of cinnamon. I make up a tale of how this potion has been in our family for many years.

In a flurry I move and stir, I have Caleb chant the magic words as I pour this elixir into our favorite Disney cups.

This is the same potion my father made me when I was a frightened child. I tell stories of how brave members of our family have dispatched monsters and demons for years. By the time he drinks the last drop, his eyes begin to droop.

“Come on Caleb, let’s go to sleep, in the morning everything will be ok.”

Caleb stifles a yawn as I pick him up and carry him to his bed. Brushing his hair away from his eyes I kiss his brow and whisper goodnight. I listen to his soft even breathing before gently closing his door, leaving it slightly open.

I take two steps then suddenly a vision creeps forth, from some buried place within my mind. I lean against the wall. His nightmares brought back my own unsettling childhood memories of rain and shadows in a fog stalking me.

I suddenly remember the Shadow men.

They haunted my dreams as a child. Tormenting me, lying to me. I feared them for years. Until one night when I had enough, and I yelled at them, I don’t remember what I screamed, but they left me alone and never returned.

I was only a child. I still remember the fear I had and how my father protected me with his elixir. I shook my head and chuckle, as I am fairly certain he added a drop of rum to my magic potion. A different time.

Tip toeing to our bed, a flash of lightning helps guide my way in the dark. Pulling back the bed covers, another burst of light fills the evening sky my heart jumps against my chest, I reel back in confusion. In the dying glow, a shadow form stirs and reveals Caleb laying in my bed, his eyes wide open. Slowly he sits up, his body tenses as he stares out the window. My voice shakes as I try to comprehend what is happening.

In as calm a voice as I possibly can, I say, “Caleb, you should be asleep in your bed.” Wondering how he got here.

There is fear in his voice as he speaks and points to our window. “It’s too late, they're here.”

In two strides I am at the window pulling up the blinds just as another flash breaks the darkness. I see them standing just beyond reach. Hovering above the ground like lost souls ready to rush forward. I close the blinds and run to the bed.

I try to keep my voice steady. “It’s ok Caleb, there is nothing out there, just the rain.”

I bend to pick him up and hold him as tight as I possibly can but his arms shoot out, grasping my head. Staring into each others’ eyes, I freeze when he says. “Help me daddy.”

In an instant my eyes grow heavy, I fight to stay awake, but my world spins out of control. I am swirling in a mist of damp fog being sucked deeper and deeper into the unknown until I find my self standing before these shadow men. Their translucent bodies fade with the mist, I hear their voices calling me, pulling me towards them. My feet slide helplessly along slick cobblestones. Their visceral attacks pummel my soul, sending a shock to my body. I feel like I am slowly being turned inside out.

Painful memories that were long since buried burst forth as I remember everything.

They told me, someday they would return to collect on the promise I made. Their vaporous bodies turn and twist like dirt caught in a whirlwind. A chorus of voices fill my head, I hear them cry. “The boy is ours, you promised.”

“I was a child.” I screamed

He belongs to the shadow realm now, give him to us.” Their hollow voices fill the dark.

Like the child I once was, I fear my bladder will release and I will crumble to their will. I manage a weak, “No.”

You promised us your first born. A bargain made. A debt owed.

From behind, a cry fills the void with a sob that tears me apart. Spinning around, Caleb is standing there, looking at me to protect him. He knows they want him.

It is the pleading look in his eyes that gives me strength. I see the belief he has in me to save him from these demons. Calmly walking to my son, I pick him up, cradle him in my arms and stare down the Shadow men.

I simply say. “No, you will not have him, not now or ever.”

There is silence.

Then as one they advance, slowly floating towards us. If they had a mouth I know there would be a sinister smile upon there pale faces. Their arms stretch out reaching for Caleb, long wispy fingers grasp and pull on the fabric of his pajamas, trying to pull him from me. I fight to hang on.

Voices creep into my brain. “No Daniel. You made a promise, the child is ours.’

I find a strength within and feel my body moving in slow motion. I manage to turn and begin to run. Caleb clutches onto me, I feel his fingernails bite into my neck. My legs are like lead, but I force myself on. The air becomes cold and heavy, breathing is impossible. Turning back, I see them floating towards us. In a breathy voice I hear them calling my name. “Daniel…Daniel…”

“…DANIEL, wake up.”

My eyes fly open, a blurry face peers above me. I reach out to push it away when I realize that it is my wife.

My heart is forcing its way out of my chest, I feel rivulets of sweat rolling down my body. My breathing is uneven and shallow.

A soothing voice calls gently to me. “Daniel, you’re having another bad dream.”

An aureate light fills the room as another bolt dances across the night sky. I'm in my bed. I nod and try to smile, showing that I am ok. “Yeah, a bad dream. Sorry I woke you.” I swallow but there is no moisture.

The room goes dark once more, a steady rain falls outside. My head is foggy, I’m in that transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.

Mumbling I find myself saying. “They wanted to take Caleb from us.”

“Who’s Caleb?”

Shaking my head I try to focus on her face as confusion fills my head. “Caleb, our son.”

I hear her chuckle in the dark. “So, you’re sure it’s going to be a boy are you?”

As my eyes adjust to the darkness, another flash illuminates the room and I see her silhouette. Her extended belly round and full of life. Our first child. She lays back down and sighs, her hand caresses my face as she says. “Caleb, I like it. The way this baby is kicking tonight I don’t think we have long to wonder. Get some rest.”

In moments I hear steady soft breathing, I lay there listening to her sleep. Reaching over I place my hand gently upon her belly, and lean closer until my lips graze her flesh and whisper. “I will protect you. As long as I can, no one will ever harm you little one.”

I smile, as if in response there is a slight kick against the palm of my hand. I pretend not to hear the voice whispering to me.

They’re coming.”

***********************************************************

Thank you,

Jason

All art work created from Deep Ai

psychologicalfiction

About the Creator

JBaz

I have enjoyed writing for most of my life, never professionally.

I wish to now share my stories with others, lets see where it goes.

Born and raised on the Canadian Prairies, I currently reside on the West Coast. I call both places home.

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Reader insights

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Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (32)

  • Liam Stormabout a month ago

    I'm late on the take here, but what a story! You've captured creepy so well I this Well deserved top story!

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    argggghhhh, Scary!! and the ending, oh no! loved the story and the artwork. Such a great job!!

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    Absolutely riveting. A great achievement.

  • Imuabout a month ago

    Cool, enthusiastic

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Wow! This was excellent! I loved the father son relationship and the exchanges between the two and it had a great twist at the end. Great one.

  • Ainy Abrahamabout a month ago

    Congratulations on this beautiful story.

  • angela hepworthabout a month ago

    So creepy and so clever! Beautiful work.

  • I love the very concept of "Shadow Men" , the images are perfect and the story brilliantly disturbing.

  • Oliver Millwardabout a month ago

    Truly gripping until the end. Beautifully written congratulations

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Congrats on your great victory.

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    Really stunning job Congratulations on TS

  • Mariann Carrollabout a month ago

    I love this story, very creative. Congratulations on top story 🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳🎊🎊

  • Matthew Frommabout a month ago

    Damn Twas a poor choice to read this before bed. The dialogue was *chefs kiss*

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    This scared the crap out of me, JBaz. The hair on the back of my neck stood up! Amazing story. This richly deserved the Top Story. Well done!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    There it is. Congrats on the TS.

  • D. J. Reddallabout a month ago

    This is gripping! Congratulations for a richly merited TS!

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    Back to say Congrats on Top Story! Very well deserved!

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    Truly a visceral experience of horror, excellent storytelling

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Spectacular story and loved it!!!💕❤️❤️ Congratulations on Top Story too!!!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    Back to say congrats on Top Story!!!!! 🎉

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    Jason this was sooooo eery and tense!! I love the way you seamlessly bleed the dream sequences and reality for Daniel together!! You made this story so gripping!!

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Just wow, so fearful. So go ahead and good luck.

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    This is terrifyingly terrific! Outstanding storytelling that was so gripping! The way you escalate intensity with your pacing is top notch!

JBazWritten by JBaz

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