Death’s Shadow


The torch in the sky sets on another day. The clouds glow, orange and red gouge the blue above my head. Finally this day will be consumed by the night. Darkness, my greatest ally will soon arrive. The night is my friend, without it my work would be nigh impossible. The sun begins to dip below the horizon, shadows begin to cover the streets. It is time to move.

I walk down the narrow streets, shops are closing and the population is readying for the coming night. I must find my destination soon, there is still much to do before my task is done. I have been plotting and planning for several months, tonight everything shall come together. I am close, so close. I keep moving, darkness has arrived and with it I have become a shadow, moving quietly to my purpose. I can see candles lit in windows, I must avoid drawing attention, I stick to the shadows, I must remain unnoticed.

I am close now, the house is not far. I begin to climb, swiftly I ascend one of the many stone houses, the crags and sills allowing me to with ease. Once I reach the roof I find my bearings once again, seeing the last vestige of light dipping beneath the earth. Up here there is not another soul, save a crow which follows me as I cross from rooftop to rooftop. My soft leather shoes allowing me to progress without a sound. Finally I reach my target, the building is large, with many windows, many entrances. The many roofs of the building reach high into the sky, it is a mighty building, a castle some might say.

There is movement behind the panes, the candlelight reveals silhouettes as they patrol the many rooms. My task will not be an easy one, but I press on. The buildings are packed together tightly in this city. There are a number of possible entrances to the castle, I find a window in an optimum position. I move closer, I am reminded of the first occasion I completed a task such as this. It was a similar enough task, although I was much younger and far more the fool, inadequate planning was punished severely, scars remain as a harsh reminder. Since those days I have become much more careful.

Even a man of my, profession can find love and years ago I did. It is funny, as I look back, she did not care for me, at first. I swooned over her for years. She refused any invitation I made, thinking I was a simple thief, a cutpurse, an outlaw. She was only somewhat correct, but in those days I was a fool, a headstrong fool. As age took me I realized that she was more important. It took time, but eventually I showed her the depth of my love. I vowed to never steal again. She still does not know my true profession. After this night she will never need to for this is to be my last job, forever. I will never take another life, save this one. This one life can change so much, our world hangs in the balance because of him. I find myself caring for a family which has made me all the more cautious.

I reach the window, preparing myself for what I must do. I slow my breathing, making sure my heart is not nervous, I need silence. I need to become a shadow, shifting from room to room unnoticed. I begin. I enter through the window, the room is dark and books fill the shelves. I move quickly to the door. I hear nothing as I listen, not a footstep or a breath, I silently pull the door open. Peering out, I find not a soul to greet me just as I expected. I move into the hall, soon finding myself at a grand staircase, up I go. Huge paintings of arrogant rich nobility cover the walls, at the top I find a large oaken door. Suddenly footsteps, around the corner a light, I move to a shadowed corner and watch. A man holding a candle turns the corner, aged and slow moving, he opens the door and shuffles into the room. I wait a few moments and then follow, I am a shadow. I am the night.

At the head of the room sits an enormous bed, on the walls hang more extravagant paintings. Gold is everywhere, the frames of paintings, the candleholders, even the bed frame and the sheets, gold covers everything. I crouch in a corner, blanketing myself in gloom. The man sits on the bed, placing the candle on the table next to him. I wish him sleep, ‘off to sleep old man’. Extinguish the candle and sleep. I wait for seemingly an eternity, until finally the flame is reduced to smoke. I hear the steady breathing of sleep then I move, close, so close. As I approach the man I draw my blade, I have completed tasks such as this many times. This will be my last, I will return to my family and never again raise my weapon to another. I promised her, I promised to be there for her, for my family.

The blade in my hands, slow and steady it prepares itself for the deed. I bring the weapon to his throat with purpose and with a touch of regret, I slice it is swift and silent. The old man lets out one last breath as blood pours from the wound. I am already gone from the room. My escape must be swift.

I run down the stairs as quietly as a spectre, I am a shadow. As I reach the bottom I can see the glow of candlelight. I peer around the corner and spot the source, a guard holding a candle, with a large sword belted at his waist. I back away, this was unexpected. I creep back to the bottom of the staircase. Thinking quickly, I must find a way back to the room. I will kill the man in my way if I must. I move, peering around the corner, the guard has vanished. I move back to the empty room which I entered from. As I enter the room, I notice the window which I had left open, is now closed, strange. I reach to open it, and find it has been locked, panic clutches at my mind.

Sounds begin echoing around the mansion, I can hear movement and voices, someone is yelling. The muffled voice seems to grow clearer, I move to the door and press my ear to it. I can make out one word, a name, my name. Panic has now taken hold. How do they know I am here? I keep listening, the voice sounds familiar, a long forgotten familiarity. I rack my brain. I keep thinking while I begin to pick the lock on the window. Soon the familiar click of the lock echoes from within its depths, I am free. I climb the window sill and prepare for the leap to the nearby rooftop. A loud snap bellows from behind me, a figure barges through the door. I glance behind to see the face of the voice, I leap. The air from my lungs leaves me, I hit the rooftop violently. The face burned into my eyes, my brother’s face.

I run off allowing my ally to shield me. Bewilderment and confusion torment my mind as I make my escape. Why? How? My brother died years ago, after we had worked together, I had not heard from him. I did not hear of him until his death.

What does this mean?

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Unwanted Visitors


The wind whistles through the broken window. Shadows move as if ghosts through the room. Old dusty floorboards creak as the old building shifts. A pair of children cower in the corner behind the cot they share. Father leans against the wall next to the open doorway, readying himself. Whispers can be heard, floorboards are pushed to their limit as weighty spectres move across the room. Father prepares himself, he will protect them. He will do what he must.

This was the world now.

They keep moving, searching for something. One moves down the hall, toward the children’s room. Father says a silent prayer, hefts the heavy weapon in his hands. He glances at the kids, they’re scared eyes looking for reassurance in his. The moonlight shows a long shadow on the floor, moving closer. It stops to check another room. The building breathes again replaced by an unsettling silence. The shadow moves closer still. The children holding each other’s mouths to keep from making a sound.

The figure reaches the threshold, pausing. It’s back is turned. Father leans closer, feet spread, his muscles tense, sweat drips from his forehead. The figure moves, it turns and takes a step into the room. Realization sweeps across the stranger’s face, children are here. Suddenly a mighty crack erupts throughout the house and the figure slumps heavily to the floor. Father hefts the weapon again, peering around the doorway. The ghosts whisper loudly, arguing.

Father moves out of the room, motioning to the children to stay and hide. He creeps as quietly as he can, his boots making only the slightest sound. The whispers grow louder. They are in the kitchen he realizes. He reaches the doorway, listening intently. He can only make out two voices. The door’s hinges lay bearen, the task of holding the door long forgotten. He moves his head slowly until  he can see into the shadowy room. The figures are animatedly arguing, blackened silhouettes against the moonlight. He tries to size them up, telling himself to stay come and be deliberate. This is no time for half measures.

He turns the corner letting out a mighty bellow. The figures jump in terror. Father picks up an old chair sitting next to the doorway, throwing it with one hand as hard as he can at the larger figure. Then charges the second raising his sledge above his head. He brings it down, but misses the head and the blow lands on the shoulder, emitting a sickening crack. The figure crumples holding it’s shoulder. Father turns, the other recovering from the chair. It is over in a second, Father jabs the face and brings the butt of the sledge down and across the head, the figure crashes to the floor unconscious.

The second figure, still holding it’s shoulder brings up a hand, asking for mercy. Father spits on the plea, asking “Why do you deserve to live?” He hefts the heavy sledge preparing himself once more. The figure pleas “I’m like you, I just want to protect my family.” He looks more closely, realizing the figure is shapely, feminine. He pulls the face up to see her eyes. Tears run down her cheeks, reflected brightly in the moonlight.

“I’m pregnant” she whispers. “Please don’t kill me.”

In The Night…


I lay in bed, the harsh light from my computer illuminates my face. Darkness surrounds me. I must have lost track of time. I’ve been down here for so long. I slowly stand, blood rushes to my head and stars cross my vision, the dizziness dissipates and eventually I make my way out of my room. I peer out the glass doors, the invisible guardians that keep the world out there. As I stare at the trees movement causes a light to illuminate the backyard, birds scramble off the feeder, escaping the light as quickly as possible. Squirrels sit, staring back at the light, staring back at me. A figure moves, a shadow, just out of the lights reach. It moves down the gentle slope towards the lake. I stare, hard. The shape looks familiar, almost human like, but its movements are animalistic. Suddenly its head turns and its eyes are illuminated, huge glaring eyes.

I shudder and tell myself it wasn’t real. I explore the house looking for the dog, I need someone to distract me. I find her soon enough and she follows me back to my room. As we lay in bed I pet her, and soon we have both drifted off into a realm of dreams.

I wake to an eyeful of sunlight trying its best to muscle its way into the room, through the inadequate blinds. The dog, Frey, wakes as I begin to get out of bed. I make my way to the kitchen for breakfast, she of course follows, knowing scraps will surely follow a meal. The day continues as normal, I write and read and we go for a walk. As we stroll through the forest I find myself continuously looking around, I am wary and can’t stop my mind from returning to the odd figure of the previous night.

The day runs its course and once again I am in bed, the hours disappearing into the night. Frey suddenly stirs, her ears on alert, she bolts out of bed and runs to the doors. I curiously follow and we both stare out into the murky black of night. Shadows move and fall, a loud bark breaks the silence, I almost jump out of my skin. Frey must see, or smell something. Her tail falls between her legs, she barks once more. She looks up at me, I feel as if I can see terror in her eyes, her whines break the silence. My nerves starting to fray, I grab a flashlight and point it towards the lake. Yet again I am forced to stare just beyond the light’s reach.

The figure suddenly appears, it’s odd gate making it easier to spot. It moves again towards the lake. This time I decide to grab an axe and venture out into the dark. I open the doors as quietly as I can and slowly begin walking towards it. My eyes adjust quickly to the moonlight. As I near the creature, I begin to smell it, a stench, almost of death. The creature seems to be drinking, or eating. It is crouched by the water, with what seems to be a fish in its hands.

For some reason, which I still cannot understand, I yell, I scream at it to get away, to leave. Startled it turns to face me, its eyes glaring, it seems just as terrified as me. We stare at each other, neither of us moving. I raise my axe, yell and charge.

It shies away, giving in, then it turns and awkwardly lopes away.

Never again have I seen that strange creature.

Longing


Artist Jenn Grossman

Artist: Jenn Grossman

Days move slowly, I sit in my chair staring at ‘work’. The dull gray of the day seeps into everything. The screen in front of me illuminates the stagnant space in which I spend hour after hour. I am always waiting. Time is always my enemy.

I wait for love, I wait for happiness, I wait for the next distraction, anything that can take me away from this dull inescapable life.

The wait is always torture, I say to myself ‘only so many days left, only so many hours’ or ‘tomorrow it will be better, next week will be better, next year will be better’. Problems persist and my life goes on, unchanging. ‘Tomorrow will be better’.

I sit here, waiting, the next distraction is only ‘a month, a week, a day’ away. Upon arrival my life will change, the grey will be replaced by vibrance and colour will come back into my world.

Alas, it never does.

I sit here, waiting, once again finding myself staring, this time at paper instead of a glaring screen. Distractions abound and I cannot remember my purpose. My hand moves of its own volition. The pencil dashing across the page, white pristine paper replaced by lines of grey. An image begins to form, my mind awakening from slumber. Excitement sparks through my limbs. I am creating!

The wait is over.

The Wilds of A Wood


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My daily walks take me deep into the forest, and for some reason I have decided to go off the path today. The trees here seem taller, older, the forest talks to itself, creaking and whispering amongst each other. Limbs hang everywhere, moss draped over most of the branches, blanketing them for the winter. The air seems heavy and still, I try to continue but the silence becomes deafening and every step seems to echo between the trees.  The gnarled and aged bark glowers at me as I pass each tree, every trunk covered in with texture, so much life, they have seen so much, so many years. I wonder as I stroll, the thoughts of the trees as yet another intruder walks among them. They seem so wise.

The stiff, crisp snow crunches beneath my feet, spring is coming. The days have grown warmer and the melt has caused the snow to become icy. I walk slowly, trying to take in the forest, breathing the clean crisp air, enjoying the rich smells of maple and oak, listening to the whispers of the forest. Life seems so far away here, I wish I could stay, never go back. Back to the world, it scares me, stress and uncertainty haunt me. The dark clouds of responsibility hang over me, the daily routines make my life dry, like a field parched and wishing for rain. Work is dull and grey, love is gone from my life only grief and sadness remains of a soul taken too soon from the world. Even co-workers seem distant and uncaring, worries often overwhelm and I struggle more days than I like. Here in the forest I am free, I do not feel the burdens. The walking relaxes me, calms me.

I press on, deeper into the forest and the silence is penetrating, I stop, I feel eyes on me. I look all around, examining every tree and rock, looking for a culprit. I have never before felt uneasy in this forest. It has always comforted me. My life invades my mind, burdens seem to return, and their weight pulls me down. This uneasy feeling presses on me, I want to turn and run, to get out of this place. I walk a little farther, hoping the movement will alleviate my troubles, but they only seem to get worse. I feel eyes again, I cannot shake the feeling I am being watched.

Suddenly off in the distance I see a dark shadow, still, still as the trees. Curiosity overwhelms my senses and I am forced to creep forward. The snow hindering my steps, I crunch on the icy ground; every step causes a shiver to run through me as I edge nearer. The stillness of the forest is abruptly torn away by a gust of wind, the tree tops sway and creak, their trunks screeching under the strain, their cries reverberating throughout the forest. I move as swiftly and quietly as I can, aided by the winds frightful presence. I move closer and closer, nearer and nearer. The form takes the shape of a man, still draped in shadow, the shape is not very tall, and seems to be bearded. As I get close enough to observe, It doesn’t seem to be wearing any clothes, I realize I am shaking, sweat dripping. Strangest of all, his skin seems the wrong colour, it is not pale as it should be. The statuesque shadow moves ever so slightly, it breathed. My muscles begin to cramp, nervous energy coursing through me.

I lean heavily on the gnarled trunk in front of me, peering carefully.  I am tense, my whole body ready, adrenaline coursing through me. A metallic smell drifts into my nostrils. My skin crawls as realization slams into me, the air in my lungs suddenly disappears causing me to gasp and hold my breath simultaneously. His skin is red, dark red, blood red. He still does not seem to notice my stare. Crimson drips from his fingertips onto the crisp white snow, staining it. There is nothing else around we are completely alone among ancient statues of the forest. Time seems to have slowed, the forest stilled, silence has returned. My heart slamming into my ribcage, it’s pounding echoing in my ears. Then he turns, I see into his cold gray eyes, they pierce into me. I am frozen still, gripped with fear. I want to scream, to run, to get away, I have to escape.

A Necessary Reset


I open the door, the harsh colour of the walls glares back at me and the cracked base board screams ‘FIX ME’. I take a step, telling myself ‘Deep breaths’. I put the box down. Sure it’s not perfect, but neither am I, but it’s mine, it’s me. This is the reset I desperately needed.

I move the pathetically small amount of stuff I own into the new place, MY new place.

I was nervous, terribly nervous; I‘ve never been completely on my own before. I’ve always lived with friends while at school, and then I lived with my girlfriend, correction, ex-girlfriend.

Now, I’m in a new city, with a new career, and nothing to distract me, no excuses. No girlfriend, no friends… I’m terrified. My new job begins in two days. I managed to unpack in all of five minutes (not much came with me). The mess reduced to a minimum.

Boredom has replaced excitement and nervous energy. Realization has set in, no friends… no social life. What am I to do?

I decide a walk will do me good, learn the area.

I leave the building and enter the outside world. Taking in my new surroundings, I walk block after block, street after street. I’m reminded of my friends, I miss them. I’m surrounded by thousands yet I’m alone.

I’m sullen, my head droops. I start questioning myself. “Why did I move here? Alone?” I keep walking. I hear something padding along behind me. I stop and turn around to find a dog looking back at me, a fellow lonely soul. I keep walking, and he keeps following. He follows me home, our new home. The look in his eyes tells me ‘life here isn’t so scary’.

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This was my second post for the weekly writing challenge, focusing on flash fiction.

Let me know what you think, have you ever done a reset? Or wanted a reset?