Thursday, June 28, 2012

Clay Tuesday: Inevitable Indecencies

The Case of the Shadow People

“Why me? Why does this have to happen to me?”

Adam, bitter and disheveled, sat on the cold, grungy ground of a dilapidated wood chapel. He sat with one leg extended, a blood-stained bone jutting out of the limb. Sprawled on the ground was the corpse of a black-haired young woman, pale and sickly with her head in Adam’s lap. He stroked her coarse hair absentmindedly, his breathing uneasy but every exhale chillingly visible.

A coal colored crow flew into a shattered stain-glassed window, perching on the sill. Its eyes, deep and endless, pierced Adam’s fragile state of mind. Candidly it spoke, cawing, “It’s happenstance.”

Adam’s eyes shot open, waking from his dream. His breathing was weighted, as though he had just been fighting off a horrid monster bent on devouring his sanity and had barely escaped by mere luck.

Or was it happenstance?

Slowly, Adam turned his stiff neck to the window where sunlight was peeking through. He was surprised to see Kristjan, in a black sweater and jeans despite the current heat wave, sitting in a chair with his hands folded across is lap. His eyes were thoughtfully closed, imitating sleep but Adam knew better. Kristjan didn’t need to sleep, not since his accident.

“You must like watching me sleep, you creeper. I thought hospitals gave you the wiggins,” Adam said in a half groan mixed with his southern accent, making him extremely difficult to understand.

“Sorry mon cher, I’m afraid you’re going to have to speak up. I didn’t quite catch that,” Kristjan replied playfully. Though his eyes were still locked shut, his smile opened up wide on his long, handsome face.

Adam cleared his throat, attempting to sit up. “Don’t say that,” he said scornfully. P. Darwin Yeates was the last thing he wanted to be reminded of.

“Sorry.” The tall blond man leaned forward, hands still clasped together. His green eyes looked Adam over from head to foot, lingering on the cast that wrapped the younger man’s right leg. Kristjan’s smile twitched for a split second, but Adam caught the faltering expression. Kristjan was actually worried about him. “I’ve been in here a while. Don’t you have a girlfriend? I haven’t seen-”

“How long did it take you two to get here?” Adam wanted to change the subject as quickly as possible, visibly wincing at the mention of his Lorelei, the girl that he once believed would always have his heart.

“The house brought us here right before Rachel got the call. She’s at the university right now seeing if she can set up a few guest lectures, that way we can stay as long as we need to.” Kristjan’s smile had become half of what it was at the start and Adam groaned at this news. He had tried so hard to escape from the house and his life only to be brought back into it; he knew that with his leg injury he would lose his football scholarship, he didn’t have a job, and with what Rachel made there was no way he could afford to stay at school. In one moment all his dreams went away, gobbled up, for once, by a monster that he couldn’t fight. Fate.

Kristjan snapped his fingers, getting Adam’s attention. “Before you go getting any crazy ideas, this wasn’t fate, or destiny. It was-”

“If you say happenstance I’m going to kick you in the diaphragm,” Adam spat out quickly. He didn’t want to feel like he was trapped in that life like Kristjan was.

“No, I was going to say hitsuzen.” Kristjan slumped back in the chair in a huff, shaking his head. He wasn’t terribly pleased with the way Adam was acting at the moment. Adam narrowed his gaze, waiting for Kristjan to look over and see that he didn’t understand the word he had used. When Kristjan finally did look back over at Adam, after a brief but stunningly awkward silence, he gave a frustrated shake of his head. “The inevitable. Your actions led you here.”

Adam clutched the sheets on his hospital bed to tight he tore them a little. His father used to say something like that to him and Rachel. Before he had died, in fact, he had said it was inevitable. His own actions led him to the gates of the afterlife. “I know guys aren’t big on comforting each other, but wow, Kristjan, you especially suck at this.” Kristjan propelled himself out of his chair, taking approximately two seconds in an otherwise five second trip to get to the door of the room. Adam continued shouting as Kristjan walked out, “and tell Rachel not to bother doing a lecture! I want to get the hell out of here!”

The room was quickly engulfed by a silence that left Adam feeling dreadfully empty and hopeless. Warm tears left trails down his cheeks and dotted the sheets on his bed. Morosely, he flung his body down and curled up in a ball.

One week earlier, on a dark and dingy Tuesday evening that looked as though it should have been made out of clay, Adam stood apprehensively outside of apartment door four where his girlfriend Lorelei resided. The weather, due to the town’s location on a small island in the eastern United States, was warm and humid. Adam had changed into a light pair of sweats and a white undershirt roughly five minutes ago, and he could already feel sweat causing his shirt to cling to his skin in the back. He uncomfortably clutched a grocery sack with chips, chocolate and avocadoes, wondering how the night would turn out; Lorelei, being a good girlfriend, had invited Adam to a girl’s night at her place so he wouldn’t have to spend his Friday night by himself watching badly dubbed foreign movies. Adam had a slightly difficult time enjoying himself around his roommates as he thought they were all videogame addicted idiots.

Gathering himself, Adam tapped on the door. It opened immediately, and Adam stared right into the golden eyes of Lorelei. She was about as tall as he was, and her hair fell in wavy brown strands around her face. She met her boyfriend with a toothy smile and a big peck on his lips. He could have melted on the spot, but refrained from doing so.

“You’re late, but I’ll forgive you because you remembered how much I love grocery bags. You know just how to woo me.” She tugged on Adam’s shirt, bringing him in to the air-conditioned room. On the couch sat four of Lorelei’s close friends, giggling about something or other, probably the fact that Adam was there. Lorelei took the bag from Adam and trifled through the contents. “Hey, you’re making- Girls, Adam’s going to be making guacamole for us!” This news was met with a few hoots and hollers. Lorelei continued, “What’s the chocolate for?”

“In case I piss one of you off.”

Lorelei gave Adam one of those ‘you’re weird which is why I love you’ looks and patted his stomach lightly with the back of her hand before setting the bag on the table. “Sit! Talk to the girls for a second and I’ll get what you need to make the guac.” Adam tried to insist on helping but Lorelei just shooed him towards the couch. He obliged begrudgingly.

Adam sat down in the middle of an extremely important conversation about which color of nail polish Ann should use, and Stacey was trying to steer her towards a nauseating pink that made Adam’s droopy eyes hurt.

“You know you want the pink. It’s called Flaming Pickle Pink, and it has green glitter! You cannot tell me that’s not awesome,” Stacey’s voice came across in such a way that nobody could tell if she was joking or serious. More than likely she was serious but trying to act like she was kidding unless anybody agreed with her, in which case she would have been totally serious the entire time. Bad memories flooded Adam’s mind, and as per usual he forgot to put up his filter before he spoke.

“That’s a stupid choice,” he said in a sharp tone. He had not meant for the comment to sound the way it had come out, but already Stacey was giving him the evil eye and Sasha was guffawing. Adam wanted to get up and grab the chocolate, something he didn’t think he’d need to use so soon, but he quickly thought of another way to diffuse what had happened. He grabbed another bottle of nail polish that was a teal color and held it up. “Teal Justice works better with what you’re wearing. And it matches your eyes. And stuff.”

The girls found this to be a perfectly acceptable response and by the time Lorelei had returned with the utensils and other such things Adam needed to make properly delicious guacamole, he was dispensing all sorts of advice to the girls such as which shoes to purchase, how to find good sales, telling Shannon that black eyeliner made her eyes look small, and insisting that Stacey start wearing slouch boots and long necklaces so she looked thinner. Lorelei started giggling, which was small at first, but it snowballed into a much larger fit which caught everyone’s attention.

“Who are you?” She teased, simultaneously trying to get air into her lungs. Adam’s face turned bright rouge.

“M-my sister Rachel…” He started, slipping into his southern accent. His girlfriend set the things she was carrying down and walked over to Adam so she could give him a hug.

“I wish you’d speak in your accent more. It’s cute.” She kissed him on mouth again and all the girls started hitting them with pillows and cushions. “Quit it!” Lorelei grabbed a pillow and started hitting back to defend herself while Adam went to take cover.

Long after Adam’s guacamole had been devoured and not so long after a game of truth or dare, the girls had started to run low on steam. Adam was considering leaving as it was a quarter to eleven and he hated staying up, but the sudden subject change made him stay put.

“Have you guys heard about shadow people?” Elena, a Hispanic girl Lorelei had apparently gone to high school with, said in a hushed tone. Everyone looked at her and about half the girls got wide grins on their faces.

“Elena likes telling spooky stories and urban legends. It’s fun, but it gets kind of creepy sometimes,” Lorelei whispered in Adam’s ear. Adam chewed on his lower lip; it probably got creepy because the longer anyone talked about the supernatural, the more they were opening themselves up for ghostly experiences and Adam knew that. He couldn’t very well come out and say that to everyone without sounding like a nutter, though. He had never told Lorelei what Rachel did for a living and lied about Kristjan, saying he was a family friend who was staying with them temporarily while he worked on some sort of project.

“The shadow people are always in the corner of your eye, you know? There’s the hooded figures and the hat men,” Elena continued. Sasha started making ‘ooh’ sounds and the girls laughed.

“How about the black eyed children?” Sasha said. Even Adam raised an eyebrow at this; he had never heard of them before. “They’re these kids with black eyes who knock on your doors and give you these terrible feelings. They ask if they can come in, but in the back of your mind you know that’s a bad idea.”

“What happens if someone invites them in?” Lorelei sounded intrigued, which caused Adam to mentally groan.

“Nobody knows.” Sasha replied.

“Boring. How about the gloomies? You guys heard about them?” Stacey seemed really excited to talk about yet another supernatural entity Adam didn’t know, and he was feeling like he was with Rachel and Kristjan again. The stories went on, and quickly Adam could feel the atmosphere changing; it was small at first but the escalation left him with chills. He wanted to get up and leave, however Lorelei kept a tight grip around his waist. He wasn’t sure if the girls were noticing the darkness as much as he was, and they probably weren’t since he was more sensitive to those types of things than they were, but he had to change the subject.

“I have to pee.” Adam mentally pounded his forehead against something sharp. He knew he was a little socially awkward with the things he said, but really? He had to pee? The only thing that saved him was Stacey talking right over him so nobody heard what he had said. She produced a Ouija board from her backpack.

“Ladies, are you in for some spirit communication?” Stacey sounded almost like a telemarketer in her pitch. All the girls readily agreed, and when Adam tried to speak out he found he couldn’t; a dark figure caught his attention from the corner of his eye. He turned his head to get a better look, but it was gone. When he turned his head back to the girls they had already set the board up and started asking questions.

A chill like a winter gale cut right through Adam’s soul, sending him into a shivering fit. Lorelei hugged Adam close to her. “Cold? Or are you just all shook up over me?” Adam tried to smile. He whispered to Lorelei that he had to go. “To the bathroom,” she responded, “because you really don’t need to tell me. I’d actually prefer it if you didn’t.” Adam rolled his eyes.

“Home. It’s late.”

“Right, I forget that you have a hard time staying up past nine. Stay safe and don’t talk to strangers.” She smoothed back Adam’s hair, giving him a slightly disappointed smile. Adam could tell Lorelei wished he would stay.

“I don’t even like talking to the people I know.” It took everything Lorelei had not to laugh at that comment.

Adam was back in his room quicker than he would have liked; he enjoyed being outside and watching the bugs in the late summer air, looking at the flowers, and swimming. He loved the island he went to college on, and to him it felt like the perfect place to study botany and ultimately live a supernatural free life. Adam had never been as skilled as his sister, but once his father had passed away being around everything he loved was painful to Adam. His father had never made Adam feel excluded in the work and he was a deeply passionate man. Rachel was passionate as well, but it wasn’t the same. She wasn’t dad. And Adam was too old now to want someone to teach and protect him, he had to make his own way in the world and he chose the normal, the mundane.

Lacklusterly, Adam turned on his back, pushing the white sheets off his bed. He stared at the blinking smoke detector in his room, wondering just what exactly he was doing with his life; was it really what he wanted? What his father would have wanted? The air around him felt heavier and he felt it getting more difficult to breath. He tried to think of happier things, but it didn’t help; the weight he felt grew heavier and darker.

There was pressure on his bed. Adam lifted himself up to see if one of his roommates had tried getting on, but all he saw was his empty room. Nothing visible was causing the indentation at the foot of his bed. Sweat trickled down his forehead. His breathing staggered. Did he have time to grab his little book of spells? Adam reached for his nightstand but instead got pinned to his bed by his upper arms. A hooded shadow figure slowly became visible, tiny little white eyes and a jagged-toothed smile pressing itself closer to Adam’s worried face. A sulfuric smell spewed from the shadow person’s opening mouth. Adam wanted to vomit, the smell was so strong, but he held on.

“I’m going to eat you,” it whispered hoarsely in his ear, “and my brother is going to eat your girl.”

Adam lifted up his head as far as he could to whisper back, “Not if I eat you first.” He grabbed the shadow with his hand instantaneously causing forget-me-nots to sprout all along its frame. Before it could make a noise, before it could move, the shadow was consumed, leaving behind only petals of the flowers that fed on its life.

With a little bit of a groan, Adam forced himself out of bed and ran out his bedroom door, flying past his roommates and out of his apartment, down the street, past flickering streetlamps and past who knew what else. He was just focused on getting to Lorelei.

He reached her front door and threw it open. Lorelei, sitting on the couch alone and watching the television, nearly jumped out of her skin.

“The hell, Adam? When I dreamt this the apartment was on fire and you were a fireman. Right now I don’t see a suit or a flame, so what’s going on?”

Adam knelt down in front of Lorelei, grabbing her by the shoulders. His breathing was hard, which worried Lorelei. He looked around the apartment.

“Did you run all the way here? What are you looking for?”

The resident of the creepy little house looked Lorelei head on. “Have you seen anything out of the corner of your eye? Like a shadow you didn’t recognize?”

“Maybe? I don’t know. Are you talking about those stories we were telling before you left?” Lorelei stroked Adam’s cheek gently. “Honey, Adam, they were just urban legends. What’s really bothering you?”

“The fact that I can’t see it.”

“What?” Lorelei could feel a heavy presence on the couch next to her. Slowly she and Adam looked at the indented cushion; something was obviously there, but they couldn’t see it. Lorelei repeated her question, “What?”

“I’m going to eat you.” Two beady white eyes and an opening mouth filled with sharp teeth quickly appeared, a sulfuric smell seeping out of the oral cavity. Adam grabbed Lorelei, tossing her over his shoulder and went straight for the front door, which slammed shut, the lock clicking into place. The walls began to shake and lights flickered incessantly. Adam turned around and avoided the eyes and mouth that lunged at him, ignoring Lorelei’s screams. He went for the next closest door; the bathroom. He slammed the door shut, locking it even though he knew that would do nothing to protect them. The door shook violently, Lorelei backed up against the tub, and Adam tried to think of what to tell his girlfriend.

“Adam, what-”



“Pretend it’s a nightmare.” Adam pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to recall a sutra but it was no use. Even though he had only been in college for two month he had already done more than enough to push out any of the sutras or mantras, or any other spell he had taken the time to memorize.

Lorelei pinched herself. “Adam, this isn’t a nightmare. What’s going on? Why is a shadow person trying to eat me? Why does it exist?”

“You used a Ouija board.”


“You opened up your house by talking about them then using a Ouija board to try and talk with the dead. It didn’t help that I was here, either.” Adam stood up and walked towards the door. It had stopped shaking rather abruptly.

“What does that mean?” Lorelei asked slowly, inching forward. She was still very much afraid, but the encounter with the supernatural awed her, it drew her in.

“I’ve… I’ve dealt with this stuff. A lot. Now it’s like I’m a magnet or something, you know what let’s change the subject. I’m going to buy you a lot of chocolate after this.” Adam, with a steady hand, touched the doorknob. “Lore, I’m going to chase the demons out of town.”

“I’m going to eat you.”

“Do you trust me, Lorelei? I mean it. Don’t feel alone. I’ll get rid of it.”

“I’m going to eat you.”

“I’m opening the door. After this, you can’t deny… you won’t be… things’ll be different, okay?”


“Dammit, I sound like Kristjan.”

Adam threw open the door. Behind it a hooded figure stood hunched over, bent at odd angles and taking up much of the space in the hallway in front of the bathroom. It moved forward with jaws opened wide ready to eat Adam, but he grabbed the shadow person’s face and held on tight. Forget-me-nots popped up on the shadow’s face, trailing down its body. It didn’t go as fast as the first. Excruciatingly long minutes rolled by while flowers blossomed and fed. Lorelei witnessed it all, every tiny flower growing then dying, petals dropping to the ground but vanishing before they could hit the rug. When the last flower fell, the shadow was gone.

Adam turned to look at the cowering Lorelei. He knelt down beside her and tried hugging her, but she pushed him away. Adam grabbed her by the shoulders. “Lorelei, I-”

“I can’t do this, Adam. I can’t… I can’t handle…”

She didn’t need to finish. Adam, hurt, looked at her for the last time, let go of her shoulders, and left. Adam knew words were powerful, but sometimes they just couldn’t penetrate. It didn’t help that he never knew what to say. Ever.

“So that’s it? How did you end up in the hospital?” Sebastian set down his cup of coffee and scrunched up his face.

“Why do you keep asking all of these personal questions? Creeper.” Adam nonchalantly finished off his own drink, tea with lemon, and ignored Sebastian’s frustrated gaze.

“You suck at telling stories. Why do I put up with you?”

“You crave attention.” Adam took a chocolate bar out of his coat and tossed it to Sebastian. It had become something of an inside joke between the two of them since their first meeting six months beforehand. Any time Adam caused Sebastian any sort of grief, he would offer to get him chocolate.

Sebastian let out a single, light laugh and accepted the treat, placing it in the inside of his suit jacket. Since their first meeting Sebastian had cleaned up some; his hair was no longer shaggy and was instead well groomed and parted on the left. He always wore a three-piece suit, like the navy blue one he had on right then, and he had gotten a promotion or two in The Horrorscope.

Somehow, Sebastian managed to do well in befriending Adam, which surprised both Rachel and Kristjan. Since the encounter between Sebastian and Adam they had kept in regular contact through email and phone calls, often meeting up as Sebastian’s new articles took him places the house took Kristjan, Adam and Rachel.

“The next day I had a football game and I tore a ligament.” Adam reached over and grabbed Sebastian’s coffee, smelled it, looked slightly disgusted, took a sip, and set it back down. “How’s the Horrorscope thing going? Did you bring me a copy?”

“Hot off the press.” Sebastian opened a briefcase he had by his feet and tossed Adam a thin newsmagazine with a picture of a creepy tree on front with an old creaky swing hanging from it. Sebastian loosened his black skinny tie and took off his jacket. “I’m really enjoying my time there. After we met I couldn’t get enough of this stuff… I have to admit, I was surprised when your house vanished, though.”

“It does that.”

Sebastian laughed. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing a tattoo of a magic circle. “I still have the medallion you bought me, and I tattooed a magic circle on my arm after doing some research. I’ve had some close calls and Francis de Sales can only do so much.”

“He probably doesn’t consider you a journalist anymore,” Adam muttered while flipping through the pages of the magazine. “Half the time I don’t even understand how the magic works. Like why do all the ghosts speak French?”

Adam stopped on page fourteen where in bold letters he saw written THE GLOOMIES, and next to that a picture of the college he had gone to over a year ago.

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