Something flew past the bedroom window as Shannon closed it for the night. The dark shape went by quickly, so quickly that Shannon could not really see what it was. Startled, she jumped back.
“Probably just a bat or bird,” the young woman muttered as she quickly closed the window and curtains.
She did not quite believe that. The shadow passing through the night had seemed too big for any wildlife.
Shannon scurried to the bathroom, suddenly eager to get all the windows closed. But as she started to close the window, Shannon had a strange feeling. Her eyes turned to the eaves above the bathroom window.
A shadow, a vague presence, looked down from the roof. It might have been a head, but no details could be seen. Still, Shannon felt like something was looking at her. For a moment, she stared at it. Then she slammed the window shut and closed the blinds.
Now Shannon raced through the house, frantically closing windows, blinds, and curtains. She was desperate to shut out any view of the outside, any chance of seeing that shadowy something.
When she reached the sliding glass door in the dining room, Shannon froze. There was something on the patio. It was a vague, dark shape; darker even than the night. And it moved. Shannon watched as a writhing tendril of darkness, maybe a limb of some kind, emerged from the shadow’s side. Then another. And then, to her growing horror, a third.
“What the fuck are you?” Shannon shrieked as she yanked the vertical blinds closed to hide the sight.
After that, Shannon retreated to the bedroom. She did not even dare to go close the curtains on the picture window in the living room. After shutting and locking the bedroom door, Shannon sat on the bed hugging her knees to her chest and tried to forget the shadows outside.
The house had been a lucky find, or so she had thought. Recently divorced, Shannon had decided that another relationship was not in the cards. She wanted to live for herself for a while. A friend had mentioned seeing a cozy bungalow on sale, so Shannon had looked it up.
It was an estate sale and the estate had apparently wanted to get rid of it quickly. Shannon had done a tour, chatted with the agent, then made an offer that was duly accepted. Now she wondered if buying a house from a dead guy was such a good idea. Was this shadow outside the house some kind of haunting?
After a while, Shannon relaxed and stretched out her legs. She picked up a book of short stories from her nightstand and read until sleep started to overtake her. Leaving a light on, Shannon lay down and drifted off to a fitful, dream-haunted sleep.
“Hugh, did you see anything outside last night?” she asked her next-door neighbor when she saw him in the morning, “Anything unusual?”
The old man looked puzzled. He had a bearded, craggy countenance that Shannon always thought looked like a wizard or wise man of some kind. She liked Hugh even though she had only known him for the couple weeks since she moved in.
“Just streetlights and the odd car. Why?” Hugh responded.
“There was something outside my house last night,” Shannon explained, “At least I thought I saw something. It was just a shadow, so it was hard to tell.”
“Thought maybe that would go away with a new owner,” he muttered.
“What? You know something about this?”
The old man asked, “Did you learn anything about the former owner?”
“Not a lot,” Shannon answered, “He was found dead of a stroke by a family member or something like that.”
“Actually, I was the one that found him,” Hugh said with a chuckle, “He was in the basement, surrounded by his old books. One was clutched to his chest.”
“What kind of old books?”
“Roland was an odd duck, Shannon. He was into occult stuff,” her neighbor told her, “He had these bookshelves in the basement full of books on the subject. Some of them were in old languages like Latin, classical Greek, and Hebrew. There was even one in Arabic that he kept on a shelf by itself. Told me it would eat the other books if he wasn’t careful.”
Shannon felt an odd tension building.
“Did he ever see things? Shadows outside the house?” she asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“We weren’t best friends or anything,” Hugh began, “But one night he invited me over to try some wine that his brother in Italy had sent over. Damn good vino, it was. By the time I went to leave, it was getting dark. Roland seemed nervous when I opened the door to go out. Suddenly, he was in a hurry for me to go. It was like he was scared to have the door open.”
“He didn’t say,” the old man went on, “But as I stood on his porch to zip up my coat, I had a distinct feeling that I was not alone. There was a kind of shadowy figure by the corner of the house near my place. It was just a patch of darkness that did not seem to belong where it was. I kept an eye on it as I walked home but it never moved so I finally figured it was just the dark and my imagination playing tricks.”
Shannon felt a little thrill of terror ripple up her spine.
“That’s what I saw. Shadowy figures outside. But mine were moving,” she said quietly.
Hugh looked at her, clearly seeing the fear in her expression.
“I wish I could tell you more. A few days before he died, Roland came over and told me not to come over after dark anymore. ‘They are growing stronger,’ he said. Never told me who the ‘they’ were, though.”
“The shadows,” Shannon whispered.
“Maybe. Roland believed our universe is an island of order and light surrounded by chaos and darkness. He even rambled on about protecting us from the ‘outside’, but I never took it too seriously,” Hugh mused, “Perhaps these ‘shadows’ are related to that belief.”
“Sounds seriously weird to me. After last night, though, I can almost believe it myself.”
“Look, if things get crazy tonight, call me,” the old man instructed, “I’ll come over and take you back to my place.”
Night fell and Shannon retreated to her bedroom. She had turned on the outside lights, then closed all the windows and curtains. She even turned on some lights inside the house.
“They can’t come in,” Shannon said quietly to herself, but was far from sure of that.
She tried to read for a while to relax but her gaze kept going to the curtains over the bedroom window. From outside came the sound of the wind, steady but not strong.
Putting down the book, Shannon lay on her side facing away from the window. Sleep did not come; only a sense that something was out there.
Then the lights went out.
Shannon sat bolt upright, trying to see in the darkened room. The wind sounded louder and howled in a way that made the hairs on Shannon’s neck stand up. She felt around the nightstand until she found her phone and woke it up. The faint light from the screen was scant comfort.
“The flashlight,” Shannon said aloud, remembering that she had one in a dresser drawer for blackouts and similar emergencies.
Using her phone for illumination, Shannon found the flashlight. The moment her fingers closed around the metal tube; she felt a bit of relief. When the light came on and dispelled a little of the darkness in her room, Shannon even relaxed a little.
After shining the light around the room and finding everything in its place, Shannon gingerly opened the door and went into the hall. All the lights that she had left on were off, leaving the house in darkness. No light came in from the street, either, which meant that the streetlights were also off. Shannon went to the living room to check.
Outside the window, Shannon could make out the house across the street and the street itself; even the branches moving on the tree in the front yard. It was dark, but just the normal darkness of night. There was even a crescent moon casting faint light down on the scene. That was the only light around Shannon’s house, though. All the usual street and house lights were off.
Further up the street, on the other side of the road that led into the neighbourhood, Shannon saw lights. So apparently it was just her part of the street that was out. Maybe she could drive over there to get away from the darkness.
And then something moved outside. Shannon started and jumped back from the window. She shone her flashlight towards the window, but now the light seemed to stop at the glass. The house across the street, the road, even her own tree was no longer visible.
“No,” Shannon said, shaking a little.
Shannon felt naked, watched by eyes that she could not see. Then, to her alarm, there seemed to be something moving against the window as if feeling for a way to get in.
Turning from the window, Shannon fled the room. The little two-piece powder room next to the front hall had no window. She ran inside and pulled the door shut, locking it.
Remembering Hugh’s words, Shannon pulled her phone out. Then she realized that his power would be out, too. Could Hugh even come safely? Could she get to his place safely?
“The car. Its lights will work. It has a battery,” she muttered, trying to get a plan together.
Shannon remembered the lights further out in the neighbourhood. All she had to do was get the car out and drive there. Then she would be safe. She hoped.
Steeling herself, Shannon left the bathroom and went to the garage door. She eased it open and shone her light around the garage. It was pitch dark, but no strange shadows or darkness showed as the flashlight’s beam moved around.
Entering the garage, Shannon made her way to the big steel door. She found the place to grip and lift the heavy garage door and prepared to open it. Then Shannon realized, to her horror, that she would be standing right there in the opening when the door was up. There would be nothing between her and the darkness outside.
“I have to. It’s my only escape now,” Shannon said aloud, trying to encourage herself.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed the big door up and into its track. A cold wind blew in at her, far colder than it should be at this time of year. And there was a strange, stale odour; an unpleasant scent that suggested age and decay.
Beyond the garage, beyond where Shannon stood, was total darkness. Even the lights she had seen down the street were gone. Shannon shone the flashlight out, trying to see something, anything, other than blackness. The light seemed to stop at the edge of the garage, unable to pierce the strange darkness beyond.
Something moved outside. Shannon was not quite sure how she saw it, how she knew, but it moved. Slowly she began to back towards the car, intending to bolt for the driver’s side door. Her foot would not move; her leg felt strangely cold. Looking down, Shannon saw a tendril of darkness wrapped around it. Another appeared, grabbing for her arm.
“Jesus Christ, what are you?” Shannon screamed, swinging the flashlight at the second one as it began to coil around her wrist.
To her surprise, the flashlight seemed to break through it. Determination took hold. She struck the one around her leg. After a couple blows, it dissipated as well. The darkness started streaming in.
“Now,” she gasped, heading for the car door.
Even inside the garage and with the flashlight, Shannon had trouble seeing. Still, she got the car door open and practically dove inside.
With the door shut behind her, Shannon got settled in the driver’s seat. She turned the key and switched on the headlights. For a moment, light filled the garage and her heart. Then it began to fade as if being absorbed by the encroaching darkness. Shannon’s hand shot out and hit the button for the power locks.
Shifting into reverse, Shannon backed out as fast she dared. The darkness swallowed her up. Soon, she could not even see the garage. Shannon hit the brake and put the car in park, then looked about frantically. Too far back and she would hit the house across the street. However, she was not even sure of where the street lay.
Something touched the car, pulling at the door handles. Shannon was glad she had thought to hit the lock button.
Beyond the car windows, it was like the vehicle was floating in space. Except there were no stars or planets to break through the darkness. The wind, now stronger than ever, howled as it blew around the car.
There was a thump from the hood, as if something had landed or jumped on to it. Eyes appeared, tiny white breaks in the darkness. There were many of them, dozens or even hundreds. All of them stared in at Shannon. The door handles rattled as something pulled at them.
“No,” Shannon yelled, fear giving way to anger, “Not a fucking chance you’re getting in here.”
Her hand found the shift lever and threw it back into reverse. At the same time, she gunned the motor. The car raced backwards through the darkness. Suddenly, Shannon was back into normal night. Houses, trees, and the road itself became visible again. Slamming on the brakes, Shannon found herself in the driveway across the street, just shy of the garage door.
All around Shannon, the lights were on; streetlights, house lights, all of them. All except her own house, which sat in resolute darkness across from her.
Shannon put the car in park and sat back in the driver’s seat. Her body was shaking like she was in the throes of a fever. After some heavy breaths, Shannon leaned her head on the steering wheel and wept.
A tap on the window startled her. Shannon looked up and saw Hugh standing there, a concerned look on his face. Managing a smile, she opened the window.
“Hi, Hugh,” she said weakly.
“What’s going on?” asked her neighbour.
“It was all dark, Hugh. There was no light. Even my car lights couldn’t penetrate it. And then … and then something looked in at me. I think it wanted me, Hugh. Oh God, it wanted me.”
“I don’t know. But I was so scared. I couldn’t see but I just drove backwards until it was gone, and I saw light again.”
“Probably a good move, Shannon. Come over to my place. You can park in my drive and spend the night in my spare room. It faces the Brewers’ place, not yours.”
Shannon nodded and wiped away her tears.
“Get in,” she said, waving to the passenger door and flicking the locks off.
Hugh smiled and went around. As he got in, Shannon’s gaze went to her house. Her jaw dropped. There was only darkness where the house had stood.