Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Short: Shadow Stalker

(Halloween is fast approaching and there’s only a few more shorts to go. Today’s story deals with becoming prey for an unexpected stalker.)

The walk from the campus bookstore to the School of Anthropology was a good half mile through winding walkways lined by autumn trees dropping bright leaves onto the sidewalks.

Ellie moved quickly, not out of fear, but more from the chill in the air. Impending icy rain was enough incentive for anyone. Besides, she’d dealt with all the strangest and drunkest students the past three years of college. Now, she felt quite confident in her abilities to discourage any unwanted attention and to avoid the alleyways that provided shortcuts.

Her professor was probably pacing the floors right now. She promised to bring him the newest copy of next semester’s textbook. If she was going to be his TA, it was vital that she be in on all aspects of planning the syllabus and becoming acquainted with the textbook.

She jumped over a leaf-filled puddle and studied a rush of students racing by in costumes and Ellie felt a moment of sadness. It was Saturday night, the night before Halloween. No doubt it was going to be a big party night and although she wasn’t a partier, she did miss dressing up and seeing the others costumes.

Ellie stopped to watch the giggling girls in little fairy costumes with gossamer wings. The yellow leaves from a nearby cottonwood drifted down and landed on the shiny wet ground around them. The lights from the streetlights made the ground and everything around them glow. The young men dressed in capes and one in a caveman costume rushed up on the girls and made them scream. The group moved on towards the bars on University Avenue. The sound of a band warming up in the distance gave her a bit of melancholy. It was her senior year and she had never once gone to a college party.

Turning down First Street, Ellie noticed the darkness around her. There were no cars on the narrow street. It held no parking lots, so it was often ignored. Normally, it didn’t bother her, but then normally she walked it in the daytime with thousands of students. The quaint gaslight looking street illumination created small circles of light interspersed with darkness. Her boot heels clicked on the concrete as she walked within a ring of light, then into the shadowy darkness and back into the next spotlight.

Ellie stopped and hoisted her backpack over her shoulder again when out of the corner of her eye she saw darkness where there should have been light. She studied the shadow cast on the sidewalk. It was an extremely tall man with exaggerated long limbs and what looked like a top hat. She turned and studied the area behind her. Along the closed shops, there was no one. The street held no bars or places to hang out. There was nothing but a row of bohemian clothing stores, all of them closed by 7 pm every evening. She tilted and looked further down the row of lights and then back again. The shadow stepped forward and grew taller. It was surely 10’ long at least with stick-like arms and legs and a very squared off hat atop his head.

“Hello?” She called out, searching the awning recesses of the shops. In order to cast a shadow there, it would have to be behind her. Her own shadow looked stubby and short compared to this shadow. In relation to her small height and the light of the lamppost, she seemed dwarfed.

What height can he be?

Ellie stepped forward, determined not to let this prankster bother her. As she watched her shadow cast from before her as she passed the next light, she saw his. Right beside her, easily twice her height!

She stopped and looked to the right and left. A car cruised down the street and out of sight, but still the man in the top hat remained beside her shadow. Ellie stepped out into the cobblestone street and looked at the rooftops of the shops and then further down the road in both directions. She squinted into the shadowy awnings. There was definitely not a person there.

Maybe it’s a statue somewhere?

She knew the street well. There were no statues. Perhaps a mannequin? She liked that idea. It made sense. This was clothing row. Regarding her watch, Ellie sighed. Determined not to let a silly shadow mystery bother her, she moved on at a faster pace, trying desperately to look forward and not at the ground.

Breathless as the first splash of raindrops fell, she changed sides of the road, thinking perhaps that would better. It wasn’t. As soon as she passed another light post, he was there again, moving at a pace that appeared to be beside her. She stopped. He stopped and rested back on his heels, arms hanging long and loose about his slender body. She closed her eyes a moment, gathering her failing wits. When she opened them, he was still there, his fists clenched up as if he were about to punch.

Reflexively, she ducked and rushed off in a flurry across the slick sidewalk, icy drops hitting her face, weighing down her flight. Her backpack slipped from her shoulder and she grabbed the strap and let it flop around as she crossed the street again.

Ellie could see the faint light of the building in the distance. She’d just hit the long stretch of empty lots where they were planning to build condos. The streetlights changed to tall ones and washed the entire area in a flood of light and no dark spots. She spit raindrops from her lips, icy rivulets dripping into her eyes as she looked back, panting hard, feeling the burst of adrenalin to fight.

She spun around in a circle, studying the sidewalk. Nothing! It was some kind of crazy trick cast by the shop area. With relief, she pulled her backpack up again and picked up her pace. The sky was about to open up with a late October rain that would surely freeze her to the bone. Already her hoodie was clinging to her and her hair was plastered to her face.

Giddy at the thought that she had three more blocks to go, Ellie stepped off the curb and crossed a side street alley when she glanced down to see him again. Racing alongside her, trotting along. She stopped. He stopped.

Is it possible for me to cast double shadows? Grasping for any explanation, Ellie stopped and dropped her backpack, studying the bright sidewalk around her and the dark empty lots in the periphery.

“Okay, it’s funny. I get it. Halloween and all.” She called out. “Go bother the partiers. They’ll drunk. You’ll scare them, not me.” She insisted and then turned to step directly into a puddle.

With two blocks to go, Ellie bounced along the slick sidewalk, huffing and puffing against the bracing cold and the sight of his shadow following alongside her still, not looking at all disheveled as she did with her backpack dangling from her elbow and hitting her in the hip with each step.

She was doing the very thing she hated the most—becoming prey to some predator! A vision of her bullying older brothers came to mind and Ellie swung around, dropping her backpack, once again ready to face it down. She looked over her shoulder at her shadow and his. He had turned in profile. He was facing her. But where? She was too smart to believe that he was invisible, but she could tell by the cast of his shadow and hers that he was to her right.

“I’m leaving this street. I won’t be here any longer. You can go back now. That’s my building.” She pointed and then wondered if she should have let him know where she was headed. She studied the area lit up around her. No hint of a person. No building to stand on. No where to project.

How the hell is he doing it?

“That’s quite a prank you have. Like I said, if you go around the bars along University, you’ll scare a lot of silly people.” She sighed exaggeratedly and pulled her backpack up again. It stopped raining and she was wet but also numb to it at this point. Her adrenalin alone was keeping her from feeling it to the bone. “I’m leaving.” She warned and stepped off the last curb to cross the next alleyway.

Only one block more. If I run, it’ll excite him more. Never show your fear.

She slowed down her pace. She could see the cars in the lot in the distance and it gave her hope there were people. He moved alongside her in impossible long-legged strides. He should have been ahead of her at that pace. She stopped. He stopped. Then, without warning, one long arm reached out, the hand meeting up with her shadow. She cringed instinctively, a streak of intensely burning cold racing up her left arm. Ellie reached her to brush away what should have been a hand and stopped.

What am I doing? There’s not someone actually there. It’s someone trying to scare me by reaching his arm up. Of course it would look like he’s touching me. But, he’s not. He’s not. He’s not. It's just his shadow!

She squeezed her eyes shut, wishing away the freezing cold on her arm. When she opened her eyes and looked down she saw it. The firm and slender dents of long invisible fingers pressing down the fabric of her jacket. The coldness gave way to the pressure sensation of fingers on her forearm. Ellie yanked her arm back instinctively, feeling it catch, the grip tightening. As if desperately needing the reassurance she wasn’t imaging this, she leaned back and glanced at their shadows. His hand meeting her forearm.

She held her breath, gathering her courage, clenching her gut in anticipation, she reached her hand out to try and pry the hand from her. She winced as it gripped her more firmly as each second passed. Ellie couldn’t do it. Her fingers trembled so violently it was impossible to guide them no matter how strong she willed their response.

Her eyes traveled once more to their shadows and then she saw it. Beyond the light where they stood, the streetlights ended. The cul-de-sac that housed the School of Anthropology had no lights. She would enter darkness. No more shadow.

Only 10 more feet away!

Grasping her backpack in her hand, Ellie swung it hard towards him. She felt it hit the mid air as if it were a wall. It thudded and slapped against her, knocking her off balance as she realized her hand was free. Desperately, she sprinted the last three leaping strides towards the darkness when she felt the cold hand clamp around her ankle. Dragging the weight with all her might, she made it out of the range of the streetlights, falling backwards onto her butt on the grassy lot.

My ankle is free!

From a few feet away she heard the anguished howl of the shadow stalker. Bravely, she drew herself up and walked away into the darkness that comprised shadows and ironically the only safe place from them.


  1. This was another great one Autumnforest! Very original the idea of a shadow stalker gives me more chills than "Pinhead" or Freddy Krueger! thanks again for putting these up for us to read -Halloween is coming fast now-from then on the months until May always seem to speed by -but I am trying to enjoy every minute of the change of seasons-all the best!!

  2. Dev;
    Glad you enjoyed it. When I write these, I got into the place and really feel the location and the action and this one creeped me out too. I'm so thrilled that it's going to be nice and chilly for the party. We did a run tonight with the lighting and it was soooo chilling! I can't wait to do a video and put it on YouTube to share. Hubby works for Fender, so it'll be lots and lots of musicians playing live in his music room. (He plays drums).

  3. A.) Love the shorts and where you're taking the blog right now- top notch writing!

    B.) You've actually got me thinking about trying something along these lines.

    C.) 'Tis the season!!!