The rhythmic tapping of the keyboard was all that could be heard within Michael O’Connor’s study. He had spent the last month suffering from the worst case of writer’s block and had finally decided on a story idea. The words flowed freely from him, just like it had for so many years before his most recent drought. He was afraid to stop, knowing at any moment the torrent of ideas could cease. He powered through the night, cranking out chapters and downing cups of coffee to keep himself awake. By dawn he had completed a rough draft of what he would hope to be his next novel and placed it carefully within the manila folder he would use to ship it to his publisher.
A week later, while having his morning coffee, Michael’s cell phone rang. The caller ID indicated it was his publisher. A smile grew large on his face as he eagerly pressed the button the answer and brought it to his ear. He sat listening to a review of what their focus group had come up with, none of which seemed enthusiastic. His upturned cheeks slowly drooped as he realized that none of them truly liked his idea. When the call had almost come to a finish he assured them that he would address the issues that they had brought to his attention and have a revised addition to them within two weeks. This was his entire career though, creating monsters and frights, he was sure he could do it.
The next few nights were spent scanning his document. The focus group did not like the intimidating dog-like creature who chased its victims through the woods. They said it seemed too much like a “Werewolf” story and they had simply not seen any success with those lately. It had to be different, but still be his work, not just some fallacy to appease the masses. His mind searched for something terrifying that he had not already used in a story, something completely original. His web browser opened to a search engine and began researching folk tales and fables. He even perused old children’s stories in an attempt to warp a beloved story into something dark and sinister. All seemed too bland, for the type of work he was used to producing. By midnight, he had come up with no good ideas and decided rest would probably bring about something better.
He had almost made his way to his bed when something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Michael’s head turned quickly, his eyes shot open wide as he lept back from what appeared to be a figure standing beside his closet. His hand instinctively landed on the light switch, flicking it on. The light had chased away the shadow cast by the suit that hung from the back of his closet door. He sighed and felt silly at the thought, a chuckle erupted from his tired face. His body was almost nestled comfortably under the covers when the idea struck him, “Shadows”. Michael was out of his bed and at his desk within seconds, the keys being pounded like a hammer.
“And from the darkness a being filtered into view, long and lanky with thousands of eyes peering out from it. The body was as black as pitch and no light could escape it. It drew in all around it as it slowly moved forward toward the bed. The needle-thin appendages stretched to unnatural lengths, grasping to the edges of the comforter and pulling itself toward Ashley. The young girl let out a blood-curdling scream that was soon squelched as the darkness enveloped her.”
Michael beamed at the final stroke of his keys, letting his hands rest on the back of his head as he stretched back in his desk chair. Then tapping at his chin, he began to think of a name. It had to be old and strike fear in anyone who heard it. It may even be something legitimate. He began another search over the internet. Michael first searched legends he had heard of but kept being directed back to “shadow people” instead and that was not the creature he had envisioned. When his initial search turned out to be fruitless, he began looking into translations from other languages. He searched words like, “darkness”, “demon”, and “shadows”. After a few minutes of sifting through words and phrases that just did not seem to fit, they came to rest on the Gaelic word for shadow, “Scail,” and hovered over the pronunciation, “Skaw-il”. He attempted to pronounce it himself and something felt right about it. He kept looking through a page full of words in that language. He settled on Scail Suile Anam, “Shadow Eyes Spirit.”
Michael dressed up his story, added in a few details that included his creation’s name. He had grown so fond of it that he began repeating the name at random moments when he was alone. His voice even whispered it as it was placed neatly into its own packaging for shipping. The words came to him while handing it to the postal carrier, which must have made him look silly to the tiny round man collecting his mail but Michael did not have a care in the world. He had written something truly horrifying and he just knew it would be a hit with his publisher. So, that night, he slid between the sheets of his comfortable bed he said the words again, drawing them out to get the full pronunciation down. He wanted to make sure he had it right when his publisher asked.
“Skaw-il Soo-leh An-nahm,” the words coming like a chant between his smiling lips as he reached over for the lamp upon the nightstand.
With a click the light was doused, allowing the night to encroach his tiny tiny bedroom. Michael squirmed a bit and fluffed his pillow. Once he was comfortable, his eyes drifted shut and prepared to dream of the fame that would accompany his new work of art. Visions of book signings had already begun to dance in his mind before he was truly asleep, his smile growing wider by the second. His thoughts were suddenly disrupted by a very faint scratching noise. The noise was not loud, but constant, so much so that it became annoying and after five minutes of trying to ignore it, Michael was up.
The weary writer made his way through the halls and back down the stairs. He checked the doors and all the windows but found no trace of the source. The wind had not been blowing and no trees rustled about. When there was no obvious answer, he pulled open his front door and searched the immediate area. He was sure it had to be some kind of dog or cat that was pawing at his house but he found no trace of one. Michael walked back inside, closed the door, and locked it behind him. He immediately noticed how quiet the house now was, not a single sign of the scratching. He simply shrugged and assumed that whatever had caused it was no gone and made his way back to bed.
Within a few days his publisher gave him another call and this time they loved his idea. They were impressed to see a creature unlike anything they had been previously introduced to and the idea of having something watching you from every single shadow was, “horribly fantastic,” as they put it. They wanted a final product ready for publishing within three months and though this was a tight deadline for Michael, he was happy to have it. He set to work on dressing up the details, making it more theatric, and really giving a life to this creature. All the while, he would sit in his chair, typing and calling out to his newest creation, “Scail Suile Anam.”
The scratching grew louder and more frequent. It had become bothersome and kept him up all hours when he finally took a break from his writing to get some sleep. He found himself digging through his trash cans, searching the crawl space beneath his home, and even the attic. Michael was positive that some sort of creature was scurrying about somewhere within his walls and making that awful noise but he could not find evidence. When he had exhausted every idea of where to search he scribbled a note on a small piece of paper to remind him to call an exterminator the following morning. He covered his head with his pillow and fought for sleep the rest of that night.
The following day the sound seemed to have stopped, much like it did most days. Michael struggled to down his cup of coffee, in hopes it would perk him up. He sat at his desk, preparing to continue his book when the doorbell rang. He grumbled at the thought of being interrupted but he had forgotten his early morning call to the exterminator. When the door opened, a man carrying a pesticide dispenser stood in awe of Michaels cartoon-laden pajamas. The writer simply waved the man inside, told him what he had been experiencing and closed the door behind what he hoped would be the answer to his prayers. He took back to his desk while the exterminator went to work, searching for the source of the sound.
A couple of hours later, and two chapters in, the exterminator returned. He let Michael know that though he saw no actual vermin, there were traces of their droppings. The man had placed traps and poisons in the necessary places and promised that the problem should be solved within a few days. Michael gladly paid the man his fee and returned to his desk. The thought of getting a good night of rest rejuvenated him and he was sure he would be able to get much more done today. His fingers set to typing and when he was almost ready to strike the “Enter” key to move to the next sentence, he heard it again. Slow, deliberate scratching and it was far louder than it had ever been.
Michael rushed to finish the chapter he was working on, the sound constantly ringing in his ears, his fingers typed like mad trying to get this one bit finished but the noise was just too much. He soon saved his work and rushed upstairs. He quickly tossed on some clothes and made his way outside. The scratching had become unbearable and he needed to just get away from it for a while. He packed up his laptop and drove to the local library. Michael was sure to get some peace and quiet there amongst the stacks, or so he thought.
The glow of the screen lit Michael’s face between the large walls of books. He had found a dark secluded corner, as to not be disturbed. His fingers began working again, coming up with background stories and small intricacies to make this monster real. Michael delighted in the thought of this being an ancient spirit that came for people in the dark, watching over them through each dark shade that had been created by shadow. It would watch and wait, taking care to be silent and still. It would stalk them for days on end, finding tiny ways to make itself known without truly showing itself. It would slowly draw out the fear in each victim until it was done toying with them. Once his appetite had been satiated, it would come to claim the final reward. The final scene of his book detailed a screaming teenage girl being dragged by a figureless form, covered in staring eyes, down deep into a darkness that no one else could apparently see.
Michael hit save, grabbed his laptop and began to make his way down from the stacks. The daylight had long since left his tiny town since he had lost track of time. It was easy for him to get lost in a good story and now the moon was all that passed through the library windows. When he checked his watch, it was minutes until close and was surprised the attendant had not warned him. As he passed into the stairwell, the large bay window behind him allowed the moonlight to cast a glow upon his form. The dark silhouette of his body was painted on the wall before him. He stopped and stared for a moment, waving his hands around and laughing at the thought of shadows truly being evil. For a moment, he was a silly kid playing shadow puppet with his own image. He laughed to himself until the sound of the scratching began. His smile faded quickly as he searched the dim staircase. There was no one else below and he was on the top floor. The scratching grew louder as he stared at the darkness in front of him. What should have been his shadow seemed to move ever-so-slightly.
Michael rubbed at his eyes, surely a trick his mind was playing on him. He had not had adequate rest and had spent the last few hours in a dark room staring at the bright screen of his laptop. That’s when the noise grew loudest and for once Michael realized it was not scratching, but peeling. Almost as if parting through a wall, thin needle-like protrusions jutted from what should have been a mock-up of Michael’s body upon the stairwell. They seeped out like worms from dirt and peeled back the façade of the man’s dark image. Soon, it no longer resembled Michael at all but something he had yet to describe to the world. When he thought his horror had been complete, a wet smacking echoed throughout the space as thousands of eyes opened at once and stared at the quivering writer.
Before he could truly comprehend the scene before him, Michael had rushed down the steps and lept over the banister to keep from drawing any closer to the being. His feet made quick work of the two floors he needed to traverse and he found himself in the parking lot within minutes. He stood amidst the night, staring up at the window of the top floor, his heart pounding in his chest. He knew what he had seen could not possibly be real, that it must be a stress-induced hallucination. Michael’s fingers tightened around his laptop, still shaking at the image that imprinted within his mind. The drive home was haunted by that vision and so was the rest of the night.
It took hours for Michael to get to sleep but even his dreams were filled with nightmares of a creature that did not even exist until he began writing about it. He tossed within his sheets all night and the following day he felt no more rested than the days prior, even without the scratching. His day went with little other changes and by lunch, he was sure the whole event must have been his overworked imagination. He had resigned himself to getting back to his book and maybe even using some of his own nightmares as inspiration to spice up certain portions of the following pages. Again, Michael took his place at his desk and began typing.
When he had completed the final chapter, Michael’s fingers flipped through the freshly printed pages. He had always enjoyed the smell of ink and drew in a deep whiff. He could only hope that his final product would be as well received as his rough draft as the pages were slid into another manila folder and addressed to his publisher. He placed it neatly in the tray, where he would retrieve it for mailing the following day and made his way upstairs. Again, he snuggled up under his sheet and fluffed his pillow before allowing his head to rest upon it. Michael lay there, the lamp still on thinking about how silly he had been the previous day. “Scail Suile Anam,” he said with a laugh in his voice, before turning out the lamp at his side.
Michael was almost asleep when the sound came again and his eyes quickly shot open. The streetlamp outside cast an eerie shadow of the tree limbs that hung just outside the window. They seemed to lurch from the ceiling down toward him from the stark white drywall. The wind shifted the branches and they appeared to draw closer, the sound growing louder every moment. The thin strands of dark then distorted and stretched, coming closer and closer to the end of the bed. Michael sat up, his body quaking at the sight of the figure across the room that had melded with the shadow of the tree. It stood like a statue of nothingness, with only the steady peeling noise to show it was most definitely alive.
“What do you want?” Michael screamed out into the night, unable to understand what was truly happening to him.
Suddenly the eyes were upon him again, the figure drawing closer. Every single pupil shifted side-to-side as if it was watching everything at once. Sick sloshes could be heard from the nothingness as they moved and Michael sat frozen in his own fear. The thing crept closer, the tendrils of shadow worming their way up the bed and across Michael’s comforter. The strings of darkness wriggled around him for a moment and Michael could feel a chill seep from the thing into his bed and through his body. There was death within that absence of light and Michael could feel it coming for him.
“Finish the book,” a marriage of hundreds of voices, both male and female erupted from nowhere and yet Michael knew it was from his creation. The idea that this thing had been pushing him to finish his novel was insanity. It had been prodding him from his very first draft to make it alive, to make it real, and it would not leave Michael alone until he had. All of this came as an idea, a quick thought that just appeared within Michael’s mind but he knew the origin. Michael was staring at it.
Scail Suile Anam, now knew what it meant to exist and it would settle for nothing less. Michael slowly nodded and agreed within the darkness of his room to finish the story, if only he could be spared. The entity agreed, the eyes closing and the darkness slinking back to wherever it came to leave only the shadow of the tree behind. Michael did not rest from that night until the publisher had approved the book and the first copy came first class mail. He placed it within the shadow of the tree, pages open as a sort of offering to the creature that had spared his life. Darkness of that nature never visited Michael O’Connor again but it no longer needed to. It was now alive and it was hard to escape the night.
Written by L0CKED334