Drabble: All Shadows Dance

This was a concept story I was toying with for awhile.  I'm not quite sure I like it.

His mother always said to him, “You have an overactive imagination. There’s nothing there in the dark. You’re seeing things that aren’t there. It’s an optical illusion. Just lie down, close your eyes and go to sleep.” They could never see the shifting shadows at night as they skimmered along the space between the wall and the ceiling and the small glowing eyes in the dark that catch and reflect and blink at the car headlights as they passed by the window. They didn’t see the subtle shifting of the reality around the room while he lay in the bed at night and stared at everything in the room until it either stopped shifting or got up and lumbered away through an invisible doorway he could never find and made it a point to avoid, always simply glad they were gone by the time he fell asleep an hour or more after going to bed. He didn’t want to go through the invisible doorway to the place where the shadow things lived. He knew he wouldn’t like it there.

From the time he was small, people always said it was a mental issue relating to his fear of drugs, but he knew the invisible people were there.He was diagnosed with sleeping disorders and depression and anxiety.The medications would make him too tired to keep his eyes open, but he was always chronically aware of what was creeping between him and sleep while he struggled to keep his eyes open.He consoled himself with the thought that he couldn’t see anything creeping along the ceilings anymore.After a few years of having nothing but pills thrown at him and talk about his feelings and his depression and anxiety instead of actually listening to him.They always pointed a finger and placed blame and called him crazy.He knew what he saw.He wasn’t the one who was crazy.

His mother always used to tell him that nothing in the dark could hurt him and he should just relax and try and sleep. The last words she spoke to him were delivered tiredly and with an air of irritation. “You’re just using this as an excuse. You’re thirteen years old. This isn’t going to work anymore. It’s dark when you close your eyes, too, just close them and go to sleep.”

She wasn’t there when he woke up the next morning.His father came home that next afternoon from work and she was nowhere to be found.He knew what had happened, but he’d stopped talking about it.She’d walked through the doorway and ended up where the shadow things were.He’d warned her but she wouldn’t listen.

No one listened.

They blamed him for his mother’s disappearance and he stuck with the story, even taking lie detector tests and being grilled for hours and hours by the police about where she had gone.He told them the truth.She had come in and tucked him in, left him with a night light and had walked through the doorway behind his book case.She wasn’t there when he woke up the next morning.

Eventually it was ruled she had abandoned the family and was a missing person.Eli knew, but no one would listen.

No one ever listened.

He awoke in a cold sweat, the nightmare still seeming real in his partially conscious state.  Running a hand over his face, he stumbled over the blankets he'd tossed on the floor at some point in the night on his way to the bathroom for some water.  He filled the chipped short glass and downed it in a few fevered gulps, trying to chase away the dream that seemed more like memory than fanciful fiction from the pizza he ate before bed.

Bleary eyes turned to the clock and he shambled downstairs to pick up a drink of something a little stronger than the water so he could get back to sleep.  If he woke up now, it would be a long day at work, not that he hadn't done it before.

He poured himself some of the first bottle he could wrap his hand around and tossed it back with a faint grimace at the warm burn. Leaning on the minibar, he splayed his fingers over the rough wood and made a mental note he would later forget to sand it down.

He downed another shot for good measure and headed back upstairs for another few hours sleep.

(c) Carrie Fulk Vaughn 2008


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