Highly Commended Story - The Shadow
“The Shadow” by Sarah Al-Assaf, IAA – International Academy Amman, Jordan, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Sarah Al-Assaf is a 14-year-old who studies in 9th grade at the school of IAA - International Academy Amman. She has many hobbies such as horse riding, crochet and drawing. She loves to read and this love for reading encouraged and inspired her to write short stories and poems.
Life used to be normal, I used to feel safe, happy, and loved – but now, that’s all changed. I can’t tell you what I feel, because, I don’t know what it is. I feel a dark whole, but not an empty one, I feel it aching with something crawling inside as it tries to claw its way out. I’m sure you don’t understand a thing I’m saying. So, let me explain…
“Kira!” my mother called out, “dinner!”
“I’m coming!” I yelled as I ran down the stairs. I hurried to the kitchen and plopped down on my chair.
“Took you long enough,” my brother Max muttered. I rolled my eyes. Max was… strange. I don’t know how to explain it but, he acts weird. But whenever my parents are looking, he seems like the perfect child. When in reality, he may as well be a devil in disguise. He twitched and his eyes seem to roll back for a second. I gasped, horrified, I turned to call mom but, when I looked again, he was fine.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, “must have… imagined it…”
My mother put her hand on my shoulder, then turned back to get the food. I stared into nothingness. I could have just imagined that… I mean, its fine. It’s totally fine. Right?
Once everyone was done, I hurried up to my room and went to bed. I felt the presence of my parents, as I started to drift off to sleep, I could have sworn I heard someone whisper, run. I woke up panting, I had a horrible nightmare, but I can only remember flashes – screams, cries, shadows. Darkness. Mostly darkness. The darkness had an eerie feel about, it made my mind at unease. I shook my head as I tried not to think about it.
As I made my way downstairs, I caught a glimpse of Max in his room, staring at his laptop screen. Typical. I went to the kitchen to get some breakfast and was surprised to see mom hasn’t beat me to it. Weird, mom’s always first… she must be tired. I reached up to get myself some cereal, but as I did, I thought I saw something out the window. I turned towards it just in time to make out a shadowy figure as it slipped away. I turned back to continue making my quick, and delicious breakfast.
When I finished, I went up to my parents’ room, no one there. I then went to Max’s room, still staring at the screen, I went over to tap him on the shoulder. When he didn’t respond I turned his chair to face me, I screamed at what I saw. His eyes were flipping, his tongue was sticking out, his face was ten shades lighter than usual and his cheeks hot red.
“Would you keep it down!” I turned to find Max standing by the doorway, “it’s 8 in the morning, and, what are you doing in my room??”
I turned to face the chair, but now Max was not on it, and back to Max – who apparently was standing by the door now. Shock and confusion took over my emotions. I touched his cheek, it was a normal light, rosy pink that had always stained his cheeks, and his light green eyes shown back at me.
“What’s wrong with you,” he eyed me, “you look like you’ve seen a ghost,”
He glanced back at me as he made his way down to the kitchen. I turned back to the chair, nothing. I ran down the stairs to catch up with Max. I sat with him in silence as I watched him eat. I looked out the window and I stared. Shouts, cries, shadows.
“Do – do you see that?” I asked, alarmed. He turned around and replied, “what? People going to work? Yeah,”
“No, not that, the -” as I looked back up, I saw people. People going to work. Maybe I’m not feeling well… I should lie down…
“No,” Max said commandingly
“You heard me loud and clear,”
“I don’t understand -”
“Stay. With me,” he grinned.
“How did you-”
“Hush,” he seemed to fade, “now, now, we don’t want to upset your little brother, do we?”
His face seemed to fade into shadows, his eyes shining red, his voice deepening – no longer that of a little boy.
“Now…listen to me…” his words seemed to melt out of his mouth. Darkness began to swallow the room, then I saw it. The door. Run. I heard the whisper and I obeyed. I opened the door. Darkness. Screams, cries, shadows – and darkness. Mostly darkness.
“Running never helps anybody…” The creature sprang into midair and seemed to land on me, but when he did, everything was back to normal. Expect now, I had the whole neighborhood staring right at me.
“Now my Shadow,” the voice called, “you obey me,”
I nodded, turning back to the kitchen. I twitched. Then continued.