Monday, February 13, 2012

Shadow Beasts - An unfinished story


Below is a story that has some promise. It is a few years old and I have never completed it. However, it still holds me with the mood and the backstory. Comments are not only welcomed but encouraged. Keep in mind, it is a first draft so there are most likely some issues with grammar and such.


        Sid stood in a condemned house and watched the pale sunlight filter through the gauzy fabric hanging askew on the rusted curtain rod.  For long minutes he watched the cold, dusty light slide its way across the hardwood floor.  When the light touched the burn mark, he allowed himself to blinked.
        He remembered the day he had left the iron on the floor to mark the hour when the shadows let the cold beasts into this world.
This was Sid’s home when he was a child and now it was a condemned husk on the outskirts of Dallas.  It had been three days since he and his rambling partner, Ralph, had decided to go to Texas.  They wanted to escape the bitter winter of Ohio.  They hopped a train and headed south that same afternoon.
A part of him knew he would end up here at this house.  After all, this is where the whole thing started.  Many times he huddled under his frayed quilt, silently screaming in this room.  He watched, as the cold phantoms seeped in through the shadows, as if there were seams in reality formed by the stark lines shadows laid across the world.
His blankets served no protection other than blocking his view of the slithering shadows.  His shelter would become cold. Through the fabric a thousand wiggling tendrils would grope at his skin.
When he lived here life was rough, not the roughest he had seen, but it was rougher than any child should ever experience.  His dad, Sid called him Poppa, would beat him for not taking out the trash or for not “listening up” or any number of offenses both real and imagined.
When Poppa said to listen up it was followed by the crushing grip on his nuts.
Poppa started the nut crushing after the Cops came to their house and questioned him about the black eyes and bloody lips the school reported as happening "every couple weeks".  Poppa talked his way out of the situation then climbed the stairs to Sid’s room.
Sid had turned thirteen the day before.  His pale skin was already pocked by acne.  His slight frame was hunched at the shoulders and his hair hung in unwashed greasy clumps.
        Poppa entered the room several minutes after the police had pulled away from the curb in front of the house.  Sid sat on the floor in the hazy rays of afternoon of sunlight, reading a Detective Comic.  Poppa slapped the book from Sid’s hands then stepped on his son's balls with the end of his heavy, steel-toed boot.
        Sid gasped then puked.
“Don’t ever tell anybody about what goes on here again, boy. And get this pigsty cleaned up.” Poppa said as he stepped in the puddle of chunky, warm puke, tracking it out the door.
Sid never went to school again with a black eye or bloody nose.
As time passed the ball crushing became Poppa’s preferred method of punishment.  Depending on Sid’s offense Poppa’s hand would dart down grab the crotch of Sid’s jeans and squeeze his son’s balls.  Sometimes he screamed out, other times the pain was so white-hot it would clench his stomach and Sid would puke.
        No mater how bad the physical abuse his dad served up, nothing compared to his nightly terror and pain induced by the phantoms. As a young child, Sid thought it was perfectly normal for the dark green, almost black, phantoms to explore his room from the edges of shadows.  All he knew was that they sometimes hurt him and always scared him.
Sid was six years old when he first told his parents about the phantoms in the shadows.  Poppa ridiculed him and told him that the Shadow Beasts were going to eat his face because he was a bad boy when he thought nobody was around.  His mother stood there in her ill-fitting, flowered housecoat and stared at the stains in the matted carpet and said nothing.
Since that day Sid has called them “Shadow Beasts”.  He always assumed his dad knew what they were.  The older he became the more he was convinced the Shadow Beasts were going to kill him.
When Sid screamed for help Poppa would pound on the wall and tell him to shut it before he came in and walloped him a good one.  He delivered on that promise several times before Sid learned to scream silently under his thin covers.
Every time his dad came thundering into the room the light would come on and the Shadow Beasts would extract themselves from the blanket and become invisible.  They would sink back against the walls and laugh as Poppa delivered the beating.
The light would go out and the Shadow Beasts would glide forward, the tatters of their lower bodies barely touching the floor.  A faint, worm of a line would stay behind them and keep their bodies attached to a shadow cast by the street lamps.  Sid thought of that line as a their umbilical cord.
When they reached the edge of the bed they would scavenge for any place there was bare skin.  The iciness of their tendrils stung like a swarming hive of bees. if all else failed, they squeezed through the tiny holes between the threads of fabric. Always hungry. Always craving his skin.

Ralph came shuffling through the door.  His deflated boots clunked and created little swirls of dust with each step.  He watched Sid stare at the corner of the room.
“This where those things would come at yuns?” Ralph asked in his Southern Illinois cant.
“Yeah, this is where it started.” Sid answered without looking away from the corner.  He was still coming back from his daydream.
“That’s what I meant," Ralph said, "Ya know, where it started.  They ain’t been comin’ round much since we headed south.  Have they?” Ralph said.
Still Sid stared at the corner.  The emotion drained away from his face like a boxer knocked unconscious.
“Hey, Siddy, I seen some canned goods downstairs in the basement.  Ya want to help me pack em’ up and get outta here?” Ralph gave a weak smile.
Ralph wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay in this house once it got dark.  Sure, napping here during the day was great but he didn’t think it was too good an idea to stay after the sun went down.  He wasn’t fond of meeting these shadow thingys Sid told him lived anywhere there was dark shadows.
He stared long at Sid, hoping to see a sign that it was time to leave.  He knew Sid wouldn’t be sleeping tonight.  Sid never slept at night or under dark bridges or anywhere there was a strong shadow next to bright light.  That really limited the places they would stay.
Ralph hated Sid’s quirks and paranoia but a crazy friend was better than no friend at all.  Ralph had been on the move since he was twelve.  He had no family and his friendships lasted about as long as his bottle of Thunderbird could keep them around.  Nope.  Keeping friends had never been one of his skills.
“Siddy, I’m goanna find a bag or something and move out.  Whadda ya say to keeping south on I-35?  Maybe go Padre or Mexico?  Hmm?” Ralph asked
“Yeah let’s do that.  The Shadow Beasts haven’t caught up yet.  Maybe we can keep a step ahead.”  Sid said as he followed Ralph out of the little bedroom.
Niether man noticed the shifting of the shadows as they left the room.  The beasts were already watching.  They were patient.  They knew what was to come.

Susan was exhausted. She had just finished up a double shift at the gas station.  All she needed now was to drag herself through the door to three screaming kids and her dad who would be too drunk to move.
She paused outside the door of her single-wide trailer.  She felt she was living another person’s life.  Things weren’t supposed to be like this for her.  Since Jeff died everything had been spiraling down the drain to Sewer City.
“Scuse me, ma’am?”
Susan jumped and dropped her purse. She instinctively struck out with the hand holding her bundle of keys used to open things she no longer owned.
Her first swing struck Sid squarely on the forehead. He staggered back as she pulled back to strike again. His hands went up in a defensive “X” in front of his face. He felt the blood trickling from the gash she left above his left eye.
Sid called out, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I need help for my friend!” He fell to his knees cowering under the threat of continued blows.
Instantly Susan realized this was a helpless old man. She grabbed her purse and went into the trailer. She secured the chain and opened the door only a crack. The man was back on his feet and walking away.
Susan watched him for a few seconds then called out, “Sorry I hit you.”
Sid stopped and turned around. He held his arms at his sides with his palms facing the light streaming from the door.
“My friend is hurt pretty bad and I’m looking for some help. He,” Sid paused trying to think of what to say, “He was attacked by a couple dogs and his in a bad way. Ma’am can you help?”
Susan studied him for a long span. She was pretty sure she could trust the guy but he seemed to be lying to her about his friend.
“You go get your friend and bring him back here. If I see he’s hurt, I’ll do what I can to help y’all. N’Kay?”
Sid’s face lit up, “Yes ma’am. Sure! I’ll bring him right back here. He’s laying over there under that tree. I’ll be right back. You want me to knock or something?”
“No. Don’t knock. You’ll wake my daddy. You just get him over here and I’ll look him over and decide what needs t’be done. Go on now, I don’t want to be waiting all night.”
Sid hurried away into the dark.

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