From the Back Cover
“The figure stepped out, but the shadows only seemed to move with him. No, they were a part of him. He stood tall in the corner of my room. At no point in his appearance was there a separation in shading, yet I could still clearly see that the man was wearing a 1940’s style pork pie hat and a long floor-length jacket. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could feel them sizing me up like he wanted to consume me.”
The Shadowman, have you seen him?
Lisa Rowher, finds herself traveling back to her childhood home; a place where she never wanted to return- but she has questions that only her deceased Grandmother’s study can provide the answers to.
What else has been waiting for her? Could it be a second chance at a better life?
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Below you can read the first 10 pages of The Schatten
I walked away from my apartment building knowing damn well what I was leaving behind – a mess. Normally I wouldn’t leave my living space in such a way, but I didn’t have time to waste on picking up after myself. It wasn’t like I was leaving behind dirty plates and trash scattered around. No, what I left was probably worse – depending on who would be judging it. Thankfully, I lived alone.
I walked down the block to where my car was parked, passing Ian as I went. We both avoided eye contact; that was probably for the best. I got in my rusted hunk of metal as I sat in the driver’s seat for just a moment and I collected my thoughts. Was I really ready to do this? I dug out my keys and started the ignition. Yes. Yes, I was.
I had a long drive ahead of me which left plenty of time to think – After all, my car didn’t have a radio to help drown my inner thoughts. I was too swept up in what really led me to this point anyway and there was only one answer. Fear.
How many nights did I stay awake, too afraid to fall asleep? How many times had I cursed at the dreaded moon, all because it brought more than just the night? Too many. All because the night brought the exact thing that nightmares are made from.
Fear can cause a person to do unthinkable things. Terrible things – at least that’s what my Doctor has drilled into my head since I started seeing her. How long has it been? 20 years? I think she has a point though. When all of this is over, when I finally have the answers that I need, I’ll have to find a way to call her.
I think I’ve found a way. A way to have a second chance at a better life.
I put my car in park, removed my key from the ignition, placed it in my visor, and looked down at the time. 3:00 pm; not bad, I thought to myself. It had been a very long drive and as much as I wanted to give up on coming here and leave, I needed to stretch my legs more. I got out of my car and bumped the door with my hip, hoping I gave enough force to completely shut it. The last thing I needed to deal with was a dead battery. I was beyond nervous; I fumbled around for a moment, looking for my cigarettes that were buried deep in the black hole I call a purse, as the war raged on inside my mind. Should I go knock on the door or should I just get back in my car and hope that no one noticed my arrival? I closed my eyes tightly at my next thought, I’m sure they noticed; my inner voice screamed, echoing in my mind. My car was missing a muffler and God knows what else, so yeah, I’m sure they at least heard me pull up. They may not know it’s me; my cowardly side pleaded. My car was fairly new. Well, new to me and there was no way that anyone that would possibly be here would recognize it. I had never really had a need for a vehicle, it was really for this trip in particular that I even purchased it; probably another mistake. There was no way for me to be certain that what I needed to find would even be in that house. I was certain about one thing though – if I find it, I will use it. I refuse to live in fear. This will not be another mistake; that was the one comforting thought that fueled my motives.
Talking to myself was something that I had always done. I think that it’s pretty natural for someone who grew up like I did – at least that is what I’d tell myself so I didn’t feel completely crazy. It was just calming, I guess. There were times that I felt like I had better conversations inside my own mind than I could ever have out loud with another person. To me, it’s no different than playing a game of chess against yourself or putting together a jigsaw puzzle that claims you’ll need at least two participants. Sometimes, there just isn’t better company than the company you find in solitude and there is no better feeling than being able to accomplish things on your own. This was just something else that I would have to do alone.
I finally found my pack of cancer sticks as I swung my purse back onto my shoulder as I stood there for a moment longer. I looked at my reflection in my driver’s door window; I’m fucking pathetic. Once upon a time, I really thought that I had so much potential. Despite never being told it, I knew that I was beautiful. I just wish that I could feel on the inside how I looked on the outside. Maybe not today though. Today, I looked rough as hell. My blue eyes were framed with dark circles from lack of sleep, my shoulder-length brown hair was frazzled from the humidity that summer brings, and my complexion was pale. The last part really wasn’t that far off from what I normally look like. I wasn’t really ever the outdoorsy type, but being raised up here, you didn’t really have the luxury of choosing what kind of person you would grow into being. You are who they want you to be. I was simply doomed to be a shut-in, hidden from the rest of the world. A diamond in the rough, one might say. When I finally did flee from this place, I tried so hard to rebuild a life for myself. I tried to completely change everything I was, but making friends and changing habits was never something that I would grow into being good at.
I ended up getting a mediocre desk job at a filing office; funny to think that I would fall into that career. When I wasn’t at work or at an appointment, I was at home. I didn’t go out or attend gatherings, and thanks to delivery services I never had to leave my house if I didn’t want (which I never wanted to). I became friends with the pizza drivers (if you could call it that) and I spent my free time crafting. I avoided social media. Well, I avoided the media in general. Basically, I was living the life of an old crazy cat lady, I was just missing the cats and I’m only in my early 30’s. After living such a sheltered life, I honestly wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to do once I was out on my own. Anytime I tried to break my pattern of behavior I would become overwhelmed with the burning memory of my past. History has a way of repeating itself, a thought that was drilled into my head by my Grandmother. Everything had always been about routines and structure. I guess that’s why I kept doing the only things I knew how to do; I took my pills, followed orders, and enjoyed the sound of silence.
I hadn’t even discovered the touch of man, or the touch of myself for that matter. My age might tell a story of an adult, but my actions and thoughts told a story of a girl who never got to grow. For a long time, I blamed my Grandparents, but then I slowly started to blame myself. I ran off to start anew, but I was just as much under my Grandmother’s thumb now as I was when I still lived under her roof – if you could call it living. I had so many plans that never were fulfilled, so many hopes and wants that remained thoughts, and so many dreams that I never took the plunge towards chasing. If I died right now, no one would miss me. No one would notice my absence. No one. That had to change. It will change.
Why would I come back here, I allowed the repeating thought to enter my mind? I turned my body to face away from anything that would cause me to look at the person that I’d allowed myself to become. Part of me was just as confused as I was when I was a child, the other part of me knew exactly what I needed to do – what I needed to find. That part knew why I was here and that part was more than ready. The only reason I questioned myself as much as I did, was that I couldn’t understand why this all mattered to me? It had been years since I even thought of these things, why couldn’t I just let them stay as dead as I felt inside. I relaxed my right shoulder so that my purse would slide down my arm as I let the weight of my belongings pull down on my wrist. I bravely turned my head, so that I could face my Grandparent’s home as I leaned my back against the car door. In the same movement, I struggled to get my lighter to strike as I slowly slid down the side of my car until I was perfectly placed on the pavement beneath me. I took a long drag off of my cigarette and raised myself up just enough so that I could stick my lighter in my back pocket. I still had my eyes locked on the house; it’s changed.
What was once a proud structure with deep cherry wood that framed the white stone walls, now appeared as a dreary cottage covered in vines and ivy. I couldn’t believe my Grandparents were living this way. Maybe that’s what caused my Grandmother to kick the bucket; my morbid side teased. Living a life where you were never told, “I love you”, kissed goodnight, or even hugged, really made you turn into a person with a dark sense of humor. Not to mention a person who had no clue how to console anyone. I once had a co-worker who found her 15-year-old cat was tragically mangled in the street in front of her home. It had been hit by a car when someone broke into her house, ripping her door off its hinges and allowing the scared cat to run away in a panic. My exact words to her were, “With luck like that, I’d skip out on buying a lotto ticket tonight.”- Seriously, what is wrong with me? Still, my words to her were more comforting than anything that had ever been said to me.
I took in all of the scenery. The house wasn’t the only thing that had been neglected. The yard was overgrown with weeds, the bushes that lined the front porch were nothing more than bare twigs sticking out of the ground, and the steal water fountain that once brought the yard’s garden to life was barely visible through the vegetation that consumed it. How did this happen? All jokes aside, I had never seen the home look like this, and I never expected it ever would. It wasn’t like my Grandparents were really the ones who took care of the place. No, they hired people who carried out their wants and wishes. Did they finally go broke? Couldn’t afford to pay the help? Or did the help grow tired of my Grandparent’s arrogance? I couldn’t imagine any of that being true. They were still paying for my doctor visits and my medication – which was not cheap by any means. So, what exactly happened here?
It’s true, I had left this place the moment I turned 18; hoping to never find my way back to this house of hell and torture. I had intentionally missed every holiday, every get-together, every funeral, all because I swore that I would never step foot on this property again – yet here I am. If I had to pick something that I missed about this place, then it would have to be the scenery that it provided. However, from the looks of things, it’s like the house died the moment I left.
My Grandparents were always so dramatically obsessed with their public image; and the family home was their representation of how far they had come (even though both of them had come from wealthy families already). Still, they relished in the life they had built. From my understanding, both their families had always been that way. People that were so prideful of the accomplishments they made in this wonderful country of opportunities. My Grandfather’s family came to the United States early in its development, where my Grandmother’s family arrived after the Second World War. Grace’s father supposedly had built this home with his own bare hands, it was always to be a home that was cared for by his blood and his blood alone, at least that’s the story Grace loved to tell. I bet Henry’s turning over in his grave now. At least, I really hope he is.
I didn’t know much about my Grandfather’s side of the family other than they were from Scottish descent; as if you couldn’t tell from the tattered flag with his clan’s crest that towered over the house. Well, you wouldn’t really be able to tell that now, I suppose. I remembered what the property once looked like and how that flag was such a huge part of my childhood – not to mention, probably the main reason why I despise folding.
Gerald would always put me in charge of properly storing the flag when bad weather was about to hit. It didn’t matter if it was a low chance in the forecast either, if the radar showed just a spot of yellow or red, you can bet your ass that I was climbing that staircase to the attic and heading to the roof to fetch it. He was never the type to put himself in harm’s way. Instead, it was the hired help or myself that he would order to aid him. It wasn’t that the roof was all that dangerous, but the attic was so dim and stacked with boxes that one simple slip off of the ladder that led up through the hatch could be fatal. Not to mention, the attic was completely infested with spiders, so you weren’t really ever sure what you were grabbing onto. Indiana is home to all sorts of arachnids with most packing a dangerous bite. There isn’t a hospital around for miles and there have been numerous deaths in this area caused from the rapid spread of venom with no way to treat it. Thus, giving my Grandfather a reason to never step foot in the attic.
Aside from collecting and cherishing memorabilia from his family’s homeland, Gerald really wasn’t that into digging up his ancestor’s past. He was the only child and his family’s name would die out with him, and on that note, I think that’s only reason why he started buying up any of his family’s artifacts to begin with. You see, when my Grandparents got married my Grandmother insisted, Gerald would take her maiden name. I always suspected that his obsession with his collection was just so he would have something to allow his name to live on. That had to be a low blow to his manly ego after all.
Grace, well she was very different from her husband in many ways. Gerald may not have cared about history but Grace on the other hand, she was passed the point of obsession with hers. She would spend hours in her study digging up any kind of information she could find on her side of the family, and may God be with you if you happened to disturb her.
At first, when Grace started to allow me to spend time in her study, I found myself falling in love with helping with her research. Though, it wasn’t long after I began helping out that I started to lose interest. That was bound to happen when she would only ever allow me to fetch books from the shelf and file away paperwork; I was never allowed to read any of her books or her findings. I eventually stopped trying to spend time with her in general, mainly because it always felt like I was being tolerated more than welcomed. Looking back on it now, I can clearly see that she pushed my feelings in that direction. At the time though, I just assumed that she didn’t want me around. Knowing what I know now, that was not the case. Not with, Grace, anyway. The rest of my family was a different story entirely.
They all made it bluntly clear that I was not a favorite member of the family, Gerald more than anyone. The only time he would even speak to me, aside from a lecture, was to demand my assistance. The looks he would give me though; they were so much more painful than any verbal lashing. For most of my childhood, I was left to be alone. Both of my parents had died when I was young, so I don’t really have any memories of them. I’d like to think that they were the one exception. That they loved and adored every moment I was with them, but they were never a topic that was discussed in detail, by any of my family members. The earliest memory that I can clearly recall, is that of my arrival to the family home.
It was my first time meeting my Grandparents as well. I was escorted up to the house by the police officer that drove me there. I can remember looking around at the yard in awe and in fear. Everything was so beautiful, but my nervousness trumped the beauty that I was surrounded by. I didn’t know anything about these people, but the officer insisted that they would take great care of me. The moment the officer had opened my car door, he pointed out the massive flag that blew softly in the breeze above the house.
“You see that?” he said as cheerfully as he could. “That flag means family. These people are your family.”
Obviously, he didn’t have the heart to tell me that my parents weren’t coming to pick me up – or that they were dead for that matter. So, every time I asked him, “Mommy is coming too?” he would simply squeeze my hand and reply with a warm smile and nodded his head up to the flag as we swiftly made our way to the front porch.
The sun was starting to set, which just made everything look so much more mysterious as the warm golden light covered the house and front yard. The crickets were starting to fill the air with their music, the fireflies were dancing to their tune, and the frogs were croaking with excitement over the coolness the evening would bring. The breeze kept caressing my skin, almost as if mother nature itself was trying to soothe the feelings that were starting to explode inside me. The officer helped me up to the steps, but he had to give me a slight tug so that I would continue on to the front door.
Grace answered the door and instantly I felt like I wanted to run away. Her body language screamed that she was not about to reach out a hand for me or even step out of her home for that matter. She was about 5’3, slim, with silver hair that was pinned up with a decorative hairclip. Her cold blue eyes never looked away from mine and her wrinkled lip curled into a pleased smile, almost as if seeing my face become taken over with fear tickled her fancy. I tucked myself behind the officer’s leg as he tried to hand my grandmother a small bag containing my belongings. Gerald, who apparently had been out in the garden, came up from behind me and in one swift motion I was no longer hiding from the woman who opened the front door. I was right beside her. Gerald thanked the officer for his exceptional service in bringing me home, grabbed my bag, and abruptly closed the door behind us.
The moment the door was closed my Grandfather put me down. He was strong and a lot taller than my Grandmother. His face wasn’t nearly as wrinkled as Grace’s, nor did it appear as cruel as hers did, not at first. His face was simply emotionless, like he was just going through the stages of life. I remember that I was overwhelmed with the urge to cry, but the lady down the hallway distracted me. She was holding a giant portrait of my Dad, Mom, and myself. I cried out, “Mommy-” and was quickly cut off by the coldest sentence my Grandfather has ever said to me. A sentence that I will never forget.
“No child, that is simply a waste of money and paint. Your parents are dead.”
That was also the last time I ever saw an image of my parents. I’ve tried so hard to recall what they looked like, but now, they are nothing more than blurry memories. I flicked my cigarette that was nearly burnt to the filter into the yard as I watched the smoke rise from the grass. I stared at it until it dissipated into nothingness. Funny; I thought, that’s always how this place made me feel. Like I was dissipating into nothingness. Even the help was treated with more respect than I was ever shown, but at the same time, even the help treated me as if I were something to fear. I suppose they had a good reason for that.
The one fond memory that I have from this place was spent in the front yard. I was around 10 years old when one of the gardeners was forced to bring his son to work with him for reasons unknown. I overheard my Grandparents talking about how they hoped that boy would keep to himself. I was homeschooled, so with the exception of Sunday service and the occasional visits from my cousin (which was not as much of a highlight as it sounds), I really was never around other children. My heart began to race with excitement as I ran out the front door and smacked right into the visiting child. He was on his way inside to ask permission to use the bathroom. Thank goodness I ran into him. There was not a doubt in my mind, that would have ended up costing his Father his job.
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