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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Bobby hears noises from an empty room, sees shadow creatures that cannot exist. Is it PTSD or has something come for him?

Submitted: August 07, 2019

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Submitted: August 07, 2019





I can tell they’re up there, in the apartment above mine. I hear them moving around early in the mornings before the sun breaks the horizon. The landlord says the apartment is vacant, has been for almost a year. Could it be she doesn’t know or is she hiding something?

I woke up early, maybe two hours before dawn, walked up the stairs, quiet like, not making a sound and put my ear against the door.

I overheard the soft thump of footsteps, listened to faint whispering like the rustling of wind through the trees. I knocked; silence answered. I never spot anyone entering or leaving that place. Still, I know.

I told my sister, Samantha, about the noises upstairs, told her I wondered if it was people, never seen but always heard or, perhaps, something else entirely, something strange.

Sam, unwilling to take no for an answer, dragged me down to the VA hospital, told the doc I was hearing noises no one else heard, asked if she maybe she should increase the PTSD meds.

I didn’t tell her, or Sam, I was already taking an extra dose every night. It helps a little. She doubled my daily prescription. If the sounds keep coming, maybe I’ll double up again.

Sam has it all wrong. Oh, I still wade through rice paddies and push through thick, steaming jungle bush, running for my life or fighting the Viet Cong when the nightmares come.

The rhythmic clattering of AK-47s and M16s, the screaming of the rockets and roar of mortars still echo in my mind. Sometimes I wake in the night with the coppery scent of blood thick in my nostrils, the taste clinging to the back of my throat.

 I’ve had those dreams so long they’ve become like old friends. I expect them, hate them, live with them. Perhaps the pills help more than I realize. The sounds from above, they’re different, something new. I believe in them, their reality. That scares me a bit, more than I admit, even to myself.

I think I might’ve seen whatever lives up there the other day. I didn’t tell Sam. What I witnessed was too strange, telling would’ve frightened her, made her believe I’d really lost it this time around. The sight scared me too, but I don’t fear my sanity. I’m afraid what I saw is real.

I watched as strange, misshapen shadows, dark as the midnight sky, drifted through the building, paced the hallways and crept up the stairs. The shadows appeared where there was no light to cast them, no people to make them.

They flickered at the edge of vison, from the corner of my eyes, there and then gone. I’m convinced something’s there, something hidden from all but me. I worry about those thoughts. They sound like crazy talk, even to me. I worry more about whatever they might be, the sounds, the shadow creatures, briefly seen, frighten me. Lately, that’s what wakes me, trembling, in the night.

Something lives above me. I wonder if it’s my imagination gone wild or something real. I wonder if it’s human.

Sam wants me to come live with her, but I can’t do that. I’m her only brother and I understand her need to protect me, keep me safe, even from myself.

I can’t do it, can’t be around too many people, it’s too hard. One other is one is too many. I am better alone. She insisted. I lied; told her I would think about it.

Late this afternoon the landlord showed the place upstairs to a young couple. I waited ‘till she opened the apartment door, led them in.

Then I strolled by, peeked inside. Nothing, no furniture, just bare floors, empty cupboards and countertops, windows without curtains. How can that be?

I went back to my apartment, lay on the ragged old couch, thought about the sounds that wake me in the night and the shadows I had watched as they slithered through the hallway.

Could Sam be right? Is it my PTSD, alive and grown worse, coloring my perception of the world and everything in it?

Samantha called while I was watching Chicago Fire. We talked. “Did you take your medication”, she asked.

“I did, Sam. I always do.”

“I worry about you Bobby. I can’t help it.”

“I’m fine, sis. I just let my imagination get the best of me. I’ll be more careful, tell you right away if anything changes, if I get a little paranoid again. I promise.”

“Call me if you need me. I’ll come right away.”

“I know. I will.”

“G’night, Bobby.”

“Night, sis.”

I flicked through the channels looking for something to watch, nothing caught my eye. It was close to time for the pills. I took three this time.

It was still too early for bed. So, I picked up my book, stretched out on the couch and started reading about a horrible flu-like illness that kills off most of the people in the world.

I must’ve fallen asleep. The sound of someone, something, walking around upstairs wakes me. I look up at the ceiling, see a long, black shadow gradually seeping through the ceiling, down the wall, like an ink stain. The shadow creature falls into my apartment from above.

Shapeless at first, it begins to form into a distorted human silhouette. Arms fall from narrow shoulders, almost touch the floor. Pencil-thin legs, long pointed fingers and a misshapen, bulbous head form, solidify.

A hazy, reddish light, like the dying embers of a campfire, flickers in pinprick eyes and wide mouth, the light casts dim shadows in the darkened room.

The too-wide mouth opens, the red glow changes, grows bright, the color now a sizzling blue like the light of a blowtorch. Then, like the beacon of a lighthouse, the light pours out.

A deep, hoarse voice whispers to me, the words falling slowing from its mouth, like honey dripping from a spoon, “folllloooowww meeee.” His long, dark shadow-finger points to my door. The shadow-man drifts to, then through, my door. Shaking, I follow.

The shadow man-thing, moving slowly, floats down the hallway like coastal fog drifting in a faint ocean breeze. Then creeps up the stairs. I walk behind, strangely calm, controlling my fear. The apartment door stands open, he glides inside.

I hesitate for only a second before I step through. The room remains as barren as before but for the shadows on the wall.

They seem to greet me, each nodding and bowing. The hissing of their voices fills the emptiness in the room, enters my soul, as they speak in unison. “Welcome Home!”

The far wall vanishes, replaced by a bright swirling light, cyclonic, like water circling a drain. The shadows fly free, one at a time, entering the light. Lightning flashes as each living shadow passes through the light to whatever lies beyond.

 With each flash of strobing light the shadow falls away, replaced by glimpses of haggard faces, some familiar, some not.

Each face different but all streaked with dirt mixed with the greens and browns of camouflage paint. All are marked by the same weary determination.

Briefly, I see faint images of combat boots worn and torn, rotted in spots by jungle heat and humidity, tiger-stripe jungle fatigues grown thing and shabby with jagged tears, boonie hats soggy with sweat. In various spots, spatters of blood cling to the uniforms, the faces.

At last I understand. Thinking of Sam, setting her free to live her life, no longer needing to worry about me, fear falls away. I leave the long-ago war, the smell of rotting jungle, visions of the dead and dying, behind. That life is done. I, too, step into the light.

Time to go home.



Check out Rmannon's Book

Dream Walking in Shorts Expanded

These are the stories found in my dreams and nightmares. In these pages, meet the broken man who walks out of his dreams into another universe. See a possible future unfold when climate change accelerates at unforeseen speeds. Eight strange stories await

© Copyright 2019 Rmannon. All rights reserved.

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