The Shadowman's Penny

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Willow took the penny, although she probably shouldn't have.

The colors of the halls never changed. The tiles on the floor remained the sullied white color, the walls were still the muted beige. As she walked into the bathroom that was shamefully old, Willow breathed a sigh of relief, glad to find it was void of people. No one enjoyed using the bathroom in east hall anyways. Willow glanced as the heavy wooden door shut quietly before looking into the mirror. Fortunately, I haven’t had to look at myself most of the day, but I feel bad for my classmates who did, she thought. She was dressed in the wrinkled sweater she slept in and the same jeans worn the day prior. Her eyes matched the dull wall paint of the aged school, and to say she looked as weary as the damn 30 year old bathroom she stood in would have been the nicest way to describe her appearance. But as old as the bathroom was, Willow was thankful for the quiet it provided. She walked into the cleanest stall she could find and locked the door behind her. Well, locked it as best she could considering the whole thing was crooked. She found herself staring at the ceiling, watching the flickering fluorescent lights as her back rested against the wall of the stall. Slowly, she slid down and sat, hugging her knees to her chest and appreciated the comfort the raggedy stall provided. It was quiet. She took a breath and rested her head between her knees. She closed her eyes and, again, forced another breath in and out. Willow knew she had to reason with herself, knowing she still had 4 periods and a test to get through. Let’s compartmentalize our issues, alright? Let’s focus on the math exam in a couple hours, and when we leave we can worry about the unsettling threats from our dreams. At this point, Willow wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry with the absurdity of the situation. What’s crazier: being threatened by someone you don’t know in a dream or actually being afraid of it? She didn’t know why she forced herself to school today, it’s not like she would have gotten scolded by her non-existent parents. Willow took another strained breath and lifted her head, but kept her gaze to the floor she was sitting on, trying to avoid eye contact with the toilet that was near her. Why the school chose white tile for a bathroom was beyond her, but it was the reason the penny stood out on the other side of the stall. Willow chuckled as she got up to look at it more closely. Now imagine if it’s tails up, let’s see how much worse this day can get. She squatted down to look at the freakishly clean penny on the dirty floor, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was, in fact, heads up. Oh great! Well, now I’ll just sit tight for the good luck to process and my problems to disappear. She grabbed the penny, recalling how her mom used to say, “Find a penny? Pick it up! If it’s heads up, you’ll have good luck!” The two of them used to scour parks and malls to find those pennies, collecting good luck. I guess luck can’t always stop the inevitable, she thought. She  didn’t bother to look back up at the mirror before as she left the bathroom. The wooden door slowly closed behind her as Willow walked down the hall, away from the bathroom.


 

With the ring of the bell, everyone in class got up and began to rush out the door. Willow heard the chatter of her classmates as they discussed weekend plans and how they felt about the test they just had. The only thing on her mind, though, was the damned man, who was more like a monster, from the cursed dream she couldn’t ignore most of the day. She stuffed her hands into her heavy coat, preparing herself for the 20 minute walk to the place she called “home”. As she distanced herself from the school, the chatter and the noise of teenage conversations faded away. The crunch of ice under her boots and the sound of cars driving past were the only things left to distract her mind from what she saw in the last 18 hours. She smiled bitterly realizing the only pathetic shred of hope she had for the day was from the freakishly clean penny she found in the bathroom. She went to pull her hands free from the coat to dig out the penny in her jeans, and surprisingly the penny was warmer than her own hand. She centered the penny on her left palm and squeezed her fist around it, willing it to warm the rest of her hand. By the time Willow unlocked the door to her apartment, she still was squeezing the penny with her hand that was no warmer than it was earlier.

 

After a much needed warm shower and some left overs, Willow was left in her dim apartment with the shiny penny. She placed it gently on her dresser, heads up, and walked over to the bed. The last time Willow had laid on it, her dream awoke her in a cold sweat. She sat on the bed and willed herself to take a breath, lay down, and close her eyes. She attempted to recall in more detail what she saw, trying not to be afraid of a mere dream. 


 

Okay, I was back at school. I saw the same hallways a couple hours ago. The school felt empty, the lights were dim and all the windows were fogged up. I felt a voice almost pulling me to a random class room. My feet didn’t feel like my own, but I walked into the room and it was empty? I don’t know what happened. I turned to leave and the door shut, I was stuck. I turned back around and saw some figure with a top hat who was just standing there. He was dressed in a ripped and worn-out tux, his pale hand held in a fist. I remember I screamed and backed up, the door handle pressing into my back, but he stayed still. I don’t know what he wanted, but I was basically cornered with no escape. With staggering breaths, I realized I had no other choice but to listen when he began to speak. “I lost something that was mine”, he said. His voice was gravely, it carried the whisper of the wind and the essence of general creepiness. My smart ass decided to respond with, “That sounds like a you problem.” My response must have made him a bit annoyed. The figure approached me slowly. His limbs were awkward and long, yet he approached me with the stealth of a puma. I had nowhere to go so I tried to remain calm as the door knob pressed into my back even deeper, surely leaving a bruise. “You are going to do something that will not result in a happy ending for you. So it is not just ‘a me problem’, it's an us problem. I don’t respond well with having something dear to me stolen, and I’m sure you won’t appreciate my fury. Most don’t.” I was determined to look into his eyes, show that I wasn’t intimidated. But as he lifted his head, behind the trim of the tattered top hat I saw he didn’t have a real face. Almost like a skeleton, and he began to smile… 

 

 

 

Willow’s eyes flew open. She felt odd from remembering her dream so clearly, but as her gaze met the penny on the dresser, she felt herself filled with dread. Of course, the one day I have a weird ass dream I don’t keep my hands to myself. The fact I’m probably now at risk because I picked up a shiny penny! From the floor of a bathroom?! That penny should be double sided with tails, it seems to be bringing only bad luck today. She felt wrong to keep the penny, it obviously had to be connected to the shadow man with the top hat. Looking back on the dream, perhaps taking the penny wasn’t the best course of action, but honestly Willow was desperate. Desperate for a sliver of hope, a memory of a brighter time in her life, a silly ritual that reminds her of her mother that only exists in her memories. She realized she was going to have to return the damned penny to have a decent night’s sleep. She jumped out the bed, grabbed the penny and rushed to get her boots on her feet and coat over her shoulders before making the trek to her school. Is it safe walking alone on a cold night at 9 pm? Probably not, but is it less frightening than the shadow man from my dreams? Definitely. As she left her home, the cold wind was sharp against her face, blowing her hair in all directions, almost as if the weather itself was trying to warn her to stay away. Maybe a stupid penny wasn’t worth the danger, but she went anyways. By the time she got to the school, the feeling in her toes were gone.

 

Although her school’s reputation and architecture were respectable, the locks on the doors were shameful. She didn’t even need to pick her way in, as she was expecting to. She shimmied the handle a bit and the door groaned open. There was no heater running since it was so late, but the study building at least provided relief from the wind. Willow had been clutching the penny in her hand the whole way, ensuring she didn’t lose it. She was in no rush once she made it inside the school, as she leisurely walked the halls to the east hall bathroom. The setting she was in was reminiscent of the dream she had the night before. As she expected, no lock on the bathroom door. The heavy wooden door was a bit creepier during the night time. As it creaked shut, she hurriedly sprinted into the stall, determined not to make eye contact with herself in the mirror. The image of the shadow man still lurking in the back of her mind, she didn’t need to edge on her anxiety by looking in the mirror. Willow shut the stall door behind her like she did earlier in the day, before placing the penny back on the floor. She set it heads up, as she had found it and hoped to some entity that she would be forgiven for taking the damn penny. She got up and ran out of the bathroom, wondering if someone else will end up in the same situation as her. Would someone else be dumb enough to pick up a penny cause it was nice and shiny like I did? She laughed at herself, feeling a bit lighter knowing the shadow man now had no real reason to be angry with her. With that feeling of relief and adrenaline, Willow ran back to her apartment, laughing as she felt the piercing wind against her face.

 

As she shut her apartment door behind her, she slipped off the heavy garments that kept her warm during her mini mission she just completed. Stripped back down to her sweater and pajama pants, Willow made her way to her room and walked toward her dresser. She eyed the place where the penny had been sitting earlier in the day, but instead redirected her vision to the mirror. She had looked at herself with distaste during the afternoon, but now as she gazed into the mirror, she felt lighter. Although she had a darker complexion, the redness in her nose and cheeks were very present from the biting cold outside. Her curly hair standing straight up in almost an afro, and her exhausted eyes were alight with a mix of relief and contentedness. She was satisfied. Turning away, Willow began getting ready for bed, looking forward to a good nights sleep.

 
 


Submitted: February 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 alittledistraction. All rights reserved.

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