A Shadowlander's Tale: The Lingering Shadows Within
Written by Kathryn K Williams
After only moments I spotted the patterns of small feet in the dust ahead of me. Almost instantly I knew they were left by the soles of Mary Janes, every girl's favourite shoe when they are young. Well not every girl for I was more fond of sneakers then those shiny single buckled shoes and yet I knew without a doubt that they must have been Mary Janes and I would have bet my life upon it, and with the feeling of death still behind me I believed I could. How I could have known this fact was well beyond me. As I sit here writing this I begin to wonder just how much I'd lost it back then, as I chased a phantom down that long twisting hallways. Door after door passed me by and although I had a slight curiosity as to what could lay beyond those doors I forced myself to not allow said curiosity to over come me and focussed instead upon the shoe prints in the dust.
I could hear the foot falls growing louder and the thought of catching up to my prey both excited and frightened me. What if I was being lured to a creatures dark lair? What if it jumped out at me as I turned the next corner? That thought made me up and halt to my stride, however the dust beneath my slipper beared feet had other plans for me. My feet slipped and slide and suddenly my feet came out from beneath myself and I found myself laying on my back once again. I turned my head in time to see a small, nightgown clad, child run through a door and slam it shut. The moment the door closed it released from its hinges and fell to the ground with a great resounding echo that made me clap my hands to my ears.
I lay still for a moment, still as the dead, holding my breath as I awaited any monster that might be lingering in the shadows. My hand slowly encircled the pendent around my neck and I prayed that I would not be discovered. After a time, when I could no longer hold my breath and needed badly to exhale, I sat up and glanced around myself. When I was sure that nothing was coming out of the depths of the hallways I stood to my feet and approached the opening the girl had just passed through, only to find the wall completely bare with no sign that there had ever been a door there before.
The door, a set of several thin pieces of wood that had been hastily nailed to a pair of cross planks, lay at my feet. There were no hinges at either side of the door to indicate that it was ever attached to anything. With I sigh I leaned against the wall as I tried to fathom where the child could have vanished too. Then I realized that I was thinking too logically, the door didn't exist because I didn't allow it to exist. I remembered reading in a book once about someone using a portable door. They would simply lean the door against a wall, knock and when they opened it there would be a passages awaiting them.
Unsure if it really would work, or not, I stood at the top of the door and placed my fingers under it. The door turned out to be remarkably lighter then I first thought it would be and it was extremely smooth, where I first thought I might get a few splinters I was surprised to find not one stray sliver of wood. With little effort the door raised off the ground, however the left side of the door refused to come free from the floor and instead of lifting it to the wall I ended up flipping the thing over to find a hole underneath it. I blinked down at the dark opening before me in confusion. I wanted to open a new door, but this was not what I was expecting. In the darkness I could see a set of earthen steps leading downwards. Part of my mind told me to enter the room and another part told me to close the door and try again.
That was when I heard it. It was soft at first and then grew steadily louder. It sounded like a broom sweeping across the ground, or something equivalent. What made my hairs stand on end was the fact that the sound was not coming from down the hole, it was coming from behind me. I cautiously turned to see a shadow slinking along the ground, the same shadow that was controlling my father. The shadow stopped when I set my eyes upon its form, as if it were trying to convince me that it was a natural shadow, however the fact that it lay below one of the chancelleries told me that it was not a trick of my mind and that shadow really did not belong there.
Not wishing to face death again at that moment I carefully began to climb into the hole provided by the door. As if the shadow realized that I was about to escape it raised off the ground and I could see it burning red eyes staring at me from under what appeared to be a black sheet resting over a hunkered form. A low roar rose up down the hall as the shadow lifted off the ground like a strange black manta ray. Not wanting to be around that creature when it reached me I rushed down the stairs and grabbed the door. The shadow rushed at me, howling angrily, I could feel its eyes burning into my soul as I frantically pulled on the door. Just as I thought the shadow would be upon me the door flipped back over and fell into place over my head. The moment it slammed shut however it came free of its hinges and fell upon me, forcing me to tumble down the stairs head first and with the door following closely after.
I came to the bottom of the stairs, which I was grateful to discover there were very few of, with a soft thud as I hit an earth floor. I struggled with the door and pushed it off of myself, leaning it sideways against the wall, hoping that sideways it would not open to any other strange world. I glanced around myself to find I was in a rather tiny room. There were roots growing out of the ceiling, and along the walls, if I were any taller I would need to crotch in order to stand. There was a small wooden table in the far corner with a single candle standing upon a nightstick, but other then that, and the stairs I'd just fallen down, there were nothing else of interest in the room. Scratching my head I plopped upon the ground, with my legs crossed, and pondered my new situation.
I may have been stuck in a tiny room, but I could be grateful that the door came down with me for I would not have to go back the way I came, which I was certain that shadow would be lingering near for sometime, awaiting my return. This also gave me a few moment to think to myself as I planned my next action. Spotting my journal laying on the floor before me, face down in the dirt with its pages slightly mangled, I picked it up and began to flip through the pages. More and more sketches that I'd never seen before began to appear between my many entries, as well as entires that I was sure I never wrote. I stopped at one entry and read the words upon the page.
"I lay in fear as I curl up beneath the cot in the basement. I was not supposed to be up that late at night, but I did not know how I came to be in the basement in the first place. I did not want him to know I was still sleepwalking. I did not want to get into trouble again. It wasn't my fault. I don't know why I keep doing this. I just wish this would all stop and just go away. He crossed the room and sat upon the cot, it looked like he did not even notice I was there. I could hear him sobbing about something, apologizing for something he had done. I wanted to reach out and tell him it was alright, that I was alright, that he shouldn't be sad. Just as I got of the nerve to say something he leaned heavily against the wall and I could see him through a crack between the wall and the cot. I could see tears streaming down his face as he brought a gun to his head and shot himself. Oh, my god he really shot himself... I can still see the blood... so much blood... if I'd only said something... if I'd only spoke then he would be alive... it is all my fault... I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."
I stared down at the words before me in disbelief. I did not recall anything like that happening before. It was impossible. My dad left us, he never killed himself. He left us because of me... he... I... I knew the book was telling the truth and yet I still could not handle the truth even after all these years. Now that I have time to think about it I now know why I was haunted by images of blood all these years. Why I was such a strange child. It is unfair. If he had not killed himself then maybe I could have been normal. Maybe I could have lived a proper life instead of going insane. It is not fair. It just isn't fair...
I... I'm sorry about that... I needed a moment, but I'm back now. Where was I? Oh yes, I sat in that dank earthen cave of a room. Angry over the entry in the journal I tossed it across the room in disgust, "You lie!!!" I cried out as the book hit the wall and fell to the ground, "He is alive!!" I screamed in that tiny room, the earth walls absorbing most of my fury as I pounded and clawed at the walls. A decade of pain and fury came free as I lashed out at the walls, kicking and screaming. I did not want to believe that book, even though a part of me knew it was telling the truth. I think I did not want to believe because that would mean I was more messed up then I realized. I mean how many people not only sleep walk, but sleep write and draw as well? It was not something I was ready to handle at that moment and so I did the one thing I could do. I fought against the nothingness around me and allowed my rage to finally release itself.
After a time, I'm still not sure how long for I did not wear a watch and it would seem that the candle in the corner never lowered even a centimetre, I finally calmed down and lay in the cool dirt floor as I panted heavily in an attempt to catch my breath. My eyes moved to the strange door, still leaning against the wall, and I sat up again. I could not spend the rest of my life in that room and I was not the type to just give up. I turned around to find my journal still against the wall and I picked it up. Although I did not want to believe the entries in the journal they were my thoughts and desires so I couldn't just leave them behind. With my journal under arm I lightly touched the pendent around my neck to feel its reassuring warmth and started to consider how I was going to get out of that room. I studied the walls very carefully and found the were just over the size of the door, luck for me. I choose the wall with the night table as the best possible direction to go, well it was better then not choosing any at all.
Picking up the door I dragged it over to the wall and placed it flat against the wall. It stuck fast as if there was some form of glue behind the door. I was about to open the door when I noticed a hole in the door to one side about waist high, which appeared to be where a handle once was attached. Quickly I opened by journal and flipped through it. I remembered seeing something like this in my journal during my flipping and before long I stopped upon a page with a sketch of the very door before me and another drawing of a long slender, slightly curved, handle. I stared at the handle for a moment and puzzled over what I was to do now.
I glanced at the night stand and noticed a small drawer. Excitedly I opened the door only to find a small key within, no door knob at all. I picked up the key and turned it over in my hand. It was made of brace and had a heart shape at one end and a red ribbon looped through the middle. This only added to the puzzle and did not seem to solve anything, but I had a feeling that this key held some kind of importance to my current situation. I flipped through my journal in hopes that there would be another clue within its pages only to find nothing about the key. I slammed the book closed in frustration and that was when I noticed it. A tiny key hole in the front of the book, something that I'd never recalled seeing before. I glanced at the key in my hand and back to the cover of the book. With a shrugs I placed the key in the hole and turned it until I heard a muffled click from beyond the cover. When I reopened the book I discovered the pages were no longer there, the interior of the book had been replaced with the inside of a box with a red felt lining. It was as if someone had replaced my journal with a strange box of some sort. Inside the book was a brass handle, just like the one from my drawing. Without question I picked up the handle and closed the book. Curiously I turned the key back to its original position and pulled it out, then opened the book again. The box no longer existed and again pages fluttered before my eyes. I shook my head in bewilderment, but decided to study the book more later.
I tied the key to the necklace around my neck, tucked the journal under my arm and approached the door, with knob in hand. Nervously I placed the end of the knob to the hole in the door to find it locked in place fast. With a deep breath I grasped the knob tightly and gave it a quick turn.
The door opened smoothly and without effort. Excitement filled my mind as the idea of escaping this wondering land surfaced to mind, but were suddenly wiped away as I discovered yet another door behind the first.
To be continued
Note: The world of the shadowlands, Its stories, Characters and ideas are a copyright of Kathryn K Williams.
This story is based upon my manga of the same name. If you wish visit my site and see some of the art based on this series at http://www.KatAndNekoManga.ca
Also if you spot any typos or other errors please contact me at Kathryn@KatAndNekoManga.ca