This was meant to be my third week story, but I couldn't write it, so I ended up doing both Demons in Your Doorway (DiYD) and this story this week instead.
Oh my dear lord this was difficult to write. I am not (really, really not) pleased with this story, but (and it's a big but) I did complete it, which is why I'm doing this challenge, so that I actually complete things and write, even if I don't want to.
I hated this, but I've learnt my lessons with prompts. Don't just go 'oh I'll do something with talking statues in', I need to think of a short synopsis and acting get excited about what I'm about to write, as I am with my next short story (which may end up being quite long, like SLS: Demons in Your doorway, which was 11,000 words!
Anyway, for now read this and note that even if it isn't very good at least I wrote it. Now go and write that idea you've had running around your head for years, there is no excuse. ;)
I am odd, different, I might think I am insane. It started when I was eleven. I kept seeing shadows that felt like memories. The doctor said it was just the stress of starting a new school, my parents believed him. I believed him, he was a doctor, why would you not?
But the shadows persisted past my teenage years, past the low twenties and invaded into my adult life. After a while I stopped making a fuss, they just sent me to doctors, and then to counsellors, then to psychologists. I was hypnotised, therapised, socialised. Nothing worked to push the shadowy demons away, so I just got attached to them and then I shut up.
Maybe that was the wrong thing to do, it took me out of the public eye, made me invisible. I didn’t have many friends, didn’t speak unless spoken to, it was a kind of code I had made for myself.
So when they came I only had my family to rely on, a family who had been unaware from the start, just as I had been. It is cruel, but then this is a cruel world.
I am on the run now, I escaped the goons at my house and ignored the pleading of my family to just hand myself over. They believed I had done something terrible, parents are not meant to, they should always stick by your side, believe your story over anyone else’s, but they did not and I was left running for something I did not do and everyone else believed I did. I think subconsciously my parents and my brother could never treat me like their real family because I am adopted and I do not have the same bond. I guess I have never been easy for them either.
As to why I am running? It’s the shadow’s fault, they haunt me with glimpses of weird things, tall creatures that move away as soon as you turn your eye on them, dark images of trees and flowers. Some are beautiful, but they all possess this undeniably sad quality to them, I long to know why.
I believed the doctor when he said it was stress, but then these goons turn up at my door and suddenly the whole world is against me. I don’t know where to run, or who to turn to because nobody is on my side. I don’t even know why I’m being chased, it’s the shadows fault. Why is it the shadows fault? That is what I do not understand.
I’ve always been quiet, reserved, unfriendly. I’m perfectly capable of doing something terrible, I know I am, but that doesn’t mean I’ve done anything. I have always followed the rules.
Back when I was in the orphanage I went to bed without a fight, always turned my light off on time, didn’t stay awake giggling all night like some of the other girls. I always ate my meals, even if I didn’t like the food, I never got into fights. I was the model girl, scarily perfect. Sure, I was bullied a bit, but I never hit back.
I don’t know why, I would now. I suppose I’m just less timid than I used to be.
My memories. They all feel like I’m looking through a window, just watching my life play out behind me. I don’t know what it is, but even the shadows feel realer and they are just shadows. My memories are all fuzzy, perfect imitations of one another, line after line of not-me. It is like I was playing a character in a film and now I’m watching the film back and seeing a completely different person. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
They’re getting closer, I can feel it. I don’t know how long I can continue running for, I have nowhere to go, just this empty street in front of me. For all I know it could lead to another dead end. But until I reach it, or until they catch me I won’t stop. I’m not the type of person to give up like that.
Left or right at the end? Will I end up in a good place or a bad place? Or are both places bad places? Do they have cookies in hell, hell does count as the dark side doesn’t it? If I start believing in these horrible things I’ve done that is where I am headed, straight down to the fiery depths. Providing hell is fiery. I am not really sure about anything am I?
I need a drink. Even a mouthful, I have wanted one for a while, but now it feels like I need to drown to get enough liquid in me. I am getting sluggish, they are gaining on me and I have no where left to run, every twist and turn I take they are right behind me.
I have this dream sometimes.
I am a baby again and I am sitting in a pram, I can’t move and all these strange people are crowding around me. I don’t like it so I start screaming and then someone is calling my name from far away, ‘Mafia, Mafia’, it is a voice I recognise, but I can’t reach it, I can’t acknowledge it because I can’t speak, I am too young. Then everything goes dark and I wake up. I can never remember the voice in the morning, but I am always crying, tears stream down my face.
I went to a sleepover once and I had that dream, everyone made fun of me because I was a crybaby. Maybe that is why I am not friendly, because no one gets me. They are all so abnormal.
I am seeing a shadow. It doesn’t have a face, it is just a little patch of forest in amongst these urban streets. I can see an animal like a deer, posed as if for flight, then the shadow fades, morphing into an old man at the side of the road, who is staring right at me.
It makes my breath stop, my heart thunder, like he is dangerous. I always know when people are dangerous. He opens his mouth in a teeth baring grin and I’m running again, far, far away where no one can find me. Only I can’t run that far or that fast and they are catching up, leaving me with nothing to do but pray to a God I don’t believe in. Maybe I had better start believing.
There are bad men on every street, bad women too, there always is, I can’t escape them. It is the look in their eye, the harsh glare, the judgement. I don’t know the specifics of what they have, but something has tipped the balance.
There are good people too, like the lady sitting in the small cafe on the corner, she has been crying, but she shouldn’t do. She is nice, she has got something good coming her way.
The world feels like it is ending because they have caught me and they are dragged me away, a bag over my face like I want it to be there, like I don’t want the world to know my face, to see the criminal. No one tries to help, people move out of the , way I can feel them. They just think I am another thief, or a murderer, or a hacker. Something stupid and untrue. Assumptions. I don’t even know what I am.
I wake up from a dream. It was possibly the one with the voice because I am crying. Someone is laughing, but it isn’t at me. I am in a room, it is dark, but I can make out the shape of a bare light bulb on the ceiling. My chair is hard and I can’t move my arms, I think they may be tied, but I can’t feel them to make sure. The laughter is echoing through the door, it sounds like some real insanity and I am frightened of it.
Bright light invades my sanctuary when the door is opened. My eyes sting when I look up. The new man is a bad man. Smiling with perfect white teeth and ice blue eyes. He has greying hair, a suit that is tailored to fit his lanky frame. It feels like he takes up the whole room because even though he’s thin I can see his personality and his ego warring in the air around him, tinging everything with a kind of orange-green mist. I blink.
He is offering me a game.
Every day he will give me a choice. I can live, or I can die. He holds four cards in front of my eyes. Four aces. All I have to do is pick the card he is thinking of and I get to live another day.
Fear stops me from picking the easy way out and I chose and I get to live.
He knows I will choose right, I always choose right. I have the uncanny ability. It isn’t that I read minds, it is just that I can tell. It is all in the eyes, or the face, or the aura of a person.
He was thinking diamonds, so I choose diamonds.
Every time I fall asleep in this place I dream that dream and every time the voice gets further and further away. It is driving me mad, but I can’t change it. I can’t change a thing.
My eyes aren’t used to the light any more. I am not allowed out of this room. I am allowed to move around now, but my hands stay tied, tightly, like I might try to escape. I have worn a path around the edges of the room with my pacing, or running. I run sometimes, just to feel like I am alive. I run until I can’t run anymore. Then I lie down and I fall asleep and I dream a fading dream.
When he comes in again he asks me the day, just like he does every time. I reply with a dull four-hundred-and-sixteen because that is how long it has been. How long I have played his game.
Sometimes when I fall asleep I think something else happens to me because I’ll wake up in new clothes, or with a bandage covering one arm. I get scared to fall asleep, but then I start running and then I get tired and then I must be taken away again.
Experiments. That is a word that the shadows whisper in my ear. The shadows are my only friends in here, the only things that I can talk to that respond. Sometimes they will show me bits and pieces of an outside world. Sometimes I just wish they wouldn’t.
Sometimes, very rarely, the shadows show me a man that look strangely familiar, as if I should know him. He is sitting by a log fire with his head in his hands, at first I thought he was praying, but then he had looked up and I could see the tears running down his face. It stole the breath out of my lungs.
Then the bad man came in and wiped the shadows away with his bad light and bad questions.
One-thousand-and-fifty-three days. Spades.
And I choose right so I get to survive another dark day in this place with shadows for friends.
I remember the outside world, I remember swinging in the park and running when they came. I remember the sun and the breezes. I remember fuzzy earlier years, when I was at the orphanage and I was lying outside on the green, green grass. Or maybe I don’t remember that. Was that me? I don’t know who I am.
He doesn’t come every day, or maybe I don’t wake up every day, but I always get the day right because he grins with his perfect white teeth showing and says ‘correct’ in a sing song sort of voice.
‘Diamonds, clubs, spades or hearts?’ He asks me, and I’m tired of it. Tired of his games and living and the shadows and not knowing who I am.
He is thinking ‘hearts’. I’m thinking ‘clubs’ and then ‘spades’. Would he kill his ‘diamond’?
Clubs, spades and diamonds. You’re thinking hearts. I don’t have a heart, I don’t know who I am.
I never lived in an orphanage. I never lived with my ‘parents’ or my ‘brother’. I was never called Mafia Adams. I was never called Mafia at all, well not by these people anyway. I have never left this cell. I am Three-thousand-and-twenty-one days old and my hobby is running.
He gets out his gun.
I suppose I had the answer with me all along. It is the shadows. The shadows are my life, or my fake memories, or my realities. The shadows are me remembering, or not remembering. They are my wants and needs for a normal life. Roses in a tended garden, a painting on the wall. Forests with real trees and real animals.
I am not me, I am not Mafia Adams. I am the daughter of that shadow-man, the one that is crying by the fire because he has lost me. Mafia… Mafia. I don’t know the second name. I don’t know who I am. I’m not anyone’s daughter. I am a shadows daughter. I don’t know who I am.
I hear the sound of a gun and it echoes in my ears as the world ends.
I was an experiment to see how long I’d last with nothing but shadows. Dancing around and around and around inside my own head. I was never alive at all. Blink and you’ve missed me.
Three-thousand-and-twenty-one seconds inside my head.