Six years had passed since that mysterious night. Six uneventful years. Nari had searched tirelessly for any clues that could tell her who that man was. That next morning was the first time she had set foot in her father's study since his disappearance. And after months of sneaking in and out of the study, no closer to uncovering any truths, Nari finally gave up on the encounter.
For six years, whenever the memory surfaced, she told herself it was just a dream. She was certain of it. That was, until a few nights ago. She had had another dream about that night. Everything was fuzzy, like it usually was. There was garbled whispering, reminiscent of someone talking on the phone with poor connection. A flash of light. What sounded like her mother crying. But this time, Nari remembered something new: the smell. After the flash of light, she took a deep breath, and inhaled what she thought could be her father's scent - his cologne mingled with the smell of books.
Now, Nari awoke with a start, confused by her surroundings at first. She was in the study, in her father's dusty, leather office chair. All she could smell this time was the dust collecting in the room, making her nose itch.
Looking out the large window behind her, she saw that the moon had already risen. She looked at the book in front of her, and her eyes fell upon a spot of drool. Embarrassed, she hastily wiped the puddle off the page with her sleeve. She sighed, doubting that she would actually find anything this time, as opposed to all the other times.
The house was eerily quiet, and Nari tried not to think about it. Finally, she stood to stretch. That was when she heard something shatter in the living room.
"Bravo?" Nari called, wondering if her cat had knocked over the lamp again. "Bravo, what are you doing?" she asked, as if the kit might reply. As she poked her head out into the hall way, Bravo, black in the darkness in spite of his white and gray coloring, rubbed up against her ankles. "There you are," she said, picking him up. He purred innocently in greeting.
She was turning to go back to the desk, when she caught something moving in the corner of her eye. "Hey, mom? Is that you?" It didn't make sense though, her mom wasn't supposed to come back until day after tomorrow. There was only the eerie silence to reply. Her heart began to beat faster.
The house was pitch black. Nari blindly stumbled along the hall, keeping one shoulder on the wall to guide her, the kitten nestled in the crook of her arm. She could scarcely see the other hand in front of her face. "Hello?" she called again. She heard the study door slam shut behind her. Bravo, startled, dug his claws into her arm until she dropped him and disappeared somewhere in the darkness. She found the light switch at the end of the hallway, her heart sinking when the darkness only krept in closer. She felt like she was in some cheap Hollywood horror film. "Finn, you're not very funny!" She shouted, hoping beyond hope that it would just be Finn.
She could hear a door creak open at the other end of the hallway and was frozen in her spot, involuntarily paralyzed with fear.
Something was watching her, she could feel it. She wanted to scream, but couldn't quite remember how. Nari could hear it moving closer, breathing in hollow gasps. She wished it wasn't so dark, so she could see whoever was there.
A memory surfaced, forcing her to focus on her mother's words that now echoed within her head.
"Ružan’s shadows were everywhere—a silent pair of eyes and ears. Sometimes they took shape, doing his bidding whenever they were told to."
No, she thought. No, they're not real. They can't be real. A fat tear drop rolled down Nari's cheek. This was normally the part when she screamed at the girl on the TV to get a grip, don't look back, and run. Instead, all she could manage was to squeeze her eyes shut and ball her fists, her nails biting painfully into her palms.
"The Shadow Kids they were called—children could never be trusted with secrets."
Nari held her breath as she felt a burst of air whisk past her, a hand reaching out from somewhere in the darkness and cradling her face, wiping the tear away. It whispered something she couldn't understand.
A light came on from the kitchen that was miles away, and like that, the shadow was gone. The dark didn't seem as dark anymore, and Nari realized that she could breathe again.
"Nari?" It was Finn. She wanted to answer him, to call out and tell him she was in the hall way. But instead, all she could do was sob in relief. "Nari?" he called again. She could hear him approaching, his feet shuffling on the carpet. "Nari, what's wrong?" He knelt beside her, pulling her into a fierce hug.