The Shadow Falls
What are we? What are we here for? Why do some go good, while others twist in the darkness? What drives our decisions? Is it us, is it fate? And what does it really take to tip the mind over the edge and into the cesspool of darkness?
These thoughts and more swam in the mind of the figure, the tall and dark shroud that stalked the empty midnight streets. Impossible to tell where shadow ended and form began, it walked through the endless rows of houses which stood silently aside it. As the figure passed a street sign, it halted and looked down very slowly, as though lost in a trance of its own thoughts. With a gloved hand, it adjusted the hat atop its head, which could be seen in the shadow on the sign. As the figure turned to walk away, the faded black lettering re-emerged from the shadows and slowly spelt out the word ‘Southway’
To the common bystander, though there were none around, the tall shape in the night was just another night time walker who roamed the streets in the darkness of night. Did it know what it was doing there? Did it have a purpose? As the heavy, black boots crunched in the gravel of the road, it looked down the hill and toward a large roundabout in the center of the road, bustling with cars. A gust of wind blew the tails of the figure’s long, black coat and they waved and flapped, before it set out on its night time journey once more, the same thoughts still within its head.
The home of young adult Barton Arthur was set at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Bellfields council estate. He was a secluded young man, who had recently come of age by himself, alone in a local pub. It was not that he had no friends, it was simply the case that he was never good at planning anything. Indeed, he had intended to contact his friends from the school he had just left. But, when the time came, he missed it, caught up in his work. And this was not school work or the work of a businessman, simply the work of a creative genius.
He had left home about three months ago and moved into the house his grandfather had bought for him. He did not drive, did not work during the day and did not spend a lot of time out of the house. What he did do was write. He had such a genius for storytelling, never forgetting a character or a plot twist and always picking up on subtle references. If there was one thing he excelled at it was that. If there were two, the other was art. When tired with writing, he would often convert his story to the form of the graphic novel. His secluded lifestyle allowed him this pleasure, it was his only pleasure.
He was not much to look at either, Barton. A skinny fellow with thin legs, thin arms and hardly a stomach to show, his brown hair was lost in the void between short and long. He was not ugly, but not super-attractive either. He was quite the most ordinary person ever created. But all that was about to change forever.
It was Friday the 7th of October in the 2009th year and life was the same as always. Barton arose from his bed just after 11am and began to munch on his usual bowl of coco pops. With the amount he ate everyone was always surprised he managed to stay as thin as he did. To this, he would usually just shrug ‘I don’t drive’. Still yawning from a night spent watching comedy and horror films through to the early hours, he powered up his computer to check his e-mails and online accounts. A regular day in his, and anyone else’s, life. But what he did not anticipate was actually having an e-mail to read. It was from his good school friend, Leon Nicola, another member of, what in those days was called, the geek group. He opened it and read it aloud to himself;
“Hey buddy, how you been?
Just writing to let you know you should check out the local news, I know you’ll be into that sort of thing but you’ll miss it because you don’t watch the news. Something weird was happening around my place last night, real late last night, and it’s on the news this morning! Check it out!
Tap back, be good to hear from you again,
He sat, staring blankly at the screen and then went through to the living room, slouching down into the sofa and turning the news on. The reporter almost seemed to be waiting from him.
“And mystery hit the neighbourhood of Southway, Park Barn, this morning as several residents found a new streak of graffiti in the area” she said in the serious, reporter tone “Our local correspondent is in the area” The screen cut to a man in a grey suit and holding a black umbrella to protect himself from the rain. He was standing in front of a tall, concrete wall.
“Thanks, well I’m here in Park Barn where there is a new line of graffiti in the area. It’s not obscenities, rude images or gang slogans. Oh no, this time it’s philosophy” Barton sat forward with his ‘say what?’ look on his face. As the man stepped to one side, the writing was revealed “And not written in spray paint either, no such luck, the words have been scratched into the wall by a very thin but very sharp knife” And not a light scratching either, the wall was literally dug out in the words, and the words spelt out ‘What are we here for?’
“No way!” Barton exclaimed to himself, “That must have taken ages and some strength too” The reporter continued, after a brief pause for effect.
“This is just one of the theoretical messages engraved in the walls of this area, seemingly questioning reality. All except for the final message on the wall of the nearby TESCO supermarket which reads ‘It’s time for a change’. The police have said that they are treating this as seriously as any other case of graffiti and will track down the perpetrator” The television was swallowed by darkness as Barton turned it off by the remote. He rose and returned to his computer, typing a reply to Leon and then switching on the ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’ for his weekly brainstorm session. He would play the powerful organ music and let it fill his mind with new, creative ideas and he would not leave until either the nine minute track ended or he had a brainwave on a new storyline or chapter.
Another awakening from a tough night was Olivia Rockwell. She had spent the whole night out on the town in Guildford town center with her friends. Unlike Barton, she was something to look at. Hugely attractive, with styled blonde and brunette hair, pouting lips and a body to rival supermodels. She had often been said to resemble Keira Knightley, one of her idols. Her differences with Barton had caused tension in the past, when he developed an obsession with her and she rejected him on several occasions, becoming more frustrated each time. She was one of the popular ones, her looks assured her that position, and she was now pursuing a career in professional modelling, photos which Barton would admire privately.
She set out for her photo shoot, on location for a perfume advertisement. Passing through Park Barn, she looked out of her car window to a crowd of locals gathering around one of the engraved messages. This one read ‘What drives our decisions?’ and she hardly gave it a second thought as she drove away from it. Her phone rang and she activated her hands-free kit.
“Yeah, Olivia Rockwell here” she said in a clear voice, a friendly voice replied
“Hey, girlfriend, how are you?” came the voice of Victoria Sandford. The two of them were once quite the team, they joined forces after their tenth year at school in beating back the crowds of hormone driven guys. Vicky was the only person Olivia knew who was just as attractive as she was, and she wasn’t the only one who thought so. Olivia smiled and almost shouted back
“Oh hey! I’m good, got a hell of a hangover though. But I’ve got this photo shoot today and I really need the cash” she said “Listen, have you seen these messages all over Park Barn?”
“Yeah, I just saw it on the news” Vicky said quietly “Strange isn’t it? What kind of weirdo goes round scratching messages in walls? At least it’s only messages” Olivia turned around a corner and spotted another message, this time there was no crowd, only the words ‘Enjoy your shoot’. She screeched the car to a halt at the side of the road and got out, ignoring the calls of Vicky from the other end of the line. Almost shaking in fear she walked up to the lettering and ran her finger through the grooves. Her eyes were very wide now, her lip was trembling as she slowly walked away and returned to her car. Vicky was still shouting down the phone
“I’m here, listen Vic, I just saw one of those messages” she paused, holding her mouth to still her trembling lip “It was about me”
“What? That’s impossible” came Vicky’s voice “Are you sure?”
“Do you know anyone else who has a photo shoot today?” Olivia replied, still trembling “I’ve got to go, I’m going to be late”
“Alright, take care”
Leon was in one of his many sound booths recording his new track. Guitar at the ready he began to spew out a river of perfect notes, he was into the old rock mixed with a Muse influence, his favourite band. His phone began to ring and buzzed through his guitar sounds. He jumped and sighed heavily, reaching for it.
“Never fails, phone always rings when you’re recording. Hello?” he waited for the reply, it was Vicky.
“Hey, Leon, how are you?” she said
“Vicky? Wow, you’re phoning me? There’s a surprise, it’s usually the other way round. What can I do for you, gorgeous lady?” he said leaning back in his chair.
“Hormones back in the box, Leon” Vicky said firmly “Look, have you heard the plans for a reunion?”
“Reunion? As in class of 2006 reunion? Really?” he laughed “I never thought we’d ever get one, so soon? Really?”
“Apparently you didn’t know, well you need to spread the word, it’s this time next week at nine in the evening” Leon reached for his diary and noted it down. “At the community center in Park Barn, the school said we can’t do it there. They have a PTA meeting or something stupid like that”
“Well, I shall forward the message to the geeks and I assume you can get the footballer group? Right, see you there”
He put the phone down and left the booth, he found that once he was interrupted he just couldn’t get back in the flow of it. He returned to his car and started the drive back home. As he came up on Southway, he drove past several of the engraved messages and, unlike others, noted them down in his book. When he returned to his study, he opened up the book and began to annotate the messages. He made note of the style, the questions themselves and noted that they were violently engraved, suggesting great frustration. After an hour or so, while pouring himself a coffee, he reached the final message, ‘It’s time for a change’. He looked hard at it and tapped his chin with his pen. He slowly began to get the feeling that this wasn’t the end of it, something else was bound to follow.
He reached to his computer and began to search the net for other similar occurrences, no such luck. The use of a blade on the wall was highly unusual as the tension would cause severe tingling of the spine, unbearable to most people. He sat back and pondered. This had to be going somewhere, it couldn’t be a gang because the police had dispersed all the gangs in the area following the cut down on knife crime a year ago. This wasn’t going anywhere, he had found a mystery that he couldn’t solve. Many would be disappointed, he was impressed. He reached for the phone and punched in Barton’s number.
“Yeah, Barton, it’s Leon” he said “Yeah I’m just looking over them now…looks like someone’s pretty angry about something…yeah…that’s what I thought, see we’re getting the same answers as each other. Just like back in school…yeah, the old English class…great fun, which reminds me. There’s a school reunion next Friday at the Park Barn community center…what do you mean ‘coincidence’? …Well, I didn’t think of that…it is a bit strange isn’t it…did anyone we know become a model? Because I’m trying to work out what this message means…well now that you’ve brought it up, I’m testing a theory. I’ll get back to you, I’ve got some serious thinking to do…yeah see you on Friday”
Darkness once more fell over the city, the night grew stronger as it forced the day into submission. On the streets of Park Barn, the heavy boots once more crunched the gravel as the figure returned to the streets. It had been almost a week since the messages on the wall were discovered and the dark shroud was once again on the street. This time, however, it had a different agenda entirely. The warnings were out, it was time to fire the warning shot. The shadow moved over the wall of TESCO and it once again adjusted its hat, then proceeded to stroke a long blade along the grooves of its message. Quietly, the shadow sniggered to itself.
“It is time to spread the fear” it whispered in a tone indistinguishable of gender “Time to spread the terror once more” The figure turned and walked back toward the neighbourhood, stopping suddenly as a small cat walked past its feet. With slow, deliberate movements, the figure brought its foot down on the cat’s tail and listened to it shriek. Then, scraping its blade along the nearby wall, it swung for the creature and sent it into the wooden fence ahead. The cat stirred on the ground as the dark figure towered over it “You are the first, you shall not be the last” With a final slash, the cat ceased to move.
From inside the wooden fence, a dog barked madly, sensing the strange goings on outside of its home. The fence opened slowly and the tall figure walked in. The dog pounced but was caught by the figure’s blade and, with a yelp, was thrown to one side and then slashed again. Calmly, the figure left the yard and closed the gate behind itself, in the streets ahead it could hear the barking of many dogs, sense the soft cries of many cats and just smell the terror that would ensue. With a grin, it adjusted its hat and moved toward the houses.
Forty minutes later, the same dark shape moved along the walls of a tall church building on a crossroad. It looked down each street and pondered, before stalking toward the road signposted ‘Grange Road’.
Yet another ordinary day in Barton’s life began with the same surprise e-mail from Leon, and in response he instantly turned on the news. The same woman was there, again seemingly waiting for him.
“A string of grizzly murders in the neighbourhood of Park Barn has shocked the locals and baffled police. Between the hours of midnight and one this morning, an unknown assailant, or assailants, travelled among the houses of this area and brutally murdered fifteen domestic animals. The bodies were found in the streets this morning, split evenly between the messages on the wall which were discovered this time last week. Locals are calling this the most unfortunate Friday the 13th in history”
Barton sat back with a white face, he wiped his brow and returned to his computer, typed his reply and switched it off. What else could he do? At least this mad person was in Southway and not near him. That’s when the voice of the reporter again reached his ears.
“And terror spreads from Park Barn as similar threatening messages have been found on several walls in Grange Road. Police are concerned that the killer may be moving territory and warn all locals within the area to keep their pets indoors. The messages last time were theoretical and questioning of life. These are worse, warning that danger is coming and that no one is safe from the oncoming darkness. Police Commissioner, Ian Blair, had this to say” The commissioner appeared before a press conference.
“We take graffiti seriously, but we take murder even more seriously” he warned “Even the murder of animals we have invited into our homes and into our families. These acts of cruelty will not be tolerated, patrols around the Grange Road area will be doubled over the next week and we will find this monster, thank you”
Barton switched the television off and returned to his room, littered along the wall were a mixture of Olivia’s modelling photos, blown up to poster size, and his own charcoal sketches of the woman he adored so much. He ran his fingers along the lines of her body and stroked her flowing hair. He could never of had such a dedication when he lived with his family, but now he could do whatever he pleased. He adjusted some of his ornaments, a Venom bust from the third Spiderman film, and a special edition plate of the Alien films. But then he looked up to his pride and joy, only to find that it was gone. Where once stood a replica of Freddy Krueger’s glove, there was now an empty display stand with a dark shape in the dust.
“Oh, I don’t believe this!” he cursed. For the past three years, it had become his hobby to dress as Krueger for Halloween, his favourite horror character. Now, it would seem, someone else wanted a go. He checked his cupboard, barely glancing at the large, half naked image of Olivia behind the door, and looked for his Krueger hat. “Blast! That’s gone too! That cost a fortune! When I find this guy I’ll rip his lungs out!” his next instinct was to check his wallet and vault. All his cash was gone and everything inside of the vault too. He wiped his brow and sighed heavily as he gazed in awe at Olivia’s perfect body. Then, calm once more, he closed the door and returned to his computer.