The CommonplaceMature

Everything was okay.

Well, comparatively at least. The fear still clutched them both and they held onto each other like frightened children. But outside there was no Shadow Man.

Across the patchy muddy grass that grew around the hospital buildings she saw a couple of workmen sorting out a delivery to the main hospital. They were laughing at some private joke, carrying too many boxes carelessly into a building where a hospital office worker looked on disapprovingly. Next to them an elderly couple hobbled past, the man's leg well-bandaged up but it didn't seem to bother him too much. They got into their car in the over-packed car park and drove away.

The sound had returned to the world. Amara heard birds distantly, the main road closer by and the chatter of the various people that walked around them - visitors of patients, hospital staff, the general public.

Everything was okay.

At last, Rayan found his voice. Clearing his throat deeply he said, "He's gone, hasn't he?"

"Why would he go? Why would he let us leave and then go?" Amara broke free of her rigidity and started frantically looking all around them, as if expecting to see the Shadow Man hiding behind a bush.

"Why does he do anything?" sighed Rayan, touching Amara lightly on the shoulder to stop the rising panic he saw in her eyes.

"So am I free?" she questioned, not really to Rayan, "Are people going to come after us or...?"

He shrugged, kicking some gravel on the floor, annoyed.

Amara put her face in her hands and sat on the floor crying. Rayan grabbed her and pulled her to her feet, hugging her close.

"It's okay, Amara. You're okay. I'm okay. We're okay. But we need to go. Let's go back to the house. Let's... put on a film or something, get a take out and get down Monopoly from the loft. We're going to have a normal night. You can start that new book you've been wanting to read for ages. I'll try out my new xbox game I bought the other day."

Amara smiled a little, "You and your bloody xbox."

"Yep," he said, taking her hand, "Now what do you want - Indian, Chinese, pizza?"

"Indian," she said straight away, "I'm going to try that curry that you said burns your mouth out. Hospital food was so bland I think my taste buds have died. I need something to revive them."

He laughed, "Fair point. Come on then let's not waste any more time - I've parked in the hospital car park so every second is costing us a fortune."

They walked, hand in hand, to his car. As they left, time resumed in the mental heath building without anyone noticing that the clocks were all a bit wrong and that one patient was missing. Life carried on as normal, the touch of the Shadow Man hidden by its own obscurity and illogic. Human tendency to prefer denial to acceptance of the absurd was a brilliant weapon; and also, the Shadow Man considered, would probably be their downfall.

The End

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