Tales of the Hidden Worlds

Shadow on the Wall

Artwork by Bryan Donihue

Davey was terrified. He had been hearing noises from his closet every night for the last two weeks. They weren’t good noises either. There was usually a scratching sound at the bottom edge of the doorway. At other times, the clothes and hangers in the closet were rattling around, like that time he got shut in the closest and couldn’t find he door in the dark.

The first night, the boy had called for his dad, sobbing hysterically. His dad had come in and looked in the closet, making a big show of searching for “monsters” and had found nothing. “See, Davey.” His father had explained, “Nothing to be afraid of.”

The next night, his dad was not as happy about it, but had dutifully gone through the motions of opening the closet door, then looking around and showing his son it was empty. Of course the sounds had stopped when his dad had opened his son’s bedroom door, and there was nothing to see in the closet.

When Davey had cried out the following night, his dad had trudged in, opened the closet door and then shut it without looking inside. His dad cursed and muttered a couple times about an overactive imagination and promptly left the room, turning out the lights. The noises started coming from the closet again, but the little boy was too scared to call out again.

Two days later, there was a muffled “whump” from the closet before the scratching noise started again. Davey sat bolt upright and screamed for his father.

The man came into the room cursing loudly. “Dammit, boy. This has gotta’ stop. I can’t get any sleep if you keep imagining things.” The man did not bother to look in the closet this time, instead telling Davey to go back to sleep. Davey didn’t bother his dad after that.

Tonight there was another thump in the closet, this one louder than the previous one. Then came more scratching, almost like a dog was trying to get out of the closet. Then there was a knock on the inside of the closet door. Then another. Then a short pattern of knocks, the one Davey recognized as “Shave and a Haircut” from the old cartoons.

Davey screamed. Terror drove the pitch to an octave that was almost inaudible to all but dog’s ears. His dad burst through the door, cursing and wild-eyed. Davey pointed at the door, but there was nothing more coming from it. His dad marched over to the door, threw it wide open, and then turned around.

“I told you. There is nothing here. The next time you do this, I’m going to beat your butt ‘til you can’t sit down.” His dad stalked out of the room, shutting off the light and slamming the bedroom door so hard that it bounced off the door jamb, and rebounded to crash into the drywall. But the closet was still wide open.

Davey slowly turned toward the closet. He watched, frozen in fear, as a shapeless black mass slowly undulated out the of the gaping doorway. The mass seemed to pool around the entryway, then it slid up the wall. The shade stretched out until it formed the shape of a very tall man.

The terrified boy let out an involuntary whimper and the head of the shape whipped around, scanning the room for the source of the noise. The young boy froze, trapped like a chipmunk under the searching gaze of a bird of prey.  Davey knew the moment he was noticed. The malevolent presence shifted, and the atmosphere in the room changed.

It was as if the shade was smiling. An evil, malevolent smile. Then the shadow turned toward the open doorway. The lights leaking through the curtains from outside were bright enough to barely illuminate the interior of the room. Davey watched the black mass flow toward the door, around the jamb, and then reach across the empty hallway to cling to the opposite wall again. It was moving toward his father’s room.

The young boy heard a scream from his father, a high-pitched shriek that cracked as his father’s normally deep voice broke. Finding courage within himself, Davey threw off the covers and scrambled out the door and down the short hallway. He burst through the partially open door and watched his father struggling with the black shadows. Suddenly, the darkness attached itself to his dad’s face and seemed to force itself down the choking man’s throat.

Davey watched his dad collapse, lifeless, onto the bed. Dead eyes bulged out with black veining spreading from the lifeless orbs. His dad’s tongue was thick and black as it protruded from his open mouth. Davey watched for what seemed like an eternity, never seeing his dad’s chest rise or fall with breath. He screamed a loud, piercing wail. Davey turned and bolted for the kitchen.

He grabbed the cordless phone from its charger and dialed 911. The nine-year-old was hyperventilating as the female operator answered, “911. What is your emergency?”

Davey spent several minutes trying to stammer and stutter through his story, finally getting through to the operator that his father looked like he was dead in his own bed. The emergency operator dispatched two police cars and an ambulance, noting in the computer that the caller was young and incoherent, and that there may be a problem with the adult in the house.

The next four minutes were the longest four minutes of Davey’s short life, waiting for the police to show up. When they knocked on the door, he fumbled with the door knob, struggling with the locks until he finally could open the thick oak door. Four police officers were standing on the other side of the door, three of them had their handguns drawn. The fourth officer knelt down and looked in Davey’s eyes, “Are you Davey? What’s going on?”

“Yes, son, what’s going on here?” The deep, familiar voice behind him sent chills down his spine. His eyes grew wide, and he slowly spun around. There was his dad. Hair disheveled from sleep. Wearing a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. Looking just like he did when Davey last saw him alive.

The police officer noticed the change in Davey’s demeanor and immediately stood, pulling Davey close to him, and then behind him. “Who are you, sir? We received a call from this house that there was possibly a disturbance. Do you have some identification?”

Over the next thirty minutes, the police questioned Davey and his father separately. They wandered around the house, opening doors and cabinets, and looking under the beds. The young boy’s father claimed that he had suffered an epileptic seizure, and that Davey must have been frightened from it. Paramedics checked Davey’s father for any signs, and then checked the nine-year-old for any signs of abuse, and all signs were negative.

An hour-and-a-half later, the police wrote their reports that it was a false call. Davey had failed to recognize an epileptic seizure and had understandably panicked. His story of the black figure in the shadows were dismissed as nightmares, and the police and paramedics eventually left.

As the last police car pulled out of the driveway, Davey stood on the front porch, waving as they left. His father was gripping the boy’s shoulder in a tight, yet comfortable, hold. As the cruiser pulled away, Davey turned to his father and looked up. His father was staring back at him with pure black orbs for eyes.

“Now, Davey, let’s go inside. It’s time for bed.”

Bryan Donihue
Bryan Donihue

Bryan is a published author (fiction and non-fiction), game designer, graphic artist, web designer, consultant, trainer, ministry leader, and multiple-business owner. He is also happily married to his wife of over 20 years, Christina, and father to six or seven kids, depending on the day. He even sleeps occasionally.