Walking down the hall little Amelia was searching. It was way passed her bedtime and she knew she wasn’t allowed to be snooping around; especially, this late into the night. She was careful to tip toe passed her parents’ room adjacent to hers. She brushed her long blonde hair out of her face. A noise. She froze in the hall, standing ever so still. Not breathing, waiting to hear the noise again she squeezed the old brown bunny in her arms tight. Its long ears touching her arms. His name was Floppy, because of his long floppy ears; at least that was her reasoning.
The noise happened again, it sounded like rattling in the kitchen. Little Amelia not knowing any better slowly walked towards the kitchen. She stepped in and turned on the light. She saw nothing. There was nothing in the kitchen. She ran through the kitchen with Floppy wrapped in her left arm as she searched the cabinets. She was certain she most definitely heard a noise.
After about fifteen minutes of her searching someone walked into the kitchen. She turned around and saw her father leaning on the door panel with his arms crossed. “Amelia, it is three-forty five in the morning. What are you doing?” He was tired and a bit surprised to see his six year old daughter rummaging through the kitchen cabinets so late into the night. She just looked at her father guiltily and brushed her hair out of her face; revealing her bright blue eyes filled with apathy. “Okay, let’s get you back into bed.” He held out his hand and she quickly grabbed it. He walked her down the hall and made a right into her room.
Amelia climbed into bed and stared at him with her big blue eyes. “Daddy, I heard a noise in the kitchen. I think he was hungry, but I couldn’t find him.” He turned around intrigued by her response and took a look at her sweet little face. It was her serious face, his eyebrows furrowed and he sat on the edge of her bed. “Who was in the kitchen?” He asked concerned.
“The man, I don’t know his name. He won’t tell me. No one else can see him. “
“Well, what does this man look like?” He asked trying to sound unconcerned.
“Like a shadow. I mean, he doesn’t look like you, or me, he’s kind of blacked out like how a ginger bread cookie man looks.”
He smiled at her description with a light chuckle. The image of a ginger bread cookie quickly made an appearance in his mind. He tried picturing this in his head; he knew this wasn’t an imaginary friend because she did not have a name or a proper description. Isn’t that the key with imaginary friends; you make up what you want in a friend? But this, this is completely new territory. Maybe it’s because the world has become quite paranormal but he started to panic in his mind and didn’t know what to do or how to respond. A man who looks like a ginger bread cookie? It was probably a movie she watched or a dream she had had. “Ginger bread man huh? Do you and he talk often, honey?” He tickled her a little bit and she giggled.
“No, only nights when he wants to.” She said playing with Floppy’s ear. Something in her face looked timid. He searched her face trying to read her expression but he couldn’t. She was quite unexpressive for a young child. This also gravely concerned him; she had little to no expressions. She smiled only when provoked to, she didn’t show any kind of emotions usually. She had a dark spirit about her. Even though she was only six, she liked to spend her days playing with Floppy, or with dolls. Never with any of the other children who are in her age group. She did however like her little sister. She’s only two but she is enamored with her.
“Are you afraid of him? Does he make you want to run away?” How else was he to phrase this?
She raised her face from the bunny and shook her head. But, something in her eyes said something other than what the shake was meant to say. He smiled reassuringly, “Okay, well, it’s time to go to sleep. You have school in a few hours. I’ll leave the light on for you, incase you get scared. Me and mommy, are right in the next room if you need us, okay?” She smiled and nodded, then reached over and hugged him. He kissed her on the forehead and stood up from the edge of the bed. “Daddy?” He heard Amelia call; he turned and her expression was sorrowful. “Yes, pumpkin?”
“I love you, daddy.”
This sent chills up his spine. He knew it shouldn’t have because it was his daughter. She looked too sad. “I love you too, try to get some sleep. You are safe with us. Goodnight.” He closed the door and looked down the hall. What could she be seeing? He shook his head and went to the kitchen. He closed all the cabinet doors. Before turning out the light he did one last sweep of the room; quickly scanning for anything out of the ordinary. He then went into the bedroom and turned on the light; he walked straight to the closet and heard the mumbling complaints from his sleeping wife. “Seriously? It’s like four-thirty in the morning, babe.” She put a pillow over her head. Normally, he would apologize quickly because he would do this without realizing, but tonight nothing followed her remark. He went into the closet and pulled out the small safety deposit box.
She sat up in the bed clearly unhappy. After rubbing her eyes, she began to take in the situation. She looked at the box and began to panic. He was turning the key and opened it, “What are you doing, Marvin?” Panic shrieked in her voice.
“Amelia is seeing shadows. But, incase it’s more than a shadow I want to be prepared.” He pulled out the black gun and held it in his hand. Then he pulled out the box of bullets and began to load the weapon. His wife’s eyes grew in fear. He swore to her he’d never need it and now he’s loading it in front of her.
“Shadows? Babe, if she is seeing a shadow do you think shooting it will get you anywhere? It could be nothing; you know they said on TV the other day, that most kids before the age of seven see ghosts. Let’s not make this into something it’s not.” She tried to lie back down; despite the fact that she knew sleep was not going to come. Marvin sighed deeply and grunted. “Ash, you didn’t see her face. She said he was a shadow, like a ginger bread man. She heard rattling in the kitchen and went looking for him. What if it’s dangerous? We need help. This is all I have to protect you girls. She could have gotten hurt roaming around in the middle of the night looking for a- a shadow. I love you girls too much to let a shadow frighten my daughter.” Defeat took over his voice and he was exasperated. How could he help her, if she needs it? If it turns out to be an unfriendly ghost, how do you stop something you cannot see? For all he knows, she was sleep-walking. But, Marvin being a well prepared man, he had to plan for the worst. He had to ease his mind to know that no matter what happens; he will try to protect his family.
Never in a million years did he foresee this predicament. He knew he frightened his wife, Marilyn, because she was beginning to tear. He put down the gun and climbed across the bed to hold her. She cried a little and told him that when she was little she used to see ghosts too. Her ghost, well, she was an angry little thing. It played tricks on her and tried to scare her often. When she began talking to the ghost it asked her to kill herself. She was confused by this request of her ghostly friend and the very next day she told her mother. She asked her why a ghost would ask her to do that. After that, they moved, sent her to a priest and had her blessed, had the new house blessed. After all of that, she never saw the ghost again.
“You think we need to do that?” Marvin asked.
“Probably, my ghost was a little girl, she told me she wanted a friend to play with forever. It frightened me.” Marilyn said barely above a whisper.
For the rest of their night they sat in one another’s embracing arms. They must have fallen asleep for a while. The air in the room changed. Marvin opened his eyes and did a quick scan of the room. Amelia is here; he smiled when he saw her then closed his heavy eyes. The sight of her registered to him and his brown eyes flew open and flooded with panic. Amelia was standing in the door way with a big kitchen knife in her left hand and blood dripping from her right arm. “He told me to do it, daddy.” Her eyes were dark and she was pale. His breathing quickened at the sight of her, and wasn’t quite sure what to do or how to react.
To be quite honest, he was afraid of his daughter. Marilyn must have woken up, due to his breathing because she let out a wail and sprung out of bed. “What did you do?!” She cried. She ran to her bedroom bathroom and grabbed a clean hand towel and wrapped her small arm. Marvin sprang up and grabbed his car keys. “Why did he tell you to do this?” Marilyn looked at him, with ferocity and looked back at her daughter. She looked at her tiny arm and realized what her husband was asking their daughter. “He said that I shouldn’t have told you about our secret and I needed to be punished. He said he was angry with me and that I need to leave-“ Then she looked to her right and nodded. She rushed out in a quick breathe, “to leave his room.”
He scooped up his daughter from the floor and ran down the hall avoiding the blood trail, passed the kitchen to the right; which had a blood pool from where she stood, living room on the left and dinning room on the right just before the stairs. He ran down the stairs and made an immediate right to exit the house. He opened the car door and sat her in her car seat. Marilyn ran after him and hopped in the back with Amelia putting pressure on the gash. Marvin got in the car and started it. He backed out of the driveway and sped to the hospital. He ignored the cop car that followed him for speeding; how could he stop and just let her continue bleeding as he was questioned? He couldn’t; simple as that; he had weighed the options in his head; stopping the car and being questioned versus getting his bleeding daughter to the hospital? The obvious won out. What father, what parent would stop the car? He couldn’t think of a parent being so irresponsible.
The siren was wailing and his wife crying in the back for him to just pull over. But, Marvin wouldn’t stop; he wouldn’t stop and jeopardize the life of his first born daughter. Luckily, their two year old daughter was visiting her grandparents for the weekend. It frightened him that Amelia was not crying with a gash, as large as hers, in her arm. She lost so much blood; the trail from the kitchen to the bedroom. She didn’t scream because they would have heard it. She took the so called punishment and didn’t appear to have even batted an eye. Blood, so much blood. Why didn’t she scream? Why did she do it? His mind was as frantic as his driving.
The car screeched into the Emergency section of the hospital and his wife scrambled out of the car with Amelia, and her towel was saturated with blood. The cop car stopped behind him and he asked why he did not stop when being followed. He looked at the cop with disdain and shouted, “Look where we are? I needed to get my daughter to the hospital. That’s my job as a father. If you want to give me a ticket for failure to stop and speeding, go right ahead! Give me a court summons, I don’t care!” Marvin was distraught and did not know what to do.
After a half hour fight with the police officer, he decided to let him go with a warning and told him next time, he’ll be held for failure to stop and back up will be called. He parked the car and met his wife inside. “I think they think I did it! I told them, I told them what you told me about last night and then we woke up and how she was standing there and said she needed to be punished for telling us.” She was crying and quite frazzled. What mother wouldn’t be? What parent wouldn’t be a wreck to find a young child self mutilating themselves?
“They said they think you did it?” He asked as he held her yet again to comfort his wife.
“No. But if I were a nurse or a doctor I wouldn’t have believed me. It’s an unusual circumstance that sounds like a cover up. But, they did say she is going to be questioned by someone in Psych.” Marvin knew she was tired and her thoughts were often erratic but right now, he understood why. His were just as erratic as hers must be. He knew better than to fuel the fire. He looked at his worried wife and saw so much of his daughter in her; the blonde hair; the blue eyes; even the same smile; simply beautiful. But he couldn’t help thinking: Why did she look to her right? Was it standing there? Needs to leave…his room? What’s going on? Please, let this be one big messed up dream.
She broke his chain of thoughts when she asked about the cop. He told her they were let off with a warning and next time if he didn’t pull over he was getting arrested. She sighed and simply said, “I hate cops.” He nodded in agreement and they quietly waited to hear from the doctors. After hours of waiting a doctor approached them. “Mr. and Mrs. Bunefire?” A tall doctor asked. He was in his fifties; his face was weary and had been full of worry lines; from years of being in the field of medicine, he assumed. He was standing there in his dark blue scrubs and said, “I’m Dr. Feeroes, I’ve been overlooking your daughters case. We’re going to keep her overnight for some observation then decide in the morning if she needs to be admitted or not. If you’d like we can let you in for a few minutes, although visiting hours are over. Then you can go home if you’d like.” He didn’t sound particularly optimistic or too bleak. They weren’t sure what to make of this.
“Why does she need to stay for observation?” Marilyn asked the doctor calmly.
“Well, it’s very rare that a child self inflicts at such a young age. We’re concerned if we release her she may do it again. We asked her what had happened and her story is the shadow man told her to do it. So, this causes concern and we have to call for a psych consult. But, she is under supervision from psych and myself. We’d like to keep her under close observation for the night. See her behaviorism and if maybe it’s something that happens after she falls asleep. Also, she is having a blood transfusion, she had significant blood loss. She’ll need to rest and we’ll check her vitals and everything in the morning to make sure she’s stable enough to go home if she’s not she’ll stay until we see an improvement. Or if it turns out to be something more than just sleep walking we may need to admit her to find out what else is causing this.”
“We can see her though? She’s okay?” Marvin asked relieved to hear he can see his daughter.
“It’s a psychological factor then? Because, this is unreal.” Marilyn asked very concerned. She was standing arms crossed. Marvin was close behind.
“You can see her. We’ve asked her dozens of questions and she responds the way she should for a young child. They only alarm she sent off was the shadow man. Now, as protocol we called child protective services. I don’t think either of you did this, but when a child comes in with wounds such as these, we have to, standard procedure. Just talk to them and tell them event by event. Like I said, there’s nothing in her behavior that is unusual. The only thing we found to be out of the realm of normalcy is that she is talking about what she thinks is a shadow. That brings up some concern and the fact that she shows no emotion towards it. But, all you can do now is say goodnight to Amelia and go home and rest. The blood, it’s not a crime scene investigation so don’t think you’re tampering with anything. It’s alright to clean your home. The only thing the blood trail will prove is that it generated in the kitchen and she in fact walked to your bedroom. That’s what a cop would indicate in their report, a medical professional, and a civilian. We have had cases like this before but those parents are usually the cause of the broken bone. If it’ll make you feel better, take some pictures before you clean it up. You can both relax though. Come on, I’ll take you to see your daughter.” He smiled reassuringly and guided them to their daughter. They both exhaled in relief to hear the doctors didn’t think they caused this.
They walked through the big double doors for emergency patients and continued down the hall. They walked into room three hundred and thirty three and saw their daughter in the hospital bed; she was hooked up with IV’s and connected to heart monitors. They wanted to make sure her pressure wouldn’t drop and her heart rate stayed normal. She looked at her parents and smiled, “Mommy! Daddy!” She was elated to see her parents. It’s been quite a few hours since she’s seen them last. Marilyn eyes darted right to the huge bandages on her tiny arm. She hated seeing her daughter in a hospital bed. It frightened her even more that she could do this to herself. Marvin smiled hugely with tears welling in his eyes; he immediately rushed to her side and gave her a hug. “Don’t you ever scare us like that again! Do you understand?” He said with worry strained in his voice. Amelia nodded and brushed her hair out of her face.
Marilyn gave her a hug as well. This was all too bizarre to her. A shadow man telling her she needed to be punished? That was ludicrous. She thought back to what was demanded of her as a child but it was never meant to be a punishment; merely a solution for her ghostly trickster who wanted a friend. She recalled that night very vividly in her mind. She was about seven years old and she woke because she had to use the bathroom and was thirsty.
As little as she was, she climbed out of her warm bed and started down the hall. She saw a glimpse of something but was too tired to get a good look. She turned on the bathroom light and took care of business. She grabbed the stepping stool so she could wash her hands. As a child, Marilyn had a terrible habit of leaving all the lights on. She ran out of the bathroom and to the kitchen. She turned on the light and dragged a chair very loudly to the cabinet. She always ran from place to place. Always wanting what ever was out of reach. Where ever you saw her running, you heard a chair that followed.
She reached in the cabinet for a glass when all the lights turned out. She froze in place momentarily and then did a quick sweep around the kitchen looking for someone. She hated the dark. She liked the light where she could see. She knew what happened whenever the lights went out; then she spotted the shadow. Small and petite, you can see that she wore a nightgown because of the way her shadows cast themselves. Features never made a presence or at least she never cared enough to make that connection. But, she did remember how terribly frightened she was. This ghost was never nice to her, it always toyed with her.
Slowly, the girlish shadow walked closer and closer. Marilyn, still standing on the chair didn’t move. She was unsure of what to do. She knew how young she was and how she wasn’t supposed to be roaming around at night. But, she also knew, with absolute certainty this shadow of a girl was evil. It sent chills up her spine, it paralyzed her with fear. She stopped at the base of the chair and looked up. She did notice on this night when she stepped closer because they were near a window. Her shadowy complexion looked iridescently white with the moon reflection. Where her eyes should have been, were big black shadows and her mouth a black shadow. She spoke slowly and in a monotone voice. “Join me.” It was a request and not a question. This shadow never played games when requesting things from Marilyn. When she demanded something she wanted it done, no questions asked.
“Where?” Marilyn’s small frightened voice answered.
“To play forever. We’ll go to the roof and jump off. You and I will fly.”
“No. I’m not supposed to be out of my room.” Fear was building on top of her current fear. “And, I can’t fly, my mommy said so.”
“Now.” She demanded. The air in the room was beginning to shift, as it always did when she refused a request from her. She was growing angry and did not care about the mere life of a human child. All she cared about was that she had a demand and it needed to be met, no matter the cost.
“No!” Marilyn said firmly. From the second she uttered that one small word this shadow grew exceptionally angry. She let out a scream and her featureless shadowed face contorted to the most terrifying thing Marilyn had ever seen. The place that held the position of her eyes grew longer and wider as did the mouth. It was almost as if she was lifted off the ground to purposely be that much closer to her face.
After that, all she remembered was hearing herself scream as she fell off the chair and broke the glass she was holding. Her parents came running down the hall and found her crying. Of course, she repressed the memories of those days until now. The very thought that her daughter is having a shockingly similar encounter and went through with the task, made her nauseous. What frightened her even more was how she reacted to all of this. It was all completely normal to her. Or at least she didn’t seem to think this was unusual. “How do you feel, sweetie?” She asked in calming voice.
“A little sore. But, I’m okay, he said soon I’ll be with him and he could teach me things.” She replied and seemed excitedly pleased by this. Both Marvin and Marilyn looked at each other in bewilderment. “Honey, you need to stay away from the shadow man. He’s going to hurt you if you don’t. And we don’t want that do we?” Marvin always spoke to her like she was a young adult. He never cared for babying her; which right now is all he cares to do.
“He said you’d say that. And that not to worry, because I’ll be like him and then nothing can hurt me.”
“Is that what you meant when you said ‘I need to leave’, did he ask you to hurt yourself so you can play forever?” Marvin asked without trying to sound accusatory. Amelia looked at him with fierce eyes that only confirmed what he thought.
“Amelia, listen to mommy. Look at me.” She was stern in her speech, Amelia looked up at her and her daughter’s eyes were vacant. It was as if they weren’t her eyes. They weren’t brilliantly blue anymore, they were dark. They were evil. Her little girl was being claimed by the shadow and it was happening before her eyes. “He is going to ask you to hurt yourself again. He’s going to make it sound like a good idea. Like flying off of a roof or swimming with dolphins. But, listen to mommy. We are humans, people, we cannot fly, and those dolphins are sharks or scary waves. They will kill you. Anything he tries to ask you to do, say ‘NO’. Okay, for mommy and daddy say no. And for your baby sister.” Amelia looked at her and cocked her head, her expression was complex; like she understood but something was confusing her.
“Mommy, I already said yes.” Her eyes trailed to her arm. The doctor went to leave the room to call the psych specialist back but the door slammed shut. Marvin stood up from the bed to take in what just happened. The door slammed but the doctor never left. Marilyn held eye contact with Amelia. She let out a scream and her face contorted like the little girl from years ago. The lights went out and everyone was screaming.
“Marilyn!” Marvin yelled.
“Marv, over here!” Marilyn yelled back. “Are you okay?”
“I’m sitting in something warm. Can you see anything?” He asked.
“No, but I smell- I smell. Metal. Is that right?” She asked. She sat still sniffing the smell more closely. The smell finally registered with Marilyn and she went still. She sat there stiff for a moment then it clicked. Blood. It was blood. “Marvin! It’s blood! Amelia! Amelia! Marv, what’s going on?” There was another horrific, monstrous scream and the lights flickered on and the scene before them was horrendous.
Dr. Feeroes throat was ripped out and Amelia had blood all around her mouth. She was standing over him as he lay limp under her; bleeding out. That was no longer their little girl. She screamed again and louder this time making the shadowed features of her eyes and mouth darker and more pronounced. Marvin and Marilyn embraced each other in one another’s arms. As she screamed; she pulled Marvin’s gun out her mouth. It just appeared out of no where. Marvin saw the gun and thought back to the morning hours when he saw his daughter. Was the gun there on the bed? He couldn’t remember. When he ran back to retrieve the keys, he grazed the bed. No, the gun was gone. His eyes filled with anguish and horror. He looked at his daughter. “Amelia, we love you.” She cocked her head to the right as if taking in what he was saying. Then she let out a loud growl. The lights went out again; then two shots were fired.