After Dark

The party of fellow travelers was gone. We knew they’d been set upon by the shadow creatures last night and the survivors of the initial attack had been chased from the river to here, where they made their last stand. There had been clubs by the river, lying on the ground, the only sign that humans from our encampment had been there. The knobby end of one make-shift club had blood on it. It could not be the shadow creatures’ blood, so one of them must have taken a club from a human and struck the human with it.

There were no bodies. There never were. No one knew if they dragged the bodies away or consumed them whole on the spot because no one had ever lived to tell about it.

Now it was just me and two men I didn’t know, though we were all three in this together now. We were standing in an abandoned building that was just one mid-sized room, with two windows and a door. The windows still had glass and were intact. We looked out and saw that we’d lingered too long – the sun was about to set and the shadow creatures would still be nearby somewhere. The men blanched and one of them ran to the door, which was still functional and had a flimsy lock. He shut the door and locked it.

The floor was covered with gravelly debris, and we pushed it up around the base of the door to clog the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. Outside one of the windows I could see another abandoned building and I had a hunch that was where the shadow creatures would be found. Sure enough, as the last light of the sun disappeared they poured out, inky and grotesquely misshapen but humanoid. The two men sat next to the door, intending to try to hold it shut if the creatures broke the lock.

We didn’t expect to survive. We were just locked into a mode in which we would try to extend our lives as long as we possibly could.

The shadow creatures sensed us and tried to open the door, but the lock held. Although we called them shadow creatures it was because of their appearance, not their substance. They had some solidity to them. They could be struck, though weapons never seemed to do any harm or cause pain. Now it turned out despite their solidity they could thin their form to the thinness of a sheet, or a shadow. Hands too large for the limbs they were attached to slid through the edges around the door, on all sides, multiple limbs. They flailed and reached to grab hold of something and my two companions scrambled away just in time.

I fumbled in my purse for a compact with a mirror, having some desperate thought that I would try to reflect light from the street light I could see outside one window. It wasn’t much, but maybe it would be something.

The hands reached further, flailed, but had not grown long enough to reach us.

We heard noise – the sound of voices speaking into bullhorns, and the building was surrounded by the bright lights of spotlights. The creatures fled and made no noise in their passing. We opened the door and found we were being stared at by fellow humans. They lived in the nearby city and had discovered the shadow creatures could not stand loud noises and bright lights, so they had sent out rescue parties.

We were saved.

Holy hell, my brain is getting creative with costing me sleep. Most of the time a horror-themed dream doesn’t even count as a nightmare for me. It’s just like watching a horror movie – not many of them ever manage to scare or even unsettle me much. THIS DREAM. This dream was terrifying to experience. I can’t even be mad, I’m impressed my subconscious managed to do this to me. Usually if it’s going to traumatize me through my dreams it has to stick with themes like a loved one dying or being in danger.

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