THE LITTLE BOY AND THE SHADOW
By T.A. Saunders
“Clean your ROOM!”
The sound of the leather belt striking skin echoed off the wooden walls and mingled with the sobbing of the victim. The little boy knew he should have cleaned his room and he really had begun to, but like many children, his mind wandered to places like outer space or what Spider-Man was doing right then to save the world. Legos had even been put away and beloved action figures were tucked away in the toy box, but he had just about to put away his favorite toy but had started playing with it instead. It was a mistake he regretted almost immediately when his father stormed the sanctuary of his room and found it in partial disarray from an evening of playing.
“I told you this shit had to be cleaned up before bed! Clean it now!”
The belt sailed down again and again, indiscriminate as to where it landed, marking flesh with angry red welts and doing more to strike horror and pain into the little boy, than to make him clean his room. He didn’t understand why his father was so angry and why he was being punished so severely. He simply didn’t understand and all he could do is cry. The little boy hid his face and took stinging blow after stinging blow, till his father had finally finished hitting him with the leather belt. There was only the sound of the little boy’s whimpers and the irate breathing of his father.
“I’m coming back in ten minutes. If this isn’t clean, you’re going to wish to hell it was.”
The door slammed and left the little boy with his thoughts. He didn’t want to hate his own father but the feeling was welling up inside of him, festering and rotting away at his shy nature. Quickly, he gathered up what toys remained and made his bed, all the while saturated in the pain of his latest beating and the anger clawing to get out of his little body.
“Iron Man wouldn’t have let this happen to me! Neither would Spider-Man!”
Like many children, all he wanted was somebody to look up to and to gain approval from. Somebody he could learn from and not cower in fear of every time they came home. The little boy didn’t understand his father at all, but understood how angry and saddened he was. He needed a hero. He needed somebody to stop his father and make him be nice, like teachers at school made the other kids be nice to him when they started making fun of his glasses or because he liked to draw.
The little boy was already in bed, curled up with his favorite Pooh Bear and pretending to be asleep when his father came back to check on his progress. Apparently satisfied, his father closed the door and said nothing, to which the little boy was quite grateful. He didn’t want to be berated anymore and he didn’t want to be hit again. He hugged his Winnie the Pooh bear tightly and wished with tears in his eyes that somebody would make his father be nice.
The tears of children are powerful things and often draw the attention to those around them, even things that do not walk amongst Humans and the daylight. As the little boy wept and wished, something heard that now stirred in the dark. Something the little boy did not see, but felt as it moved closer to his bed. It made the little boy go still as the cold shiver of the unseen thing slithered up his spine and lingered in the pit of his stomach. Small fingers wrapped around the hilt of a toy lightsaber and when the little boy was ready, he pushed aside his covers and brandished the brightly glowing toy at…nothing. There was simply nothing there except that horrible sense that he was being watched, studied even.
“Whoever you are, you better leave me alone.” The little boy whispered. “I’m a Jedi Knight!”
“You cried out for me. I have come.”
The voice was all together devoid of emotional inflection and almost seemed as though it came from the floor, rather than somewhere in front of him, as he expected it might. Confused, the little boy lowered his plastic lightsaber and queried the faceless dark.
“Cried out for you? Are you Batman!”
“I am Vengeance.”
The little boy paused in his questioning and tried to process what was before him. He focused and looked very carefully around the room. Upon looking on the floor, he saw a shadow that did not move like the others did; it moved of its own accord and moved against the light coming under the crack in his door and from the moon outside. It had a human shape but made no sound, unless it spoke, yet the little boy was not afraid of it, like he feared his father.
“Can you make my daddy stop hitting me?” He asked as if he was asking for perhaps the most forbidden thing of all. Hope. Hope that his father would be nice to him and to his mother. Hope that he could love his father without all the anger in his heart.
“Yes.” The shadow said without emotion or hesitation. “Is this what you wish?”
Without thinking or considering exactly what a talking shadow might do to remedy the problem with his father, the little boy nodded rapidly. “Yes!” He exclaimed but then quickly covered his mouth for fear of waking his parents. “Yes, I would Mister Vengeance. Please make him stop.”
“It will be done tomorrow. Be ready.” The shadow murmured before fading into non-existence. It left the little boy with a nervous knot in his stomach, but a glad heart. He would finally have somebody stand up for him and make his father be nice. The little boy slept well that night, believing all would be set right tomorrow.
(to be continued…)