THE LITTLE BOY AND THE SHADOW
By T.A. Saunders
The little boy wasn’t sure what to make of his new spectral protector but the prospect of never having his father yell and beat him again took away much of what made the Shadow scary. Despite the sinister manner in which the Shadow spoke, his father, when angry was much, much more terrifying. He knew when his face turned red and the vein on his forehead bulged, that he was going to be struck soon. Every night there was always something wrong; toys were somehow not where he wanted them, the bed was not made exactly so or the little boy hadn’t eaten every scrap of food on his plate. There was always a reason to be hit and made to feel worthless.
Tonight, that was all going to end.
The little boy did his very best to make sure everything was as it should be, as to not risk his father’s wrath yet again. His bed was made, his toys were picked up and all his homework was done. He even forced himself to eat brussel sprouts which he didn’t like at all, just to make sure his father’s ire was not raised. He thought that if he was very good, the Shadow would have an easier time convincing his father that yelling at him and hitting him wasn’t right.
But there was always something not right. Right before bed, his father discovered the little boy’s sneakers, the right of which had gotten a tear in them from playing in the woods near their home. Having spent good money on those sneakers, his father came into the little boy’s room, with the angry red face and the bulging vein on his forehead. He yelled and stuck the little boy with such ferocity, he was forced to curl into a tiny ball to protect his face and his torso from the onslaught of blows.
When it was done, his father muttered some very bad words, shut off the lights and slammed the door behind him. Alone in the dark, the little boy wept. Hugging his Pooh Bear tightly, the little boy’s sobbing echoed in the otherwise quiet room. When his tears went dry the little boy had noticed just how silent his room was. When he lifted his head from his head, he found the Shadow standing at the foot of his bed, motionless and in defiant existence of the moonlight that poured through his window. It was as if the light feared to touch his spectral protector.
“I have come.” It said in grim in its usual grim tone. “It is time. Do you wish to see?”
“N-No,” the little boy stammered with just the prospect of it. “I better stay here.”
There was no acknowledgment from the umbrous creature other than movement. It was very strange to the little boy that in a room with moonlight and shadows of its own, the Shadow seemed to be somehow darker, yet just as insubstantial as the surrounding darkness of the room. As he watched it simply pass through his door as a drop of rain passes into a pond. The shadows rippled briefly and it was gone. The unsettling silence that followed left the little boy wondering if his spectral protector had simply left or found itself afraid of his father too. It made his heart sink with the thought that his hopes had been dashed and fierce punishments would continue.
The screams that erupted on the other side of the house told quite a different tale.
The little boy had never heard his father sound like that before. The shrieks and the gurgling sounds were the worst however and prompted the little boy to hide under his bed covers, for all the good it did to block out the awful, pitiful sounds his father was making. The abrupt silence that followed was more disturbing however. The quiet that followed the wails of agony clawed at the little boy’s fears and compelled him to peek out from under the covers. As before, the shadowy protector was lurking in complete stillness at the foot of his bed.
“It is done.” It said with no hint of pleasure or satisfaction.
“Is he…” The little boy asked, but could not bring himself to complete the whole sentence.
“He was executed for his crimes upon you.”
“But I didn’t want him to die!” The little boy howled. “I wanted him to be nice!”
“Your wished punishment. Punishment has been delivered.”
It was true. The little boy had felt so angry in his heart that the desire to have his father punished was incredibly intense. But death? He wasn’t expecting his shadowy protector to murder his father. He couldn’t even bear the thought of going into his father’s room to see the corpse. Just hearing the screams would haunt him for the rest of his many days.
“I…guess I’ll have to go live with mommy now. They got divorced last year. I better call 911.”
“There is another matter.” The Shadow stated while moving alongside the bed.
“Your father’s last wish. He wanted you to grow up to be a good boy.”
His father hadn’t wished revenge, or more punishment for him. He just wanted him to be good. That was all. The little boy always tried to be good, even if he was forgetful or careless at times. His response was a rapid nod of agreement.
“I’ll be good. I promise!”
“Yes, you will. I will make sure that you are good.” The Shadow stated while looming over the little boy’s bed.
And for all his days, the little boy did everything he was supposed to. He ate all his dinner, he cleaned his room and obeyed everything his mother said, except for one little thing that followed him into his adulthood and into the twilight of his final years.
He always slept with a night light on.