From the Corner of Your Eye. Short Story.

The attic was almost unbearably warm. Even though both windows were open the heat was stifling, they provided ample light though little ventilation. Motes of dust floated lazily in the shafts of light, a butterfly fluttered briefly by the open window and outside birds sang. Jane looked at the cardboard box dispassionately. Feeling hot and tired,  she longed to be outside and, grabbing a handful of papers, she flopped backwards onto the small couch.  Plumes of dust erupted, waving her hand in front of her face, Jane tried not to cough. As the dust settled she started to rifle through the paper. She had no interest in organising the contents of the box, but had no choice.
Near the bottom of the box, there was a camera. Smiling, Jane turned the camera toward herself,  half suspecting the camera was broken. The flash lit up the room briefly, casting everything in pure white light. Something moved behind her, startled, she gasped, turned, and realised it was only a trick of the shadows, Jane laughed at herself while going back to the papers.
Finally finished, Jane quickly made her way downstairs, bringing the camera with her. Leaving it on the kitchen counter, she made a sandwich. While sitting down to eat, her dad entered the room and, seeing the camera, went straight for it. “Where did you find this?” “Oh, it was up in the attic, was it yours?” “Yeah, it was, I thought I lost it.” “I found it in one of the boxes.” He snapped open the backing and carefully took out a roll of film. “I don’t even remember how old this is. He went to a drawer and dug through it, then finding what he wanted, he put the film into a small black canister. I’ll get this developed tomorrow, see what’s on it.” “While you’re there could you pick up some more film? I tested the camera and it stills works” “yeah sure, no problem.”
Jane was sprawled on the couch, watching TV, when a small, heavy package hit her stomach, sitting up, her dad called out “there’s those pictures, it might be interesting to have a look through them” as he continued down the hallway. Opening the paper folder she took out the pictures, most of them were of people and places she had never seen, some seemed familiar.
Coming to the last one, she paused. Her heart began to beat frantically, the rest of the pictures slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor. They lay there unnoticed as she stared at the image in her hands.  It was the picture taken the day before, incredibly, impossibly, there was something else in the picture. A large dark shape stood behind her, seemingly looking at the camera. It was humanoid in shape, but it had no features. It almost looked as if the creature was standing in the couch rather than the small space behind. The top of the creatures head appeared to go through the roof. Noticing the other pictures she quickly picked them up, returning them to the folder.
Jane lay on her bed, staring at the picture, “surely it’s a mistake, maybe the film was damaged or something”. She stood, leaving the picture on the bed and began to pace. Seeing a dark shape from the corner of her eye she spun around. There was no one there. She couldn’t show the photo to anyone because what did it prove? That there was a dark shape behind her? Something that could  probably be explained by a logical and reasonable explanation.
Eventually, she decided to throw it in the bin and forget about it. She turned to her bed, the cream duvet was still wrinkled where she lay but the picture was gone. Jane panicked and frantically looked around the room. The window was closed, as was the door.  She sat on the bed and breathed deeply, it was gone. It didn’t matter how it was gone or where it went, the important thing was to forget about it.
It watched her, pacing back and forth, occasionally muttering to herself. Hidden in shadows it was safe from her gaze. She couldn’t see him. But she had before. He waited until she turned from him before grabbing the picture. She spun around. He knew that she had seen him, even if it was only briefly. Something had to be done. He didn’t know how she would react.
Jane looked at the camera, wondering if it should be thrown out. She made up her mind and decided to put it back in the box in the attic.  Feeling better she went to the bathroom and began brushing her teeth. Bending down to rinse her mouth, she stopped, then stared wide-eyed in horror as the water became a thick black sludge. It filled the sink and began to bubble over when she finally screamed for her dad. “What? What’s wrong?” “The sink.” “What’s wrong with the sink?” The black sludge continued to pour from the tap. Her dad moved closer, then, stuck his hand into the thick, black goo. He removed his hand, now coated, and looked at her. “I don’t see anything wrong with it. He twisted the tap, the flow slowed, then stopped. She realised he didn’t see it, didn’t feel it, even though it coated his hand and wrist. She glanced back at the sink, it was still full, heavy droplets hung from the edge, occasionally falling to the ground with a dull thud. “I…I thought I saw a centipede in the sink.” He breathed out “that’s all? I thought something had happened to you.” He smiled at her, then, shaking his head, left the room. Slowly Jane moved toward the sink and reached out gingerly, taking a deep breath, she put the top of her finger into the goo. It felt oily and gritty. She rubbed it between her fingers then held them under the light, expecting it to ripple with colour, like an oil slick. Instead there was nothing. No rainbows of shimmering colours, no reflection of light.. Not sure what to do, she tested the tap again, more black sludge filled the sink, then, a second later all the sludge turned to water. It cascaded over the sinks edge, falling to the ground and covering the floor. Quickly she turned off the tap and reached down to the plughole to try and unblock it. Seeing something was sticking from the drain she pulled at it, then, gasped as it pulled back, as it did the water started to drain out of the sink. The ooze she had touched left her skin feeling unclean.
Moving from the computer, Jane stretched, she had found little information on what was happening to her. Nothing fit. She had found a brief article talking about shadow people that secretly ruled our governments.  Realising what she was going through wouldn’t be found so easily, she decided to keep a journal of everything that was happening.
Lying in bed she stared up at the ceiling, the stars and moons she had put there as a child glowed softly, occasionally she forgot they were there and when she noticed them again it was always a pleasant surprise, but now they gave her no comfort.
When she woke the next morning she opened her eyes, rather than seeing her room she saw nothing. Darkness surrounded her. She was unable to move. Unable to scream. Two bright, fiery orbs moved into her vision. Soon the darkness started to dissipate. Frustrated and frightened Jane called out “What are you? What do you want?” she shivered and got out of bed. On the mirror, there was a message,
“Park.  Midnight.  Alone.”
Jane didn’t know who or what had left it and going to the park could be dangerous, but, she reasoned that she was not much safer at home.
While he was observing her, she saw him. He had cocooned people many times while they slept and, sometimes they had woken, but they never saw him.
The moon was full, it hung, round and heavy in the sky, staring down at the world like the clouded  eye of a long forgotten god. A faint breeze stirred the trees causing them to chatter excitedly. The streetlights bathed everything in a dark, yellow glow.
The moon had been covered by clouds, as if the events about to take place were too terrible to watch.  Jane moved through the gloom, not really knowing where she was supposed to go. As she walked her watch beeped, indicating it was midnight. She stopped and looked around. She was in a large clearing, she had wandered here aimlessly but wondered if perhaps she was drawn here.
Around her the shadows began to move before gathering into the shape of a man. “Who are you?” “I am everything. I am everyone.” “What do you want from me?” “Knowledge” “what kind of knowledge?” “How can you see me?” “I don’t know, I just can.” “You are special. You are different.” “I don’t know why I can see you, I really don’t, why can’t you just leave me alone? I won’t tell anyone I saw you and I’ll just forget it ever happened.” “You can’t.” “Why not?” “You will have children. They might see us.” “Us?” the shadows moved once again, forming more people. Jane took a step backwards. “We must not let that happen.” She continued backing away. “You must be stopped.” “But I haven’t done anything!” “It does not matter.” “How can you punish me for something I have no control over?” “We are strong. We are powerful. We decide. We can give life and we can take it away.” “But why? Why does it matter if people see you? You’re shadows! You can’t be real!” “They cannot know.” “Why not?” “It would drive them mad.”  The head figure pointed behind Jane, she turned and saw a large Oak tree, once majestic and tall, lose its leaves, they started falling, faster and faster, coating the ground beneath it, the leaves continued to age, curling and disintegrating, disappearing. The trees limbs started to droop, then fall, one by one as they continued to rot. The stump that was left continued to decay. There was a slight breeze and the trunk crumbled, it’s dust carried away on the winds. Jane turned back toward the creatures. “It never existed. No one will remember its presence in the world. No one will notice it’s gone.” “But I know. I saw it.” “Did you?” “Yes I did.” “That is why you cannot be.” Jane continued to back away from the creatures, planning to run as soon as she could. “There is no point” the creatures started talking as one, their voices in unison. “No point in what? Life?” “No. There is no point in running. We are everywhere. We are everything.” Jane turned and ran, the eyes of the shadows grew brighter as they dove after her, they covered her completely, engulfing her, destroying her. Erasing her existence. She tried to scream but she made no noise. The ball of shadows contracted then burst outwards, the clearing filled with light, as they fed on her energy.
Jane’s father woke the next morning and made breakfast as usual. He looked out at the beautiful day. The kind of day she had loved. He thought of  his wife, Angela and how she had died giving birth to their stillborn child. He sighed and gathered his things, getting ready to go to work, thinking of his life and how it should have been

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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