Shadow Crawlers. Part 16.

Finally at the tail end of this sickness, though I still have a cough. Could be worse! Didn’t get up to much during the week, some writing, sending off to agents, usual really. Hope everyones week has gone well, see y’all on Monday.

On with the show!


Part 1, Part 15

Simon lay next to Mandy, knowing he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Sighing, he closed his eyes and looked for the old familiar door.

It was large and a deep, dark brown, the knocker and handle were both gold, there was no spy hole in it. This side was smooth, but he knew that there would be deep, deep gouges on the other. Simon reached out and gripped the doorknob, it was warm. He twisted slowly and the door started to move, it was always so damn heavy. Once it was open enough, he slipped through and closed it behind himself.

He stood on a hill, one covered in too green grass. Flowers dotted the mountain, up close they had detail but at a distance of more than three feet they became splodges of colour. The grass was soft and, as always, Simon was barefoot. He started to walk, looking for the child. This place was constantly changing into some new story, he had been here when it was a space station, a futuristic utopia, a farm village, a group of savages at the dawn of time and more, the list was endless. There was a grey castle in the distance, it appeared as though it was about to fall over, there were thick curves along the walls. The closer Simon got, the more solid the castle became. Outside, there was a moat, water never looked right. It always appeared too thick. The draw bridge was up, there was no one around. That was unusual. Normally there were people bustling about the place, those who escaped far enough from his reach. Sure they wouldn’t last long, but they’d perform what ever task they were supposed to until they faded. He  could barely hear the sound of music, faint and discordant. Simon stood for a moment, then he pulled up a single blade of grass. The music swelled, then the stopped for a split second, before continuing on. The draw bridge started to lower. A man rushed out before it was fully down, “finally, you’ve returned from your quest, what news from the other lands?” Simon looked around, “good news my friend, though specifics must go to the king.” “Of course, of course. He was delighted when our spies spotted you. We were to send an escort, but he thought that you would want a little peace before the bustle of castle life.” “I will be sure to thank him for his consideration.” Simon followed the man inside the castle, other servants were rushing about, doing nothing but running around the place. He felt a faint stab of guilt, then tried to calm himself.

He was brought to a large chamber, inside the king sat on a raised dais, in front of him was a table laden with various foods. The figure in the chair flickered between a young boy and a middle aged man. “Wizard! Welcome! What news?” “Good your majesty, the people are content and well fed.” The king frowned, “What of the onecron?” “I found it.” The room collectively gasped, “and? Could it be destroyed?” “Yes, I removed the spells and cast it into the depths of the earth.” “Wonderful!” the music increased in tempo and the people started cheering. Simon always hated when he stumbled into these games,  he never knew quite what his role was and he always feared he would destroy the illusion. Still, it was slightly better than the other ways he would find the child. Sitting in the dark, staring. Screaming at a crude picture of his parents. No, this was better. “Please, eat after your long journey!” “I’m sorry my liege, but I must check on other matters first, soon  I will return.” The king nodded and Simon slipped through one of the doors. He found the stairs and went down. He needed to check, to know for sure. He followed the stairs, going deeper under the castle until he reached the dungeons. Stick figures in crude shining vests sat around listlessly, unable to lift their heads to look at him. The prisoners were the same, jumbles of arms and legs lying on the ground. All but one. It was the same in every scenario. There would always be a prison and this creature would always reside in it. Well, at least it would stay during the good scenarios. A large black figure, the shape of a man, paced inside the cage, when it saw him it snarled and started to throw itself at the bars, the walls around it bulged. Simon, seeing what he needed, stepped away. It always seemed stronger when it was around him. He walked back the way he came, relieved that the child hadn’t gotten stronger. He at first feared that these weren’t just the Childs way of passing the time, that the child was trying to gain strength to fight him, but the child was still weak.

He joined the feasting in the hall, eating foods that tasted just a little off and chatting with people who seemed to have only a few responses to anything he said, no matter what it was. When he felt he had stayed enough, Simon stood and went to the king. “I’m afraid I must be off again. I hear rumblings to the south, I must check on it.” “Of course, please, travel with haste and report back to me.” Simon nodded and turned, then he paused. He had realised something, something so obvious he wondered how he had missed it. The child was never named, it was always king or emperor or boy. Never a name. Simon turned slowly and looked at the king, the image of a middle age man wavered, flickered and finally disappeared. The child sitting there frowned, “Yes? What is it?” “Simon.” The King frowned. “What?” “Simon. That’s your name.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Quit raving you fool.” Simon looked down, he was no longer clothed in a black robe, he was now wearing a jesters outfit. The king looked troubled for a second, then smiled. “Ah, Jest, you just missed the wizard. I’m sure you would have had an awfully good time with him.” “Stop this Simon.” The walls of the castle began to shake, from deep in its depths he heard a shriek. The king was a child again, one who looked terribly afraid. “It’s gotten out.” The people continued to laugh and eat and play music as the castle started to crumble around them. Simon turned and started to run.

When he reached the door, the drawbridge had already collapsed, shards of wood sticking from the goopy water. Taking a deep breath, Simon jumped, catching the ledge on the other side and hauling himself up. When he was on ground again his arms were sore and shaking. He stood, the grass around him turning a deep black, the flowers were beginning to grow into twisted monsters, the sky turning a deep red. Simon ran.

He reached the door, this side had no handle, a band of snarling beasts were hunting him, soon they’d tear him to pieces. He could feel pain here, and he wouldn’t be able to make it stop, not until he opened the door and stepped through. He took a deep breath and reached out, pushing the door outwards. The door swung smoothly, letting him into the air lock. It closed behind him with a gentle hiss. He collapsed in the small chamber, breathing heavily. His arms would be sore in the morning. He shouldn’t have said anything, he was so stupid. He shouldn’t have visited. He always worried for the child, but there was nothing to be done. Occasionally he would let the child see the world outside, brief glimpses of movies or send him the plot of a book. He was smart and articulate, but still a child. A child who hadn’t aged and never would.

Simon stood and stepped out of the door. He opened his eyes, shivering. He was a monster, but he couldn’t give up his life, he couldn’t give up his family. The shivering stopped after a few minutes. He would protect them. He would make sure they all survived.

He got out of bed and went down to the kitchen, hoping a hot drink would calm him. What had felt like hours passed inside his head, but it had only been fifteen minutes outside. He sometimes considered just letting go, setting things right. His family would think he had a stroke or something and they’d be able to teach Simon, the real Simon, about the world. He could have his life back. But he couldn’t do that either. Send a child into a mans body, to a place where everything he knew was gone. Simon sipped his tea, enjoying its warmth. He thought of what Rose and Brett had said, he had made his decision. He put the cup down and went back to bed, not noticing the that tea, and table, had completely frozen. Mist rose from the table, a thin sheen of ice on its surface.

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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One Response to Shadow Crawlers. Part 16.

  1. Pingback: Shadow Crawlers. Part 17. | Alan James Keogh

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