Shadows: A Short Prequel to Paper Souls

I wrote this years ago, when I was too scared to tell you all the truth. Enjoy.
-Allie

Sprawled across the long couch in her dark living room, she waited for sleep to overtake her. The beat of her heart pulsed deeply, with its slow roar gradually filling the hollow abyss that was her. Exhaustion weighing her down—a remarkable pressure forcing its strong hands upon her chest and peaceful insistence gently rolling her eyes and pulling her under, she gave in to the sensation it demanded of her.

Surrender.

Her entire body rose with a deep breath, and as she let it go, her consciousness fell fast, thumping against the back of her skull as her reality sunk into the deepest confines of her mind. Soon it would snag her from this world.

With an unsuspected haste, fear clamped around her neck. Her mouth opened and she sucked in a breath. Little air passed through, such a pitiful attempt to replenish that which had been taken from her that her throat made a noise, a call, a plead… for help.

Before she could think to open her eyes, a claw of dread dug sharp talons into her skull and it gripped a generous handful of her hair, pulling on the strands. Fierce, it was. Welcome, it was not. Gasping for air, she was paralyzed as the shadows ascended upon her. Beneath her fluttering eyelids they came straight for her, battling the darkness and tunneling her vision until all she could see was the darkness, all she could feel, was the darkness—the clench of her muscles as it sunk its jagged teeth deep into her skin.

In a surprising fit of courage, she opened her eyes. Braving her own soul and… sanity, with a sudden urgency her gaze darted to the upper corner of the room just ahead. She was older now. She knew how to do this. They couldn’t do this to her, they didn’t have the right; she would not submit to them, she would not let them…

She blinked, letting go of the tears that dared to challenge her strength. The walls had fallen and she couldn’t stop the army now. Not here, not alone.

From a table beside the couch she retrieved her phone, rapidly plugged her ears with the attached headphones and she chose the first song that caught her eye. What blasted into her head was angry, it was merciless and sought revenge. She turned the volume all the way up and she let the phone disappear into the crevice of the couch cushions.

It was The Authors.

Clamping her hands over her ears with her palms she pressed the headphones deeper inside her head, muting the music blaring from the instruments so all she could hear was the words of the vocalist. With the pressure of her hands his voice became louder, his vocal expression as vindictive, and at the same time as horrified, as the relentless pounding in her chest.

Arching her neck over the arm of the couch, she rolled her eyes back to the dark corner behind her. Tugging at the blanket covering her body, she pulled the fabric up over the crook of her nose. The music disappeared. Somewhere in her subconscious it played, but her mind refused to acknowledge it.

She blinked at them as they spoke to her. What they said was irrelevant. An attempt at comprehension was unnecessary. They did not speak truths or lies or any expression that was not considered broken, and making sense of them was impossible. The dark… whispers, that invaded her existence did not speak English or any language discernible to any rational human mind. Hers was not a rational one; that she understood. A rational human mind, would not hear these… voices. But, if that rational mind could, if it could pause for a single moment and open itself to them, she was sure that mind would not understand a word of what they said.

With her mouth agape, she watched the shadows materialize from nothing. From the corner of the room, shadows crept from the dark and clawed the walls. Their darkness intensified, just like real shadows, but so not like shadows in that their nature was darker than… the dark. How was that even possible?

… It wasn’t.

Settling in the upper corner of the room as it always did, the shadow changed its anything-but-human form, transforming and splaying its darkness across the white wall, immediately taking on the appearance of jagged claws, then spikes, sharpened edges of knives, broken glass and fangs—any sharp instrument that threatened, that was violent, with the means and will, to harm her.

The back of her hand rose to her lips and she pressed hard until she had no choice but to bite down on the inside of her mouth. Her breathing escalated against her knuckles as more tears rolled down her face. Inside her chest her heart beat so fast she believed her fear would break it, ultimately killing her.

Refusing to look away from the darker-than-darkness corner above, blindly she reached her hand to retrieve a plastic cylinder from the coffee table beside her. With trembling fingers she pinched the cap, spun it frantically and popped two of the tablets into her mouth. As she chased the pills down with a tall glass of water left over from hours before, the shadow grew, effortlessly stretching its black claws across the wall and inching towards her head. Overwhelming fear rolled her eyes back into her head and she whimpered.

She yanked the headphones out of her ears and unplugged them. Hastily, she rolled off the couch and rushed to the center of the room. Settling herself cross-legged on the carpet, as if she was being attacked by gnats her head jerked around as she inspected each corner of the room. The shadows inhabited every single one. She twitched and looked back to the wall above the couch. She fumbled with her phone, with shaky hands maneuvering the forever-long list of names on the touch screen before ‘B’. Again she looked back to the wall. Like a snake, the shadow slithered across the wall, making its way down and over the couch cushions, and eventually would…

Time stopped when Seth entered the apartment. He froze, taking in the scene before him—working out the vision of this girl shaking on the floor of a living room with a cell phone in her hands, at two o’clock in the morning.

In his eyes, no darkness existed. Only insanity.

“Who are you calling?” he asked her.

Her gaze rose ever so slowly, meeting the skepticism in his and pleading with him to save her.

He wouldn’t, though.

“Brendan,” she said. “I’m calling Brendan.”

Paper Souls is a literary novel about schizophrenia. You can purchase your copy here. Please contact me directly if you would like a review copy.

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A Bestselling Author, NPO VP, and Psychology Today Blogger from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.

From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.

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