Shadows

The shadows shifted in the corner of Cal’s eye. It was back.

It never left.

“Leave me alone,” Cal barked.

“You’re always alone,” a grating voice replied. Darkness emerged from the shadows, a hulking form, long twisted limbs, a featureless head. “Worthless,” it croaked.

“No.”

“Pathetic.”

“No more.”

“Unlovable.”

“Enough! I’m done letting you control my life.” The thing cocked its head, curious. But Cal was already moving, knife in his hand. “Now die!”

A half stifled moan of surprise. The blade sank deep into the being’s chest and it crumbled to the floor. Cal was shaking, panting, giddy and terrified and sick. He watched the thing’s skin turn grey and brittle as cracks spread from the knife wound.

“I did it,” he whispered. “I’m finally free.”

“You’re a fool,” the thing announced. It’s skin had gone grey and dry. The cracks spread to its mouth as it spoke, then the skin began to crumble. “You can’t kill me.” The figure began to rise, large chunks of it’s flesh flaking away. “You don’t even know what I am.”

Cal staggered back, his features twisted into an expression of horror as he saw those same features emerge from the crumbling shadows.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Popcorn

“What do you think this smells like?”

He recoils initially, then leans forward and sniffs. “Popcorn.”

She shakes her head, grinning slyly and takes back the paper. “No, it doesn’t.”

A shrug. “Well of course it doesn’t. It’s a sticker. How’s it supposed to smell like butter and salt and all that?  It just smells like popcorn ‘cuz that’s the best they can do.”

“No,” she says again.

“No?”

She leans forward conspiratorially, eyes bright. “You just think it smells like popcorn because there’s a picture of popcorn on the sticker, so you smell what you’re expecting. But it really smells like something else entirely. Try again.”

“It’s a scratch-n-sniff.”

“Close your eyes.”

He blinks.

A smack on the arm. “Just do it. Close your eyes.” He sighs, but does as instructed. “Clear your mind. Inhale.”

With a roll of his closed eyes, he breathes in, expecting nothing. He smells smoke. Wood smoke. Dirt and pine needles. Bug spray and sunscreen. Fish roasting over a campfire. Then he hears wind. Rustling branches and creaking trees. He feels mottled sunlight flickering over his eyes. There are footsteps approaching from behind.

He opens his eyes. She’s staring expectantly.

“What did you smell?”

     *     *     *

Photo by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox