This story is by Marius de Kock and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
An ear twisting scream erupts from the movie as the actress sits against the wall with fear in her eyes. Why do I watch this stuff? I find horror movies unrealistic and shallow. Give me something with action or comedy any day. Bloody stupid name as well, ‘Night of the shadowling.’
The shadowling appears on the screen. Almost as ugly as the Gollum from the Lord of the Rings and darker in color. The shadowling is smaller with long, sharp claws, piercing red eyes and vampire teeth. Way to go with the imagination, script writers.
Janet munches on her popcorn as the blood flies. Probably the negative side to having a girlfriend and wanting to please her.
She chose two seats towards the middle of the room. I can almost count on my fingers and toes the amount of people also watching. Not a very popular movie for the opening night.
We are an hour in and I turn towards Janet. “I’m quickly going to the restrooms,” I whisper.
“Hurry back, the best part is still coming.”
“Yea, the ending,” I mumble.
Fifteen minutes later and I step from the restroom into the hall. I do hope nobody smells the cigarette smoke. The dim lighting catches my attention while some flicker. To my left sits the dummy of a girl, resting against the wall. Scratches to the face and a slit throat. Fake blood splatter on the wall glistens against the light. If this is not real, then why do I feel anxious and find it hard to breathe? I hurry back to Janet.
“What took you so long?” she asks. “You must hear how the people scream, even when nothing scary is happening. Bunch of amateurs.”
I glance past Janet and whisper, informing her of the dead body decorations.
“Uhu.” I look behind us. “Where are half the people? The couple behind us and the group in the back are gone.”
“I don’t know. Now be quiet.”
A similar ear twisting scream erupts, but this time it is coming from the back of the room. Janet’s mouth twists with anger. Another scream instantly follows from a guy at the opposite side.
“Maybe they are watching another scarier movie,” I say with a chuckle.
Janet forgets to laugh.
I jump as another scream pierces the air from somewhere behind us. Keen to investigate, I get up and take a walk to the back. It is hard to see behind the seats where the light from the movie doesn’t reach. The room is basically empty.
Last couple of steps and without warning, I stumble over an object. I brace with my left arm and moan from the sharp pain which shoots up after the hard impact.
I sit and take a deep breath to compose myself. I dig for my phone, activate the light and illuminate the object. A body is lying motionless against the steps. Surely not another prop?
My right hand comes to rest on something wet and firm as I try to get up. A leg, female and covered in blood. Fear grips me as the light travels up to the face. I recognise her. Blood flows from the deep cuts and her throat is slit.
So much blood. The horrible feeling of nausea creeps up from deep inside. Then comes the scream which hurts my voice.
I shuffle away from her in desperation. A hard object pokes into my back and prevents my escape. Stupid chair.
My breathing stops as I listen to the sudden hissing noise from behind me. I turn and stare into the piercing red eyes protruding from the shadows. I am up in an instant and run down the stairs.
Janet objects as I grab her by the arm.
“Hey. calm down.”
“We need to go, now.”
The piercing red eyes appear in the seat next to Janet. I pull on her arm with all my might from fear of what this thing will do.
“Let go. You are hurting me.”
She follows my finger as the shadowling reveals itself, hissing again. It lashes at Janet and leaves a wound across her left cheek. She screams, jumps up and grabs my hand as we bolt for the exit.
We stumble into the low lit hallway. I lead the way in desperation to get away from the creature. The shadowling is following closely with the constant hiss from behind us. I am too scared to look back.
We reach the T intersection. Bathrooms are to our left, but I struggle to remember which way reception is. I notice the sudden silence.
“Where did it go?”
The hissing erupts between the two of us. I jerk my arm from a sharp pain to the forearm and Janet lets go at the same time. She gives a painful moan. A sudden burning sensation follows and I grab the wound.
“Which way to reception?” I ask.
Next moment the lights go out.
I grab, but fail to find her hand.
“Where are you?” I ask.
“Here, hurry,” she replies with distance in her voice.
I jog in the direction of her voice. The light is still on as I pull my phone from the pocket. The hallway is empty.
“Janet?” I yell.
All I hear is the familiar hissing coming from the shadows, where the light fails to reach.
“Where are you?” I ask in desperation.
No sign of her. Loneliness and fear fills my heart. I have to find her. I bought the ring yesterday and want to propose on the weekend. My heart skips a beat as the phone beeps and dies, taking the light with it.
A shriek fills the air and I instantly recognise the voice. Another shriek. Wait, is she upstairs? Does the building even have an upstairs?
I search for the stairs and notice a faint sign. Another scream, but softer and filled with pain. My whole body turns cold. The stairs are quick to climb and I follow the corridor to a wooden door. I can hear shuffling inside.
The door opens with no issues, and I step into the technical area. A big projector runs noisily from the middle of the square room and is the only light source. My shoulders drop. She is not here.
Next moment something collides into my chest and knocks the breath out of me. I fall backwards onto the carpet. First the piercing red eyes appear and then the body as it stands on my chest. This thing is heavy for its size.
“W-where is Janet?”
Silence. The shadowling presses its claw against the skin at the base of my neck. I have to escape and find Janet, but I am unable to move.
“W-what do you want?”
The shadowling hisses. “Your soul. I’m hungry.”
I gasp as the claw presses deeper and causes a sharp pain. Can only mean he punctured the skin. I grab my pants pocket from the pain and feel something hard. The lighter.
I hold it next to the shadowling’s face and frantically roll the wheel. His claw goes deeper and causes almost unbearable pain. Fire, eventually, but I am too close. Its face and skin crackles from burning and pulls away, ripping my skin open. The shadowling’s shriek overshadows my scream and I plug my ears.
I lie on the floor and the shadowling is on top again. It shrieks softer and claws at my face with a vengeance. The burning pain feels worse than the gashes and my eyes begin to water. My arm is up to defend what is left of my face while I flick the lighter wheel in desperation.
Sparks, but no fire. My left arm is turning numb from the attack. My strength is fading slowly.
The lighter kicks into life with a strong flame and sparks new hope within me. I hold it next to the shadowling’s face in desperation. The skin crackles and gives a strong smell of sulfur and rotten eggs. The shrieking intensifies, but it keeps on clawing. I move the lighter down its body in desperation.
The smell and shrieking becomes overwhelming while the clawing eases up. I push the shadowling off and watch as it twitches and burns. Eventually only ashes remain with a few small flames searching for more fuel.
My legs are shaky and I use the wall to help myself up. They feel strong enough to stand on. My face and arm burns as I breathe heavily and watch the last flame go out.
“Bastard,” I mutter.
Next moment a blue light emits from the ashes and the captured souls emerge with joyous voices. They fly upwards in pairs of three and disappear through the roof. The last one emerges slower than the rest and hangs in front of me.
My voice cracks and tears fill my eyes.
I try to grab her with desperation, to pull her back into the physical realm.
She smiles and follows the rest.