The Shadow Remedy

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She stopped at the crossing, pointlessly; the lights not turning, the still point of the evening inside her, even as deep as the scarlet pulp of her heart. On reflection, it had been quite a mistake to venture along so late at night, so far out into the dark avenue of tall trees and parked cars, silent as resting predators. The lamps here could hardly be called lamps at all, they were so dimly lit.

Still, the danger somewhat thrilled her. How easy it would be, for a stranger to slip out from behind that velvet curtain of black shadow! To come down on her from some awful place hidden within the trees, to reach out a cold hand round her ankles, her knees.

At first, she had left home on a mission. Her flatmate was ill, writhing on the sofa with spasms of nausea, a sickness that glowered in the greenish pallor of his face. He needed chamomile tea, some kind of medicine, a sheet full of special pills. It was three in the morning and her only hope was the giant Tesco’s over in Maryhill, which was 24 hours. Some part of her knew deep down that he could die if she didn’t pull through. All the while she walked, she could still hear his groaning.

Yet it no longer felt like being on a mission. She had given up the sense of direction; no longer cared whether she even made it to the strip-light temple of the superstore. All she wanted was to fade into the night, whatever that meant.

It was something about the darkness, the sense of disappearing.

Her mobile started ringing. Its bright blue flashing screen seemed obscene in the desolate silence.

“Hello?” The number was unknown, she did not want to give away her own name.

“Let me tell you a story,” came a rasping voice through the broken speakers (only last week, she had dropped her phone on the concrete).

“Who is this?” She stopped in her tracks, staring up and down the road, which now felt as long and wide as an infinite boulevard.

“There was once a girl who got lost in the night,” the voice continued, “who craved the full flesh of shadow, who let the spirits come to her, creep inside her skin.”

“Oh shut up,” she hissed, thinking it was a prank call; thinking perhaps it was her brother, turning a trick at her expense.

An ambulance passed, its shrieking music throwing her into blue and red disarray. Even when it was gone, she could still see the siren colours bleeding on the pavement.

“I need to go to Tesco,” she croaked, feeling the structure of her chest fall away into a tangle of limp muscle. “I need to get the medicine.”

“The girl went mad,” the voice said, “she was as thin and transparent as the air itself, all her thoughts just molecules, dancing and sick.” At this, she hung up the phone with a click. She dragged her limbs into action, starting to run, her feet clumping on the concrete, leaping over potholes and litter. She was not running towards Tesco; she had no idea where she was at all. Somehow it did not feel like her own body; she was dragging along some other corpse, its sinew shaking and spilling to the rhythm of an abstracted, pumping heart.

On the side of the road, Kelvingrove rose like the hypnotic turrets of Disneyland, its sandstone glowing blue and bloody pink. She was nothing but a smallness, running through the darkness, indistinct and misty as a smudge upon the glasses of a giant. Soon, the world would wipe her from existence.

She would be that tiny, writhing thing, her face green with sickness, her prom queen smile stretched out to a sinister grin.

The night would close upon her.

“I need to get the medicine,” she whispered, her voice merely a crackle on the other side of a phone line.

–Maria Sledmere

(Flash fiction February prompt: erase)

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