Night Of Shadows by Edna Rosemary Alouch
The evening began when the light seemed to fade with each passing minute and all the sounds of a busy working day toned down to just an occasional spurt of a lonely engine set to work overnight on its own. It was only six o’clock but all the men, women and children were already behind closed doors, in the warmth of their tiny square houses where the only light came from a lantern, manufactured just a short distance away. Looking from a distance, the houses appeared like a pattern, having the same structure and the same kind of light shining from within.
Eight factories stood in a crooked row parallel to the railway line, which represented the only means of transport in that area. The last train passed by at six o’clock, its windows shaking against their frames as if a mini-earthquake confined to the train alone was taking place. The train itself was old, the paintwork was coming off and most of the seats inside were either broken or bent out of shape. Maybe that was why the passengers preferred to stand instead of sitting and that would also explain why the train seemed to hold more people than it was designed for. When it stood to let out its passengers, “a throng of humanity” was the best description of the sight that met the eyes. For the next half hour or so, there was a lot of noise and activity as the inhabitants of that small valley exchanged news, narrated events of the day and encouraged one another to continue pursuing their dreams, no matter what they went through in life.
It was now 6.45pm. The smell of food cooking began to waft across the valley as each home prepared their evening meal. Children played their usual naughty games as they waited for their supper, but none could be heard anywhere outside. Actually, one would have thought that no children existed in this community. They had all been taught to keep themselves indoors and play as quietly as possible, especially as dusk approached.
The reason behind this caution was the story of the “night of shadows,” a very spine-chilling account of how, two years earlier, a ten- year old boy was murdered as he played outside just next to his home, at around 7pm. There was never any trace of evidence how he was killed; just a limp body with a deep wound on his back and blood gushing out. He had bled to death before he was found and the murderer was never discovered. The chilling part of the story came from the boy’s father, who was sitting at the doorstep watching his son playing. He kept drifting in and out of sleep as he relaxed in an armchair after a hard day’s work at the factory. His head was tilted backwards comfortably and his eyes began to close in sleep but not before he saw something that made him sit up quickly. It was not yet completely dark but shadows were beginning to form across the landscape and it was becoming hard to distinguish between what was really there and what was not.
It was more like a shadow, a few feet away near the spot where he had last seen his son playing. The shadow was that of a human being. He called out his son’s name and asked him whether he was okay. The boy stepped out from behind a cluster of bushes growing unhindered at the side of the house. He simply replied, “I am fine” and quickly disappeared behind those bushes again. He was crouched low, drawing something on the soft earth with a stick. His dad was satisfied with the reply and reclined once again in his chair. This time, sleep took over completely and when he woke up, it was to the shrieking voice of a woman bereaved of her beloved last-born son. The father was horrified, speechless and numbed with shock. Words could not describe the scene of mourning that followed. Suffice it to say, that event left a permanent effect on the whole community, not just the boy’s family. Children could no longer play outside freely and the events of that fateful night were rumored abroad by everyone who heard it. Of course, given human error, it kept changing over time and came to be known as the story of the night of shadows. Perhaps, when a strange occurrence like that takes place and no one can explain how it happened, it becomes very easy for people to fill in the ‘missing information’ so to speak. Nature abhors any vacuum, even an information vacuum.
It was now 7.30 pm and everything was still. The sound of that lonely engine could still be heard but all else was quiet. Most people were either eating or listening to their battery-powered radios before going to bed. Some of the lanterns were out but a few remained lit, still patterning the landscape. At the home of Mzee Lobo, activity had died down to only a murmuring sound coming from his bedroom as he related events of the day to his wife. He held her close to his chest as he had always done; always, even on that night two years ago when they lost their youngest son, Mtadi, and he had to comfort her throughout till morning. She had cried painfully that night, but this time she was laughing at some of the jokes he cracked about his boss. Time had healed their wound somewhat, together with the fact that they had grown even closer as a couple as they tried to console one another after the loss.
At around nine o’clock, the stillness was broken by the sound of shuffling feet on the verandah just outside the window of their bedroom. It was the wife’s sharp ears that caught the sound and she suddenly stiffened. She wanted to jump out of bed but her husband held her arms and told her to be still. They listened again, and this time he heard it. It was like someone walking slowly, making noise with their feet. Being a wise man, Mzee Lobo decided to check first before venturing outside the house. Slowly, he pulled back the frail curtain and peeped outside. There was a full moon now, casting various shadows here and there. A slight wind rustled a few papers strewn along the path beside the house. He looked carefully from side to side, but saw nothing. He listened a little more and heard nothing either. He returned the curtain and turned to his wife who was staring wide-eyed in fear.
“Oh, don’t worry anymore. It was nothing, probably just the wind blowing. Let’s get back to bed.”
Outside, the wind increased and everything loose was being blown here and there. A light bulb also swayed to the wind as it hang loosely above the front door of the house. This was the security light that Mrs. Lobo insisted must stay on throughout the night, to deter would -be intruders. However, it did not deter any shadows. A particular one appeared at the doorstep and seemed to linger on the door itself but quickly disappeared. Seconds, later another shadow appeared, this time larger than the first. It was directly opposite the door and was not going away. It was there to stay.
At around 10 o’clock, Mzee Lobo stirred in his sleep and felt an urge to answer the call of nature. Unfortunately, water in this valley was very scarce and so each family collected their own water either from rain or from the City Council lorry, whenever it passed by. Mzee Lobo’s family had their water stored in big tanks outside the house and since he would need to use some, he was forced to go outside. His wife felt him leaving the bed but hardly opened her eyes, as she felt she knew where he was going.
Mzee Lobo opened the front door and stepped outside with a bucket for water. As he bent over the tank to collect water, he saw a moving shadow from the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he remembered the shadow he had seen on the night his son died and was alarmed that it appeared similar. He turned in the direction of what he saw, or thought he saw, but never got to see anything after that. Everything went black.
Ten minutes later, Mrs. Lobo stirred from her sleep and felt the empty space on the bed next to her. She was surprised that her husband had not yet come back from the toilet and wondered what had happened.
Outside, more shadows appeared and seemed to move towards the door that was left ajar by Mzee Lobo. The light bulb hanging above the door made the shadows to stand out more clearly as they moved into the house. Mrs. Lobo drifted back to sleep and did not see a shadow that was cast across her bed. The wind blew strongly and the curtain on the window moved a little, allowing the moonlight into the room. Indeed, there was a shadow on her bed, in the shape of a human being.
Edna Rosemary Aluoch is a Kenyan freelance writer with a passion for mentoring young writers. To accomplish this she runs a mentoring program for young writers as well as a business that offers various writing solutions for both individuals and organizations. She loves writing blogs, short articles, stories, and poems. I have three blogs to my credit:
a) YWWSCRIBE: dedicated to helping writers become better at their craft. http://ywwscribe.wordpress.com
b) Talk To The Youth: dedicated to helping youth understand the importance of being mentored. http://talktotheyouth.wordpress.com
c) Write With God: dedicated to Christian writers. http://writingwithgod.wordpress.com
Her first publication was a short story in an anthology entitled Fresh Paint. This was in 2011.
My first e-book published in May entitled Why You Need A Writing Mentor.