by Andi Dobek
I clambered back into bed, feeling more awake than before, and the blue-white light of my clock radio cast a glow over the walls and a portion of my bed. I groaned and turned onto my side, facing the window. My shadow, discernible only as several lumps above the mattress, was projected on the sheer blinds that kept others from peering in.
I tried to bore myself to sleep with the monotony of my shadow, calmly rising and falling, my breathing nearly synced with the ocean waves from my sound machine. I heard the clock chime the half hour.
And then my shadow wasn’t mine anymore.
Like watching a plant grow with time-lapse photography, something bulbous, followed by two long appendages, extruded themselves from near my hip.
A head. Arms.
I looked over my shoulder, but there was nothing behind me to cast such a shadow. The light burnt my eyes, and I turned back towards my window, which had clearly become a canvas for my imagination.
As I squinted so my vision could adjust, the shadow became humanoid. The arms, not so gangly now, grew more refined. It stretched, tilting to face the ceiling. The creature conjured something, then pulled it up to its face. When I saw its long fingers fiddling at the back of its head, a single word floated into my mind.
Then gloves. Pulled on quickly, efficiently.
I swallowed. Sleep was out of the question.
The humanoid being that was behind me…yet, not…whose shadow was projected upon my window shade, continued busying itself with things unseen. Then it turned, so I might see the silhouette of its back.
If I had attempted to move before, fear and revulsion now paralyzed me.
What I could not see in profile, I now made out clearly. Below the creature’s shoulders, formed by the two primary arms, protruded two more pairs of limbs. They stuck out only slightly from the torso, with a few too many joints, and hung limply at the sides, inferior with apparent disuse. Around the head, two angular extrusions jutted out from where its temples would be. Suddenly it turned back, its head bowed close over my shadow, clutching something in its hand.
Another mask. Delicate shadows of several tubes streamed from it, and the silhouette that held it leaned over, closer to the shadow of my head on the pillow.
The sound machine breathed for me now. Slow. Steady. Rhythmic. Calm.
It fastened the mask around my head.
After what felt like minutes, but may have been seconds, the giddy chirp of a bird trilled in my ears, and I reopened my eyes.
The world outside my window was beginning to glow gently with the dawn. More birds joined the first one’s song. I looked at the shade.
The outline of the humanoid shadow was barely discernible in the strengthening light, but before it disappeared completely, I saw it held something long and thin in one of its six hands.
Andi Dobek (‘Andrea’ to her parents and strangers) rarely leaves the confines of her own head, finding the company there much more agreeable and easier to sway than those of the ‘real’ world. Long before she could walk, she began her writing career as soon as she could grip a pen, and hasn’t stopped mutilating innocent paper since. She holds a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois, and another in Web Design and Development. Currently she is slaving over a novel conceived over ten years ago, and her greatest dream is that it will one day see the light.
Andi lives in the Midwest and works at a credit union to fund her next endeavor: an MFA in Screenwriting through Lindenwood University. If you’re socially inclined, you can follow her on Twitter (@andreadobek) and Instagram (@The_Cicatrix).