Shadow Work

Photo by Foad Roshan on Unsplash

I jerked awake.

My heart pounded like a snare drum, my breath shaky, and my skin wet and clammy. I felt death itself compressing my chest, waiting for me to give up what little fighting spirit I had left.

My eyes wouldn’t focus, but that primal part that has kept humans alive for hundreds of thousands of years told me if I gave in now, I would never wake up again.

I slowly eased my head to the right, searching for the analog clock I kept on my nightstand. The rest of society may have completely converted to the digital landscape, but I was stubborn as a barnacle on a barge. I hadn’t spent my formative years playing with hands on plastic clocks for nothing, goddamnit. Apparently, the minute and hour hands decided this was the day they’d finally become sentient; they twirled in a constant circle, not settling on a digit or tick mark for longer than half a second.

I forced my lungs to expand, drawing in the humid air as deep as I could. The pressure only got worse. This time I reached out blindly to my left. I was addicted to analog everything, but I couldn’t live without my stupid cellphone. It was the only way I could stay in touch with Command, after all. The device teased my fingertips before sliding away and falling to the wood laminate floor with a mocking clatter.

“Fuck off, the both of you,” I said.

Except…no sound came from my mouth. Now fear started to pulse through me. I was unable to leave my bed, and I had no way to call for help.

My phone was my link to the outside world. I didn’t upgrade my house to all the fancy World Connection Network devices and cables that allowed others to speak, visit, call, and shop across the planet. I always loved that I was so isolated. It was invigorating to throw both middle fingers to the post-capitalistic hellscape society had devolved into. Now, it was likely to be my downfall.

A door creaked open just as the first rays of sunrise made their appearance through my slightly parted blackout curtains. The sight was what did it. I opened my mouth and let out the most ragged, inhumane cry of horror. There was still no sound, but it felt like my throat turned in on itself. Blood poured from my mouth, dribbling from the corners. I could feel the hot liquid trailing down each side of my face, soaking into the fabric of my pillow.

My shadow looked back to me, gave a sad smile, and slipped out of the room.

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