Change comes at a stiff price for Alex. She had only wanted to be noticed, but after the surgery she receives more attention than she had ever bargained for. The encroaching shadows. The impersonal interactions. Alex changes but they are not the positive changes that she had wished for. Instead the crawling blackness that they put in her dominates and takes her further away from herself.
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The wooden frame of the door shuddered under the force of the shoulder that was being thrown against it. Weak, fragile glass had purposely been omitted from the defending body of the door, but still the solid unit had offered only a false sense of security, buckling under the pressure. The door strained on its hinges as the shoulder bombarded it with resolute determination.
Throwing in the towel, the door splintered and swung inwards, the locks shattering onto the floor. A hand held the door open as inside, a warmly lit hallway awaited the visitor who straightened his jacket and paused for a moment to listen before in the uninvited stepped.
Heavy footstep after heavy footstep crushed the cream carpet. With a sense of purpose and direction, the uninvited had ignored two doors ahead on the left hand side of the hallway to head for the dimly lit lounge that lay directly to the right-hand side. Like a seasoned hunter instinctively knowing where their prey awaited, the trespasser moved ahead with a grim shadow creeping along behind, slinking silently and surreptitiously.
Resting in the warmth of a bath full of water, Alex had heard the noises starting. She had kept her breaths still as the first sounds of turmoil had begun. They were in there. The next room. How had they gotten in? Alex slid further down into the bath, submerging herself up to the lobes of her ears. Had she dozed? Had the heat of the water, the steam, the scent of the rose petals infused her with drowsiness? Is that when they had crept in, just when her defences were down?
Dozing on the train home from a sojourn at the lakeside to try and clear her head the day after her trip to the clinic for her surgery, was when she had first felt the presence of a shadow. She had started feeling anxious sat by the water’s edge, a tingling in her chest rising as she had seen the jogger approaching. A lady in her mid-twenties, perhaps thirties but exercise pushing back the years. The tingling, crawling sensation in Alex’s breasts had rapidly grown, swelling as the jogger approached. Then Alex had been left with a void in time, a black emptiness which her mind had filled with dread after coming back to herself. She had seen no sign of the jogger, just some black ashes gently being swept by a breeze into the water. Dozing on the train home, that had been the initial time that a shadow had been rapping at the edge of her consciousness. Over the weeks that followed, she had seen more and more glimpses of them.
A look out of the apartment window, a quick darting movement hiding behind the old oak tree that served as a sentinel for the park. The shifting in amongst the crowds on the street. She could feel them growing ever closer. With each episode that she went through, every time that the crawling sensation had started inside of her, the presence of the shadows which trailed her, grew.
The paranoia had also grown too, Alex constantly scanning what was front of her to ensure that the shadows hadn’t gotten ahead of her. Trying to peer ahead into the doorway of every home and storefront that lined the street, between the parked cars on the road to make sure the coast was clear. Checking stairwells, passenger cars on trains, reflections in any glass surface. They had always kept their distance, Alex telling herself that her precautions were keeping her one step ahead.
But this time they had arrived with heavy sounds. Heavy, real sounds. In the room next door. Alex gripped her thighs. She knew that it was ridiculous to hope that by staying silent they wouldn’t know she was there. Of course they knew she was there. It was only because of her that they had come. But the silence was all she had to cling to.