It started with a single cut. All it took was a trickle of blood dripping down her arm. Her mother walked in and that single cut turned into a nightmare. Fights, arguments, and blame were thrown around the dinner table as Sue hunkered down in no man’s land wishing she had slit her wrists instead. After that preceded an army of antidepressants, psychologists, and counselors, sucking in her parent’s money and spitting out diagnostics for a variety of problems and disorders that ranged from social anxiety to stress and even drugs. The tirade of cheery smiles and empty words did nothing to soothe her growing frustration. She just kept getting buried deeper and deeper in a coffin of misery.
Her grades went downhill and the insults her classmates were throwing at her felt like they were tearing at the fibers of her soul. The old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, became nothing but a cruel joke. Her physical condition rapidly deteriorated. Her hair started falling out and she started pissing blood. She changed schools multiple times but even with teacher intervention, she could hear the insults and cruelty in her classmate’s minds. The teachers and guest speakers could do nothing to curb the malicious smiles and jokes behind her back. Even the relentless horde of increasingly expensive psychologists could do nothing to help her. She attempted suicide multiple times, but she always chickened out before she could end the torrent of pain and suffering her life had become.
It was then that she started to see the shadow. At first she dismissed it as merely a trick of the light. However as time progressed she started to see it more often. Whenever she turned on a light she would see a black humanoid shape dart across the room and into the safety of darkness. She started sleeping less and less. Her dreams were filled with her classmate’s faces taunting her and spitting on her. Her dreams became increasingly violent as insults turned into injuries and taunts into trauma. What troubled her the most was the shadow that lurked behind the crowd of hate. It would stare at her seemingly oblivious to the mob that stood between them. Gradually the boundaries of reality began to blur. None of the psychologists were able to explain why her physical and mental condition kept deteriorating. Her parents kept her home from school to shelter her from her tormentors.
Even at home she could still hear them trying to destroy her sanity. The shadow seemed to appear more and more. It would no longer dart across the room when she turned on the light. Instead it would linger for a few moments before vanishing. Each sighting of the shadow would bring a rush of negative emotions and memories of the abuse she suffered at the hands of classmates. With each passing day the shadow seemed to be getting closer to breaking the bonds of illusion and destroying the boundary of reality. The shadow began to manifest as a material embodiment of all the pain, torments, insults, cruelty, and suffering she was forced to endure.
She could no longer escape the shadow. She had been awake for three days straight and the web of sleepiness dragged her into a dream that tested the very limits of her sanity. In the dream the shadow touched her with one long twisted finger. The waves upon waves of oppression and misery that unfolded from that single touch nearly destroyed her sanity. However in the recesses of her mind a string of neurons, a long forgotten byproduct of evolution, were activated restoring her tedious grip on sanity. However as Sue woke up from that nightmare that same stream of neurons awoke another long forgotten area of her mind. Hatred consumed her. She walked over to the bathroom mirror and pulverized it with her fist. Shards of glass became embedded in her hand causing excruciating pain, but she paid no heed to her mangled hand. She picked up a large shard of glass, holding it in front of her like a knife, the jagged edges biting into her skin like a rabid animal. Her parents remained unaware of the events unfolding above their heads. They had slumped into depression. They had failed as parents. They couldn’t do anything to help their daughter. The same people they had paid to help their daughter were now being paid to help them.
Something had changed in Sue’s mind. All her emotions had transformed and channeled into a hatred of the shadow and what it stood for. The shadow was in the middle of her room standing impassively before her, no longer affected by the light. She lunged at it screaming and stabbing, each new impact stirring up painful memories of the torture she suffered through. Every stroke created a deeper and deeper hatred of the repugnant thing. Her channeled emotions grew stronger and stronger until suddenly the shadow collapsed and vanished. That’s when Sue realized the truth. The shadow wasn’t an embodiment of her torment. The shadow was something far more terrible. Somehow the shadow had escaped from her mind and evaded the safeguard of insanity that had been put in place to keep such an event from ever occurring. The protective cocoon of her soul had failed letting out something that should never have been.
Sue’s mother stared at the TV letting the reporter's voice drown out the sorrow she had felt ever since Sue’s funeral three months before. The reporter was saying something about a record high suicide epidemic over the past three weeks, but she tuned it out instead focusing on the bottle of sleeping pills in her hand. In the corner of the room a shadow stirred.