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Static Shadows

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My name is Michael. I’m 17 and I live with my 13-year-old brother, Jack, and our single mom. And whoever is reading this, no matter where you are or who you are, I hope that you are having a good day today.

One Wednesday, last September, I got home sooner than my brother, as I usually did, and when he got home, he dropped his stuff in the door and went to his room and shut the door harder than usual, though not quite slamming it. That wasn’t typical for him - usually he went into the living room, where our game console was, to play a game or something. So I knocked on his door and asked, “Everything okay, Jack?”

I got a short, noncommittal, “Yeah.”

I waited a few seconds to see if he added anything more, but got nothing. “Do... you wanna play something?” I asked. It was usually the best way to get him out of his room.

“No,” he said. “Look, I had a really bad day at school, okay?”

“Okay then…If you need someone to talk to - -” “Yeah, I know.” He cut me off. Clearly all he wanted was for me to just shut up and go away, so that’s what I did. I’d had more than my fair share of bad moods where I just wanted to be left alone, so I figured the least I could do would be to just let him cool off in his room by himself.

That night at dinner, Mom brought us pizza. Jack came out to eat, but hardly said anything. Mom gently coerced him into finally saying, “I’m just angry from school. Some assholes were making fun of me, that’s all.”

My mom looked at me, then back at Jack and said, “Well, if you need to talk to someone - -” “I already talked to my teacher about it, okay?” Jack said to try to end the conversation. “Coach Hemingway told them all off and threatened them with suspension if they kept it up.”

We mostly ate in silence after that and after one slice of pizza, Jack stood up and said, “I’m tired. I’m going to go to bed.” That was very unusual, because normally Mom had to nag us both to go to bed at a reasonable time and it wasn’t even 7:00 yet.

The next day, Thursday, Mom had to almost fight with Jack to get him to get out of bed and stop trying to go back to sleep. He finally got up around 7:00 that morning, and Mom dropped us off at school. Now, normally Jack is kind of listless and disinterested in the mornings because he’s groggy from waking up, but he’d been asleep for over 12 hours. We rode the buses home, but my high school let out a full hour before his middle school did, and Mom worked the day shift as a security guard at the local college until around 5 every day. To my surprise, though, Jack was home before I was and in bed. Mom was even in the living room, looking at something on her laptop.

“His teachers called me at lunchtime and told me that he wasn’t doing any work and that he was constantly trying to sleep at his desk.” she explained. “I took the rest of the day off and took him to the walk-in pediatrician, but other than him being sleepy, they couldn’t find anything wrong with him.” I glanced at the screen to see what she was doing, and she’d been Googling something to the effect of, ‘My child won’t stop sleeping.’

I couldn’t think of why he was behaving like this, but I thought that if he somehow wasn’t getting enough sleep, maybe the best thing to do would just be to leave him alone and let him sleep. Because of his short temper the day before, I thought maybe he was just tired. People usually get upset really easily when they don’t get enough sleep. So I decided to check on him from time to time and make sure he was okay. He didn’t really wake up and just turned every now and again in bed, snoring lightly, and only got up once, right when I was about to go to sleep myself, to go use the bathroom. I walked out to try and catch him and when he came out of the bathroom he looked startled.

“Oh!” He jumped a bit. “You scared me.”

“Sorry,” I said on reflex. “Are you okay?”

“Mm-hm. Fine. Just tired,” he said in a groggy voice. I noticed that his face looked pale and his eyes looked dark, usually a sign he was getting sick.

“Okay, well... if you feel better or need anything, wake me up,” I offered.

“Mm-kay,” he mumbled as he stumbled back to his room.

I was pretty tired myself, so I went to bed.

The next morning, Friday, Jack got up out of bed and was okay at first. “I dunno why I was so sleepy yesterday. But I feel okay now, just... really queasy.” he said.

“Do you think you’re gonna throw up?” Mom asked.

Jack didn’t answer immediately, like he wasn’t sure, but after a few seconds with his hand on his stomach, he shook his head no. So I mostly shrugged it off until he stumbled down the steps of the front porch and landed on his hands and knees on the ground.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked, holding out a hand for him to grab if he needed it.

Jack swatted my hand away, and angrily got up. “I’m fine! I just lost my balance! C’mon, let’s go!” He said, hoisting his bookbag over his shoulder. Me and Mom looked at each other worriedly, but since he was insisting on going to school, we didn’t try to stop him.

On the way to school, Jack was surprisingly quiet, and I didn’t say anything to him because I wasn’t sure if he was going to explode again. I just remember hearing him mutter ‘bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch…’ at some point, though I don’t remember what caused it.

So the day was normal for me, until my history teacher told me that my mom had called the school and they’d forwarded the call to her classroom phone. When I talked to her, she seemed frantically worried. “Mike, Jack is in the emergency room.”

Before I could panic and ask what was happening, she told me, “His school called me and told me that he had gotten into a fight and was cursing and screaming at his teachers, then suddenly started vomiting. He’s really weak right now, and they’re trying to give him medicine... I’ll call you to let you know what happens when I know what’s going on, okay?”

“Okay, Mom... tell him I hope he gets better.”

“I will, Mike. Love you.”

I didn’t really focus on anything that was going on, and frankly I didn’t have any friends that I talked to at school. I mostly just read books or strategy guides for games I liked for fun instead of trying to talk to anyone, but I couldn’t even do that.

It wasn’t until I walked in the door to the house that the phone rang and I heard from mom. “Hey. I’m about to take Jack home.”

“What was wrong with him?”

“I don’t know,” Mom said. “The doctors ran every test they could think of. Once they gave him some promethazine for the vomiting, he stopped throwing up and fell asleep because it sedated him too. They ran every test they could - blood work, x-rays, everything. They couldn’t find anything wrong.”

“So they’re just letting him go? Just like that? They can’t admit him?” I admit, I was starting to get frustrated with everything that was going on with Jack.

“Well, Michael, after Jack was able to sort-of wake up - he was still really groggy - he was calmer and wasn’t throwing up anymore. So, they sent him home with a bottle of promethazine tablets for if it happens again,” Mom said in a steady voice.

I sighed roughly. I understood where the doctors were coming from - the problem seemed to alleviate itself once the promethazine worked its magic on Jack, so since there was nothing else wrong they let him go. That didn’t mean I was happy about it. Jack had been acting strange for two days now, and even though they apparently put a bandaid on the problem, that didn’t mean that any of us knew what the actual problem was.

Fortunately, the next day was Saturday. I remembered that all of Jack’s problems seemed to stem from school - at least, that was where he was when he kept sleeping and when he started vomiting. So maybe the next day would be good for him.

That night, though, after dinner, all hell broke loose.

Jack decided to play a game after dinner, which wasn’t unusual. But about an hour into his current session of gaming, he started yelling and screaming at the television, screaming what I think were meant to be curses like “fucking shit” or something, but it just came out as primal, angry growls and yells. There was a loud CRASH sound and a clattering that sounded like the controller hitting the floor. Mom and I raced inside and saw a badly cracked television screen trying to display a “GAME OVER” screen from the game.

With a fury I’ve never seen from her before, my mom looked at Jack and said, “Jack. Sit your ass down and shut your fuckin mouth right now.”

“DON’T FUCKING TELL ME WHAT TO GODDAMNIT DO YOU STUPID COW!” Jack screamed at my mother and raised his arm like he was about to hit her. I was stupefied and couldn’t move. I didn’t even think to try and defend my mom, but thankfully I didn’t have to. My mom’s training as a security guard took over and she grabbed his arm before it made contact with her. In a few seconds, she twisted his arm until he was on one knee and grabbed his shoulder and shoved him on the ground. He struggled against her, but she held him firm.

I waited to see if I needed to do anything, but after a little bit, Jack’s grunts and yells had become exhausted huffs and puffs, and he stopped struggling. My mom didn’t let up, though, but Jack started sobbing into the carpet.

I went to Jack and put my hands on his shoulders as Mom let him go. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, I...I just...I don’t... I just...” He wasn’t talking coherently and me and Mom just hugged him as he sobbed and tried to apologize for what he did.

Jack was exhausted and went to bed, but me and Mom didn’t. We sat in the living room and tried to talk about what we were going to do.

“This..... this is inexcusable,” Mom said. “How am I supposed to pay to replace the television!”

“Maybe we should have him put in a mental ward for a few nights,” I said, not sure what else to think.

“I don’t know if we can,” Mom said. “And I don’t want that kind of stigma on my baby,” she said sadly.

“Look, I don’t want to do anything bad to him either, but he needs to get in trouble for what he’s doing! He needs to know that this isn’t okay!” I said. “I... honestly don’t feel safe with him like this!” I said, and I was serious. I had no idea how my younger brother could suddenly turn into such a violent person. But I wanted Jack out of the house as long as he was going to try to attack his own mother and destroy her property.

“Let’s... not jump the gun right away, okay?” Mom said with a slight quiver in her voice. “In the morning, let’s sit him down and talk to him about how he’s been behaving and try to figure out the root of it all. If he doesn’t cooperate…we’ll call the authorities and see if they can get him some help.”

I nodded at her. I didn’t know what else we could do.

So I got into bed, but I didn’t sleep for what felt like hours. My mind was buzzing with all kinds of questions about what was going on with Jack and how he got like this so suddenly. All my life he’s been a nice kid, even if he got into the occasional playground fight. I also started to feel paranoid. I didn’t want to step outside my room because I thought he’d hear me and attack me. Every time I heard a slight creak or bump from the hallway, even though it was probably just the house settling, I tensed up thinking it was Jack. Eventually I fell into an uneasy sleep.

Finally, Saturday morning, I woke up to the most horrible stench I have ever smelled in my life and, God willing, it’s the worst I will ever smell. I could immediately tell it was coming from the living room, and I ran inside to see what was wrong.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it most definitely was not what I saw that morning.

Jack was sitting on the loveseat across the room from the cracked television. It had been turned on but all it could do was blare static. I didn’t even hear it when I saw my brother. He was pale and his eyes looked extremely bloodshot like he’d been staring at it for hours. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he wasn’t blinking as much as he normally did. But the source of the smell was obvious and horrifying. Jack had been sitting there for hours and hadn’t gotten up to use the bathroom, so he soiled himself in his pajamas.

I tried to talk to him, but got no response. When I pushed his shoulder to see if he would feel it, he barely even reacted. It wasn’t until I snapped my fingers in his face like I saw people on TV do that he grabbed my arm and shoved it out of his field of view. I noticed his mouth was moving like he was mumbling, and he was drooling as well.

I ran as fast as I could into Mom’s room and yanked her awake. “MOM, WAKE UP!” I yelled. “Something’s wrong with Jack! I don’t know if he’s having a seizure or something but something’s wrong!” She groggily blinked for a moment and when I said ‘seizure’ she suddenly woke up and got out of bed and followed me to the living room and saw her son in the near-catatonic state he was in.

All I knew was that the blaring static was starting to annoy me when we had something much much more important on our hands. While my mom tried to see if Jack was responsive, I turned the television off. As soon as I did, it was like someone flipped a switch on Jack.

“TURN THAT BACK ON YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” He suddenly shoved my mom’s face and pushed her out of the way and practically threw himself at me to get me out of the way of the television. I jumped out of his way as he frantically pushed the power button and suddenly calmed down and started breathing lightly again when the static returned and he returned to his zombie-like daze.

I turned to look at mom, but she already had gone back into her room to grab her cellphone and call 911.

We didn’t know how to categorize what had happened to Jack, but the 911 dispatcher sent over police and an ambulance. When the police tried to remove Jack from the room with the television, he became extremely violent again, and tried to punch, claw, and bite the officers. I was so scared that I didn’t know what to do. I went into my room and shut the door. I sat on my bed with my head in my lap and my arms wrapped around my head to try to block out the yelling and the orders from the police and first responders. After what seemed like forever, I could still hear Jack screaming bloody murder, but my mom came into the room and said, “Get dressed. We’re following the ambulance.”

I quickly threw on a shirt and pants from yesterday and we got in the car and followed the ambulance to the hospital. When they wheeled out the gurney with Jack on it, he was restrained by heavy-looking straps, and he’d been sedated in the ambulance. My mom looked like she was a breath away from bursting into tears, so I hugged her. I could tell she was trying to keep herself from falling apart, and so was I. As I held her, I could feel the sides of my mouth pull into a deep, sad frown against my will and the pricks of tears coming to my eyes.

We sat in the waiting room as a policeman came and tried to talk to us. I told them everything I knew about what was going on with Jack, which wasn’t much.

“Is he usually violent like this?” the officer asked me.

“No,” I said adamantly. “No, he’s never behaved like this in his life!”

“Is there any chance that he’s been able to get his hands on any illicit substances?”

I shook my head, but I wasn’t looking at the officer. “I... I don’t know. I mean... I want to say no, but…”

“It’s okay,” the officer said gently. “We’re only doing this to work with the doctors and help your brother.”

I put my head in my hand and nodded, feeling myself about to cry again. I could never think of my brother doing drugs or alcohol or anything like that, but it was the only answer I could think of.

The officer got some kind of call on his radio. “Look, I’m being called to another scene. If you need me, or if you remember anything.” He held out a business card. “Call this number, okay? No matter how little or unimportant it seems.”

I nodded and held the card. “Thank you, officer,” I looked at the card for his name, “Hodgins.”

The doctors did every test they could think of and we stayed at the hospital all day, until it started getting dark. My mother’s sister and parents came by to try and offer their support. Since every single test and vital sign kept coming back normal, the doctors ended up admitting Jack as they tried to figure out what was wrong. Before we left, I mentioned to the nurse that he only calmed down when he was watching television on static, and to put the tv in the room on a static channel if he became violent again. He was also bound to his hospital bed with straps and on an IV of what were basically tranquilizers.

When we left that night, my grandparents and aunt all helped us clean up the mess made by Jack soiling himself and fighting with the officers. They cooked us a big dinner, despite my mom’s protests, and helped us feel so much better by encouraging us and telling us that whatever was wrong with Jack would be fixed soon. They even spent the night with us, my grandparents in Jack’s room and my aunt sharing a bed with my mom.

And at last, on Sunday, I was woken up by my mom shaking my shoulder. I blinked up at her and I could tell that she was about to break down completely.

“Michael... the hospital called...” she said with an incredible amount of sadness in her voice. “Jack is dead.”

I stared at her in disbelief. I didn’t really understand what she had said.

“They said that they responded to a code and his heart stopped beating this morning. They tried their hardest,” The sobs started to break through, “but they couldn’t revive him.” She collapsed to her knees and hugged me.

We cried together for a long time, until her family came into the room and we told them. They held us and we all mourned the loss of my sweet little brother, Jack.

We were told that an autopsy would be performed that day. Every hour seemed to crawl by as I waited and waited to see if we’d hear anything. I realized I had to tell the few friends that he had at school, and so I logged into his Facebook page in the afternoon and wrote on his page, “This is Jack’s older brother Michael. You may have noticed his strange behaviour as of late. Yesterday morning we found him nearly catatonic in the living room and immediately called 911. He was admitted to the hospital last night. This morning, we received word that Jack had passed away. If you wish to leave any messages for our family or for Jack, you may do so here.” Finally at 8 that night, I was exhausted and fell asleep.

The first thing I did on Monday was look for the phone to see if the coroner had called. Of course, they hadn’t. It wasn’t until about noon that we got a call from Dr. Zara. He explained that everything seemed normal, as we had been told dozens of times before, until he performed the cranial exam.

He told us in a very slow voice, like he was trying to be delicate, that Jack’s brain was almost totally liquified. That he had only ever seen brains in such a state on decomposing bodies or patients who were brain-dead. He had no explanation for it, especially since the doctors at the hospital had performed CT scans and nothing unusual had shown up. But he had sent off what tissues he could gather from the autopsy for analysis. In the meantime, Jack’s body was returned to us since there was no threat of contamination that could be found. Several days later, he told us that there was nothing unusual about the brain matter aside from its state of decay.

We still had no answers.

A few days after Jack’s body was returned to us, we finally held his funeral service. The whole time I waited for the day that we’d have to bury him and have his graveside service, I didn’t cry. But finally, when I saw his coffin above the ground, I broke down. My brother was in that coffin. My brother was going to be in the ground soon. Our father showed up and tried to comfort my mom in the small way he could. I didn’t talk to him, or anybody for that matter. The whole service is a blur now.

When we got home, the whole family went into the living room to talk. I didn’t feel comfortable with that many people around, so I went to my room to stay by myself. Hours later, when everyone was gone, I went into the living room myself. My mom and I talked some, but I don’t remember what about.

As she left the room, I sat on the loveseat and the tv turned on. I didn’t realize I had sat on the remote and turned it on. Of course, it surprised me, but when I dug around to find the remote and then looked back, I saw…something.

I am not crazy. I hope I make that totally clear - until this moment, I was and still am very sane. But I could see something in the static. It was a slight discoloration in the static that had a distinct shape, lighter than the rest of the picture. It looked like the afterimage that happened if you looked at a picture for a few minutes and then looked at something white. It was slightly humanoid in shape, but the limbs were very long and it either didn’t have a head or it was leaning forward where its head was even with its shoulders.

As I stared at this thing, I started to feel an odd sense of ease and calm. I hadn’t felt anything like it since Jack had first gone to the hospital for vomiting at school. I didn’t feel sad or afraid or even happy. I just felt…even. Fine.

The strange shape moved in short bursts like someone had removed frames from its film reel. It seemed to raise its arms but I lost their shape when it did and I heard something distorting the sound of the low hum from the speakers of the television. It was like someone whispering words of comfort to me, something that I so desperately wanted.

“Michael?!”

I suddenly blinked and looked at my mom. She was staring at me, looking terrified. “S-Sorry.” I said on reflex, and turned the tv off. The afterimage-looking shape vanished when it did, and the strange hum stopped.

“You looked like…like Jack did and I got scared.” She said quietly to me, looking like she was about to start crying.

“I’m okay.” I nodded. “Really. See?” to prove I was okay and also maybe lighten her spirits a bit, I slapped myself on the cheek. “Ow.”

She let out a light sigh of relief. “Okay... if you need anything, you can talk to me, okay, honey?” she said to me with a nod.

“Yeah. You too, Mom.” I said. I knew she’d need someone to talk to, though she had sister, parents, and numerous cousins for that. I wasn’t as close with them, and I’d had enough family for a while, honestly.

The next day was Saturday, and I stayed in bed for a while. It was just a week after Jack had gone crazy. People had left nice messages on his facebook page, and it made me feel good to know people were expressing their sympathies for his death.

I didn’t really want to talk to my mom, and when I went to put a pair of pants up in my closet, I felt something in the pocket and took out the card I got from Officer Hodgins. I figured it couldn’t hurt and gave him a call. But in the ringing of the phone I heard it again. The best way I can describe this sound was like a quiet, droning speech. Like someone was in a room far away and you could hear that they were talking at length, but not actually what they were saying. At first I took the phone away from my ear to see if my mom was talking to me, but I didn’t hear it when I did, and when I put it back to my ear I heard Officer Hodgins say “Hello?”

I apologized for talking to him about my brother since it’s not his job to listen to someone whine and moan, but he didn’t care at all. He let me talk to him for almost an hour. It felt great to talk to him about my brother, not as a case, but as a person.

After I hung up I turned on my alarm clock radio to have something to listen to, and started tuning it into whatever station I could find. And yet again, I heard it. A low din just quieter than the static, but this time I didn’t feel the same calm that I got from the white noise static on the television. Something about it felt wrong. I quickly started changing stations to make it stop, and it did when the signal cleared up and music started or a talk show came on.

I was spooked now. I recognized it as the same sound as the television static, and I finally got out of bed and marched into the living room. I turned on the television to see if I saw that thing again, and I did. It was that same moving patch of discoloration that looked lighter than the rest of the static around it, but this time it wasn’t a person’s shape. It looked more like some kind of creature with a head, one wing, and one arm. But I heard the hum underneath the static again. All I remember is feeling absolutely terrified. Whatever this thing was, it was not natural and it was wrong. I turned off the television and stood there, staring at it for a minute. It was gone, and everything was normal again, but I knew I’d see or hear it again.

Since my brother’s death, I’ve spent every day trying to find information on these things. I still see and hear them in static, in electronic drones, in white noise, in colorbars, anything electronically ‘wrong’ that isn’t being covered up by something else that’s ‘correct.’ I’ve looked around online and I’ve only been able to find two or three people who seem to know what I’m talking about. They seem desperate for answers and so am I. I’ve contacted a lady who said her husband went through severe mood changes and then died in a way eerily similar to Jack just last month. Same thing with the only other man who’d get back to me - his son died just the same way.

So I’m writing this to warn anyone out there. We came up with a name for them so we can put a label on this evil. “Static Shadows.” It seemed to be the most fitting name. They’re out there. I still hear and see them. Sometimes I feel comforted by them, but then I remember what they did to my brother and it ignites an anger at them, a fear of their power, and they lose their hold on me. To this day, I haven’t figured out a way to make them stop for good.

These Static Shadows only seem to appear to torment someone like they have me, and like they did Jack, when you’re at some kind of psychological low. With how long radio communication and television has been around, I’m positive there are probably dozens of cases of people dying in unknown ways because of the Static Shadows’ influence. My brother had a bad day from bullying. The lady’s husband had a bad day when his car broke down on the way to work and he was docked for the hours he was out of work. And the other man’s son was 21, and his symptoms started when he was told by his boss that his place of work was going to shut down. All of us started seeing the Static Shadows after their funerals or after we heard they were dead.

All it takes is one bad day. That’s all the Static Shadows need to try to infect you. This is only an educated guess, but I think that if you have the mental capacity to push past it or a support system to end your bad mood before you become too far-gone, like I had with Officer Hodgins, then it will lessen their hold on you, and you can see them for what they really are: dangerous.

So, I’ll say again, no matter who you are or where you are, I hope you are having a good day.



Written by [[User:Tocp0003|]]
Content is available under CC BY-NC

Published March 28th, 2017

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