SHADOW IN THE MOONLIGHT

Do you believe in the Man in the Moon?

Davey stared at the shadow on the light-blue wall of his bedroom. There was a shadow in the moonlight, a shadow of a man, or maybe a woman; he couldn’t tell. It was tall and gangly, an amorphous shape in rough-humanoid form with extra-long arms, long hands, and long, long fingers. He did not know why, but the primal fear inside him told him not to go near it, and definitely, definitely, not let his own shadow touch it. That was a no, no.

Davey was only six, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew when the hairs stood up on your skin that you were in danger. He knew this thing in the moonlight was no ordinary shadow, and he also knew it was out to get him; the goosebumps on his arms told him so.

The shadow marked its dark blot upon the southeast corner of his east wall, the moonlight shining in through his window on the north wall, his bed parked firmly at the west wall, so the shadow would have to cross onto the south wall in order to reach his own shadow tucked in the southwest corner of the south wall.

Where it had come from, he did not know. It had risen with the bright white of the moon outside his window, rising up like some phantom from a scary story, a bogeyman that could not be reasoned nor bargained with, only defeated.

He wanted to get out of bed and go to his parents’ room, but that meant his shadow would cross its shadow, and that wouldn’t do…No, it would not.

He was in his favorite PJs, the ones with the space shuttles and astronauts on them, but this gave him no comfort, no comfort at all.

What he needed was protection. He needed to hide somehow, but he feared that hiding beneath the covers would do him no good. Maybe he could turn on the light, and this had been his first thought, his first plan of action, but the light switch was also way across the room, so there was no way for him to reach it, no way at all.

He had been scared of the moonlight ever since Jason had told him about the man in the moon during recess yesterday.

“There’s a man in the moon,” Jason had said. “He will get you at night. He’ll get you in your sleep.”

Jason had tried to push down Davey, but Davey had done a cartwheel and had avoided the attack entirely. If he was anything, he was resourceful.

Of course, his little evasive maneuver had angered Jason, and that’s when Jason had taunted him with the man in the moon story.

“The man in the moon will get you,” Jason had said. “He comes after little babies like you. There’s a full moon tomorrow night, and you know what that means. He’ll come for you in your sleep, just you wait.”

Well, Davey couldn’t sleep. There was no way he was going to sleep now, not with that shadow on the wall.

He stared at the dark shape on the wall and pondered what to do. There wasn’t much he could do, but he was not giving up. He was not going to let that thing get him.

The room went dark for a brief few seconds as something, probably the wisp of a cloud or the swaying of a tree, interrupted the moon’s wicked light, and then the bright of that pale light shone back in through the window, but the shadow had changed.

It had turned.

It had turned and was facing toward the south wall…It could see his shadow. It could see his own shadow, and that was not good.

He could always scream. He could always shout, and then his parents would come running, and normally that would work for other kids, but he knew his mom and dad quite well. Both of them could sleep through a freight train rumbling past a thunderstorm, so waking them up with a shout was never going to work, not in a million-bajillion years.

Plus, they never listened whenever he had a problem. They had always just shrugged off anything he had tried to tell them. Oh, he had told them about Jason at school, but they hadn’t done anything about that big jerk, so it was up to Davey to solve his own problems, and he had for the most part, but this shadow on the wall?…There had to be something he could do to get rid of it.

The light of the moon dimmed again, and then it came blazing back in, blazing like a torpid facsimile of the sun, ironic in that description, but more than bright enough to cut out the shape of the deadly shadow he suddenly so hated.

Davey pulled his covers closer to him.

The shadow had moved again.

This time it was buried in the corner of the southeast wall, but the long, long arms and long, long fingers were stretched forth, stretching forth with a tangible malice that Davey could feel all the way down to his soul.

He had to do something.

He stared over at the dresser that was placed right beneath his north window…Yes…Yes, that might work.

His box of toys was next to the dresser, in the northwest corner of his small bedroom. His bat and glove were also next to the toybox in the corner, but he didn’t care about them. No, he knew what he needed, and what he needed was in his precious box of toys.

He slid from his bed, pattered over to his toybox on bare feet, and quietly opened the container, the wooden lid creaking forth on old metal hinges. Inside were many things, many valuable things, but he was looking for his soldiers, specifically his soldiers.

He quickly dug around the large wooden box until he found the small cloth bag containing his precious militia. He also pulled forth a plastic castle wall, a block of a thing that had gone to a castle set he had owned a long time ago, way back when he was four.

He quickly turned to view that shadow, and he nearly dropped his toys as he did.

He had not been keeping an eye on it.

It was past the southeast corner, just at the beginning of the south wall. It was standing straight and tall, fragments of wispy hair around its head, but it was the blob of darkness that made up that head that terrified him.

It was staring at him, not his shadow, him.

There were two white circles of light-blue wall within that rounded face where no shadow touched, and beneath it was a wide smile, a wide smile with the shadowy outlines of blocky teeth, a grate of inky-darkness that spread from one side of the face to the other, a strange casting of moonlight that made up a terrifying image that Davey could not deny…

Its long arms drooped down below where a waist would be, the hands elongated, the fingers stretched forth, and Davey knew he could not let those shadowy hands reach his own shadow.

He had to hurry.

He stepped backwards until he felt the stiff wood of his dresser, never taking his eyes off of the deadly shadow. He reached backwards and placed the castle wall up and upon his dresser top, placing it so that the moon’s own terrible light cast a shadow of the toy barrier upon the south wall, creating an umbral blockade against the evil that lurked upon the light-blue of his bedroom’s plaster.

The shadow of the castle wall was quite large in the moonlight, a barrier that rested above the shadow of Davey’s bed, a barrier that came up to the moon-thing’s chest.

Davey then set up three soldiers, one after the next, each with pointing rifles and protective helms, each waiting to take their shot at the creature that lurked in the moon. Their shadows also came up to this thing’s chest, but that was good enough. There were three of them and only one of it, and three was more than one.

Of course, it would have to get past the shadow of his bed, but that would not be much of a barrier. It could just crawl up onto his bed. That’s what Davey would do.

The light of the moon dimmed once more, and then it came flooding in again, only this time the shadow was standing at the end of the shadow of Davey’s bed, one elongated arm up and reaching for the castle wall, the barely-recognizable shape of a leg and knee moving up and onto the bed itself.

Davey kept his eyes on the moon-thing. He would not let it out of his sight again.

He shimmied to his own right and stepped backwards until his legs touched his wooden toybox. He reached behind himself, bent down, and dipped his fingers into the box. He had never closed the lid, so he grasped the first thing his fingers touched, his Captain Cosmo action figure. This was his favorite toy of all time, but more importantly, Captain Cosmo could do things his soldiers could not, so if they failed, his beloved action figure would do in a pinch.

The moonlight faded yet again. He hated when it did that, because that meant he could not see the shadow, and if he could not see the shadow, then…

He heard the cracking sound of breaking plastic, terribly loud in the silence of his small bedroom, and then the light returned, that terrible pale light of the moon, and he held his breath as he studied the scene that had unfolded upon his wall.

The shadow had moved forward onto his bed, and his plastic wall of defense, his castle wall, was broken in two, the shadow of it halved, that halved shadow on top of the first of his soldiers, that soldier down and crushed beneath the wall, the arm and rifle bent upwards in a strange way.

Davey resisted the urge to look at his dresser top. He already knew what he would find on it anyway.

The light dimmed again, that evil light waning until there was nothing, and then it waxed to its former brilliance, and he could see the shadow again, but this was of no comfort.

He had heard plastic hit carpet, so his suspicions were confirmed when there was no shadow of the second soldier. No, there was the creature in its place, the malevolent moon-thing that was bent on destroying him, bent on choking the life from him like the evil thing it was.

Its long arms and spindly fingers were up, reaching for the next soldier, the last of his trio of defenders.

Davey shook in place. This was not working.

The moon’s light receded once more, and then came the sound of breaking plastic, and then came the light, and then came more fear.

The shadow on the wall had its long fingers wrapped around the third soldier’s top half, but there was no head on that soldier, just the light-blue of untouched plaster in a head’s place.

But Davey still had his Captain Cosmo figure, and that would have to do.

He shimmied over to the desk again and set his action figure up without looking at it or the dresser itself, his eyes ever on the malevolent shadow upon his wall.

He accidently pushed Captain Cosmo farther back than the superhero needed to go, but the action figure’s shadow grew larger, and this gave him hope. He made Captain Cosmo’s shadow big, bigger than the moon-thing on his wall, and this would certainly stop the evil that lurked in his room. It had to.

The waning moonlight pushed the room into darkness yet again, but this time Davey watched carefully for any changes, which there would be. Of that, he was certain.

The shadow of the moon-thing was before the large and looming shadow of Captain Cosmo, but this time the evil on his wall cringed before Davey’s own protective action figure, its long hands up as if to ward off the superhero.

“Yes!” whispered Davey. “Get him!”

His voice was loud in the silence of his room, but Davey didn’t care about that. He needed this moon-thing stopped before it could get to him.

But saying anything had been, of course, a mistake and a serious one.

The pale light of the moon swathed over in darkness, and then the light returned, but the thing on his wall was looking straight at him again, straight at Davey, the eyes two circles of light-blue plaster wreathed in pitch, that bracketed smile of big teeth a mocking grin that Davey could not stand.

It had heard him…It knew.

“No,” said Davey quietly as his face paled. “Oh, no…”

He should not have said anything. He should not have spoken at all. He had tricked it, but he had said something, and now it knew, and now it was going to get him.

The wind picked up outside, the panes of his window rattling, but the effect upon the light in his room was instantaneous as the clouds traveled in rapid speed across the moon, the light in his room going in and out in a flickering dance, a macabre stop-motion parade that played out a disturbing scene in front of him.

The shadow of the moon-thing rose on its knees from upon the shadow of his bed, the long arms snatching forth to grasp the Captain Cosmo shadow around the waist, and then there was a cracking sound as Davey’s beloved action figure snapped in half, the pieces tumbling from his dresser to hit the carpet below, the bouncing of plastic something that Davey could hear quite well, even with the wind blowing outside.

The wind died down, and the shadow of the thing in the moon stared at him once more, its smile a taunting and deadly praise of its own foul deed.

“You!” hissed Davey.

Now he was mad. That had been his favorite toy.

Davey stumbled backwards toward his toy box. He had one option left, the only option left, and it had just come to him, mainly because he was angry as all get-out.

His fingers wrapped around the handle of his wooden baseball bat, that bat leaning in the corner of his wall in-between his toybox and the wall itself.

“I’ll kill you!” screeched Davey.

His own shadow loomed as he stepped forward into the moonlight, stepping forward just as the wind began to blow again, the shadow of his bat raised high in his small hands.

The light wavered in and out, in and out, the final battle raging, a last hurrah before the end, whatever end may come from this terrible showdown of boy and shadow.

Darkness struck Davey as the moonlight blacked out again. He felt a cold chill burn into his right cheek, lines of wet blood opening up across his clammy skin, and then he slammed down the bat with all his might, feeling the bat strike something soft and squishy, striking solid and fast even though there was nothing in front of him.

The shadow on the wall bent backwards as if struck, its long arms up in defense of the blob that made up its head.

The moonlight continued to waver as the wind blew, and blood dripped down Davey’s face where he had been sliced open.

There was no light for a brief second, and Davey was pulled forward a bit as his favorite PJs ripped open at the chest, more sanguine lines of blood opening up across his formerly untouched skin.

Anyone else would have screamed from terror and pain, but Davey was lost in his own rage, a rage that was amplified now that his favorite PJs with the space shuttles and the astronauts were ruined, ruined just like his castle wall and his soldiers and his beloved Captain Cosmo.

“I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!” screamed Davey.

He brought down the bat with one swing after the next, each swing in time with his own battle screech. He could feel the wood impacting something with each hit, and the shadow in the moonlight receded with each hit, shrinking in on itself, one of its long hands bent in a strange way as if the wrist were broken, splatters of black across the wall like blood, a cold wash of something that hit Davey but was invisible, splatters of invisible moonblood he could not see.

The pale light of the moon flickered in and out, and the shadow on his wall was driven back as it struck out in simultaneous fashion, but Davey would not relent in his assault.

No, he had definitely had enough.

Davey’s PJs were sliced open at the legs, the cloth in tatters, blood running down to his ankles, the injuries set with a burning cold, like ice from the South Pole, but Davey swung his bat again and again with all the might of Captain Cosmo.

“Get…out…of…my…room!” screamed Davey.

He struck the moon-thing, shadow on shadow, again and again as the shadow of the wooden bat drove the malevolence from the moon back and off his bed, back and down in splatters of cold black shadow that spread across the light-blue plaster of Davey’s bedroom wall, splatters that disappeared an instant later, splatters of moonblood to match Davey’s own real blood that ran down his face and chest and legs.

There was a brief howl on the wind, a cry of both anger and anguish, and then the wind stopped blowing, the clouds outside ceasing to move at top speed.

The wan light of the orb that had tormented him so shone brightly into the room, but there was no more shadow on his wall, nothing to prevent Davey from making his way to his parents’ bedroom.

It was a good thing, too. He was bleeding all over the carpet.

**********

Jason’s mother tucked him in as she kissed him on the forehead.

“Goodnight, honey,” said the woman, but Jason did not want to look at her fat face.

She angered him every time he saw her pudgy face, mainly because she had taken his remote-controlled car away from him. All he had done was chase the cats with it, nothing big, but she had taken it away from him anyway, and now he didn’t want her attention at all.

The woman stood up, walked to the bedroom door, and flipped off the light. She closed the door behind her as she exited his bedroom, and with that closing, a finality of sentence that Jason could not ignore.

He would have to find his car tomorrow. Of course, he would have to pay back his mother for her own indiscretion, and that meant flushing something down the toilet in order to clog it. That would show her not to mess with him.

He stewed over this as he thought upon yesterday’s encounter with Davey, something else that drove into him with a nail of spite. He would not have thought about Davey at all, but this nonsense with his mother had reminded him of Davey, and this made Jason even angrier.

Davey was a little worm of a kid that he hated, mainly because Mrs. Wren, their teacher, liked Davey better than Jason, and Jason had no tolerance for that. Teachers weren’t supposed to play favorites, but Jason knew they did. There were some kids they liked, and some they didn’t like, and Jason knew, just knew, Mrs. Wren didn’t like him.

Yes, he had failed to push down Davey yesterday, but he would get ahold of that worm on Monday when school picked up again. He would make sure of that. He was going to hold him down and twist his arms behind his back until the boy squealed for mercy.

That would be fun.

He smiled as he closed his eyes at the thought of it, but he opened his eyes again as the pale light of the moon waxed over his bed, lighting up the sepia overtones of his bedroom wall.

He blinked twice, smacked his lips, and then yawned, taking a moment to stare at something that had caught his sudden attention, something he had not noticed until just now…

There was a shadow on his wall.

Shadow in the Moonlight Copyright © 2022 Matthew L. Marlott

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