The Shadow King

A nightmare.

I wake up to the quiet whisper of my alarm. Clicking it off, I open sleep-kissed eyes, caught between dreams and the stillness of the room. Another day with the promise of spring- I watch light pour through the windowshade, expecting the golden light of dawn.

But the sunlight is pale and sickly, like the rays of an anemic star. My room is dead- no sounds. No tick of clocks, only my beating heart filling the strange emptiness. I watch my breath fog before me, horrified to realize my room is frigid, ice. The morning is not morning at all, a dead light not of the world. Trembling, dread courses through my veins, sharp as the needle’s prick. With struggling breaths I dare rise, creeping softly to the window. I peek past the blinds.

A fallout winter echoes back at me. The streets, just yesterday bordered by blooms and foilage-laden trees, is covered in snow. A blizzard rages on. The houses around me are dead and empty. No light comes from their black pits.

I scream.

I know that everything is dead. It is a knowledge that springs from the marrow of my bones, sending me reeling backwards in panic onto the stone bed. Crying out, I frantically try the light switch!-

It flickers, dies. The bulb malfunctions. Chest heaving, I race against time, knowing that light is my only protection. The only way to save me.

I try fruitlessly, screaming in rage as I try every light in the room. Nothing works, the bulbs sizzle and die. Burn bright for a moment, then hiss away. I’m left alone in the still black chill of my room, in the light more terrible than any shadow. I sink to the floor, burying my head in my knees, trembling as I tear at my hair. I am hunted, trapped, the lone straggler awaiting my doom-

There are ominous footsteps that echo down the hallway, drawing ever closer down the corridor that leads to my room. I scream, tears blinding my eyes.

“Oh god! Oh god! Please, let me wake UP!-“

*

I bolt awake, screaming. Surfacing from the nightmare, I heave a breath of relief, clutching my head. “Stupid nightmares,” I groan, sick of the haunting dreams. I reach for the light switch, thinking of tests and school. My alarm reads six- I groan. “Too early! Effing high school. I need my beauty sleep!-“

My fingers brush the light switch, flicking it on.

The bulb bursts alive. It hisses with electric wrath, then blazes dead.

Dread bubbles up within me. “Oh crap,” I groan, panic rising once more. I look at the window.

Cold, dead light. Bile rises in my throat. The tears return. I glare up at the cieling. “God damn it! This isn’t supposed to happen!-“

The footsteps return, closer than before. They mock me with each step, like iron paws stalking slowly towards their prey. A deadly grace that will toy with me until the gruesome end.

I throw the damn lamp to the ground, pissed. “This is pathetic! WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP- h’oh god!” I moan. The room grows killing cold, the air heavy, mourning in torturous silence. I can barely breathe as the house- my house- takes on the chill of death.

I’m on my knees, sobbing, praying for release. For the vicious cycle to end. The door creaks open. I close my eyes, moaning in wretched fear-

*

I wake up for the third time. I glare, snapping awake like a hardened soldier. I test the light methodically. It glows awake. I smile thinly, approving as I rise from bed.

“God damn dreams,” I mutter, turning on the fan, opposite my bed near the door. Peeling off my nightgown, I stumble around sleep-dazed, thinking darkly of the ungodly hour I’m forced to rise.

Goosebumps erupt on my flesh as the air turns dead. The light grows anemic once more.

“What the hell!” I scream, diving towards the bed and under my blankets, horrified. The lights die one by one.

He is at my door. It slams open.

A blade glints amongst shadows of pitch.

I shriek bloody murder, closing my eyes and burying myself under the comforter. A live butterfly pinned to the wall. I shut my eyes closed, refusing to open my lids. If I must die, I will do it hidden, unconscious, asleep-

*

The alarm blares. I am trapped in the same vicious cycle. Dreams within dreams within dreams. The blade is near my throat now, swooping towards me-

I scream bloody murder. I’m slammed awake.

*

Birds call beyond my window, announcing spring. Golden light flows through, kissing the blonde wood of my floor. The room is warm, walls a comforting lavender with familiar, girlish things. The cheap clock that’s blared for a thousand days escorts me from my sleep.

“Oh god,” I whisper, relieved. Back in the real world at last!-

There is a form pressed against me, strong and protective. My cheek rests on his arm, his chest molded against my back, our legs entwined.

A lover- a lover? I have no lover. No way would my parents let a guy sleep over.

His muscled arm is curled around my waist. He strokes my hair affectionately, breathes in my scent-

His breath is ice on my neck.

I freeze, heart hurling itself against the cage of my ribs. I look at the hand dancing across my flesh. It is cut like black diamond from the void, sucking in light like a starved black hole. Elegant, cold, horrific.

A cutthroat laugh rumbles from behind me. He roars with laughter, voice like demonic thunder. He tightens his grip around me. The cold embrace of the abyss.

The lights shatter. The shades crash to the ground, revealing an apocalypse winter and raging, bloodstained snow. He crushes the illusion of spring in his palm.

Kissing my head in a twisted affection, he forces me to confront him, turning my body as if I were light as a doll.

My eyes grow wide as saucers, face chalk-white as sheer terror drains me of speech. The void grins wickedly back at me, a dark angel made of shadow and the voracious depths of space.

Beautiful. A monster.

“HELLO, LOVE,” he murmurs, pulling me against him with iron hands.

Will he trap me in this hell? What does he want! I shriek senselessly, drawing chthonic laughs from my imprisoner.

“ENOUGH!” I rage.

I shatter the dream.

*

I wake. For the sixth time. For real. Sobbing, I test the light switch. Its warm glow does little to soothe me. I bolt out of bed, opening the blinds. The warm light of spring fills me. I sink to my knees, bawling.

Never have I been so happy to see the sun.

That was months ago. But I wonder- these horrific nightmares…

Why? Is there some alternate plane? Is someone, somewhere, trapped in his dimension, in that cold, godless realm, a dream within dreams? Held prisoner by fear and his cold, dark sway? Toyed with by the father of monsters.

What did he want with me?

The Shadow King…

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