Eleven-year-old Mackenzie Murphy curled up
under her Mickey Mouse bedclothes that were far too
babyish for her, and prayed that the screaming would
stop. She pressed her hands over her ears, trying to
block out the noise.
Her step dad Ray had come home drunk again.
Furniture smashed against the wall, while her mother
screamed at him.
“Please make it stop, please,” Mackenzie whispered
repeatedly, clutching at her neck for the gold heart
necklace, that her mother had given her for her birthday
last month. It was her mother’s necklace really. Her dad
had given it to her mum before he left her.
The day before her birthday, Ray had given her
mother two black eyes for being late with dinner. She
couldn’t go outside in case that nosy old bat Mrs.
Preston saw and called the police again, so she had
given Mackenzie the necklace as her present.
Mackenzie knew that before morning, her mother
would be in the hospital with a broken nose or jaw and
if he hadn’t passed out, Ray would start beating on her,
just because he could. In the last few months Ray had
cracked two ribs and broken her wrist. Her right arm
still sported a brace. She could be sure it would never
stop, simply because her mother was too afraid to press
Mackenzie hated having to wear long sleeves, even
in the summer, to hide the bruises, so many questions
to answer or avoid.
“I took you and that rotten kid of yours in off the street,” Ray yelled.
“Go away. Why can’t you just leave and never come
back,” Mackenzie chanted, “Just go away.”
A strange hissing noise filled the room, like gas
escaping from a pipe. Mackenzie slowly slid the
blankets back and looked out. A sliver of moonlight
shone through the gap in the curtains, leaving the room
in shadowy darkness. She could make out the outlines
of her dresser and wardrobe.
“Hello?” she said.
She knew that no one could be in her room. She
was alone but she could feel a presence and it didn’t feel
“Is somebody there?” she asked, her voice a high-
Loud whispering filled the room growing louder
and more insistent. She couldn’t make out the words,
but they sounded strange, nothing she’d heard before.
Maybe they weren’t even words. Her heart knocked
against her ribs, leaving her mouth dry.
“Stop it,” she moaned as tears slid down her
cheeks. The whispering ceased.
Eyes wide, she watched in horrified fascination as
one of the shadows in the room separated from the rest
and began to creep towards her. There was no escape.
The wall was to her left, the shadow approaching on the
right. She whimpered and backed up against the
headboard as far as she could go, her feet slipping on
the blankets. First Ray, and now this—it was too much.
It was going to get her. Her bladder suddenly felt full
and she was afraid she’d wet herself.
Please don’t let it touch me. She wanted to call out
to her mother, but that would only draw Ray’s attention
and he would make them both pay for it. His rule
numero uno, as he was fond of saying, was children
were neither seen nor heard.
“What do you want?” she whispered, her voice
catching in her throat.
“What is it that you want?” the shadow hissed the
words, definitely in English this time.
Her mother let out a shriek downstairs, followed by
the sound of breaking glass.
“I want it to stop,” Mackenzie said. The shadow
drifted towards the door and oozed through it.
Mackenzie sat frozen in fear waiting for it to come
back. This is a nightmare. A really bad nightmare. Her
mom would wake her up any minute and tell her it was
time for school. Wouldn’t she?
“What are you doing?” Ray yelled. Screams of
terror filled Mackenzie’s head. She slapped her hands
over her ears. Abruptly, the scream cut off, leaving a
thick, cloying silence behind. It was over.
Gathering her courage, Mackenzie slipped out of
bed and tiptoed to the door. Taking a deep breath she
turned the handle pulling it open a crack and peering
out into the hallway. She saw nothing. Moving like a
sleepwalker, she descended the stairs, her breath
coming in short, quick gasps. The house was too quiet.
Even the ticking from the huge clock that sat on the
mantle in the living room, which sometimes drove her
crazy with the noise, seemed muted now.
At the kitchen doorway, Mackenzie called out to her mother. It came out in a straggled croak and she
Why wasn’t she answering? The door was ajar,
light spilling out into the hallway. She pushed the door
open, the light temporarily blinding her after being in
the dark hall. When her vision cleared she saw the
blood first. So much blood. Thick red puddles of it
pooled on the linoleum covered floor, crawling toward
her as though Ray’s bodily fluids were still intent on
harming her. He lay on his back, the hilt of a kitchen
knife protruding from his chest. His eyes stared
vacantly at the ceiling. There was blood and spittle on
Her mother lay propped against the counter, eyes
closed, but she was breathing. Her mother appeared
unharmed and Mackenzie rushed toward her. She
caught a movement from the corner of her eye and
looked up. The Shadow hovered above her. On her
knees in front of her mother, she watched as it crept
toward the window, slipped under the frame and out
into the darkness. She turned back to her mother,
laying her hand on her mother’s arm. She had gotten
her wish. It had stopped. But did her mother stab Ray,
or had the Shadow caused his death?
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About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”