The trees groaned and squealed in protest as the wind assaulted them with a gust of arctic wind. Rain covered everything in sight, and lightning struck across the dreary midnight sky. This is the night John will never forget, this is the night that changed everything. Ding ding, the doorbell echoed throughout the entire house as the sound of the doorbell screamed to let John know of a visitor. “Hello, I’m sorry, this isn’t really a great ti…” He stopped speaking as he realized no one was there, the only evidence there ever had been a visitor was a medium sized box with dents on every corner. This thing is soaking wet, must not be anything too important he thought as he reached down to grab the mysterious package.
He sat the package on the kitchen table and turned to grab a knife from the wooden block on the counter; soon the sharp knife slid between the cardboard, separating the tape holding the beaten box together. The second the box opened John noticed a translucent but unmistakable gray mass as it began to pour down the edges of the box onto the marble counter. Panicking, John backed away and looked in fear at the box. The mass continued to pour off the counter and onto the floor. “What the fuck is this thing” John asked aloud to no one. The mass began to rise and form a vague outline, first something that resembled feet, legs, torso, arms, shoulders, and finally a head. It’s a shadow? John asked himself incredulously. The shadow inched closer towards John, who was frozen in fear as his mind tried to rationalize the absurd scene before him. The shadow walked even closer until its hand pressed against Johns chest. Finally coming to his senses, with a ragged breath John looked up at where the head should be and noticed that the holes where its eyes and mouth should be created tears in the figure of the shadow.
The second after John realized what he was seeing, the shadow disappeared into a thin, bone chilling mist, the only proof it had been there a wet beaten box on his table. John cautiously walked up and peered into the box to find a small piece of paper with a picture of his lost twin, James. Hurriedly, he grabbed the box and threw it into the fire. I must be losing it he thought to himself if I just go to bed I’ll wake up and everything will be back to normal. John scrambled up the stairs and slid between the sheets of his king-sized bed.
The next day started out like any other day, with a hot cup of coffee and some warm food to fill his stomach. The day was uneventful, bland even, until that night. John and his mother, father, and two sisters met at his house to watch a movie like every Friday night. After debating what they should watch, they finally settled on one of John’s favorite movies, a recent comedy movie that never failed to make him laugh. Something’s different this time, however, as nothing made him so much as crack a smile. A cold feeling fell over John as he sensed a foreign presence push its way into his mind. Startled, he looked around and noticed his shadow on the floor. The light above John usually cast a shadow onto the floor when he sat in this seat, his favorite seat, but what made his blood freeze was the fact that it seemed to be smiling at him. You didn’t forget about me, did you brother? The voice echoed in his mind, the voice of his brother.
The voice disappeared as quickly as it came, the bellowing laughter of John’s family filled the room, he blew off the voice and the jagged smile of the shadow as his mind playing tricks on him. It must be the lack of sleep lately, work has been hell he rationalized to himself, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t make himself smile. This isn’t funny he thought to himself I usually can’t stop laughing at this part, but it just isn’t funny right now. After his family left and he sat alone on the couch browsing the various programs available, the voice returned. Hey brother, you stayed here, after all. The same small town we always planned on leaving together, I guess you didn’t amount to anything after all. You’re thirty, John. By 30 you should have done something with yourself, a wife, or kids. You matter to only our parents, and even they would get over your death soon, like they did mine. The chilling cackle of his brother’s ghost assaulted his mind. You know what I would have done, John? I’d have done everything you can’t. I would have mattered, would have made a difference. John took his head in his hands as tears streaked down his face. The shadow of his brother repeated precisely all the doubts John himself had thought throughout his life.
The cycle continued for days: Shadow, negative emotions, and then alcohol. No matter what John did, the shadow came and whispered to him each negative thought he, himself had tried to bury in the depths of his mind. The cycle was finally broken when John was sitting on his porch drinking coffee and watching the neighborhood children ride skateboards. The three kids that live in the houses surrounding John showed off a display of ollies, kickflips, and more when all of a sudden, one fell and skinned his knee. After a moment of whining the boy got up and tried his kickflip again. This time, however, he nailed it and a smile split his face. In that very moment John realized that even though he may have failed himself, and became stuck where he is, there is always time to do better.