Terror in the Shadows vol. 21: Terror in the Shadows Anthology
Terror in the Shadows vol. 21: Terror in the Shadows Anthology
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In the shadows, terror is considered fine art…
The glowing grin of a jack-o’-lantern terrorizes a group of friends, after a Halloween prank goes horribly wrong. Social media turns supernatural, when a lonely woman connects with an online friend. And a placid lake unleashes a terror behind imagination once rainstorm causes the waters to rise…
Scare Street proudly presents twelve masterpieces of terror and suspense… A guided tour through a virtual gallery of the darkest arts and diabolical delights. Perfect for connoisseurs of the fine art of fear…
The exhibit seems to go on forever, each twisting labyrinthine corridor lined with paintings your mind can barely process. But up ahead lies the most curious exhibit of all. A dusty old mirror.
As you stare at your reflection, your jaw drops, and a scream erupts from your throat. The paintings behind you have sprung to life. Paint spatters the floor as each unholy abomination shuffles towards you.
And you realize that the final exhibit in this ghastly gallery is the look of horror, frozen on your face…
The Gray Lady
Doyle noticed the old woman when he got off the bus. She was about forty yards away. The short slow-moving figure was wearing an ankle-length coat. He could tell she was old from the way she tottered along. She seemed to be about to cross the street, but then she turned toward him. He saw a small, pale face under what looked like a see-through headscarf. She kept turning until she was facing away from him. It was odd behavior. He wondered if she had dementia. Perhaps she managed to slip away from her family. Sometimes confused old people could just wander off at night while the family was sleeping.
Doyle, who had been raised almost entirely by his grandmother, had a soft spot for elderly ladies. He was always inclined to offer to help them with shopping or escort them across a road. He wanted to help the woman get home if she was confused. He hesitated, however. Against his concern, he had to weigh the fact that he was a young-ish man, and he’d be approaching a female stranger at night. Experience had taught him that not every old lady wanted to be helped. Some, in fact, took it as an insult and reacted quite aggressively.
But Doyle couldn’t just ignore this particular woman because he might get his feelings hurt.
The night was cold and damp. A downpour earlier had left the roads and pavements wet. He wondered why someone so old would be out so late. It was not a good area for anyone to venture out alone at any time. Even as he hesitated, peering down the street, there was a crash of broken glass from the opposite direction. He turned and saw figures running and stumbling, and he heard shouts. Drunks, probably, having a fight over nothing. Just a week earlier, Doyle had found a huge pool of blood at the bus stop. He’d never discovered who, or what, had left it.
He looked back at the streetlamp where the old woman had been. She was gone. She couldn’t have walked far along the sidewalk, so she must have gone into one of the houses. Doyle shuddered and unlocked his front door. He’d thought all the properties at the far end of the street were derelict by now. Some had certainly become dens for junkies. Perhaps the old woman was the last of her generation in the neighborhood, alone in the world and unable to move out.
Doyle was tired from a long shift at the warehouse, but that night, sleep would not come easily. He kept thinking about the woman then drifting into strange dreams about her. He saw her circling the streetlight, then the light became a huge candle. Things took a nightmarish turn when he imagined himself going up to her, asking her if she were okay. Over and over again, she vanished as he approached her. Then Doyle was in a dark room where strange creatures mewled and writhed in the shadows.
The next day, he felt washed out. He missed his usual bus and, cursing, decided to walk along the street to check out where the old lady might live. He saw nothing but vandalism, houses with smashed windows and walls covered in graffiti. What had once been neat little front gardens were now weed patches half full of junk, empty cans and bottles mostly, but with a good sprinkling of condoms and the odd syringe. There was a stench of decay and worse.
Could the old woman be squatting in one of these abandoned houses? It seemed absurd. But if not, where had she gone? It puzzled him. He tried to shake off the nagging worry, but it followed him to work. His supervisor warned him after he made a number of mistakes. Doyle came home in a bad mood and almost didn’t notice the old woman as he made his way to his front door. She was one streetlamp closer this time, still circling it with her odd shuffling gait.
Now he could see her more closely. She did look like a homeless person. Her long coat, which almost trailed on the ground, was mottled with stains or patches. Her headscarf fluttered slightly in the chill breeze. She was smaller than he’d thought, Doyle realized, certainly no more than five feet. He glimpsed tiny feet moving quickly, taking little steps, under her voluminous coat.
She was too far away to call out to her. Again, Doyle felt conflicted. Perhaps he could report her to social services? Maybe even call the police? After all, she might be in immediate danger. A woman’s scream startled him, but it wasn’t from the old lady. It came from beyond her. The screams continued for a few seconds. Then it ended. Doyle waited for something else, even a string of obscenities, that would tell him the woman was alive. But he heard nothing.
Then it came to him that the old lady had not reacted. She was still moving, in her painstaking fashion, around the lamppost. Her head was tilted downward, slightly, as if looking for something. Doyle wondered if she was deaf. That made it even worse. He decided to be bold and go and talk to her. He set off, forcing himself to stride purposefully, almost running. All the things that might go wrong ran through his mind, his natural diffidence undermining him. She might scream, squirt pepper spray in his face, or hit him with her purse. But as he got closer, he couldn’t see a bag of any kind, which was another oddity.
As he approached the circling figure, she finally reacted. She stopped pacing then moved to put the lamppost between them. He was about ten yards away. Doyle stopped, fearful of causing her distress.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he said loudly.
Idiot, he told himself, that’s exactly what a mugger would say. Or a psychopath.
“Ma’am?” he called, dismayed by the pitch of his voice. “Ma’am, are you okay? Do you need me to call someone for you?”
He took out his phone, waggling it in the air. It then occurred to him that it might be condescending, as if an older woman had never seen a cell before. His nervousness around strangers, as usually happened, was reducing him to idiocy. Then his phone buzzed, and he almost dropped it. As he fumbled with the tumbling phone, just catching it in time, he heard a noise. It was odd. The first thing he thought of was someone turning the page of an enormous book, which was absurd.
He checked the message. It was his boss rescheduling his hours. Making his life a little bit worse. Doyle cursed under his breath then decided to persevere with this good deed. He wouldn’t let a world full of assholes like his boss make him bitter and selfish.
But when he looked up, the old woman was gone.
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