“Goodnight, son. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“But, Mom, what about the shadow man?”
“Derek, we’ve been through this. There’s no shadow man in your closet.”
“Go to sleep, now. And don’t think about the shadow man. He’s not real.”
The door clicked shut behind her as Derek’s mom walked out.
At first, Derek believed his mother. He allowed the sound of the rain pattering against his window to lull him into relaxation despite his fear of the darkness surrounding him. It almost calmed him into sleep, if it weren’t for the scratching at the closet door.
Derek jumped up into a sitting position. He stared, petrified, at his closet door across the shadowy room. He wished he still had his stuffed bear; Smoky used to scare away the shadow man before Derek’s parents decided he was too old to continue sleeping with a teddy bear. Now Derek was alone.
Trying to be brave and logical, like his father had suggested, Derek slowly got out of bed and went to the window. Maybe it was his imagination, and the scratching was actually coming from a tree outside the window. He peered out the smeared, blurry glass, only to be reminded that there were no trees on this side of the house.
The whisper nearly made the ten-year-old jump out of his own skin. It was a raspy voice, the tone sing-songy and taunting. Derek swallowed loudly and, trembling in fear, took a step forward. He heard his father’s encouraging words in his head:
“You don’t need Smoky anymore, Derek. You’re ten years old now! Most boys in your class have gotten rid of their old toys. And if the shadow man tries to scare you again, just open the door. You’ll see for yourself, he’s not real.”
Shaking terribly, Derek found his courage and very slowly tiptoed towards his closet. The scratching only grew louder and more feverish, as if something inside was trying to get out. Or get to Derek. The boy pushed down this thought. Just my imagination, he reasoned with himself. I’ll just open the door and prove that there isn’t anything in my closet…
His quivering hand reached out for the knob and somehow latched onto the cold metal. Derek summoned up all of his strength, closed his eyes, and turned the knob agonizingly slowly.
When nothing jumped out at him, he squinted his eyes open. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing. No coatrack, no floor, no back wall. Only pitch black and a cold that Derek could see his breath in.
Without warning, a hand reached out of the black and grabbed Derek by the collar of his pajama shirt. Before the boy could scream, he was dragged into the black depths of the closet. The door slammed shut behind him, trapping Derek inside the abyss.
The sound of the door slamming alerted his parents. They ran up the staircase and flung open Derek’s door.
“Derek? Derek, where are you?” his mother called. His father opened the closet door.
“Derek?” he asked.
There was nothing in the closet but a few shirts hanging from the rack and a box of old toys on the floor.
Credit To – CheeseLotion