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In the middle of a decayed field, dry and depressing, I tried to recover. My hands rested on my knees as quick breaths attempted to keep up with my hearts increased pace. I started as the chaser but now I’ve become the chase-ee.

It started back in town.

A form that was solid but squishy, oozed out the back of a building. Its skin, always moving, floated above whatever it had on the inside. It was like looking at water through an aquarium, dancing to the movement of the light and subtle vibrations. It was a large mass, tall and wide. We locked eyes, or I should say my eyes locked its horizontal slits of light. They looked way too bright, but maybe it only appeared that way in comparison to how dark this creature was. It felt like we both stood there for an hour, measuring each other, sizing one another for the assumable fight ahead. I wasn’t a hard one to spot to most supernatural beings of this world, and neither was it. In one way, maybe we both didn’t belong to this world, but then again, I wasn’t the one with someone’s head grasped in my creepy hand.

The head looked like a horror movie prop and I intended to keep telling myself that it was indeed merely a prop. Blood dripped from the neckline, or the spot where the neck used to meet the shoulders. I don’t know what to call it now.

The head didn’t appear to be cut off; the skin wasn’t neatly sliced. No, as the shredded flesh dangled, it appeared to have been torn off. The skin moved with the beast, swaying in the wind like a maple leaf.

A high-shriek escaped the creature’s mouth, although I couldn’t see the mouth but the sound came from it nonetheless. In an instant it took off, away from me, away from the city. The beast shifted, going from standing on two, leg-shaped masses, into four legs, like a big cat or wolf. The bloody head stuck to the back of its new form. It looked like it was riding it, up and down with each bounce.

As the blob fled, I followed. With my arm illuminated, I tried to keep up. There wasn’t a chance in hell of me staying within range of whatever this thing was. I only hoped of keeping it in sight and I was doing just that. So I had that going for me.

As it led me to the outskirts of town and as my side began to cramp, all I could think about was the wasted time doing nothing instead of keeping in shape. I thought I was going to black out or get killed by a huge black blob. Whatever way, it wouldn’t have been good. Furthermore, it was daytime, why was this thing out? I didn’t get scared too often but when something like this was out in the mediocre-lighted day like today, it makes me a little nervous. The saying, freaks come out at night, is mostly true, but the freaks that come out during the day are far more terrifying.

So instead of being the usual badass, I find myself in an unfamiliar role—the hunted.

I swept my eyes from left to right, scanning the flat land. I quickly turned around and did the same thing. Nothing. If that gelatinous thing could morph into a dog like creature, could it change shape into something smaller, like a snake? My eyes darted to my feet, but saw only the dry, cracked ground. As my eyes returned to the horizon, looking for any sign of whatever it was I was chasing, a blurred object came from nowhere and hit me square in the chest. Regardless of my magical protection, a blunt force is just that and it hurts like hell. I gathered myself and looked around, as I found what had been hurled at me I immediately felt like I had been sucker punched in the gut. Staring back at me, through haunted, vacant eyes, was the head with no body. Up close, I couldn’t pretend it was fake anymore. It was real. It was grotesque.

I’ve found the head (or it found me), but where’s the beast?

…to be continued…

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…and it continued…

A soul is a terrible thing to waste–having it ripped from your body, bit by bit is far worse. Every movement the figure took brought it further out into the light, slowing it but not stopping it. With each second that it stayed in the dim light, the more transparent it became. The Dark and the Light have been enemies long before the existence of mankind, before the dinosaurs first roamed the earth, before there was anything else to fight over. I’ve always remained more in the grey area. I dabble in the light and have been known to partake in the dark. It’s a fine line to tread, but I am ever so graceful.

Gizmo found a beaten down newspaper stand to hide behind. They stopped delivering to this area long ago, long before I had come back. They stopped after the city started to turn.

The creature crept slower towards me and I held my ground. There was only one way to end the existence of a shadow man and that required it to get really close to me. Not something I was terribly excited about.

The only thing you can do to kill a shadow is to turn on a light–a very bright light. If this had been a normal town, with normal clouds, this scenario would not be taking place. The sun would have exterminated it before it came anywhere near me, but also it wouldn’t have existed in a normal town. Normalcy, what do I know of it? Maybe this is normal and the whole world has slipped from the grips of sanity…and into the mouth of madness.

By the time the darkness had reached me, it was nearly see through. I could make out a broken fire hydrant and a rusted child’s bike through the hollow chest of what used to be a man. The tassels on the handle bars were flaking off piece by piece with every gust of wind, sending them to a better place.

The shadow extended both of the masses that resembled arms, towards me, and I didn’t move. I half thought that they would have just passed right through me, like a ghost through a wall, but that was not the case. It grabbed me firmly and pulled me closer. I didn’t fight it. My vision went dark and I blinked rapidly to make sure I hadn’t just shut my eyes out of instinct. No, they were open and the deep darkness of the shadow had engulfed me. My skin crawled and tried to break free from my body, trying to filet itself in hopes of leaving the darkness behind. My teeth chattered and clacked together furiously wanting to join my skin in their great escape. My body felt like it was being pulled from all directions, being torn from the very essence of who I was. But I stood my ground. It would have a hard time finding my soul to steal. That was already sold to another.

I’ve had enough fun and this thing was getting crazed with anger over its failed attempt to feed its hunger. I grabbed it tightly around me and it couldn’t break free. All I had to do was flip a switch and bring light into this abyss. The carvings on my arm erupted in a blaze of light, tearing through the dark. My will, my power flowed around us. Again it tried to break free, tried to find its way home, back to the comfort of the dark. My grip was unbreakable. Brighter and brighter the world around us became. The light cut through the thin being and white fire erupted, burning the evil beast as only fire could. It couldn’t scream, but I could feel the pain it was enduring and it comforted me. I represented the good side, or most of it anyway and another beast slain is another win for the home team.

The thing from the shadows, that once was a man, fell to the ground in a heap of ashes. Smoke rose, carrying hundreds of souls with it; hundreds of bodies would be finally at rest, hopefully at peace. The wind picked up and scattered the remains, along with the pieces of tassel from the bike to a better place, but not with my soul.

Gizmo rushed to my side when it was over. I bent down and gave him the affection he was after. We couldn’t even take a walk anymore without running into trouble, but that’s why I was here, to take care of the trouble. After all, it was my destiny to come back. To stop the city from turning. To right the wrong.

This is my town now. This is Heretic Valley

On my usual, mundane, morning walk with my dog, Gizmo a chilling wind picked up, slapping me in my face. I pulled my jacket tighter around me, flipping my collar up around my neck. Gizmo, a beautiful brown and white Boston terrier, didn’t take notice to the hateful wind. His tongue stuck out, daring it to do its worst.

The street was abandoned. It has been that way for a long time. The shadow men of the night have retreated back into their corners, resting and waiting for full dark to come once again. Well, most of them anyway. A dark figure crept alongside the broken down shamble of a house adjacent to us. Out of the corner of my eye I could see his movement with quick glimpses of his body through the silhouettes of the buildings he was hiding behind. He was rubbery and rigid all at once. He could bend his body to stay hidden but could go stiff as a board when need be. He dripped what looked like black tar as he went, or maybe it was my mind giving me that illusion of it as I watched. To look at it, you feel the evil, like a predator looking for prey. But this thing would soon find out that it was looking in the wrong direction this morning.

I told my dog to hide on the other side of the street and he did. We have a bond and communicate better than most. He’s most likely smarter than me, but I’d never tell him that.
I waited in the center of the mostly unused street. There may be a stranger from time to time wander through, lost and looking to get the hell out as fast as they could. For me, I was safe in the street–except for that long shadow sneaking closer. I waited for IT to make a move, gathering my strength and power.

The creature was scared to leave its home and the sweet security of the dark. Reluctantly, it finally emerged, showing me the full, misshapen feature that it was. Standing seven feet tall, slender not unlike a Festivus pole, and its face, its face was the worst part. There were eye sockets, but no eyes, just sockets. The round holes were somehow darker than the rest of its thin body. The mouth had been stitched together with material that looked like fishing line. There were no fingers, no feet; just matter that connected to the rest of its body. I was wrong before when I called this merely a thing. I knew what it was and I didn’t like the answer.

Staying in the shadows for so long will change a person, change who they are, or even what they are. The valley can be cruel like that. It’s a harsh place to live for people so easily deceived. They get promised everything they’ve ever desired and in return they get everything they’ve ever feared. This thing could only live off of one substance now—souls. It eats souls, or more accurately it absorbs them.

To be continued…

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