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#BookbedFictory 026: ‘Cicatrix’

by Liam Blunt
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. You may also submit a story anytime of the year. Enjoy this one!

Prompt: You live in a world where our shadows are actually just monsters waiting for the right moment to devour our bodies and replace us.

I watch the sun set from the rooftop of the skyscraper, with my hands grasping at the railings that keep things from falling in case of a gust. These past few years, I have started to love the sight of the blue sky as it fades from orange to gray, then to black. A marvelous sight for many, indeed.

That is until the shadows claim them.

The shadows… We see them, yet what they’re capable of is invisible to the naked eye.

They creep with their dark tendrils, spreading like inky vines, and wrapping the vulnerable like a vise. Some people don’t notice that the shadows already have them in an unseen cocoon; their days still feel normal, until the tendrils squeeze.

When these black tentacles squeeze, the person’s eyes become gray, and the world loses its hue. Taste buds become dull. Their favorite music becomes as appealing as nails on a chalkboard. Their limbs freeze, thus making movement really difficult. Hell, even eating becomes almost impossible.

The strength of a shadow’s squeeze varies. Sometimes, they just give you a light press. When they do, everything feels almost normal. Sometimes, they clutch you so hard like you’re an almost-empty tube of toothpaste. When this happens and you’re in your most vulnerable state, then the shadows might succeed in completely enveloping you. You will be replaced with someone who’s a total opposite of what you are. Are you the happiest person in class? Not anymore. Are you a go-getter? You’ll find your dreams unappealing. Are you madly in love? You’ll probably toss your heart out to the sea.

I light up a cigarette and take a drag. My eyes are immediately drawn to the scars that run through my arms; they look like fossilized centipedes that snake across my skin, and the dying sunlight wash them with soft amber. These battle scars remind me of the times when the shadows gripped me, and how I fought back. These cicatrices bring back those frigid nights where I grappled with the tendrils; those seemingly-ordinary days where my friends saw my smiles, yet deep inside I was in a war; those instances where I felt like I was the last person on Earth, and my calls for help reverberated in the forest of abandoned buildings.

I thought winning against the shadows was impossible. I’ve heard of people who successfully vanquished the shadows that plagued them. But for some like me, I was only able to hold them at bay. These dark beasts snarl at me from a distance, baring their fangs, and flailing their tentacles. Sometimes, they can still grip me, but these attempts are flimsy and rare.

My battles have taught me that seeking help from others is one of the best ways to fight these shadows. To not think that you’re alone in this war, and to let your most trusted allies see into you. Also, a disciplined routine of keeping my physical and mental capabilities sharpened help a lot.

I take another deep breath, then step off the edge of the building and tossed the cigarette butt away. Night is almost upon us, and the shadows are about to be in their most powerful form. I might get more scars again come sunrise, but that’s a small price to pay for helping others win their fight tonight. ☁️


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