Friday, May 25, 2012

Night Shot 12: In the Shadows

In which, following Silas’s explanation for the shadow, however vague, it is once more night…


The sky was changing between evening and sunset as Jerry pulled up in front of Silas’s shop. The garage was dark, but a light still shone through the office window.

As Jerry parked the Honda against the curb, he saw the office light switch off and Silas came out. The old man wore a thick coat and brown fisherman’s hat. As Silas turned to lock his office, Jerry noticed that he was carrying a large flashlight in one hand and small package folded under his arm.

Jerry got out and leaned against the car, waiting.

Silas shuffled down the path. He grinned as he noticed Jerry and waved. “I hope you remembered your camera.”

Jerry held up his camera bag in answer. “Were you planning to drive down?” he asked.

Silas shook his head. “It’s not so far,” he said.

Jerry shrugged and zipped his coat. “This is ridiculous—absolutely, totally ridiculous. Maybe the shadow is related to that psychologist.

It was nearly dark before they reached the station. Silas walked with a sort of shuffling trot, glancing from side to side and sniffing the wind. Jerry trailed after him reluctantly, clutching the strap on his camera bag and trying to remember not to bite his nails as he imagined all the things that might make a shadow. “So Silas thought it was time-travelers—wouldn’t it just a likely be ghosts or monsters of some kind? The type with big glowing eyes and no faces, or holes where their faces should be? Or not anything at all—just an empty nothing that could pull you away to a place…somewhere…

“There is it!” Silas said happily. “What do you think—should we stay by the parking lot?”

Jerry caught up with him and stared at the tall gray building. In the dusk it looked like any other abandoned train station—one or two windows boarded over, the others peeking out through dusty panes.

“You were by the parking lot last night, right?” Silas asked.

Jerry mumbled something and nodded.

“Then we’ll stay here.”

He went on, skirting the row of pines along the parking lot, and finally ducking behind them. Jerry pushed after him and found him in a narrow hollow between the trees. “Great place to watch from,” Silas decided. “We can watch the station, and no one would see us here unless we jumped on them.”

Jerry looked around dismally. Pine needles covered the ground, and grass grew in sparse patches between the trees, but the ground was still soaked from last night’s rain. “Yeah, I knew it was a bad idea, at the time. A really bad idea. So why did I do it?

Silas, however, was already unfolding the package he had brought. It looked to Jerry like a piece of stiff cloth, but he helped Silas shake it out over the ground.

Silas carefully lowered himself onto it. “Waterproof,” he explained, not waiting for Jerry’s question. “But it’s canvass, so it should be quieter than a regular tarp. I thought it out several years ago.”

Then there was quietness and darkness for a long time. Dusk passed, night came, and nothing changed.

Jerry got his camera out and fiddled with the settings, “So it would be ready if…” But he didn’t finish that thought. The wind began to blow—even in the pines Jerry shivered and huddled into his coat. He couldn’t see Silas, but he could feel the old man beside him, still craning and stretching to see through the pine branches. Jerry wondered if it might rain.

The sky stayed clear, though, and the platform light glowed across the parking lot. The moon rose slowly above them.

After a long time, Jerry picked up his camera and leaned back. He almost had the focus right, but the wind set the branches swaying and he had to wait for them to still.

“Where were you the other nights?” Silas asked abruptly.

Jerry almost jumped at the sound, but he held the camera frozen in place. “Hunh—what?” he mumbled, sliding the zoom out slightly.

“The first couple times you saw the shadow—when you got the photos.”

“What—oh, that,” Jerry straightened and studied the photos blinking past on his display before they vanished into blankness like the night around him. “I don’t know—over on the edge of town, I guess. One was by the factories, but the other one I just found this place where the street lights look like they’re playing tic-tac-toe, and with the bushes behind them…”

It was too dark to see anything in the pines, but Jerry felt Silas’s start. The old man leaned toward him and pointed toward the east corner of the building. “What’s that? Did you see it?” he whispered.

“What? Where?” Jerry whispered back.

Silas was already scrambling up and Jerry started to follow. They edged their way forward, but before they could reach the gravel, the shadow moved in front of them, heavy and solid against the platform light.

(The story is almost over—coming next is Night Shot 13! I will post the final installment on June 8th.)

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