Comet Shadows

Comet Shadows: Love and Monsters

It was the day after the comet had zipped through the sky – a fiery ball of hyphenated light that had come so close to Earth it seemed almost to touch the trees – when the monstrous creatures began to appear.

I had been reclining in the La-Z-Boy, my right arm in a cast and encased in a white sling, feeling sorry for myself and watching YouTube videos of skateboard tricks gone wrong. The painkillers from the ER had taken the edge off the pain as I basted in the blue glow of my iPhone, but they hadn’t dulled the memory of how it had happened: my feeble attempts at skating to impress Jenna, the girl down the block, had ended with me sprawled on the sidewalk, gasping for breath and looking up into her wide, horrified eyes as she mouthed silent apologies.

When the first news report of an alien sighting flashed on my Twitter feed, I scarcely took notice. But as more reports began to trickle in – UFOs landing in Russia; grotesque, gasping monsters reviving after centuries spent in Martian hibernation – it was impossible not to be curious. The fact that these sightings were dismissed by most mainstream outlets as hoaxes or delusions only stoked the fires of my obsession.

I watched them on conspiracy sites and chat rooms, hunched over my iPhone with my broken arm cradled protectively in my chest: video clips recorded on shaky cellphone cameras of creatures that seemed to suck the light out of their surroundings, leaving a trail of inky-black darkness wherever they went. It was as if the shadows of ordinary objects had detached themselves from their owners and become malignant. I suppressed a shiver and watched, transfixed.

It wasn’t until the third night that they began to appear closer to home. Now the reports were on Facebook and uploaded directly to the local news station’s website – these were sightings in our county, our town. The things were here, too.

I was sitting in bed, the glow of my iPhone casting sickly shadows on the walls as I clicked through photo after photo of the alien monstrosities, when the doorbell rang. My heart sank; my parents were away, and the only person who would visit me at this time of night was Jenna.

I called out for whoever it was to come in, hoping that the sound of my voice might make me seem more self-assured. The door creaked open and Jenna hesitated in the doorway. Her eyes were red and her hands were shaking as she clutched a thick piece of parchment paper, covered with spidery writing in an angular script I didn’t recognize.

“It’s a protection spell,” she managed to choke out as she thrust the parchment toward me. “My mom says it’ll keep them away. She’s an exorcist, you know.”

I remembered now – Jenna’s mother had a reputation for helping possessed people rid themselves of malevolent spirits. She had always seemed like a charlatan to me, someone who preyed on the superstitions and gullibility of others for her own gain. But with the knowledge of what else might be lurking in the darkness outside, I wasn’t so sure.

I took the parchment with my left hand and thanked her as Jenna slumped into a chair in the kitchen, the weight of her fear pressing down on her. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was why she had been so kind to me when I had fallen – if she had known what was coming, and if she had been trying to protect me somehow.

By sunrise, it began to feel foolish – feeling safe under some silly spell scribbled onto old paper. But as Jenna slept on the couch and the sky outside turned from black to purple to a pale blue that seemed both menacing and comforting at the same time, I felt my anxiety begin to lift.

The shadows of the early morning sun danced across the kitchen floor as I poured coffee and buttered toast, Jenna still curled on the couch like a child, lost in dreams. As I looked over at her peaceful face, I realized that the knowledge of what might be lurking out there in the darkness was no more terrifying than it had been before.

I had always known that the world was full of monsters – bullies and thugs, maniacs and murderers – but I had never been paralyzed with fear before. Now, with a broken arm and a heart full of love for a girl who had seen through my clumsy attempts at skateboarding and still cared about me enough to try to keep me safe, I found that I wasn’t afraid anymore.

No matter what creatures might be waiting for us in the shadows, we would face them together. Our strength – our humanity – would be enough to overcome them. If not, we had Jenna’s mother and her exorcist skills, just a phone call away.

I looked over at Jenna once more and smiled, raising my coffee mug in a silent toast to our future. Whatever it might hold, I was ready to face it. Broken arm and all.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Dalli. Publisher: Cyber.

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