Janet had been sleeping fitfully all night. At midnight, she sank into an exhausted deep sleep. Images began to flash in her mind. Janet dreamed that she was back in the pantry of the abandoned house with her sister. She looked over at Andrea and realized they were children. She could hear her father out in the kitchen raging against their mother. It was a scenario that Janet had experienced countless times. She would hide from their father when he flew into his rages. Janet felt small and helpless, knowing that when he was finished with her mother he would come looking for her or Andrea. Her father was unpredictable when he drank. He might settle for insulting her until she was completely humiliated and reduced to tears or he might lash out and punish her with his big, powerful hands until she begged him to stop.
Janet felt compelled to peer through the keyhole. Her mother lay in Ethan’s place on the floor with the shadow people hovering over her. Janet cried out when one of them reached into her mother’s chest and extracted her mother’s soul with such force that it arched her back. The pain of losing her mother flooding back. She was losing her mother all over again. The captor of her mother’s soul descended through the floor and the other shadow person turned at the sound of her sobbing. It’s red eyes focused on the pantry door. Janet gasped and tried belatedly to silence herself as it came flying at the pantry, like a grotesque black bat with its claws extended. This time, there was no flash of headlights to save them. Janet screamed and scooted backwards until she slammed into the rear of the pantry, whipping her head from side to side in horrified disbelief. She heard a bang and her eyes widened as the door trembled in its frame. Janet couldn’t seem to move or look away.
Andrea awoke and quickly turned her face away from shards of splintered wood raining down on them. They screamed as the creature flew into the pantry filling the tight space with smothering darkness. They collided with one another as they ducked and rolled away from the grasping talons. Andrea escaped the pantry first, crawling and then running to the living room. Janet was almost at the front door when she felt the creature’s talons sink into her back. She immediately dropped to her knee. Shock paralyzed her limbs as the toxic creature invaded her body. Janet could feel her strength draining away. She fought back vigorously and then feebly as she grew progressively weaker, unable to dislodge the creature as it greedily sucked up her energy reserves. She inched her way to the open doorway and collapsed, watching helplessly as her sister ran down the porch steps. Janet tried to call out but the most that she could muster was a hoarse whisper.
Andrea made it to the moonlit country road as the very shadows around her came alive and attempted to capture her. Janet could see them grabbing at her and pulling on her clothes. Andrea realized that Janet was not with her. She stopped in the middle of the road and turned back towards the house. An enormous black winged creature swooped down on her sister. Janet opened her mouth to warn Andrea but it was already too late. The creature’s enormous talons opened and grabbed Andrea by the shoulders, lifting her off of her feet. Her scream of pain and panic was heart wrenching. Janet watched helplessly as her sister kicked her feet and swatted ineffectually at the creature. Andrea’s soul was slowly pulled from her body, which fell in a lifeless, crumpled heap onto the ground. Janet summoned the last her dwindling strength and screamed, dragging her body towards her sister.
Janet slowly became conscious of hands on her shoulders shaking her out of her dream state. She opened her eyes and looked up into Andrea’s concerned face. Janet sat up and hugged her sister, overjoyed by the realization that it had all been a dream. Andrea laughed and hugged her back.
“That must have been some dream. Your screaming woke me up in the other room and you know how soundly I sleep. I’m surprised security didn’t come rushing in.”
“It was horrible. We were back at that abandoned house hiding in the pantry. Only this time, were kids again hiding from dad. I looked through the keyhole and mom was laying dead on the floor, just like she was on the night dad…”
“Let’s not talk about that Janet. Nothing good can come from rehashing the past.”
“I know, it’s just that the dream brought it all back. All the pain and sadness…when you ran off and left me behind in that abandoned house, it was my childhood all over again. Just like when you ran away from home and left me all alone.”
“I had to leave. I couldn’t take it anymore. Dad was always on my case. It got to the point that I knew if I watched him beat on mom or he stepped to me one more time with his fist raised then I was gonna kill him. I might have taken you with me but you were too young. The kind of life I lived out on the streets…I didn’t want that life for you.”
“I managed to put up with dad. Why couldn’t you? I never understood why you didn’t just stay long enough for me to be able to come with you.”
“I told you. I couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
Janet could feel herself getting upset all over again. Rather than say something hurtful in the heat of the moment, she set about disentangling her legs from sweat soaked blankets. Her heart was still beating fast. Going back to sleep was out of the question. Janet decided to take Josh up on his offer and visit him. After that dream, the idea of coming into contact with the shadow people was beginning to freak her out. Janet wasn’t sure she even understood what they were, let alone how to battle them. Maybe Josh had some ideas on how to combat them. Andrea was skeptical but agreed to go with her. They put their clothes back on and went down to his office.
Andrea knocked and opened the door at his invitation. They walked into a cloud of incense. Andrea inhaled appreciatively and laughed at her sister’s wrinkled nose. Soft alternative music surrounded them from hidden speakers as they walked towards the only illumination in the room. Sage sat rucked back in his seat with his sneakered feet propped up on an open desk drawer. In his lap was an enormous tome filled with engraved pages and Arabic calligraphy. He bestowed a mellow smile on them.
“Welcome ladies, what brings you to my plane of existence?”
“I just had the weirdest dream. It was the most vivid nightmare I’ve ever had. I dreamt about the shadow people I saw in an abandoned house the other day and then the winged…I don’t know, gargoyle-like shadow creature that attacked us when we were leaving the antiquities store right before we came to this place,” Janet explained.
“Wait a minute, you saw that thing? I almost had myself convinced that I imagined it. You know, with all of the chaos and our exhaustion,” said Andrea.
“I saw it as clearly as I see you now, when you froze and I turned back to get you moving again. It was like that thing had you hypnotized. It was just hovering in midair, pinning you in place with those big, red glowing orbs.”
Sage sat bolt upright and dropped his feet to the carpeted floor with a muffled thump, listening to the sister’s exchange with an eager look lighting his face. He started rubbing his hands together.
“You mean you two have actually seen shadow entities straight on? Most people only ever see them for one fleeting moment out of the corner of their eye.”
Andrea glared at him. “Don’t sound so pleased. It’s not like we saw Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. We were under attack when we saw them. We need you to tell us how to defeat the bastards. What the hell are they anyway?”
“Well in layman’s terms, they are life forces whose physical bodies have died but their souls are bound to this world by a pact or a curse of some sort. Now, if you want to look at it in strategic terms, they rank the lowest in the demon hierarchy. They are basically pawns under the control of their masters. However, even dogs sometimes strain against their leashes. They are mischievous and malevolent shape shifters who take on various forms to induce a state of paralytic fear so that they can feed off of the energy of the living. Daksha told me about her experiences battling Charles Sheffield. I can tell you that he seems to be using shadow entities as his first line of attack. It’s quite ingenious. Think about how easy it would be to defeat someone once they have been weakened by one of these psi-vamps.”
“What is a psi-vamp? I thought we were talking about shadow entities,” said Janet.
“They are all one in the same; Psychic vampires, energy eaters, your red-eyed shadow entities. They are known by many names. In fact there are different types of shadow entities.”
“How do you fight something that you can’t touch? That’s what I can’t figure out. It would be like swatting at smoke that doesn’t dissipate.”
“You would fend them off the same way you would any other type of psychic attack.”