In The Shadows – Trauma Flash Fiction

Welcome to Trauma Fiction Tuesdays.
I’ve selected several real-life trauma prompts – from my own life or those around me – and have written fiction for each.

This Week’s Prompt:
Bipolar Psychosis – The Shadow Man

The following story discusses Bipolar Psychosis.

Sometimes I don’t notice it. I’ll be going about my day, and there’ll just be a shadow in the corner of my eye. Sometimes, it’s far away; other times it’s directly next to me. But, after years, I’ve gotten used to it. 

However, as time passes, it’s no longer just a shadow.

Friday night Movies with my friends are always fun, being surrounded by friendly faces and getting a good laugh before the weekend starts. 

As we go through the second horror film of the night, I notice the shadow growing. 

This happens every time my mania kicks in; the shadow grows until it’s impossible to ignore.

I take a deep breath, adjusting how I’m sitting so that my back is slightly angled toward the shadow.

“You okay?” Mickey whispers, noticing my sudden rigidity as I sit next to him. 

I nod. “Fine,” I mumble as I keep my eyes on the screen.

Our friends know I’m Bipolar but don’t know about the hallucinations. It’s rare to be able to tell someone without them looking at you as if you’re nuts. Since my own family started treating me differently because of it – I don’t feel comfortable telling my friends. 

Mickey goes back to watching the film, though I can feel him regularly glancing at me as I try to focus on the screen.

Don’t look at it. I raise my right thumb to my mouth, chewing on my nail – a filthy habit but a better distraction to the shadow than not doing anything at all. 

“Stop it,” Jessica growls, pulling my hand away from my mouth. 

Great… I bite my lip, noticing the shadow coming closer. Don’t look. 

As the film ends, the screen goes dark as the credits roll. The only light in the room now comes from the back glow and white text of the TV. 

The shadow is in the corner of the room, as tall as the ceiling but thin. It’s not the usual shape but nothing I’ve not seen before.

“Right, let’s get some popcorn made before the next film,” Jessica says and stands up.

As she reaches for the lights, I force my eyes to focus on the screen. It’ll go… The shadows usually go away when the lights come back on, almost as if my brain is overworking in the dark. 

The lights flick back on, and suddenly, the shadow is still there. I inhale dramatically as if something scary has happened in the film. My hand reaches for Mickey’s and squeezes tightly. 

All eyes are now on me, and my eyes are begging to turn.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Mickey whispers.

Through shaky breaths, I stutter, “it’s still there…”

“What’s happening?” Jessica asks, a concerned tone in her voice as she rushes back to the couch. “Christ, she’s shaking.” Her arms cradle me, her right hand stroking my arm as if to soothe me. 

“She’s in a manic episode, so she’s dealing with some of the worst symptoms today,” Mickey explains, trying not to go into too much detail.

“Like what? What is this symptom supposed to be?” Jessica questions, beginning to rock me slightly – her mothering instincts kicking in.

“Psychosis,” I mutter and sigh. Bit by bit, I slowly look towards the shadow. It’s no longer just a shadow figure in the dark; it’s now a shadow person – like a puppet. 

As my eyes begin to climb, raising to see the face of the creature in the corner, I gasp. A dark shadowy face, burning bright red eyes and a smile as wide as it’s head. Without thinking, I stand and move as far away from it as possible – keeping my eyes firmly on the creature.

“Sandra!” Mickey shouts, jumping over our friends sitting on the floor and standing between me and the shadow – whose eyes have followed me across the room. “What’s happeneing?”

“It’s not just a shadow…” I cry.

“What can I do? How can I help?” He whispers, his hands on my shoulders. 

After a minute of silence, Mickey squeezes. As if trying to get my attention. My eyes snap to him, focusing on his face. Tears well in my eyes as panic and despair set in. I’d been warned this was coming but never believed it. “I don’t know what to do…”



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