Hero of the Shadows
“Long ago, there was a boy who saved the world.” The old woman’s blue eyes lit up with admiration as she paused before continuing on with the story.
The little girl’s bright eyes sparked with excitement. She looked up at the old woman eagerly, waiting for more. “What was his name, Grandma? Tell me, tell me!”
The old woman chuckled. “His name was Elias Colton.” She exclaimed confidently. The old woman looked so proud, as if this boy was a knight in shining armor.
The little girl sat quietly, jumping around impatiently as she waited for her grandmother to tell her more details.
“He was what you could call, well, a dream catcher. If you had a bad dream, he’d come and take it away. Nobody in this town ever had to worry about trouble sleeping.” The little girl saw her grandmother’s smile start to disappear. She could tell that this story was hard for her grandma to talk about. But why?
The little girl looked up at her grandmother in confusion. “But that’s a good thing, grandma! Everyone was safe, right?”
“Yes, you’re right dear, everyone was safe,” The old woman’s voice became low and less attached to the story. There was silence in the room for a few seconds after that, and the old woman exhaled slowly before looking at at a clock that was hanging on the wall. “Well, it looks like it’s time for you to get to bed!”
The little girl protested. “But, Grandma! It’s Saturday and I don’t want to go to bed yet!” Her eyebrows furrowed and she crossed her arms, clenching her small hands into fists.
Her grandmother ignored her protests and sighed. She calmly whispered goodnight before shutting the lamp off in the little girl’s room and leaving.
60 YEARS AGO:
“You can’t save everyone, Elias.” Her voice was soft and sounded desperate. Elias watched as she folded the ends of the paper she’d been holding, each end becoming smaller and smaller until there was nothing left to fold. His mother’s eyes were the same cobalt blue as his were, yet today they seemed darker. Deep down, he knew that what he was going to do was dangerous, but he’d always felt that it was his responsibility. Elias always believed in protecting the people around him, no matter what the cost. It’s just in his nature.
Elias swallowed the pit of guilt that seemed to be burrowing in his stomach. He pushed a strand of blond hair from his eyes and exhaled slowly, murmuring something that wouldn't of been audible if it hadn’t been so quiet. “I have to.”
His mother nodded, not in agreement, but acceptance. She had grown to the fact that Elias’ destiny was inevitable. She’d dreaded the years as they pushed on, knowing that as Elias grew older, his duties to the village would become more important and even more treacherous.
Elias walked out of the house, feeling emptiness as if he was losing a part of himself with each step he took that grew the distance from his home. The days grew on and his name became known on headlines of newspapers as the ‘Hero of the Shadows.’ He’d travel to villages far from where he lived and at night he’d take away the nightmares of young children and adults who couldn’t sleep well. Other newspaper headlines read “Nightcatcher Strikes Again!” and “Mystery! Who is the World’s Newest Hero?” Of course no one knew who he was, after all, Elias didn’t want to be praised for his work. He enjoyed walking by crowds of people who talked about this “Hero of the Shadows,” never realizing that it was him all along. However, all heroes have their limits. His mother warned him, telling him that his powers could only collect nightmares for so long before he’d have to find a way to dispose of the bad dreams he collected.
“You can’t save everyone,” the words repeated throughout Elias’ mind, and he tried to block out his mother’s voice as he walked along a dirt road path, kicking pebbles in front of him.
“You see, there’s a reason why you need overuse your powers, Elias.” His mother sat in one of the chairs in front of him at the kitchen table, her eyes intently staring into his, making sure that he was paying attention before continuing. She lowered her voice and then slowly added, “This is very important Elias, so listen.”
Elias nodded his head and slouched forward. “Yes?”
“The first stage of overusing your powers is that you’ll start seeing things-and hearing weird voices. You won’t understand any of it.”
Elias grumbled and rolled his eyes. “Mom, I told you, that’s not going to happen.”
His mother ignored him, her face still as serious as before. She had fair skin, contrary to his now tan skin from being outside a lot. “But it could, and I need you to know what happens. The second stage is called the Fever Stage. You feel very hot, and you get symptoms of a cold. It’s horrible.”
Elias imagined himself coughing and shivering, sitting somewhere alone with no one to help him. No way did he ever want to go through that. His eyes wandered around the room uncomfortably, not wanting to hear about the third stage. This time his mother's voice rose and she looked at Elias directly in the eye. “The third stage is the worst,” his mother forewarned, “It’s the stage where you faint and then all the nightmares you’ve collected enter your mind, and play like a never-ending horror movie. The thing is, you never wake up from this stage.” Her voice became quiet and the room felt tense. Elias felt a knot build up in his stomach and fear rippled through his chest, making his heart thump faster.
60 YEARS AGO:
Three. That was the number of times Elias had heard his name being called. At this point in time, he wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead or in-between. He remembered that his mother had warned him that using too much power would eventually kill him. It was an exertion that no human body could withstand. The only thing he regretted about dying was the pain that his mother would go through. He could barely look at her before he left because he knew that he wouldn’t be coming back. On the inside, he wished he could’ve spent more time with her. All he has to carry with him now are memories of the past. On the outside, Elias knows that he is a legacy and that legacy’s never go unforgotten.
The sun was setting, the sky painting pastel colors along the sky of purple, pink, and blue. Along the horizon, the sun looked bright orange against the rosy colored clouds. A few rays of light shone against the trees, making their shadows look like intricately painted designs of art. Houses in the village became quiet as people entered their homes to cook dinner. Elias was staying at the homes of family friends as he traveled around. He sat amongst his family friends as they talked about their day.
One of the younger siblings in the family, Naomi, placed her napkin in her lap and cleared her throat. “So, Elias, how long are you staying in town?”
Elias slowly looked up and felt the pressure of eyes staring directly at him, waiting for his reply. He put the metal fork down and was quiet for a moment, unsure of how to address the question. A moment later he smiled reassuringly, and said, “I’ll be staying for a couple days.”
Naomi nodded and didn’t say anything back. She just stayed silent and went back to eating as the rest of the family began asking Elias questions about his travels. The kids eagerly listened to the stories he told, absorbing up every piece of information he said like a sponge, but Naomi didn’t seem interested.
Elias sat on the bed in the guest room and sighed. In a few days from now, he knew he’d be gone, and little did his family friends know that they would never see him again. The bed was comfy and layered with blankets that looked fresh. The walls were a beige color with a tinge of brown, making the room feel comfortable. The floor was dark brown hardwood and complimented the walls, making the room seem casual and pleasant. Awoken by his daydream, he saw Naomi standing by the bedroom doorway with her arms crossed. She had a stern look on her face and her eyebrows furrowed when her eyes met with Elias’.
“Naomi?” Elias asked, surprised.
Naomi took a deep breath and marched over to where Elias was sitting. “How could you?”
Before Elias could speak, Naomi began speaking again, silencing any words Elias had to say. “I know what you are,” she whispered, and suddenly Elias jolted upwards from his slouched position, fearful of what she may say next. “But how could you hide it from so many people? You hid the fact that you’re going to die soon from everyone. And it’s all because you’re trying to save people.” Tears were streaming from her face and she wiped them away fiercely, refusing to acknowledge that they were ever there.
Elias sat stunned, practically speechless. “Naomi,” he said softly, and then added, “Naomi, I’m sorry, but-but I have to save-” He was cut off by her shout in frustration.
“No, no! You don’t have to. You don’t have to save anyone. You’ve saved enough people. Don’t you get it? You’ll die, Elias!” Her voice rose at the last part into a roar and she ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her. The sound of the door slamming reverberated throughout Elias’ mind and the words Naomi said replayed again and again as he thought about how torn apart he was.
60 YEARS AGO:
The voice snickered, and Elias hated how much he felt mocked. “Didn’t your mommy warn you that this would happen?”
Elias growled and ignored the voice that continued to talk. The ugly voice mimicked his mother’s, crying out, “Elias, stay home, please.”
This time Elias couldn’t take it anymore. In a useless attempt, he started yelling. “Get out of my head!”
The voice responded in a raspy tone filled with sick amusement. “Don’t worry, I’ll be gone soon and you’ll be dead.”
Elias tried to ignore the voice but everytime he tried blocking it out, it felt as though his head was being slammed against a brick wall.
In a desperate attempt, Elias cried, “Please, leave me alone.” His voice sounded exhausted and he felt drained. He lay on the cold grass and closed his eyes, finally feeling the peacefulness of silence.
The voice whispered a few last words before fading away, but nevertheless sounded as sick and devious as before. “Have a good few last days before your long sleep!” The voice laughed as it vanished.
The next few days were the worst days Elias had ever spent in his entire life. He constantly felt hot, no matter what the weather was. He sweat all the time and it felt as if his whole body was on fire. He recalled a memory of something his mother had once said, and wished she was here right now to help him.
“The second stage is called the Fever Stage. You feel very hot, and you get symptoms of a cold. It’s horrible.”
The fever and hot flashes finally went away and Elias was just starting to feel normal again when one night as he tried to fall asleep he began dreaming of horrible monsters and demon-like creatures.
It was a flash. Then a bang. Explosions. Explosions everywhere. Fire. Fire. Gasping for air. Someone call a doctor. Someone call an ambulance. Someone call- Someone help. Please. Help. The air was black and thick with cloudy smoke as Elias felt himself trying to crawl through it. He was on the ground, and debris were laying everywhere. He heard the screams of children and people trying to run away. Monsters stomped their way through villages, crushing anything that lay in their path. He felt himself being dragged away as he scratched at what was left of the ground. Desperately, he let out a scream. Suddenly, everything flashed and whiteness appeared in front of his eyes.
Growling, rabid dogs chasing him. He runs, but the rabid dogs seem to move at an impossibly fast speed. Foam is spilling from their mouths and they look hungry for fresh meat. They howl and claw at him. He can’t get away. He can’t move. Red. Everything’s red. Red is oozing from his head. Pain. He feels pain in his left arm, and then in his right. Someone help. He can’t fend them away. He feels like he's dying. Maybe he's dying.
Black. Black. Black. Everything was black. Nothing was visible. It was nothingness. It was a- It was a hole of darkness. The world seemed to go blank, and light was nowhere to be found. Elias felt his heart thump through his chest as he tried to feel his way through the darkness. The more he tried to move or see through anything, the more he seemed to be sucked into the blackness. He screamed and screamed but no sounds escaped his voice. He felt dead.
It was morning time and the sun was beginning to rise. The air was clear and birds chirped morning melodies as they started their day to day routines. The little girl woke up and galloped down the stairs, ready to begin her day too. She smelled the aroma of bacon and eggs being cooked on the stove.
She sat in one of the chairs near the table and greeted her grandmother with a good morning, then said, “Grandma Naomi, you never finished the story about Elias Colton.”
Her grandmother turned away from the stove and looked at her and smiled. “Would you like to hear the rest of the story, darling?”
The little girl beamed from her chair and smiled. “Yes Grandma! I do want to hear the rest! Tell me!”
Her grandmother chuckled and finished the rest of the story, and the little girl interrupted her a few times to ask questions. “And that, my dear, is why they named him Hero of the Shadows. His legacy lives on, even today.”
The little girl looked up to her grandmother and laughed. “I want to be just like Elias Colton when I grow up, Grandma!”