When it started, I couldn't understand what was happening or why. All I knew was that it wasn't normal. When I asked others if they felt what I felt, saw what I saw, no one ever corroborated me. My mother thought I was pulling her chain and my friends assumed I was just weird and laughed at me when I asked.
I can remember as far back as when I was four or five years old when a frigid, almost freezing breeze would run across my neck and down my spine. This feeling always came before I would feel and see this thing that has latched on to me most of my conscious life. When it would reveal itself, a strange, shadowy figure would lurk at the corner of my eyes like a flighty hummingbird. Whenever I tried to steel a glimpse, it would move with me and stay at my periphery. One day though, that changed. When I saw the shadow creeping, I turned to rob a glance and it didn't move. I jumped in my seat and felt my gut tighten to a knot. I couldn't explain or understand what I was seeing. Slowly it floated towards me. But like a deer staring into a pair of headlights, I was frozen. I could feel my arms, legs and jaw stiffen and tremble. As this tall and lanky shadow drew closer, I couldn’t discern any detail. I felt I was I was starring at smoke or moving water that refused a steady state. What really stiffened my every hair was the red that ran and bled from from every edge like a melting candle in a hot oven. The sight was abhorrent and terrifying to a level I couldn’t process. I didn't understand that level of mind numbing fear at such a young age. Nothing could prepared me for what I was seeing.
Somehow though, as it advanced towards me, I instinctively knew this thing wouldn't hurt me. When it stopped the creepy figure just stood there, examined me from head to toe; every move, every feeling felt like it was being scrutinized and judged. I was being tested. This thing needed to know if I was what it was looking for. It's messenger. Death's messenger.
It was a few years later, in fourth grade, when I finally understood the role death had for me. It was the commencement of a new life. A life I never wanted and would never escape. Mr. Leonard, the school groundskeeper was my first victim. I remember staring out the classroom window, looking at Mr. Leonard raking the leaves from the previous night's heavy winds. The man looked tired and beat, more than before. Stains of sweat permeated the rim of his straw hat as he raked piles of dead leaves blown off the Sycamore trees in the playground. I remember staring at him through the browned and dusty window. I wondered if he could see me through the dirty window. I waved at him and he looked away, like if he was ashamed to be caught looking in. I felt a visceral connection to the man. I could feel his mind clouded in a melancholy of sorrow backed by an indescribable pain that resonated every limb of his short and stout frame.
That connection triggered something else: the resurgence of the familiar shadow. It materialized at my peripheries. I caught it hanging on the corners of both my eyes. Unlike before, the shadow left my periphery and entered my field of vision. I saw it standing directly before me when no one else in the classroom could. I looked around to see if any one was seeing what I was, but I was alone. As the shadow got closer and advanced on me, my fingers clawed at the desk. I could feel the hairs at the base of my neck, my arms and even the top of my head come to attention. Inches from my face, I could feel the familiar cold breeze around me in the hot and musky classroom. Letting a breath escape, which I had held captive for a moment, I could see my breath like smoke from a tobacco pipe. As it stood before me, I felt it analyzing my thoughts. Not just any thoughts, but my thoughts on the man outside the window. It lingered there until it was sure, sure of what I needed to do with the man.
I tried shaking my head and waving the shadow away, but it wouldn't budge. I could hear the teacher talking to the classroom, but everything around me was muffled. My vision, hearing and every other sense was focused solely on the shadow. I tried calming myself, but my heart pulsed through my ears like a fast and steady drum beat. Unconsciously, I turned to look out the window again at Mr. Leonard. He was frozen in fear. He saw what I saw. At that instant, I felt the shadow engulf me. Something change in me. My mind was clear and singular in purpose.
When the classroom bell rang, I stormed out of the classroom. I left my backpack and laptop on the desk and rushed to the janitor's closet. I opened the door, but I didn't turn the lights on in the small and darkened room. I didn't need the lights. I could see everything in the pitch dark room. I stood in the room, quiet, like a statue clinching his fist waiting for Mr. Leonard. I could feel my hands beginning to sweat. When I looked down at my hands, they were glowing as if I was holding a bright red lights inside my hands. I can see my hands to the bone as the light tried to escape my fists. Opening my hands to see the light, I found a red onyx pearls in each hand. The pearls were the size of a large marble. They glowed and pulsated a deep red color of blood.
As the hands of the clock on the wall ticked away, I remained still up until the moment I felt the pain. I heard the doorknob turning. As the door swung open and saw Mr. Leonard, I instinctively knew to slap the two red onyx pearls on to the man's chest. Before he ever knew who or what slapped him, I was out of the room running into the crowded hallway. It was seconds later when I heard the first group of children yell. Mr. Leonard was dead. That's when I felt and saw the shadow leave my body. A minute or two after the event, I returned to my classroom and saw the dark red shadow at the base of the large Sycamore tree Mr. Leonard had been cleaning. This time though, it wasn't alone. It was accompanied by another shadow: Mr. Leonard's. I could sense and feel him. The pain he felt earlier was gone. It was now replaced with confusion and fright, but a serendipity clouded him throughout.
Ten years later, i'm still a prisoner to the shadow. I'm forced to walk crowded streets and ride busy buses waiting for a connection. The instant I feel a link to another human and see and feel the shadow by me, I breeze my hands across a person's leg, arm, or shoulder and watch them cross a threshold I still can't understand.
Only once have I tried ignoring the shadow and learned the hard way never to do it again. On the first occasion, I felt the that congenital connection to my college best friend, Justin. The moment I felt that eerie feeling, I ran away leaving my friend half sentence. I knew what was starting to happen and I couldn't allow it. Not to a friend of mine. It was easy with a stranger. I didn't have to face their families or families. Already, I could barely live with myself knowing I was responsible for the death hundreds of strangers over the years; I couldn't fathom living with the knowledge I ended a friend. So I ran and hid. I locked myself in my car and started driving away. As I drove by the street I had just left, I couldn't believe was I was seeing happen. It was impossible to ignore. Hundreds, if not thousands of red shadows emerge from every corner. Helplessly terrified, I watched as Justin ran from the shadows and tried fending them off. I could see him swinging his arms wildly in all directions like a crazy man shadow boxing the night air. The people around Justin couldn't see what he and I were seeing. Swarms of shadows engulfed Justin like angry hornets fighting an invader to their nest. Justin's screams of agony were hard to watch - no one could stop him in his craze. Again, I was frozen like when I was a child. I watched as he tried running away from something no one can understand. After a few breathless seconds of terror, Justin laid dead on the street. Worst of all, I watched as the red shadows flew away with the essence his life. My shadow though, the one that has clung to me for years hung at my periphery. I could feel an unnerving disappointment that I couldn't allow happen again.
That's when I realized I had a special duty. I wasn't just killing. I was helping death shepherd people them to the next stage. It was my job to keep the darker shadows away.