Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Dream of Shadow Part 1

The last rays of sunlight are touching my porch, and they are no longer sweltering hot, like at midday, but pleasant, peaceful. I bask in the evening warmth as I sit here on my old wooden rocker. The weariness of a hard day of toil is pulling at me, and I settle down more comfortably in my seat. Life in this little solitary cabin of my little secluded farm may not be what most people consider a paradise, but God designed this farmer at least to enjoy it. I have carved out a small piece of land from this wild forest around me, and it is my paradise. I have all the work I can handle here, but all the blessings I need.

I often collapse on this old rocker of an evening, rocking back and forth as I count my blessings. Better than counting sheep, at least, but with near the same effect. I slump lower in my rocker and kick off my worn leather boots with a thump onto my porch. My stockinged feet swing slightly in time with my rocking, and my eyes droop.

The crickets are chirping merrily, and their song is the most melodious of melodies during these dog days of summer. The lullaby lulls me even closer to the edge of sleep. It would seem even nature would have me rest, what with the warm evening rays and the crickets’ lullaby. I make one half-hearted attempt to shift my position and open my heavy eyelids. It doesn’t work. My last conscious thought is a wry realization that my snores will be a poor compliment to the crickets’ melody . . .


The slight evening breeze played with the green grass of the farm pasture, tousling the wavy blades before sweeping down the valley. The breeze reached the edge of the pasture and dove headlong into the forest beyond, weaving its way through the sturdy trunks of big leaf maples and the speckled, more slender trunks of alders. The first brown leaves of the season were detached from their lofty perches by the breeze, and they fell slowly to the undergrowth of the forest floor below.

Some of the leaves fell by a gaping hole among the gnarled tree roots. The hole was much bigger than you would see among the regular habitats of the forest creatures, and something about it gave the air of mystery—and dread. A scuffling noise came from the hole, and as if caught by the breeze, guttural moans were indistinctly heard. The scuffling grew louder, and the moans turned to muttered curses and foul laments. Then suddenly a head stuck out of the hole, followed by a body.

A loathsome creature crouched before the hole in the forest floor. Its overall hygiene was little better than the dirt it had crawled its way out of. It wore a few torn and filthy rags, and its hair hung in tangled, ratty locks down its grizzled head. That the creature was once a man was hard to believe, despite the fact that its physical appearance attested to that fact. But whatever it once was, it was apparent that the thing that arose from the forest floor lived now as little more than the lowest of the forest creatures.

It turned its head to the west, its dark eyes glinting fiercely. The sun was just falling below the horizon, and the creature waited in the gathering gloom, neither flinching nor uttering a sound from above its hole. Finally the light faded and died, replaced by the night, and the creature smiled a thin, malicious smile. A low hiss came from between its rotted teeth, and it began to creep forward through the trees.

An hour later it reached the edge of the forest. It hesitated only a moment, wavering in its resolve, but then it moved forth in the dark. The creature in a stooped, shuffling manner walked through a waving grass pasture, heading for the one place that would keep him alive . . . a little solitary cabin in the middle of a little secluded farm.


I looked out across the field from my rocker. It was dark, the only light coming from a sliver of moon high in the heavens. The breeze was chilled now, and I shivered and rose to retire inside my cabin. Padding inside on stockinged feet, I beheld my simple cabin by the soft moonlight that filtered through the door. The main room contained a small table with several rough-hewn wooden chairs clustered around it, and at the other end of the room was my one source of heat during the raging winter weather, a gaping brick fireplace. It was on the mantle above the fireplace where rested my pride and joy: an ancient broad sword that had been passed down to me from my master. Despite its age, the blade’s double edges were still razor sharp, but alas, the magnificent blade had long since been covered with a thick layer of dust for want of use.

A tiny attachment to the one main room housed my cot and a little lamp stand—a very unaspiring bedroom, to be sure, but suitable. My bathroom was a leaky outhouse a hundred feet from my cabin, but I had kept a looking glass inside the cabin, hung up against a bit of free space on one of the walls. It was this mirror to which I was unexplainably drawn.

I gazed at the reflection of my face in the mirror. This was something I usually tried to avoid, for I was no lover of my face. It was not completely unsightly, I suppose, but still—tanned and weather beaten, creased and worn—I had no fond affections (and little motivation) for preening myself before something so revealing as a mirror. God had not blessed me with “beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance” as He had done to the Biblical youth David.

I shook my head in weary subjection and stepped away from the mirror, but my face’s reflection did not disappear. Instead, it evolved into a near likeness that was much more hideous. My face had become disheveled—my hair matted, my teeth rotted and black. But yet, I had backed away from the mirror; it was not reflecting my image. I spun around and saw that standing behind me and a little to the side, in front of the mirror, was a man hideous to look at. So hideous was he, that the word “creature” was perhaps a more accurate description. He was stooped and ragged, and his body was pitifully scrawny. His hollow, glinting eyes locked with mine for a brief second. I gasped in horror and backed away almost frantically.

My hand struck the edge of my table, and I ran my hand over the wooden surface till it suddenly touched the little battery-powered lantern I kept at hand for my nighttime chores. In a second I had grasped the lantern and clicked it on. I held it up, and the shallow light of the moon was replaced by the bright glow of my lantern. But my haunt was not in sight.

A shuffling noise came from the corner of my cabin furthest away from the light, and a cold chill swept up my spine, making the hair on the back of my spine stand on end. There was a hiss as of a deadly snake, and then a voice, shrill and broken, wafted across the room. “Please, it burns me! Extinguish the light!”

“I will not! Show yourself!” I shouted back.

There was only silence from the shadowed corner.

“Who are you?” I asked after a moment in a quieter voice, trying to sound calm.

I strained for the answer, but there was no immediate one. My ears only just discerned the shallow intake of breath coming from the corner. I waited warily.

“You know who I am, Chris Newman,” came the hissed reply at length.

When the thing hissed my name, it slowly dawned on me that I had encountered the man—or creature—before. A wave of dread made me almost sick. Of course! Though he was more shriveled than I had ever seen him before, I suddenly recognized the creature—even from my one horrified glance of him—as the man who had once controlled me, keeping me captive to his every will. And his will had been pure evil.

My new, kind master had freed me from this creature some time ago, but now it often came at night to beg scraps from me to keep itself alive. The roles were now reversed—I was master, it was slave.

I spoke angrily to the shadow lurking in the corner. “Senis, I told you never to come back.”

Senis—that was what I called the creature. It was a fitting name for the filth, the creature that would never step into the light. I despised him and had even tried to kill him with the broad sword my master had given me, but still he never left me alone for long.

“I will not feed you again,” I continued.

“Just this once,” the thrill voice pleaded. “I once looked after you!”

You kept me in chains! I serve a new master now, and he has told me to be rid of you!”

“But your master has said he will forgive you for feeding me!” Senis whined.

I could not answer him imediantly. What the shriveled creature had said was true. My master had forbade me from feeding Senis, but due to his amazing grace alone, my master had also said that he would forgive me for breaking his commands.

“Why would I feed you?” I asked, still holding the shining lantern before me.

“Because deep down inside you still want what I can offer you—and I can give you much, my master.” Senis’s voice morphed into a completely different tone, as if he could sense the indecision in my heart. His voice lost its hiss, replaced by words that dripped with hidden suggestions. “But please, you need not feed me, only turn off the light,” the creature suddenly suggested.

I wavered for an instant, but in that moment of indecision I suddenly was resolved. In a second I had clicked off the lantern, and the room was pitched into eerie gloom again. I was secretly attracted to what Senis could offer me; the old life had not been all bad.

There was movement. Senis had no need of his shadowed corner anymore. I looked around in the dim, moonlit room as my eyes adjusted to the gloom, but I didn’t see him. My gaze turned to the door. It was open, swinging slightly in the breeze. In a few quick steps I could be outside, away from the creature. There was a way of escape. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave now, not without knowing what Senis would offer me. What harm could the starved creature do to me anyway? I could easily overpower him.

Or so I thought.
Part two coming soon!
 More about the story:
"A Dream of Shadow" was written one rainy weekend after I listened to Casting Crowns "Waiting on the Night to fall", the song that directly inspired the story. You can listen to "Waiting on the Night to Fall" below:

If you are curious about the Biblical analogy of the song/my story, I would highly recommend reading Romans 6:1-14 and/or Colossians 3:1-11. May all of us gain victory over our "old man" through Christ's power in our lives!

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