The Shadow Man

A little nervous sharing this story because it sort of makes me sound crazy, but I’ve got to know if anyone else has ever heard of or experienced something similar.

First I guess you probably need a little background.

The other day I was sitting at a bar talking to my friend Mike. We went to a private religious school together during middle school.  We hadn’t seen each other in about 20 years, but we’ve kept in touch on social media.  He had business a trip that brought him back to Dallas and he asked if I wanted to meet up.

While we were drinking Mike started talking about how much he hated our school and how it eventually drove him away from religion. I understood what he meant.  Our school made the Southern Baptist Convention look like a den of Libertines.  We had chapel every morning and the Pastor/Principle talked about things like total human depravity and how worthless we were in the eyes of God.  I got detention once for explaining disco to a classmate.  We were watching some film about the end times made back in the 1970s and there was a section that took place in a night club.  I mentioned that they were listening to disco and even did my own version of John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever dance to try and get a laugh.  My teacher promptly told me that homosexuals invented disco and how dare I glorify their lifestyle through my demonstration.  To be honest, it could have been worse.  The school still practiced corporal punishment, so just getting detention was a gift.

“You know what finally did it for me?” Mike said, “Do you remember that girl with epilepsy?”

I shivered and felt a knot form in my stomach. I knew exactly who he was talking about.  Her name was Virginia Hall.  One day during gym she had a seizure.  I remember her lying in a corner of the gym twitching and writhing.  White foam burbled out of her mouth and rolled down her cheek.

As if that weren’t scary enough, her sisters Alice and Whitney were standing next to her sobbing and shrieking hysterically.

“It’s him,” Alice said. “He’s trying to take her soul!”

“What?” I asked.

“There’s a man in a dark suit trying to steal her soul,” Whitney said. “His face looks like a shadow. Sometimes Virginia sees him standing outside her bedroom window at night.  He’s gotta be in the gym right now.  This happens when he’s trying to take her soul away from her and she has to fight him.”

Rather than call a doctor, the Principle and his wife stood over her and prayed. Eventually the seizure stopped and the day went on like nothing had ever happened.  The whole thing scared the hell out of me.  I was already a pretty nervous kid, the type who had nightmares about the book of Revelations.  At night I was always convinced that things were moving around in my house just out of view, so this demon thing got under my skin and buried itself there.

“I’d known people with epilepsy,” Mike said. “My aunt had it and so did my grandmother.  So, I knew exactly what was really happening.  It pissed me off that rather than treating it everyone just babbled on about demonic possession.  I told my parents about it and that’s why I transferred at the end of the semester.”

Mike took a long drink and signaled to the bartender for another.

“When I got old enough to make the decision I stopped going to church,” he said. “I haven’t stepped foot in one since.  I didn’t even have my wedding in one.  Now I’ve got a kid and he’s never set foot in a church.  I never told my wife or my kid about the B.S. at that school.  I try to pretend I never even went there.”

He shifted around in his seat and stared at the floor. I could tell he was struggling to find the right words to say.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “My son is epileptic. They just diagnosed him and he’s getting treatment, but before his first seizure he said something.  He said, ‘Dad there’s a man with a shadow face watching me.’”

I felt sick to my stomach and my chest went tight. I couldn’t talk and had to get up and walk out of the bar.  I got in my car and drove away without saying goodbye.  See, there was something I never told anyone about that day, something I’d spent a couple decades trying to convince myself wasn’t real.  While Virginia was having her seizure and her sisters crying, I saw him.  I saw the man with the shadow face and a dark suit standing in the corner of the gym.