Penumbra

Day one

2:00 am

Something awoke Fahd. The room was dark, its stillness interrupted by the hum of the fridge. He sat up and reached for his phone. The glare took a second to get accustomed to, and as he winced his eyes, he saw a message from Rami: If I call you, do not pick up.

He yawned, put the phone down and went back to sleep.

2:10 am

His phone illuminated but otherwise made no sound; it was on silent. It went dim after 45 seconds.

2:37 am

The man in a red cape stood in front of Fahd with his head bowed and his hands clasped together in front of him. He slowly revealed his right hand and pointed to the ground where an owl stood. A light appeared at the tip of his finger that produced a blinding flash, forcing Fahd to shield his eyes.

“You’re finally awake. We have very little time,” said the man. Fahd stood motionless, incapable of moving, and a force had seemingly taken hold of his head, preventing him from looking away. “I know what must be done.” The words left his lips free of his will. It had happened before, but he never paid much heed to it and dismissed it as an act of subconscious expression. Yet, somehow, something was different this time. He felt like he was trapped within a body that was not his, compelled to observe like an unwelcome guest hiding behind a veil.

“He will make himself seen, and you will know when the right time will be.” The man raised both his arms as a beam of light descended from the sky.

3:50 am

“Fahd. Fahd. Wake up.”

His girlfriend was shaking him up, as she has been doing so for the past week. Fahd sat upright. “Was I talking in my sleep again?” He turned to her and saw her face consumed with fear, tears in her eyes.” “Fahd, I really want to be there for you, but it’s been getting worse.”

“What was I saying? Could you hear any of it?”

“Fahd, you were screaming.” She covered her mouth to hold in a whimper. “I can’t…I can’t do this anymore.” She switched on the light and got out of the bed. I know it’s late, but could you please go?”

Fahd picked up his phone and checked the time. He had six missed calls from Rami.

“No, I understand. I’m sorry; I wish I knew what any of this is.”

“Do you not remember anything?”

“Just fleeting images. A man, a bird. I don’t know. Nothing that makes sense.”

He got up and put on his clothes. “I’ll call you later.”

“No, not until these episodes stop.”

He glanced at her for a moment, nodded, and left the apartment. The hallway lights flickered on, and though the city was blanketed with a layer of stillness, he could hear the murmurs of TVs from neighboring apartments and the shaking of keys as people locked or unlocked their doors.

4:25 am

Fahd turned the corner to his apartment building and heard a whisper. He turned around and stared at the empty street behind him. In the distance, he could see two men crossing the road and a woman seemingly walking her dog, her face lit with her phone. He continued walking toward his apartment but noticed that his steps were faster.

As he approached the main entrance to the building, a voice spoke through the intercom. “Are you still there?” It sounded like Ms. Parker, his neighbor from 405. He decided to ignore the occurence and pulled out his key from his pocket.

“Why aren’t you answering me? Hello?” Fahd looked around him to confirm there was no one else that could have been there. “Ms. Parker, it’s Fahd, your neighbor. Whoever you were talking to apparently left.”

There was a shuffling sound and then she said “He’s here” before hanging up.

“Ms. Parker?”

No response.

Fahd unlocked the door and went into the building. He pressed the elevator button and noticed that it had curiously been at the fourth floor.

He stepped out of the elevator and walked down the hall. 401, 403, 405. He paused infront of Ms Parker’s apartment; there wasn’t a sound. 407, 409…he heard footsteps behind him. He swung around prepared to face off with his intrepid pursuer. Nothing.

6:00 am

Fahd rolled down the window blinds, took off his clothes, and lay down in his bed. He picked up his phone and remembered the missed calls from Rami. He’ll call him back later in the day.