Agoraphobic & Shadow Man (Friday Fictioneers, March 2013)

Copyright Jennifer Pendergast

Two for the price of one at Friday Fictioneers this week; partly because the first one is very much inspired by a story I read as a child, and have always remembered.  I’m not sure if it was by Edgar Allen Poe, so if anyone can tag the title/author for me, I’d be grateful.  It was a masterpiece, and my update is just a pale imitation that I wrote simply to scare myself…  So on that basis I wrote the second one, because I felt I’d been self-indulgent, and had cheated slightly… 😉

Agoraphobic

Today’s the day; I’ve promised myself I’ll do this.

Closing the door to the apartment, shaking and sweating, I start the descent to the foyer, counting the steps as I go.

One…two…three…

At seventy-six steps, I can see the foyer, the concierge and beyond that a world I’ve not visited in over ten years.  Panic washes over me; my surroundings lurch drunkenly.

I turn and begin the climb back to safety… some other time… …when I’m feeling better.

My heart is pounding; my legs are weak.  Sixty-nine, seventy…  almost there.

Oh God! No door in sight, just stairs.

Eighty nine, ninety…

**0**

Shadow Man

I know he’s up there; I can hear him breathing.

Every night this week he’s followed me home, hat pulled low over his features, shoulders hunched in a navy raincoat.  When I’ve turned, he’s stopped, stared into a shop-window, disappeared into a doorway.

But tonight, he was ahead of me, and I decided I’d been wrong, over-suspicious; paranoid even.

Until he turned into the doorway of my apartment block.

Rain pools at my feet; wet footprints lead up the stairs towards my apartment.

I hear the lock snick into place behind me as the lights begin to dim.

It’s starting…


About Sandra

I cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and write fiction and poetry. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Friday Fictioneers, Just Sayin' and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Agoraphobic & Shadow Man (Friday Fictioneers, March 2013)

  1. Dear Sandra,
    I really like both of these stories, no matter what the influence. My favorite line…”I hear the lock snick into place…” Chillingly descriptive. Well done as usual.
    Shalom,
    Rochelle

    Like

  2. rich says:

    suggestions: “hat pulled low over his features…” what are those features? we all have features, but what sets him apart? crooked nose? sharp cheekbones? prominent brow? near-black eyes? you can make him seem more real – and sinister – with something other than just “features.”

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you for commenting. The premise of the story is that she’s not sure whether she knows this ‘thing’ that’s been following her. I say ‘thing’ because whatever is waiting at the top of the stairs has the power to lock the door behind her as she stands at the foot of the stairs. That phenomena, for her, is the confirmation that her worst fears have been realised, her follower IS the person she fears and that some process she’s been dreading is beginning, as evidenced by the conclusion ‘it’s starting’.

      So adding any kind of description to the aggressor’s features would destroy the basic premise of the story.

      I take it, from what you say though, that you’re not a convert to the belief that the reader’s imagination, left to itself, has the power to conjure up horrors more vivid than can mere words themselves.

      Like

      • rich says:

        To answer about “the premise of the story…I say’thing’ because…”

        I’m not denying or disagreeing or “dis”anything with the premise that it could be a “thing” instead of a physical person at the top of the stairs. However, I wasn’t certain, and it seemed real/physical based on the wet footprints, so I assumed it was a physical person. but that wasn’t what you were thinking, and that’s okay.

        To answer about “So adding any kind of description to the aggressor’s features would destroy the basic premise of the story.” Do you feel it would destroy the basic premise because features are a physical thing?

        To answer about “I take it, from what you say though, that you’re not a convert… that the reader’s imagination… has the power to conjure up horrors more vivid than can mere words themselves.” Being or not being a convert of that wasn’t the situation. Instead, it was just that I was reading it as a more physical intruder/evil than an intruder/evil kind of spirit sort of thing.

        Like

        • Sandra says:

          Do I feel it would destroy the basic premise because features are a physical thing? Yes, I think features bring substance to what essentially was planned to be an exercise for the imagination. Thanks for commenting again and clarifying your take on the story.

          Like

  3. 40again says:

    Excellent. I like both of these. In the first story, the line “Oh God! No door in sight, just stairs” completely conveys the terror felt; the second story just sent shivers down my spine.
    Scary and well done

    Like

  4. Sandra says:

    I love both stories. The first maybe a tad better but that’s only because it feels more psychological, and I love that kind of horror. Well done.

    Like

  5. Steve B says:

    Oooh. Both good, but I really like the Shadow Man. Wonderously vague at the end. “It’s starting…” Let’s your mind fill in the blanks with all manner of disturbing possibilities.

    http://smallquietplace.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/the-sound-of-goodbye/

    Like

  6. Sunshine says:

    chills…eek, your second story is way too spooky knowing that thing…oh, running away…going back to your first story. okay, much better. 🙂 (i enjoyed these. ♥)

    Like

  7. Both excellently terrifying.

    janet

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thanks Janet. I couldn’t follow the explanatory links on yours because of this dire connection I’m on, but will revisit and comment when I have the full picture on my return to civilisation (civilization ;)) next week.

      Like

  8. kdillmanjones says:

    Both are nice! I love the second one especially, since it gave me kind of a sense of creepiness and uncertainty. Nice work!

    Like

  9. I like them both for different reasons. The first is composed of a fear that anyone could possess on any given day. The second piece has that sinister, dark feeling that you want to read about but you never want it to actually occur

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you. I think agoraphobia must be a dreadful affliction but being followed by someone/thing that you’re half anticipating must be equally unnerving.

      Like

  10. Both great reads… The second one sent a chill through me… 😉

    Like

  11. pennycoho says:

    I like them both, each a clever take on the prompt! the first is my favorite as I can almost feel the emotional pain of a person who suffers from a fear of heights. 🙂

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      I think in the original one, which no-one has yet identified, the protagonist was someone climbing a dark tower in fear, though I don’t recall it was a fear of heights. I think it was just ghostliness. But I’m glad you enjoyed them and thank you for commenting.

      Like

  12. Both well done, but I found the second one more chilling. I like the ambiguity of “features.” His hat is pulled low specifically to keep her from seeing those features, I imagine. I was surprised to learn the narrator was a female. I envisioned a man, with the possibility that the Shadow had overtaken the Man, leaving the Man to live as the Shadow.

    Very creepy this week, Sandra!

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      You surprise me that you thought the narrator was a male. But then your interpretation of the shadow overtaking the man is quite ingenious; I wish I’d thought of that. Maybe I’ll develop that concept further. Thank you.

      Like

  13. claireful says:

    I’m not sure I could choose between them. Both equally creepy.

    Like

  14. Both very nice and both scary, although for very different reasons.

    Like

  15. nightlake says:

    both of them are very good:) but was more interested in the second one..the ending makes you want to know more..

    Like

  16. Read both, enjoyed both, the second however brought it home, you do the ‘dark side’ well Sandra.

    Like

  17. The first is timely for me as I watched “Finding Forrester” last night (an old favorite in which Sean Connery plays an agoraphobic author). It was interesting reading your two takes (that’s what I like about the Fictioneers–reading all the different stories inspired by the same prompt)–both well done.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      There’s certainly been a varied take on the prompt this week. It’s nice when everyone goes off on different tangents like this… Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  18. Both stories are excellent. I felt every word with anxiety.

    Like

  19. yepiratehere says:

    It is very interesting that you put both into the first person – definitely works best for the anxiety. In the first story it is veritably the key to the success. In the second the reader is transported by words so forgets to know whether she survives to tell the tale or not, because she is actually living it, right there and then, not just because of the avid style, but also the clever unnoticed use of simple present tense.Well done!

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you! Sometimes I worry (well not exactly worry… more I’m concerned) that I’m more comfortable writing in the first person. I really have to force myself out of it, and nearly always am less successful in doing so where horror/macabre stories are concerned.

      Like

      • yepiratehere says:

        Wonderful quick chat! 3rd person is so much easier…but I agree with you…it’s just not…right, with macabre for sure not..and maybe even just not. I just don’t know who is speaking, even though find reading no problem when written in 3rd person.

        Like

  20. writeondude says:

    Very good, both of them. For more ghostly goings on, you know where to find me …

    Like

  21. Kir Piccini says:

    oh I liked both of them, they were just spooky enough for a scaredy-cat like me.

    “It’s starting..” was the perfect ending for the Beginning.

    Like

  22. Trudy says:

    The second story with the mysterious stranger is chilling, but I was quite moved by the first one. You described her physical sensations so vividly, I could almost taste her fear. Really striking.

    Like

  23. Brilliant and brilliant.
    Loved them both.
    Well written and superbly tense.

    Like

  24. wmqcolby says:

    Awesome stories, Sandra! Very Hitchockian.

    Like

  25. Tom Poet says:

    OK I like the second story much more than the first. There is nothing wrong with the first story…It just that I have hard time sympathizing with people who have irrational fears. So it was difficult for me to feel the fear. But the second story was chilling, Both were well written and that doesn’t surprise me at all..I have always been a fan of your work.

    Tom

    Like

  26. elmowrites says:

    Two very different types of fear here, Sandra. I love how you’ve shared both – I can’t pick a favourite. Wading in to the “features” debate – I like that you don’t describe them – she can’t see his features because of the hat pulled down. I’m not sure I’d have followed him into the apartment block though!!

    Like

  27. Hmmm. Once spooky and one poignant. I think I prefer the first one, but who cares? They were both delightful to read. Thank you again,
    Lindaura

    Like

  28. boomiebol says:

    I like them both very much.

    Like

  29. Both stories held a moment of menace in them and we really well constructed. It made me wonder at the way in which we can interpret the same pictures all so differently too. 🙂

    Like

  30. unspywriter says:

    Both stories depict different kinds of fear very well. The cadence of the first one reminds me a little of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. The building of tension is similar, but I don’t know if that’s the one you had in mind. Great job on both.

    Here’s mine: http://unexpectedpaths.com/friday-fictioneers/procrastination/

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Maggie. I’ve just googled that one, and it’s not it. In the one I have in mind, someone, (don’t know whether it was a man or a woman) climbed to the top of a tower. Whether he/she had a fear of heights I don’t know, but the counting of the steps was a way of allaying such terror. Until of course the narrator realised that the steps were endless… Glad you liked them anyway. Off to yours, internet permitting.

      Like

  31. Michael Fishman says:

    I liked both stories. The first one because I could identify with it a little bit and the second one because it had a very noir feeling to me which I got with this line: “Until he turned into the doorway of my apartment block.” I could see the shadow outline of the faceless pursurer there. On the features debate, in the case of this story, I like not knowing what he looks like but why not eliminate “over his features” and end that line with “hat pulled low?”

    Like

  32. t says:

    Loved them both, but that second one really got my creep on!

    Like

  33. Joe Owens says:

    76 steps away from safety, but an infinite number back. I think i would have to look for a weapon if I was part of the second story. I enjoyed both!

    Like

  34. bnatividad says:

    I like both stories, Sandra, but Agoraphobic really resonated with me because, well, I’m a bit of one. I have a really tough time leaving my house, so I could totally relate to the narrator’s way of thinking.

    Like

  35. rgayer55 says:

    In both stories, I felt the character was as much in a mental prison as they were dealing with physical threats. Fear has the power to do that. My favorite line was, “my surroundings lurch drunkenly.”

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Russell. Yes, fear can cause ‘surroundings to lurch drunkenly.’ I also find three big glasses of red wine have the same effect. 😉 Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  36. elappleby says:

    Hi Sandra
    Scary stories, both of them. The first was my favourite – a very clever idea. I’d love to read the story that inspired it – hope you find out what it was.

    Like

  37. Very good stories both of them, I found the first one very chilling.. And I don’t care about any influences.

    Like

  38. Dear Sandra,

    Each of your stories was open ended and i enjoyed the feeling that they carried on without me when I ran out of words. Good job. Thanks for the double dose of your writing.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    Like

  39. petrujviljoen says:

    I follow a blog of a person that suffers from agoraphobia. I had no idea what agoraphobia was. http://forcingmyselfhappy.wordpress.com. She’s stopped posting for a while. So I like the first story the best and it is well told.

    Like

  40. EmmaMc says:

    I enjoyed both of these stories. Probably the first is my favourite as can definitely relate. Especially that feeling of not finding the door quick enough. Like a bad dream!

    Like

  41. Sarah Ann says:

    I enjoyed both of these – can’t choose between them. I feel for the agoraphobic still counting. And what does the Shadow Man do next? I don’t know why, but that one had a 40s film noir feeling to it – it ight have the pulled down hat and the raincoat. Loved it.

    Like

  42. Both are great stories! I like the first one the best; it’s ‘Vertigo’ plus at least two more twists; the ten years away from others, the failure to follow through on the courage needed to complete the effort, and the supernatural response when the protagonist appears to be lost forever. Don’t care if you cheated a bit, it is terrific!.

    Like

    • Sandra says:

      Thanks Perry. Glad you liked it. The original one, where the protagonist climbed up a dark tower, was incredibly chilling, but maybe that was because I was very young when I read it.

      Like

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