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David Ireland's picture

The Shadow Man

By David Ireland in Scare Us

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Ever had a bad trip? Not like this you haven't...


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 26, 2012 - 7:40pm

This is a very effective description of a slide into insanity. I like how the 2nd person point of view both keeps us inside the narrator's head and distances us at the same time, replicating the dissociated way he's reacting to what he's doing. 

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 27, 2012 - 1:56pm

This was a trip to read. The repetition of "it reminds you of..." and the use of 2nd person pov really worked. The ending is unclear though -- did he pass out? die?

Right now, this story is unnerving, but I think you could push it into scary if you focus more on the crimes he commits. Make them more vibrant, and make them stand out more. The scary thing about this story isn't really the shadow man, but not having any control of yourself. Waking up in a different place with blood on your hands. Give us more of that!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland July 28, 2012 - 4:09pm

If those aren't actually song lyrics they should be. Your refrain i mean. The 2nd person was extremely efective. Anyone who has experimented with hallucinagenic drugs will be able to identify with the mind frame of your main charachter. I wonder if this story reads the same for those who have not.


Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson July 29, 2012 - 7:52am

Just great. At first I wasn't sure about the 2nd person narration but by the end I couldn't see it working any other way. It has a manic quality that reminds me of Prodigy videos. The refrain is a lovely touch and makes it feel more like poetry. 

I thought the ending was clear.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne July 29, 2012 - 12:55pm

I read Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt several months ago and loved it. It's that rare 2nd person POV novel that truly works. Your story, while definitely more horrific, really reminded me of it. 2nd person is hard to pull off. And you nailed it. This is really, really good. 

As others have pointed out, the refrain is truly effective in a way that I found surprising. It really does give the story a sort of rhythmic quality above and beyond what is otherwise terrific writing.      For what's it worth, I kept seeing the faces of various charcters from Trainspotting in my mind while reading this.

The "It's up to you. You're the boss." line may have been my favorite. So many layers and meanings or even interpretations buried in those seven words.

I wouldn't change a thing. I too thought the ending was clear. Really enjoyed reading that. Thanks for writing it. 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce July 30, 2012 - 7:12pm

Hi David,

Cool story! They could use these rather than those daft 'you're really ingesting battery acid/rat poison/insert nasty substance that is not ecstasy' ads to deter kids from taking drugs!

I used to like clubbing and 'substances' a LOT when I was younger, so I really felt part of the story, does that make sense? I think your story perfectly evoked that sense of paranoia, and questioning your recollection of things and your motivations, and other people's motivations you get after a big bender.

Also, the point of view was great for the pace of this story, it kept the tension nice and tight. 

I made some comments in the body of the document, which I've attached. I hope these are helpful!


Lucas Moreno's picture
Lucas Moreno from East Tennessee is reading Blood Meridian, Game of Thrones, Notes From the Underground July 31, 2012 - 12:49am

Wow. Loved just about everything about this story. In the beginning, I could see myself from your POV, how things start to run together in a dreamlike blur. I agree with a lot of what the other reviewers have pointed out. The repetition was very effective. I would love to see this put to film. I could see David Lynch doing something like this (maybe because I was listening to some of his music). Other than some minor polish, my only advice would be meat it up a little. It's not the pace, the pace is great, but maybe just expand the story. In any case, great read!

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz July 31, 2012 - 5:32am


2nd person can be tough to do but you pulled it off - it works well for a drug hallucination story. Like others, I liked that repititive phrase. 

So, I'm guessing the Shadow Man is real? Only because the only issue I see is when he comes to in the hospital. In my experience (from friends, not me, I swear!) is that when you're really, really, really intoxicated or drugged up, you're handcuffed to the hospital bed. So if he was really untied, I'd assume it'd be by the Shadow Man as opposed to staff.

I only bring this up because of the fact that it's a 'bad trip' story, the reader may believe the Shadow Man is just a figment of the imagination.

A little unclear about what happened in the end, but I read it as him perhaps jumping over a wall into oncoming traffic and getting smacked around by a few cars and dying.

Thanks for submitting


Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger July 31, 2012 - 3:19pm

I really really loved this. It sucked me in better than a lot of shorts 3 or 4 times it's size. I like drugged up Burroughsy stuff, so this was right up my alley. I definitely got some Philip K. Dick influence in there, too.

odysseusonthestyx's picture
odysseusonthestyx from The land down-under... is reading The Illuminatus Trilogy - Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson July 31, 2012 - 7:53pm

Personally I found the cuts/scene jumps a little jarring, and second person narration is always a little unwieldy.  That said I think, with a good director, this would make the jump to a short film really well, the second person narration could translate into a PoV story (a la the film clip to The Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up), and the scene jumps could be smoothed with something as simple as a tilt down and tilt up in a different location!  I tend to think that stories match mediums, and for me this would work better in film.

Morgan Goss's picture
Morgan Goss from Kentucky is reading Infinite Jest, House of Leaves, Storm of Swords, Drive and Fugitives and Refugees August 1, 2012 - 12:31am

I enjoyed this story very much, the language and tone killed it. Reminded me a bit of the film Enter the Void (except I found that movie to be somewhat of a waste of time and this story was worthwhile) Loved the second person, made me think more about how I would imagine the settings. Nothing to critique or add to the overall conversation, but just wanted to say it was a great read.

Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway August 5, 2012 - 11:42pm


That sun. The damn sun. This is where it started being real for me. Anyone who's ever done any kind of psychedelic will hate the sun the next day. Like it's going to set your brain on fire.

I like your story, but I personally always think horror needs to be firmly rooted in reality. Like I said, personally.

Sounds like your man had himself a deliriant, not a hallucinogen. Clear difference. A hallucinogen provides your basic visual distortions, potentially devastating looks into your psyche, et cetera. Deliriants provide something scarier; conversations with people who aren't there, memories of performing complex tasks only to realize you've done nothing, stuff like that. A friend of mine compared hallucinogens to being born, dissociatives to dying, and deliriants to actually going insane. A fine line. There are other things your man would be doing perhaps, you can read about them online. I know you didn't name any substances, just be a bit more clear on the effects of said substance. It would be nice to let people know this isn't a bastardized version of the 60's tabloid sensationalism: 13 year old ingests LSD and leaps from rooftop after watching Winged Migration.

Another fine line - "The wallpaper is making you ill again." For some reason, this reminded me of David Firth. Nice touch.

I like your use of the chorus "you watch the lazers..."

And the best touch is the black eyes. It's a basic way of feeling empathy for any other living being, seeing the whites of their eyes. It's why some animals look so alien to us. It provides a kind of emotional equilibrium. This, for me, is the best part of your story.

Work on the violence, make it tighter. Describe more. A man doesn't simply fall down a stairwell and that's that. Well, perhaps to someone out of their head, but wouldn't drugs of this caliber heighten his senses? I don't know, it seemed fantastical, almost dream-like. Maybe you intended that. But give something more. Please. You go from INTENSE to meh so quickly it hurts. Crank it and rip the knobs off and let it bleed. A story this hardcore yet brief, I want it to be the written equivalent of Jay Reatard's Blood Visions. Ah, but that's just me.

Anthony McArthur's picture
Anthony McArthur from Georgia is reading The Talisman August 15, 2012 - 2:35pm

I normally do not like second person viewpoint stories, but I agree with the others that you told this story quite well from there. To me, the second person added to the story because it added to the psychotic nature of everything, almost like a multiple personality conversation. Overall, I liked how tight the story was, even though the character jumped around.

I will agree with one of the other reviewers in that I do not feel that the shadow man was definitely explained for me--was he a hallucination or real? He seems real because of what he did, but mostly unreal, which I'm sure was your intent in the story. For me I would just like a little more explanation for him. (Hey, maybe an orderly screwed up and didn't tie him down.)  There were a few spelling/grammar issues that could be easily cleaned up.

I will disagree with others that I liked the disconnect--one minute he's here, the next he's got blood on his hands, then he's gone. I don't necessarily need to see the violence--my mind can supply it if necessary.

I haven't done any psychedelic drugs at all, and something like this is the exact reason.  :)