Last week, my husband killed himself. But I know the truth; it wasn’t his fault. The blame lies with the darkness that’s been following him for months.
I wish I could say there was a specific event that caused this force to attach itself to my husband, but I can’t. It just appeared one day. I saw it out of the corner of my eye when Michael came home from work; a dark shapeless mist trailing behind him like a warped shadow. When I looked again it was gone. I assumed it was a trick of the light or some smoke that got in my eye and continued cooking dinner.
Over the next few days, I’d occasionally see a wisp of the indistinct shadow trailing behind Michael but it would disappear as quick as I could focus on it. I started noticing subtle changes in his behavior, minor things that were easy to overlook if you didn’t know him well: he was much less talkative, would not finish his plate when I made his favorite foods for dinner, and started taking long afternoon naps on the weekends instead of meeting with friends and family. When I asked him about it, he said he was just stressed from work. He had never lied to me before, so I believed him.
Things took a turn for the worse when Michael lost his job a few weeks later. The darkness seemed to feed on his stress; it was closer to him, darker and less opaque. I still only saw glimpses of it, but I saw it more often. I tried to talk to Michael about the dark shadow, but it only caused him to become angry and defensive. He accused me of not being understanding; this was a stressful time for him and I shouldn’t be adding to it. He blamed what I was seeing on my pregnancy hormones and an overactive imagination. Michael and I hardly ever fought, and I was hurt that he seemed to pick a fight when I was so worried about him.
After our argument, I saw the shadow constantly and watched it slowly take form. It almost looked like a man following him everywhere he went. It started leaning toward Michael’s ear, as if it were whispering to him. Michael never acknowledged the shadow, but I could see his demeanor change when it happened. That thing would whisper to him and Michael would become irritable, getting angry at the slightest provocation. I began to feel as if I were walking on eggshells when the shadow was near him, constantly worried anything I did would set him off.
I was terrified to bring up my concerns with Michael again, the darkness had grown stronger after the last time and I didn’t want to give it any more power. I tried to hear what it was whispering in his ear, but it was too quiet. All I could see were the effects its whispering had on Michael. He started to withdraw from me more. He quit coming with me to my doctor’s appointments and would sit in his office alone, with only the whispers of an evil shadow to keep him company.
When we’d lay in bed at night, I could just barely make out the shape of the shadow standing over Michael. He started sleeping less and less as time went on. Things that used to bring him happiness, had no effect on him since the shadow joined him. He quit returning phone calls from friends and colleagues and gave up all hope of finding another job.
Finally, I had reached a breaking point. I was due to deliver in a week and couldn’t stand the thought of this shadow having access to our daughter through my husband. I reached out to his mother to tell her my concerns, but she brushed them off as stress from the combination of unemployment and impending parenthood. She assured me that once our daughter was here and he’d found a new job, Michael would be back to his old self in no time. If I had known that she would call him, I would not have mentioned anything to her.
He took the phone call from his mother badly, to say the least. He was very angry at me for talking to his mother about things he said weren’t real problems. Once again, he said he was just stressed and claimed that I was being selfish by adding to it and involving his mother. His shadow grew while we fought, it was now much taller than him and looked solid. After our fight, he said he needed time to think and stormed off, his darkness leading the way. Not long after he left, my water broke.
I immediately called Michael, but he didn’t answer. I was left with no choice but to drive myself to the hospital. When I got there, I called everybody to let them know the baby was on the way. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them Michael wasn’t with me, so I let them think he was there. I didn’t see him until after I delivered. I was exhausted and took a nap while the baby was in the nursery. I woke up to find Michael sitting beside the bed, with his head in his hands. I tried to ignore the sinister shadow standing over him. He apologized for our fight earlier and missing Emma’s birth. He begged me to forgive him. I noticed that when I told him there was nothing to forgive, the shadow backed up a few steps. It had no face that I could see but I could feel it staring at me, anger radiating from it.
When we first got home, the shadow seemed to stay further back from Michael. It stopped whispering in his ear when I was around and I started seeing it less. Michael put more of an effort into his job hunt and found something in his field. I foolishly thought the danger had passed and that we were close to being rid of this dark entity once and for all. Unfortunately, I now know I was wrong. I was just preoccupied with the overwhelming responsibilities of caring for a newborn. Maybe if I hadn’t been so busy and tired from long nights with Emma, I would have noticed that the darkness following Michael was still present and holding sway over his life. I wish I had been paying closer attention during those first few weeks home.
It wasn’t until Emma wouldn’t sleep one night that I realized the shadow was still here and had grown even more powerful. I was in the nursery rocking Emma when I heard Michael get up and leave the bedroom. I thought he was coming to the nursery to check on us, but I heard his footsteps walk past the door toward his office. A few hours later when I had finally gotten Emma back to sleep, Michael still hadn’t returned to bed. I went to his office to check on him and saw him staring out the window, the darkness looming over him whispering in his ear. I started to ask him if he was coming to bed, but before I could finish my sentence the shadowy entity slammed the door shut in my face. It had never interacted with anything physically before and knowing it could now touch Emma terrified me.
I started finding excuses to keep Michael from being alone with Emma. It was easy enough at first, I was the one with the breasts, so I did the feedings. But eventually, Michael noticed. His anger swelled up as the entity whispered to him, and he started yelling at me while I was holding Emma. The shadow grabbed his hand and forced it into the wall, causing Michael to violently punch a hole in it. In that moment, my concerns for Michael disappeared. I realized I couldn’t help him, but I could protect Emma. I packed a bag and took Emma to my mother’s house for the night. It killed me to do it. I could hear Michael screaming, begging me not to take Emma from him as I pulled out of the driveway.
After I got Emma settled at my mom’s, I returned home. I might have been terrified of the entity that terrorized my husband, but I loved him and couldn’t leave him alone with it. I found him sitting in his office listening to the evil whispers from the darkness surrounding him. I wanted to help him, rescue him from this thing intent on ruining his life, but it was too late. When the shadow saw me, it placed a gun in Michael’s hand. I didn’t even know Michael had a gun, but now I watched helplessly as this thing forced him to pick it up. I froze, unsure if moving closer would make matters worse. I called out to Michael, begging him to think about Emma and fight this thing as the darkness enveloping him forced Michael’s hand up to his head. The last words he said to me were, “I’m sorry.”
The rest of the night was like living through a nightmare. I called for an ambulance, but there was nothing they could do. The police seemed to lose interest once they realized Michael had been the one holding the gun. I tried to tell them about the thing that forced him to do this, but they didn’t care. At the funeral, friends and family expressed feelings of shock and anger. So many blamed him for what had happened. None of them would listen when I tried to explain that it wasn’t his fault; the darkness had taken control of him.
The day after the funeral, I was alone at home with Emma. The silence of the house was stifling. I had just put her down for a nap when I saw it, the glimpse of grey shadow behind me when I walked past a mirror. I started to panic when the doorbell rang; it was my mother. She had come over to check on us. I glanced over my shoulder as she came in and saw the shadow had backed away. Relieved, I broke down sobbing in my mother’s arms. I let loose all the feelings of guilt, anger and sadness I was feeling onto her and noticed that the more I opened up to her, the lighter the shadow became.
In the days since then I’ve seen the shadow sporadically, usually when I’m alone with my thoughts. The more I surround myself with people who love me and the more open I am with them, the less power the darkness seems to have. I’ve decided to reach out to all of you in the hope that I can help one other person who is silently struggling. Maybe you have a dark shadow following you or maybe you can see it surrounding somebody you love. Don’t let it isolate you. Don’t let it force you to stay silent. Find something that brings you happiness and hold on to that, surround yourself with love. Don’t let it win.