I woke up the middle of the night. (I say "night," but it could have been day for all I know; "night" here is just when the lights go out.) It was dark and my eyes were taking a while to adjust and then...and then there was a light.
One single light, as if from a flashlight (a torch, if you're from England - I always like that better, more evocative). It shown against the far wall of the bedroom, making a large, moonlike image.
And then the shadow appeared on it. The shadow of a man. He raised one finger to his lips and I knew he was telling me to be quiet. I tried to sit up, to get up, to scream, but nothing worked, not even my voice.
The shadow of the man spread his shadow arms out wide and then seemed to split - one half became a small little boy, the other a very tall and thin man. They walked around each other, circling. The boy jumped up and suddenly became a tall woman, but her face was...weirdly shaped. The thin man's shadow turned around and transformed into the shadow of a wave and then a flock of birds. The woman's shadow knelt down and became a hunched old man in a long coat. The shadow birds flew together and turned into a dog and then the dog became more humanlike and it's paws became hands with long, knifelike claws. The shadow of the old man stood up and grew a beak like a bird, then the beak became a mask. The two shadows then dissolved in a thin fog of shadow, then formed together, building up higher and higher, constructing shadow buildings and shadow skylines until there was an entire shadow city.
The shadow city stayed there for a few minutes and then dissolved again into the thin shadow fog, which turned back into the shadow man. I couldn't make out any features on his face, except...except there was a line of light that shown there where his mouth would be. The line slowly turned upwards and I realized something: the shadow man was smiling at me.
The flashlight turned off and I could feel the shadows moving across my arms and legs. It felt like the thinnest cobwebs and I wanted to move, to bury my head beneath the pillows, but I couldn't.
Suddenly, all the lights turned on and I could see the shadows weren't there anymore. But I couldn't dismiss it as a dream. I couldn't.
Because they had left something behind. There was a book on my nightstand now, a book I hadn't seen before. It was old and the title wasn't on the cover, so I had to open it's yellowing pages to see it:
The City on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.
And below it, there was something written. A squiggle of ink that I could barely read, but when I did, I shut the book immediately.
It read: To Martin. WHH.