Friday, February 21, 2014

In the Company of Shadows

We are a solitary people, uneasy in groups.  Among our own kind we are considered loners, introverts. Outcasts. 

Rather than gather about an overflowing table for our morning meal, we favor a seat beside a gently burbling stream. No reason to make others uncomfortable with our discomfort.   

Our preference is the company of ourselves, one on none.

It is not a lonely life, but a life alone. We do not live in silence. Far from it. Each appliance has a voice as distinct as birds' songs. Pets listen to our spoken thoughts and answer with purr or tail wag. Outdoors, the leaves whisper secrets, and all that walk, crawl, or fly have something to tell us. I am used to their company, the hurry and scurry, chatter and twitter. Presence without infringement.

So, it was startling when I first noticed my new companion. Just out of the corner of my eye, a darker shape. My shadow, I was certain. Yet, uncertain, a hint of something...wrong.

Throughout the summer and fall I covertly watched. It hid in the sun spattered trees, blinking in and out with the whim of light. Always just on the edge of my vision. I made conscious moves to put the sun at my back. My shadow fell in front, just as it should, nothing amiss.

As autumn rolled into winter and the leaves fell away, there were no places for my shadow to hide. One bright morning after a day's snowfall, I caught the stark contrast of that shadow against the white blanketed earth. It stood beside me as I shifted my eyes without turning my head. Again, the feeling of something not quite right.

Each day it was with me, sometimes following, sometimes leading. Other times, on the right or left.  On cloudless days I surreptitiously kept watch. Puzzling over what it was that didn't conform to how my shadow should appear. In frustration, I quickly turned my head to view it fully. As is a shadow's habit, it moved as quickly. I viewed it full on, taking in the contours of the profile, the shape of the body, the feet, where they met with mine. 

Its profile...I was facing it. I should not have seen a profile That was the wrong I'd sensed before, watching peripherally. There should have been a profile then. The shadow had been watching me!

The unease I had felt before slowly slid through disbelief, then quickly onward to fear. I backed away, my shadow obediently following. My instinct to turn tail and run was held at bay by the knowledge it would be following me. I could not outpace my own shadow. My rattled thoughts held me frozen, my breath coming in gasps. As I watched, the shadow, my shadow, moved its arms into a position that I recognized as clutching its chest. My own arms hung at my side, awaiting the message to flee.

Panic finally delivered that message as the thing impersonating my shadow crumpled in classic heart attack fashion. Feet unconsciously finding purchase on the snow crusted ground, arms pumping, I ran. The only fully formed thought in my mind was the certainty that I had not left that shadow behind. 

Racing through the naked trees, pounding over open meadow, I tried not to look at it. But as my course turned direction, the shade fell in beside me. The unmistakable shape of scissors appeared in one hand. I stumbled as I quickly checked my own to be sure I wasn't carrying any. Catching myself before I could fall, I slowed my steps. What might happen if my shadow fell upon its shadow scissors? 

Moving with care, keeping my eyes forcibly away from my companion, I eventually made my way home. Once inside, I slammed the door, as if that would keep the thing out. Afternoon sunlight blazed through the living room window, the drapes open wide to let it in. I frantically pulled them closed. The shadow was made less distinct in the dimness. I visited each room, pulling drapes shut and dropping blinds. The little light that leaked through was not enough to give my shadow shape. 

That was three weeks ago. I haven't gone out during daylight since. The winter shortened days have allowed me to leave after dark for grocery shopping.  But this week, the moon has been waxing toward full. My one attempt to traverse the lunar lit landscape ended within moments of exiting my home. I caught sight of it to my left. Once it was aware of my gaze, it mimicked tripping over some invisible obstacle. I watched transfixed as it fell, seemingly with some force. The resulting pain in my knees and wrist answered that month old question. 

I live in the dark now. Because I know what might happen if my shadow fell upon its shadow scissors.


I haven't written for ages it seems.  But thanks to the wondrous group at Write on Edge, I decided to take a leap.
They gave us this prompt:

“It takes two to make an accident.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The details:
  • 1000 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome.
  • linky is open until Friday, February 21, at 11:55pm Pacific
  • Use the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote above as an opening/closing line or draw inspiration from it, your choice.
  • Community voting opens 2/22 and closes 2/28 at 11:55pm Pacific.
  • Community and editorial choice winners will be announced on Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books on Monday, March 3, 2014.
  • All entries must be original work, only published on your personal blog/website, and by entering you give Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books permission to reprint your entry in Precipice, Volume III‘s print and digital formats, as well as permission to edit for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.
  • Have fun!