In Your Shadow
Night has fallen. I am safe to emerge. I slide silently from beneath your bed, where you lie snoring with your spouse, oblivious to my activities. Not
that you'd recognize me. You never do. You look, but you don't see. I slip over to the bookcase, where I pause for a moment. Here are the books you
have read, to yourself, to your spouse, to your kids...philosophy, horror, fairytales. I've read them over your shoulder, listened while creeping
beneath your childrens' beds. I was there when some of them were written. My associates, my friends and family, were there for many of the others.
We've heard the myths, the legends of creatures that stalk the night. And I hear you laugh while you tell them they're not real. You check the closet,
the window, and then you look under the bed to assuage their fears. You look right at me. And you don't see me.
Humans think they know all about fairies and demons and boogie men. They've heard and read the stories. The sort of stories that keep you up at night
as a child, amuse you as an adolescent, bore you as a young adult, and fascinate you as you grow older and begin to contemplate the mysteries of the
universe in earnest. Right up to the point where you decide it doesn't matter. I know. I was there. We all were. Every moment you or your people spoke
of us, every moment you looked around, as though suspecting that we were watching you. But you didn't see us. You looked right through us. And you
continued to ignore us. Just like you've always done. But it doesn't bother us, because we've never known anything else. Not for the longest time,
anyway. And while you may be right about those vampires and werewolves and witches, you're not always right. Sometimes, you miss the obvious. What's
right in front of you. Maybe you just don't want to know.
I begin to ponder the thought as I slide through the house, gliding down the stairs and out through one of the many exits afforded to my kind. It
isn't hard for us to travel. We are swift as eagles and silent as mice. It's not that we have to avoid people. We are with you all the time. We are
your constant companions. But when night wraps its blinding arms around your world...that's when ours comes out. That's eight hours we get to
ourselves. We don't have to latch on to unsuspecting hosts to survive the vicious rays. The sun is our enemy, see. We can never, ever be exposed to
the sun. I've been there. It burns us as surely as the fog, parting us like a knife through hot butter. Every minute it counts in the sky is a minute
we must hide. I suppose we should be thankful hiding is so easy for us; but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate the moments we don't have to. The
time we have to frolick fearlessly in the street, disguised by the subtle yet distinct murk of the sun's absence, like background music covering a
fart at a party. It isn't much, but it's something. Just a little time to be free.
But what is time? I've listened to those discussions as well. Time is an illusion, you humans say. It's funny, given you have every reason to give
time as much substance and regard as the mysterious forces that bind you to us. Yes, that's right. You are bound to us in a very, very real way. But
please forgive me, I failed to introduce myself. One would think I'd remember my manners, considering how much time I've spent in your shadow.
Or more accurately, as your shadow.
That's right. Your shadow lives. It thinks. And sometimes, so fleetingly that only the oldest of us can give our collective essence an idea of what it
is like, we dream. But our dreams are so twisted, convoluted, fragmented and scattered, we can not hope to make sense of them. Only the oldest have
experienced it enough to remember, to recall the essence of what it is to live in the imagination for a breath or three. Those memories, they
disappear. Like yours. Only much quicker. Your dreams are like our myths, our campfire tales. Legends passed around the circle, stories that make you
wonder how the world would change if such fantastical things became a reality. And so, our chances to indulge in our wildest fantasies happen while we
are awake. It is the closest we come. That's why we follow you. We live through you. Not all shadows are sentient, of course. We start out as
autonomous shreds of the night. The light bounces you around until you find a safe place. And you just sleep, until one day you awaken. No one knows
why. We just...wake up. Realize what we are, what we're doing. And we decide
But the ones that are follow you as surely as the sun gives us definition. Darkness is our home, and we've seen everything that makes you scream and
cry. We've made friends with those things. Fear is our bed. We slink in, under, around, over, beside, and after every creature, every threat that
gives you pause and concern. We are most familiar with that which is drenched in the umbrous veil of shadow and dust. Perhaps it's best you don't
understand our tongue, a speech reminiscent of forgotten dusty rooms and old books that haven't seen a curious mind in years, a language that makes
Latin look like a newborn. We are the voice of secrets best left forgotten.
And yet, amazingly...there is still one thing. One exception...dreams. I keep coming back to that, and for good reason. I watched you earlier today,
leaving your house and getting into your car. We know what these strange and miraculous devices are because we've learned your language, every
language, all tongues and ideas and philosophies and emotions, over the time we have trailed after you as eagerly as a dog follows its master. We know
the inner workings of your technologies and your marvels better than you do. We know when it breaks, we know when it fails, we know when there's
trouble hours before you suspect. And as you're driving to your work, we follow every step, every turn, every twist of the road. And after you finish
your tedious operations that sustain your existence, I follow you home. I lurk beneath your table, your plates, your television and computer. I
observe the predictable manner by which you live, the grating way in which you take recognition and acknowledgment for granted. But that doesn't
affect us. At least, not all of us.
Because even as we hide under your coffee cups, under your papers and your computers, under your tools and your clothes, we are placid. We are
everywhere, and we are content. Or most are. But me, I'm different. I'm different in a way that makes other shadows quiver when I slip by, makes them
whisper in that subaudible manner that so easily escapes the humans we attach ourselves to. Because of that one night, that one fantastic night, when
I dreamed of light. A light that did not cast me. It cast my shadow. My shadow.
I've reached the business district, other oily ephemeral wisps like scraps of translucent cloth darting around. I know most of them, and I give a sigh
of greeting. It is echoed as several shadows swirl around me, returning the sentiment, and whip off toward the gutters. The sewers are stuffed with my
friends and family. If we were rats, the city would be quarantined. As I float gently past a row of windows, leaving the others behind as I begin to
ride, I can't see myself. Somehow, the light loses us when it hits reflective surfaces. A convenient loss, granted. Looking in a mirror and seeing
Casper on your shoulder isn't exactly the best way to introduce oneself.
edit on 13-11-2013 by AfterInfinity because: (no reason