Not My Shadow

A Horror Obsessive Original Story, written by Robin Moon

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Have you ever looked at your own shadow? I mean really looked? No, I hadn’t either. It’s one of those things we take for granted, like the roof over our heads or the clothes on our backs, assuming it’s always going to be there. Similarly, we assume our shadow reflects our physical form, despite the vagueness of its shape, because why wouldn’t it? There’s no reason to believe otherwise. That amorphous imitation exists only to prove that we remain corporeal. The trust in this that we maintain is so matter-of-fact that it’s not even worth drawing attention to. So, we leave our shadow in the corner of our periphery, let it linger, and go about our day without consciously thinking about it. And if the light chases it away, so be it.

That is, until we happen to look at it.

The streetlamps felt brighter than usual as I walked home that evening. Shields of light pushed out the wispy filaments of darkness, forming an almost tangible barrier. Shards of gravel reflected the orange glow, making it appear as if I were walking on fool’s-gold pavement. As I moved under each lamp, my shadow faded and reappeared, faded and reappeared, like an elastic band snapping back repeatedly. Again, I wasn’t paying attention, instead focusing on the horizon ahead of me. That changed when one time, my shadow snapped back with horns on it.

I came to an abrupt stop. Suspecting it could be a case of blink-and-it’s-gone, I shut my eyes for a moment, but when I reopened them, it looked the same. My hands automatically drifted to my head, tentatively feeling around, but as far as I could tell, there were no horns. That was a little reassuring, at least.

Inhaling deeply, I stared at my shadow for a few seconds, hard. As though challenging it to a duel. When it didn’t bite, I kept on walking. It’ll be a trick of the light or something, I reasoned to myself. It was good enough to last me a couple of steps, until the shadow extended.

The horns were still there, alright, but more than that, the patch of dark had spread so it smothered a good few metres of the path ahead. And no, the light hadn’t changed. My shadow towered in front of me, drowning out my actual height. Now, every time it snapped back, I felt like it was pouncing at me. Encompassing my now-inferior form. Still, I couldn’t exactly avoid something attached to me, so I kept on my way.

A person's shadow stretched across concrete

For a couple of minutes, nothing altered further. In fact, it almost became an irrelevance to me again. It’s funny how the human brain can protect you like that. Deep in the pit of my stomach, a nauseating, bitter dread was churning. But as long as I wasn’t looking directly at the source of it, as long as I wasn’t engaging with it, and pretending I was having a perfectly normal nightly stroll, then it was fine. There was no danger. It was fine.

A few paces from the end of the street, the shadow morphed into something not nearly recognisable as a reflection of myself. Swirls of black warped into each other, an eternally spilling mass of oil. Even though no details could be distinguished, I could have sworn I saw a hint of a grin. The  endless movement was almost audible, except for the fact that only an impenetrable silence cloaked the immediate area. Although the surface remained solid, walking along a slithering pavement felt impossible, like it was made of a thousand black snakes.

Through it all, I managed to take one final step forwards.

The shadow snapped back and grabbed my legs. Its inky appendages wound around my calves, gripping like iron. Wrestling wildly, I tried to pull myself free, but it locked on. My feet rapidly sank into the pavement like it was quicksand, the shadow dragging me down; in seconds, I was submerged up to my waist. In an attempt to keep myself above ground, I clawed at the gravel, which only resulted in tearing up my fingernails while I got swallowed up. Oddly, it didn’t even occur to me to scream.

Beneath the pavement, I feel nothing, see nothing. I am incapable of movement, utterly paralyzed. With no frame of reference, I can’t tell if I’m being kept stationary or simply falling, falling for eternity, never reaching the bottom. I suspect that if I was able to reach up, I could touch the rough concrete. Just a few inches of it separating me from my old life, my old body.

All that keeps me company now is the thing that isn’t my shadow. I sense it folding around me, seeping into my veins and fusing with my blood. Sometimes it’s a chilling cold, sometimes a searing heat. Every time I think I’ve grasped the sensation of it, it slips through the sieve of my awareness. I say it isn’t my shadow, but in reality I can no longer tell the difference between us.

We would do well to pay closer attention to our shadow, to look at it every now and then.
Just to check it still looks like us.

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Written by Robin Moon

Robin writes for 25YL and Horror Obsessive as much as their scattered brain will allow. They love dark fantasy, sci fi, and most things horror-related, with a huge soft spot for vampires. Don't make the mistake of mentioning Buffy around them or they won't shut up about it. Seriously. They're also a fiction writer and aspiring filmmaker; in other words, they much prefer spending time in made-up places and far-off universes than in the real world.

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