It is a thing that one never really thinks about once one has discovered what it is. Childhood, early on, may contain games involving it. Avoiding it. Trying to step on another’s. But the novelty of it wears off quickly. What once was a curiosity is explained all too easily by the location of a light source, and then we never give it lingering consideration again.
I myself had not so much as given mine more than a passing glance in years. It is always there. Even with the eyes closed, it is present. It just is, and there’s nothing important about it. All it is is a darker spot in the world made by the big solid matter of the body interrupting illumination. A distorted, featureless reflection of oneself. Nothing to get excited about.
Of course, I would not be trying to force the importance of this idea if my own thoughts had not changed. And how recent that change.
My deeds in life were not a thing, like my shadow, that I gave very much thought to. I am not prone to religious fervor. I am not a believer, a follower, of any faith and do not subscribe to the idea of an all powerful being of any shape. Thus I give no credence to the idea of an afterlife, or reincarnation, or any other such thing. This life is this life. You live it as you wish, doing the things that you feel you can do while still liking yourself as a person. Morality, I suppose, is the thing I hold dearest. Mine is not so strict as it might be for some others. There are things that many would say are wrong which I have no qualms in doing. This, I believed, was my burden alone.
Then the changes began. Small, at first. Minor alterations that could have been a trick of the light. They didn’t grasp me immediately. In fact, I thought nothing of them until the larger deformities began. Isn’t that always how we see the path that has been? When it is too late and we rewalk our steps in our memory to see how we managed to arrive at that place? My journey was no different. I ignored everything until it refused to be ignored any longer.
By that time, everything was all too evident. Too far gone to hide.
My shadow began to reflect the monster I was on the inside. My unkind deeds were collected into the dark skin of myself, the me that snaked along sidewalks and stalked doorwas as I did the more routine actions of life. The edges this day jagged, the next paired with fingers elongated into vicious claws. A long and snake-like tail followed it not too shortly after. All these changes so simple, I chose not to see.
It wasn’t until I could see the wicked teeth and hellish eyes that I awoke to what was happening. It was its own being, becoming separate from me, but a part of me all the same. I could hear its hissing breath and rigid chuckle. I could feel it urging me to do the things that fed it, and found myself unable to resist it. I wanted to, no, had to, do as it encouraged. My will was no longer my own. It watched me commit my crimes, and continued to watch when I was doing nothing. It grew until it became a constant companion. Staying even when there was no light to cast it. Shifting into normalcy when we came upon others. Despite the placid look of it, it remained the monster. It kept on in its song, ever singing of worse things we could do.
It consumed me wholly, and I gave in willingly. Why would I not? The words it spoke rang sweetly in my ears. My shadow communicated directly with my soul, the heart of me. It was my nature. My very secret self made bold.
My true worry and cause for self examination came when I awoke unexpectedly in the night and discovered it moving on its own. Disconnected from me in every way. Stalking a prey I could not see, and me now unable to know its thoughts and wants. I felt myself go cold. The monster no longer needed me to exist. How had it kept this from me? How long had it been able to detach and wander on its own? What horrors had it gotten up to in the night while I slept?
It turned to me when it realized I had woke, and there was such a ghoulish smile upon its black face. I felt myself empty. My body became vacant of thought, of reason, of fluid. It felt like my very soul abandoned me and the room I occupied.
This pitch dark room does not actually protect me, I know. it does not keep that demon at bay. It comes and goes as it pleases now. Day or night, it moves through the world without me. But I have still covered the windows, and filled every crack so no light can enter. At least in this blackness I do not know when it goes. At least this way, I can tell myself that it is still here with me.
I would rather it be with me, terrible as it is.
I dare not think of what it does when it is not.