(Shadows)

by Jakob Konger

(shadow)

(She didn’t know where the shadow came from. Was it a low lying cloud or something else she wouldn’t think of? She kept her eyes on the ground. It was like a bow. Was she in the presence of something more frightening than she could comprehend? If she didn’t look, she didn’t have to know. The shadow was at its blackest in its center. Out near the edge it turned vague brown then dusty yellow–same as the earth around it. When she moved, the shadow followed. It stayed a meter to her left. She was carrying two small buckets over her shoulders. They were round and plastic, and fastened to the sides of a metal curtain rod with cable ties. In the high afternoon sun, their shadows were clearly defined. They looked just like two eyes growing from stalks out of her neck. The fraying ends of the cable ties were their eyelashes. The shadow was moving closer. She was only meters from the river. The shadow crossed over her own. It blotted out her imaginary eyes. Every step, no matter how fast she ran, its outline was more defined. The yellow turned brown. The turned deep and black. She bent over the river and dipped a bucket in the water. This was when she heard the shadow’s sound. It wasn’t a whisper and it wasn’t quite a roar, but something else that combined the power and mystery of both.)

(shadow)

(She couldn’t resist searching the sky for the source of the shadow. She looked over her shoulder as she fled from it, searching the cloudless sky for the small black dot she’d heard so much about. It grew all on its own into something oh so much like an oversized black street sweeper, or so she was told, but at the same time like an angry rat. It growled like a broken truck stalling out next to you. It was miles before she could reach the nearest mountain. She had no reason to look forward. It would be better to look behind her, to the sky. This was how she tripped: over a large sheet of metal halfway buried  in the dirt. She sneezed then pulled herself into a squat. After a quick look back to check the distance of the shadow (still far), she examined the metal. It looked to have been the door to a jeep at one time very long ago, but now it had disintegrated almost beyond recognition. It was metal first, and then a door. It was light enough now she could lift it over her body (it was hot) and hide from the shadow underneath it without feeling crushed much by its weight, though pulling it over her body did give her one of the oddest sensations she’d ever felt–like she was shutting the door over a crypt. She was alone in the very center of the planet. She was burying herself in the center of the earth. The half that had been buried in the sand was cool to the touch, but the rest she had to hold a few inches from her skin to avoid burns. The door had a window once (now long gone), and she held the empty space where it had been over her head so she could look back out at the shadow. It was edging closer still, as though she weren’t hidden at all.)

(shadow)

(The two old men hardly reacted to the shadow, except maybe to spend less time considering moves in the game of Sorry! they had been playing, a game which the older of the two had snuck into the country some years back and which, in his novice understanding of the game’s language, he called Sorrow!. They were near the end of their third round of Sorrow! when the shadow fell over the table they played on—a grey stone table set against the wall of what had once been the university. Both knew the shadow signified their death. The younger of the two drew a 7 card from the top of the deck and moved his furthest red pawn around a corner of the board. There was nowhere else he could have moved the piece. The existence of the card at the top of the deck required the choice. Never before had he played a game as good as Sorrow!. He had neither to plan his moves ahead based on their consequences nor worry what his opponent might do to harm him. No, in Sorrow! every card was a gift. Every card moved him closer to where he’d have liked to go. When the shadow quickly fell over the board then, he had no desire to stop the game. He could die either running or playing a game he loved, so why not enjoy the time he had? He wanted nothing more than to win his final game. What an end! To die so happy! As the shadow lowered over the two of them though, the wind from its propellers blew the cards from the top of the table and slid his pawns in all directions on the board. There wasn’t even time for him to hold the board in place. He’d never know who’d won his final Sorrow!.)

(shadow)

(She’d been expecting her shadow for months now, ever since her son had run from home. He’d left in daylight. She’d been there. She was in the street behind her home when the shadow fell over her, not in the street for any reason but to stand out in the sun before the day was gone. She watched the shadow shrink down towards her. More matte-black details emerged with every inch of its approach. It looked like a deformed spider, a giant tortured insect whose many legs had been tied to its chest. She stared up into its single flat glass eye, stared however many thousands of miles or kilometers straight through to the other end to try and meet the eyes of whoever it was that cast this shadow, but then the wind rose up around her and sent dust into her eyes. She had to let them shut. before she saw a thing. As the roar of the machine grew louder, though–like it were preparing one final lunge down toward her–she opened her eyes and stared one last time into the shadow’s eye, refusing to blink despite the dust and the dry wind that cut deep in her eyes. What did she need to see anymore? What did it matter if she felt a little pain? She stared down straight into the shadow’s eyes, until she saw her own face stretched and reflected back there. Only then did the street dissolve around her.)






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