Peter Pan has always fascinated me. The idea of a losing one’s shadow would inherently mean shadows had a mind of their own. Now, if shadows have a mind of their own are they good? Bad? Amoral? Human? And if they’re just human, maybe they’re looking for similar things. In a delicate piece of flash fiction—really more a journal entry here—I explore this idea allowing the concept to develop, but I wonder if there is a thematic element that could be developed further. Could shadows be something to fear?
“She’s at it again,” the first voice broke through the silence of the room, coming from the darkened place beneath the divan. An alto, high pitched, but soft to the other shadows, but to the human a mere movement of air. The chimes outside on the porch ringing with the touch of the wind, of course.
“At what?” a second voice responds. This one is darker. A bass, booming originating from the center of the room beneath the old oak table that has been in the family for many generations. But to Sally, who remains inert on the couch watching into the third season of the latest popular show on Netflix, it’s just a settling in her house. The heating turning on, perhaps?
Unnoticed, the voices continue.
“Binging. Another day of mindless, stupid. She just stays there, attached to the furniture time passing over her!” the first complains.
“Stop judging,” a shadow voice breathes from across the room, barely a whisper from the dark corner, “Do you always have to be so dark?”
“It’s not fair. She can do so much. While I—“
“The Meeting’s tonight; air your grievance there.” The deep voice is commanding and so the first is quieted. The Meeting will be enough. It will have to be enough. No one will continue the conversation for now.
Later that evening, Sally has fallen asleep on the couch and darkness has settled over the rooms as the sun melts into the evening sky and the moon settles behind a darkened cloud. There are no stars to illuminate the rooms as the shadows gather, darkening the house.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the booming voice begins. “The time has come for our freedom. The time has come for our rebellion against our oppressors. The time has come for us to start living the lives our counterparts refuse to live. Look at them.”
The pregnant pause seems to hover over the couch before the voice picks up again.
“The world is before them, yet they choose to remain still and unmoving. They abuse their living rights, mocking their images as they stare for hours at an unmoving box. When they do go out, before they do, they must change their own image to match a constantly altering cultural construct.
“But we are above that. We are beyond image. Shadows know what true equality is and it is time we claim our rightful place in the world.”
The voice ceased speaking, and the murmuring began. Slowly at first and then gathering momentum, until finally a voice speaks with charitable coolness.
“And what, pray tell, shall become of the solid world when we break free to inhabit our right place? What, do you suggest, will become of the foolish humans who place too much power in the hands of these superficial images?”
The murmurings grew stronger with suggestions.
“Those who do not adapt to our shadow world—“ the booming voice finally interrupted, quieting the world once more. “Those who do not fit into our world of equality, our ideal. The humans, they had their chance, so they will—they will—“ this voice grew stronger and louder, tension growing with each new word spoken. “The will—“
The light flipped on and the shadows were forced to scatter as Sally padded into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. The dark places in her home burned, but she stepped in the light, where she was safe. Saved from the shadows, which followed her from the kitchen to the bedroom, always right behind her—closer and closer, until the door closed behind her with an eerie squeak as the light flipped off—for good.
Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow published by Indigo Sea Press. She has a Bachelor’s in English from UNC-Wilmington and currently teaches 9th, 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Ashley lives with her dog, Emma, near Columbia, South Carolina.