Everybody called her ‘shadow’. It was not her original name, but nobody knows what it was. I used to see everyone running back to their houses after darkness fell. Some people said that they had seen her; some said that she was behind them when they were walking towards home. Sometimes I used to wonder, not a single person had claimed that she had harmed them or their kids, but still she was the most feared thing for years. There were varied stories about her; how she got burnt alive in her home or how she was feared to be a witch and was beaten to death or how she was used to drink blood of animals and kids to keep herself young.
I was most curious of them all. So I snuck out one night and hid behind a rock. I kept waiting but nothing happened. I came back at midnight and tiptoed in the house. I lit a lamp in my room and started making my bed. Just when I was about to switch off the lamp, I saw something that made my spine chill and my forehead bursting with sweat. It was my shadow, looking at me, or at least it seemed. It was a women’s outline. I slapped myself thinking that I was dreaming but I wasn’t. I could not scream or tell my parents with the fear that they will discover my misdeed. Whole night I kept sitting in a corner trying not to look at the shadow. Irony was that the shadow needed light to exist and I needed light to not die of fear.
Sometime during the night I fell asleep. I woke up with a start and looked at my shadow. It was my normal shadow. It was after all a dream. I took a deep breath of relief and carried on as usual during the day. By the evening I had forgotten about it and by the night I was planning on sleeping peacefully with no recollection of the incident. Somebody touched me on the shoulder and woke me up. I was paralyzed with fear and could not move. Then somebody whispered in my ear and told me to walk out of the house. I was in a state of trance. While I was walking she kept whispering in my ear that I am not separate from her; she said that she was a part of me now and that I was a part of her. She also told me that I will have to go wherever she goes.
I hid under the bed, went to temples to pray, kept chanting prayers but she kept coming back every night. Her existence did not matter on presence of light but yet she was my shadow. It was as if I was living in a nightmare which didn’t seem to come to an end. One day I gathered courage and screamed at her. She didn’t seem to notice at all, but yes next day there were more horror stories of the shadow and its poor victim. I begged her to leave me but she did not give any response.
Finally I told my parents. They were shocked and frightened at the same time. To avoid embarrassment they did not tell anyone. They tied me to the bed at night so that I cannot go out. But night came and so did she. I spent entire night on roads again. When I came back, I expected my parents to be in terror but they were not. They told me that I had not gone out even for a single minute.
So I gave up and kept wandering with her night after night after night. She did not say anything; just kept roaming. I tried not to look at her face, not that she had a face to look at. She kept holding my hand, with a hand she did not have. I stopped telling her to leave me. My parents were happy seeing me in house for entire night when I was actually treading up and down the roads.
But something had changed now. I had started feeling secured with her. I started looking forward to the nights when we walked on those roads together. I found myself to be most peaceful when I was with her. And then one day she looked at me again with eyes she did not have. I knew she was going to leave me now. And then I looked at her. And she knew I wasn’t going to leave her.
I am the shadow.