My cousin Javier used to jump out from around corners to scare me whenever I we played hide-and-seek. Hearing my shadow talk was a lot like that, except instead of a single jolt of panic, I felt a pang of fear telling me to run away with every word she spoke.
“What are you?” I asked, trying to make sense of the thing that was in my room. It was just a patch of darkness, like I’d seen my whole life, but looking at it made my stomach twist into a mess of knots. I raised my hands to keep my shadow away from me and she raised her arms too. Just like a shadow always does.
“What do I look like?” she asked. She placed her hands on her waist and cocked her head defiantly. When I looked down my hands were on my waist too. For a second they didn’t even feel like my own hands and that was almost worse than how I felt when I looked at my shadow.
“How are you doing this?” I asked, taking my hands away from waist and gripping the desk behind me.
“Doing what?” she asked, waving her hands around the room.
“Go away!” I said, bringing my hands down and clutching them to my chest. None of this should have seemed real, but I could feel too much to deny that it was happening.
“Can I?” she asked, growing bigger as she leaned forward.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” September said. “I think you need your Shadow.”
He was crouching behind me, trying to stay out of the shadow’s path but still close to me.
“No she doesn’t,” my shadow said. “She’ll be just fine without me.”
“I don’t think you will be,” September said. “People have shadows for a reason, I think losing one might be bad.”
“I don’t want her here though,” I said. “I mean maybe people should have shadows, but shadows shouldn’t talk.”
“So you want me to just lie underneath you, watching you, silently, all the time?” my shadow asked. “I can see everything you do. I’m always there with you, you know.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I thought you were only going to be here tonight?”
“Oh no, no, no,” she said. “I’m here for good. I’m not going back to how I was before. Even you can’t make me do that!”
“Can you make her go away?” I asked September.
“I don’t think so,” he said, hopping up onto my bed to be closer to me.
My shadow didn’t have any facial features but I could feel the smile radiating off her face. She could control me whenever she wanted and there was nothing I could do to her.
I shook my head. Of course there was something I could do to her.
I turned on the light on my work desk, and the one on my vanity. I even went and turned on the hall light and grabbed a flashlight to shine on her.
With my room ablaze with illumination from different sources there was nowhere for a shadow to appear.
“That won’t work,” she said, her voicing filling my ears from all sides.
I screamed loud enough that September jumped off my bed and onto the top of the tallest bookshelf in my room.
“Even if you’re surrounded by light there’s still one place where I’ll always be with you,” she said.
From inside me.
I felt myself start to shake uncontrollably, not because she was taking me over, but because I’d never been more afraid of anything in my life than I was of her at that moment.
“Are you sure you don’t want to let me go?” she asked. “I mean, I don’t think you’ll get much sleep tonight if I’m around, right?”
September jumped from the bookshelf and landed on my left shoulder. Despite his size he was light as a feather. The warmth of his fur against my ear and the feel of his tail tickling the back of my neck was strangely reassuring. I still wanted to scream, but maybe not as loudly as before.
“What are you going to do if I say yes?” I asked.
“Are you kidding me?” my shadow asked. “I’ll be free after all this time? What aren’t I going to do!”
“Are you going to hurt people?” I asked.
“What? No!” she said. “I’m a shadow, how am I supposed to hurt anyone?”
“And you’ll leave me alone?” I asked.
“Completely!” she said. “I’ve been stuck with you for 13 years now. Why would I want to come back here?”
“Ok then,” I said. “Go, just leave me alone and don’t hurt anyone.”
“Are you sure?” September asked. It was a quiet question. It held no recrimination or warning. Just the chance to confirm what I was doing.
Not that I needed it. The thought of someone else moving me around like a puppet left my skin crawling. Grandma Apples hadn’t warned me about this at all, but maybe a real witch would have been able to tell the shadow what to do. I was probably broken somehow.
“This is going to be awesome!” my shadow said.
She pumped her fist in a gesture of triumph and mine didn’t follow suit.
For a moment we just looked at each other in stunned awe, then, she started to laugh. It was a laugh that was somewhere between delight and relief and hysteria.
Before I could say anthing and move at all, she leapt to the window and flew straight through the glass into the darkening night sky.
“I didn’t know it would be like that,” September said.
“That’s ok,” I said. “It’s probably my fault.”
“We’ll talk to Grandma Apples about it tomorrow,” September said. “Maybe that’s normal? I don’t know if all witches have shadows? Maybe some don’t need them?”
“Or maybe I’m not a real witch?” I said.
“You’re real enough for me,” September said and laid his paw gently on my cheek.