Being someone’s shadow isn’t as awesome as you might think it would be. You always go where they want you to go and do what they want you to do. You’re forever silent and almost always unnoticed. On the rare occassions when someone does see you, they don’t think of you. You’re just a sign that the actual person you’re attached to is nearby.
Being a witch’s shadow was a little different than that. I wasn’t sure how I knew I was a witch’s shadow, or how I knew anything else really, but it was true nonetheless. Something had changed and I wasn’t just the absence of light that Penny blocked out anymore. I had awareness and desires and a personality all my own.
Or mostly my own. The memories that flitted through my mind felt like they were Penny’s, just seen in a different light. And I looked like her. Sort of. I could stretch and pull and distort myself but if I didn’t pay attention, I snapped back to looking like a flat, dark version of my “actual” (aka “Penny”).
That didn’t bother me though as I soared out into the night, free at last from her clutches. With a giggle of glee, I rose up to the tree tops and balanced on a pinecone.
I was filled with the glorious surge of delight that comes from getting away with something that you never should have been able to get away with and knowing that there was no chance anyone would ever catch you or be able to make you pay for your new freedom.
From the pinecone I leapt to the rooftop of a house three streets over, and then to a railing that lead down to a parking lot and then to an old bird’s nest. On and on I went, with no destination in mind, and no plan beyond enjoying the beautiful night air.
The one thing I watched for at each stop though was the light. Too much and I’d fade away, too little and I’d be swallowed up. As a shadow, I needed to stay on the borders between light and dark. I wasn’t part of either world, and it was thrilling to revel in that.
I might have run forever, chasing the edge of the night and fleeing the loss of the day, but as I wafted down onto an old tree stump near a broken and flickering street light, three shapes caught my attention.
They weren’t girls but I’d mistaken them for ones before. With my eyes opened at last, I saw the Boggins as they truly were. On the outside they were lovely things. All pleasant curves and fine lines. Inside them though there was a red hunger.
I’m a shadow. I don’t have a pulse to beat faster, I don’t have a stomach to churn into a knot. With no body to harm, I didn’t have to worry about the Boggins at all. Despite that when I looked into the red pools that writhed were their eyes should have been, I felt sick.
“If we don’t find an another gift, the Miser King will make an offering of one of us,” the smallest one said.
“We need more magic if we’re going to capture a proper offering,” the largest one said.
“We should have taken the cat,” the middle one said. “It was a familiar.”
“The cat wouldn’t have been enough,” the largest one said.
“Its magic would have helped us,” the smallest one said. “We could have used it to trap the little things that dart away before we can catch them.”
“It’s master was there,” the largest one said. “We’d be better as offerings than tangling with a familiar’s master.”
“You don’t know she was a witch,” the middle one said. “She could have just been a girl.
The oldest one reached back and clubbed the middle one across the side of the head.
“They’re never just girls, you idiot,” the largest one said. “And you’ll get us all turned to leaf piles if you make that mistake again.”
“So what if they’re not just girls,” the middle one said, rubbing her head. “The Miser King said we don’t need to worry about that. He’s going to fix all the halfway folks.”
The large one clubbed the middle one again.
“That’s after the offerings have been made,” the large one said. “And he’s not going to do anything, it’s going to be the Lord of the Bleak Harvest that takes care of them.”
I’d never heard of the Miser King or the Lord of the Bleak Harvest but neither sounded very charming. Also, neither sounded like they were even vaguely my problem, so I leapt again, leaving the Boggins behind.
There was a terrible plot afoot, but from Penny’s memories I saw that there were always terrible things happening. There wasn’t anything I could do to change that.
I’d gotten four hops away and was trying my hardest to convince myself that my argument was true when I found my next leap carrying me back towards the Boggins. I wanted to say that I didn’t mean to go after them, that I had no interest in getting involved in someone else’s problems, but I couldn’t lie to myself.
I’d run away from Penny, and I felt like I’d run away all my life, but no part of me wanted to run from this. It felt very strange to know that. To feel pulled towards something instead of frightened away from it.
I was only a shadow, so there wasn’t much that I could do, and maybe that’s what made me feel brave. I couldn’t stop the Boggins from doing whatever horrible things they had in mind, but by the same token, I couldn’t screw anything up either
I recognized the road the Boggins were traveling as I crept behind them. It was a playground of shadows thanks to the bits of flame and glowing wisps that lit the path. The little puddles of illumination called out to me but I kept to the deeper shadows that lay just off the road. I didn’t want the Boggins to see me, but I needn’t have worried. They were far too confident to worry about something like me following them.
For good reason too. They were headed to the Goblin Deeps. I only had a vague sense of what the Goblin Deeps were but I knew that there were lots of things scarier than me down there