“Not the slightest hint of attention…” thought Shawn as he faded with the setting sun. “The man can’t live without me, but does he ever wonder what I want? Not an instant of the day.” Even if he was disappearing, the shadow was right. Evan had never cared about him and judging the circumstances it seemed unlikely that he would anywhere in the near future. He was more interested in lighter matters such as the computer screen, television or the occasional candle.
“Where would he be without me?” wondered Shawn after Evan had switched the light on. “No girl would take note of his sturdy jaws or his voluptuous lips. His qualities would lay hidden in a face that would seem plain and pale. No one would fall for him where it not for my indefatigable presence.” Not that it had had benefit so far, Evan was not the guy to make a move. Shawn nevertheless actively increased his chances must he ever tip over.
This did not occur to Evan. He turned on his television and sat down, casting a new version of Shawn on the wall behind him. It flickered dimly. “THEre rEAlly SHoulD BE SOmethINg wE caN do ABout this” he said to his other self on the seat below Evan. Evan, distracted by the lit up box on the other end, did not notice the conversation between Shawns insecure version and the more sturdy one carrying Evans behind. “Do you think it’s fair that I follow him wherever he goes, while he never even gives the slightest sign of respect? A little thank you once in a while would be nice. Flowers, chocolate, something! Once!” The flickering Shawn found it hard to wrap his head around these concepts, so he agreed with his alter ego on the couch.
Evan stood up. “There he goes!” shouted couch-Shawn, who now flashed to the floor and shot to the lower part of the wall. “Stands up and walks away, pretending nothing’s going on. That we’ll follow him without question. Well, that will not stand!” He had to run quickly and hop from wall to wall to keep up until the kitchen. It was when Evan opened the fridge, spawning yet another Shawn on the enormous plant behind him, that the poor shadow had enough. He lifted his arms to the ceiling and pulled himself up. Evan took his beer out of the fridge and closed it, making his shadow vanish in the darkness.
Evan walked back through the dining room to the TV, Shawn ran around him on the walls. “A man can only spend so much time without appreciating his shadow before it will get back at him” whispered Shawn who was back with his flickering him on the wall behind. He creeped slightly to the left. The flickering Shawn started impersonating Evan picking his nose. This amused the shadow on the couch, who thought some donkey ears would go well with that. Flickering Shawn, inspired, gave him a long tale by which he lifted himself into the shadow of a bonsai tree that stood near the lamp on the table. It to suddenly grew a shady banana. Shawn mimicked another monkey figure that took lice out of Evans fur. He ate them.
“Is that enough?” Evan, warned by jungle sounds, had turned around and now gazed at the scene with a condescending expression. Shawn drooped back to the chair. Evan turned back to the TV. The other Shawn pointed a flickering finger of accusation to the void and held an arm on his thigh. Couch-Shawn giggled silently. He drew a little black square moustache on his lip. Shawn topped this up with a flickering arm in the air, after which the whole figure rose out of its shady chair, threw a straight leg forward and took a step. They thought the resemblance was striking.
Evan, feeling ridiculed, stood up, ran to the wall and screamed: “stop it!” only to find himself yell at his own mirrored projection flickering on the wall. Shawn was delighted at the view. After Evan had turned around again he lifted his thumbs to his ears and wiggled his fingers. Evan himself was puzzled, but felt that he had sufficiently dealt with the situation. He watched some more TV, turned of the light, walked to the bedroom and went to sleep.
The sight of his ceiling at the moment Evan opened his eyes caused somewhat of a stir in his subconscious depths. He closed his eyes again, pretending that that would bring him back to sleep. Meanwhile, the stir moved through his belly, reached disrupting proportions around his heart, then sprang out through his eyes. Kaleidoscopic patterns swarmed over his walls and his ceiling. When he managed to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, Evan could discern little figures running all over. He stood up and walked to the wall, only to find that they were tiny portraits of himself, jumbling in what seemed the representation of a civil war.
One scene showed him running after a girl. She looked a lot like a miniature shadow of his first love Melinda. She ran and ran until she stopped then turned around and pursued him instead. This caused his miniature shadow to turn, run and disappear into the crowd. He saw a tiny picture of his boss behind his desk. On the other side of the desk, a figure of himself hurried in whichever direction the other pointed. The poor little fellow shrank with every act. Evan stood a meter away from his wall, witnessing shadowgraphs of forgotten fights with his brothers, struggles with his car and a strange incident in the supermarket which he found hard to place. The wall kept him hypnotized until all figures disappeared into what seemed a little black hole with an odd depth effect, shrinking down to an invisible size.“Wow…” thought Evan, as he fell backwards on his bed and closed his eyes.
“Uh-oh…” thought Evan as the phone rang downstairs. He jumped out of bed, skipped his house shoes and stumbled down the stairs ignoring three horned creatures the sun cast upon the wall to his left through the tiny windows to his right. They weren’t flattering.
“If you’re not here within half an hour” spoke Evan’s boss calmly through the receiver, “I’m going to have to let you go.” The connection was broken.
It took Evan twenty-eight minutes and thirty-six seconds to knock on his boss’s door. He had been obliged to skip some essential morning rituals, including shower, shave and breakfast. The cause of it all had, according to several eye witnesses continued its shenanigans. The shadow had indeed shown such engagement with its quest that it had managed to drag along crowds in its disobedience. It was for that reason that people looked up expecting to see a zeppelin when Evans bus drove by. It also explained the wavy movement of the buildings’ shadows on the city streets. Perhaps it even had something to do with the street map visuals on the clouds, bothering six meteorologists in the region.
While Evan did his very best to beg for mercy at the desk of his boss, Shawn made a long nose behind him. Ignatio, the boss, ignored the shadows recalcitrance. He had sufficient reason and justice to stick to his words. Evan had managed, against his expectations, to arrive within the given time. But he was not going to make it easy.
“I see you did not shave?” he asked, with a silent undertone.
“I’m sorry. I had to run. I reckoned it will be just for today. Tomorrow I’ll look in top shape again.” Ignatio ignored the gesture of denial made on the background. After all, one can not fire their employees on grounds of undesirable shadow motions. Besides, Evans clothes looked ironed and tidy as ever.
“What is your excuse for arriving this late?”
“Well, I woke up, turned off the alarm, and then by some overwhelming force got sucked back into sleeping mode. I had quite disturbing dreams about seeing…
“Dreams? Force? You’re saying you went to sleep again after turning off the alarm clock! What did you do last night?” Evan wanted to open his mouth, but the question was rhetorical. Shawn felt sudden pity for him, and accentuated Evan’s few weak gestures to support him on the background. Ignatio, ignoring that, entered a speech on how the values of a business are reflected by its employees, and that this kind of late coming must never happen again, and that he could consider buying a second alarm clock if he thought that necessary. He should also go to bed earlier, because well rested employees make a far better impression.
“What are you staring at?” asked Ignatio, noting an absence in Evans mind.
His secretary entered.
“Sir, the Ink Company® called. They asked when we will deliver the squids.”
“Come in. Evan, you can go. Don’t let this happen again.”
“I won’t”. Answered Evan. The eyes of the secretary looked bigger than usual as he passed. Behind his back, his shadow stroked hers over the shoulder with one finger. Hers threw one arm around Shawns neck.
Evans desk was tidy. Whoever had done that must come from a dark place where evil is forged and grandma wolf sits knitting sheep’s clothing for her twisted little boys.
Evans shade looked small now that the sun stood at its highest. “Morning, Evan” said Fun Freddy. “Problems waking up today?” I have that all the time. It’s a matter of opening both eyes at once, turning on the light and sitting up straight. You’ve got to do it in a single painless move. Pretend it has already happened before you start. If not, the land of the darkness catches you somewhere on the way, and you’re lost. What’s wrong with your shadow? Did you feed it sugar?” Shawn bashed Freddies to the ground. “Whoah! Did you see that? It’s is coming on to mine. You should teach it some manners, dear colleague!” Evan was certain that his nickname would be Savage Shadow Evan from now on.
Yet except for the difficulties in finding his material and the occasional uproar at his work spot, for example when Shawn threw shadow popcorn into the shadow of Fun Freddies coffee, entering numbers into data sheets went as usual that afternoon. He worked for a bit longer, partially to catch up, but he was also happy to avoid rush hour. Driving home was less embarrassing that way. The street lights and the bus lights created interplay of shadows, making it harder for others to see Shawns attempts to wreak havoc.
When they arrived back home and Evan was alone with his shadow, he felt the need to act. The thought of talking to his shadow again made him wonder if he had not lost it, but it was a thought he could not erase. He failed to notice the broccoli with cheese sauce when he put it in his mouth. What would he tell his shadow? Why on earth would he assume it would listen, let alone answer? After all, there had been no response the night before.
The sound and light of the TV reached as little of his conscious mind as the taste. The tension in his belly rose as he wondered where to start. Should he take a loving approach, or be stern? He found himself wording out sentences in his head. He wondered if he needed to explain his shadow about himself, or that it knew everything. It had after all been with him forever. Could it read his mind? Did it know of his current dilemma? Probably. It must be unable to speak, was his conclusion. Or perhaps only in signs, but Evan could not read signs.
His flickering shadow plucked out his hairs on the wall behind him. Sometimes it abruptly stood up, then it quickly sat down. It walked to the corner of the room and put itself there, arms around its knees. Evan hurried to the kitchen, took a glass out of the closet, filled it with water and took a sip. Then, it slipped from his hand and scattered on the floor. “What do you want?” he screamed out. The corner of the room was silent as any corner of a room.
Never again did Shawn act in any way unexpectedly. Evan sometimes wondered if he had dreamed the whole thing, and was decided not to speak of it again. His nickname had not become established on the work floor. Still, ever since that day, he looked back at Shawn frequently with quirky shivers over his spine.