What Your Shadow Does When You Don’t Look – originally published on Reflex Fiction

There’s a dark-light-dark-light-dark-light flashing to your left.

Sunlight warms your right ear as you walk, squinting at the glinting screen in your hand.

You scroll, hunched over other lives, other places, other times. They roll like the title cards of a Charlie Chaplin silent film.

The flashing to your left quickens, invading your peripheral vision.

You look up, preparing yourself for the devastating fact that someone has ventured too close to you.

You clear your throat, shoulders stiffening.

But there’s no one there.

Only a row of poplars guards the street. The air fizzes with bursting pea-green buds and chirping nestlings. The pavement is slick with the memory of dawn-showers, and you stare down at your shadow that stands long and tall, his unzipped dark grey jacket bubbles to the side in the sweet, fresh breeze.

You turn back to the gleaming screen and step forward. Your shadow steps backwards.

You blink, giving your head a little shake.

Your shadow spins around like Michael Jackson, lifts his heels, and jumps next to you.

‘Whatthe—’ you whisper, sliding your phone into your jeans pocket.

And that dark-grey, long-limbed flat bastard whisks, twirls, glides, and chassés ahead, jacket flapping behind him, leaving you there alone, abandoned.

You glance around, making sure nobody sees you, and jog after your detached pavement dancing king.

He moves along the curb, approaching the corner, box stepping, turning, his fingers snap-snapping.

As you’re chasing him, another dark, fluid patch appears from behind the six-storey block, leaking onto the asphalt, striking a pose like Madonna, hands framing her head with stuck-out thumbs.

She swings, sways, and pirouettes, hair burning in a grey flame.

Your shadow extends a lengthy arm forward, and they take each other, blending, separating, and blending again, legs lifting, heels turning, hips shifting, hands holding.

As you run and run and run after him to glue him back to his place, you notice the other shadow’s owner turning the corner, scurrying closer, wheezing, blushed and flushed, and hair like hay, skipping to keep up with her sleek stray.

She catches your gaze.

Originally published on Reflex Fiction, where it’s just missed the longlist in the Spring 2021 Reflex flash fiction competition.

Picture: Shadows by inbal marilli under CC0 1.0

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