Since Derin was a child, he’d heard things about the shadows. He’d heard that people lived in them, that your shadow is actually alive. He’d also heard that the gust of wind you sometimes felt on your neck, the one that made all the hairs on your skin stand and made you pause for a second to look around, was a shadow person passing by.
If he was being honest, he thought that was all ridiculous. But the most ridiculous of them all was the one his grandmother kept talking about. She’d lean on her cane, bend to his height, all traces of her gummy smile gone with nothing but fear in her teary eyes when she whispers, “My child, your shadow is alive. Protect yourself. Don’t let him eat you alive.”
Derin never took her seriously. Especially not after he’d heard his mother recount her death, something about her violently shaking in his grandfather’s arms, crying blood and dying on him. His mother always told the story with gratitude laced in her words. But nothing about his grandmother’s violent death and subsequent resurrection inspired gratitude in Derin’s heart. It actually made him think they were a little bit loony. But God forbid he told the women the truth.
Derin had gotten off work really late at night, wishing for capitalism to crumble and a glucose guardian to have pity on him. He’d just gotten past his estate gate and was taking the short way home when he felt it, the gust of wind, except it wasn’t really a gust, more like a whisper. It felt like someone was breathing down his neck with one nostril.
Now, Derin’s never been the type to stay and wait for danger, so he did the only reasonable thing. He shook his head and walked, fast. But there’s a saying:
It felt like the whisper of wind was following him, moving from one side of his neck to the other. He picked up his steps and walked into the nearest light cast by a lone lamppost at the end of the street. That was when he saw him. The man under the hood, his entire being hidden in black. He walked by quickly, turning to look at Derin with a wide-ass grin on his face.
Derin had never run so fast in his life.
He ran all the way home and locked his doors and windows. He brought out the rosary tucked underneath his pillow, saying a quick prayer. But he couldn’t get the man’s grin out of his head; how much it looked like his grandmother’s. He remembered the story of his grandmother’s death and resurrection, her shaky voice warning him of what lies in the shadows.
Now that Derin thought about it, he couldn’t get the man’s lack of a shadow out of his head, or the feeling that he wasn’t really alone in his bedroom. But tomorrow’s a new day, and he still had to go to work to answer, “Yes sir” as he’s been paid to, so he turned on the lamp on the right side of his bed, laid facing it and went to sleep.
One by one, they stepped out of the shadows, a sickening grin similar to the hooded man’s on their faces. And that was when the severing started. The hooded man stepped out of the darkness and stood behind Derin, staring at his shadow.
First, it was the fingers, and then the shadow moved his hand while Derin lay still in bed. Then the legs gave way. The left half of Derin’s shadow moved away from his body and lay flat on his bed for a second. Then it rushed back into him and the vibrations started. Derin tossed and turned all over the bed, shaking rigorously. Finally, he laid flat, his back on the bed, and the bleeding started. Derin lay there, bleeding out from his eyes and nose, as the shadow men returned to the darkness.
Derin had gotten off work really late. He’d just skipped past his estate gate and was taking the short way home when he heard it, the howl in the wind. It made him excited and giddy.
He walked past the lone lamppost at the end of the street, and that was when he saw him. The man under the hood, his entire being hidden in black. He walked by slowly, taking his time, like he was counting every single step, and then, he turned to look at Derin with a wide-ass grin stuck on his face. Only this time, Derin responded with a matching grin, turned around and walked into the night, his shadow nonexistent.