Every month, I will post a new piece of writing for you. These will include completed, unpublished short stories, essays, columns, or works in progress.
by Ali Al Saeed
It was only when I walked out of the house that I realized that my shadow has gone.I looked down at the lawn. The grass blades bent and heavy with dew, but alight with the morning sunshine. I wouldn’t have noticed it if it weren’t for the fact that right next to me was the shadow of the satellite dish I had installed last month.
I looked back the house, then up at the roof. There it was, the dish, perched on top of my bedroom. A little higher, behind it, shone the sun. My house had a shadow. My car had a shadow. Even my ailing mailbox had a shadow. I looked down again at the grass, but there was still no sign of mine. I scratched my head and huffed and puffed. The last thing I needed in my life was to lose my shadow.
Standing there in the middle of my lawn wasn’t going to solve anything, I realized, it would only make me late for work. Again. As I drove through the suburbs, I had a sudden high sensitivity towards shadows. I noticed their shapes, more refined and accurate than ever before. Of houses and people and cars and dogs and their dung. Shadows of lampposts and mailboxes and trees and their fallen leaves on the ground.
I parked my car in the shaded lot and stopped worrying about not having my own shadow for a moment. Things were quit normal at work. The florescent ceiling did not cast any shadows on the dark carpet, which was thinning from the constant human traffic treading over it. No sunlight came through the curtained windows.
Eventually, I forgot all about my shadow and went on about my day. Reading emails, printing out contracts, copying legal document, reading emails, until I had to take the Radflick file to Mr Higgins. But I froze as soon as I walked into his office. There were shadows everywhere!
His silhouette sat behind the large glass desk, decorated with all manner of metallic, sordidly phallic ornaments.
"What the hell you waiting for there, Buck?" his voiced boomed.
I hated him calling me Buck. I'm told it's supposed to be a good thing.
"Um. Yeah. I got The Radflick for you to sign. Sir."
My feet remained still. He grunted.
"Well, it ain't gonna walk itself over to my desk will it."
I realized that as long as I walk steadily straight, there is no chance for him to find out that my shadow has disappeared. Shadowless people are frowned upon around here. I'd probably get sacked. Maybe prosecuted. I felt a sweat trickling down my back, along the contour of my spine.
I began my deliberate, steady steps towards Higgins. But to my surprise, he moved!
I had to quickly adjust myself accordingly, following his every move. His shadow from the setting sun casting its orange rays behind him was long and thin, so as he bent over his desk to reach his pen, I had to hunch myself and bend my knees a little. Thankfully, he didn’t notice.
“What the fuck are you doing Buck?!”
OK. He did. Eventually.
I lurched myself forward and dropped to the ground as if taking cover from a hand Grande.
Mr. Higgins leaned across the desk to take a look.
“I am sitting on the floor, sir.”
“Well, yeah, I can see that. But you know what, I don’t give a shit if you sat on a pile of your own dung. As long as that bitch of a file is ready.” I tenderly slid the folder I had over and onto the desk from my seat on the floor and quickly retracted my hand. Mr. Higgins flipped through it, grunted several times, then slammed it onto his desk.
“Well, well, well… so little Mr. Heartfield here can see something through without any hiccups!”
There was one building up in my throat, but I somehow managed to swallow it back.
“You ain’t as half bad as your dad after all.”
Of course, he had to bring that up. I muffled a sigh of despair as my shoulders sink. Mr. Higgins here boned my mom and then fired my dad. Because that’s what business partners do, apparently. He hired me for one of two things, either to mock me and my father for all eternity, or out of pity. Certainly, there was no room in his heart to do anything out of it.
“How is she, by the way? Your mom.”
“Well, she’s now officially breastless, Mr. Higgins.”
He grunted again and looked up at the ceiling, as if he was seeing one for the first time in his life. I could only see his head from where I was sitting. I knew where this was heading, so I decided it was time for me to head out.
“Anything else Mr. Higgins?”
Cheese Buggles on a sundae! I can’t just walk out now. He’d see my shadowlessness. So I remained seated, until I figured it out. Perhaps, I had hoped, he would forget about, hiding on the other side of his desk.
“You’re still hiding on the other side of my desk, Buck.”
I heard him move then. He came around and looked down at me. He gave another of his infamous grunts, pushed the other chair aside and sat down right in front of me.
“My ex-wife. Number two. She used to do this,” he told me, “She called it Yoda. You know, like the little green guy from that silly film.” I had half-a-heart of correcting him. Instead, I found myself nodding in agreement, as he pulled himself into the Sukhasana posture. I kept my eyes open. I could smell the heady cologne on him. It always reminded me of my father.
Mr. Higgins, eyes closed, took a deep breath and went into meditation mode. After a long moment, I began to crawl on my fours towards the door. Suddenly, and for a brief second, I was transformed into the jungle, sneaking up from behind the bushes, in full predatory mode, awaiting the right moment to launch myself onto my victim, standing there, all alone and vulnerable. But the damned door didn’t seem to get any closer.
“Your father was a decent man, Buck. A push-over, but decent nonetheless.” Mr. Higgins said. When I looked back over my shoulder, I saw him still in posture. If he opened his eyes then, he would’ve found that I was without shadow.
He didn’t. Instead, he just kept to talking about my father.
In addition to having lost my shadow, this was the last thing I needed in my life.
I just wanted to go home and not have to listen to how my father screwed up big time, how he made a lot of people’s lives – including his – miserable, and how it must be a real bummer living in his shadow. Who needs a shadow anyway?
I don’t know what came over me then. I just didn’t care about any of it. So I stood up. And walked up to him. “You stole my father’s ideas, you stole his plans, you stole his love… you screwed up everyone’s lives. ” I told him as he stood to face me. “But I won’t live in anyone shadow anymore. I don’t have one. I don’t need one,” I said as I turned, hoping he’d notice my not having a shadow.
But all sunlight has gone. The sun now sunk below the eighth floor.
“What the heck you talking about!”
“Never mind. What matters is I’m done with this. I’ll go find my own shadow. It will be nice and warm and dark and all… shadowy. Also,”
I swung hard with my right fist. It landed awkwardly on the side of his neck and he stammered and fell back onto the chair.
“Ouch! That fuckin’ hurt!”
I began walking towards the door, which didn’t seemed so distant anymore and as I was about to leave I yelled: “And it’s called YOGA!”
Then I went home.
For the next couple of weeks, I lived. Shadowless. Jobless. But free. Most people didn’t notice that I had no shadow. Some did. Mostly kids and dogs. And they either pointed at me or made growling noises.
I walked without a shadow.
I swam without a shadow.
I ate without a shadow.
I made love without a shadow (that was actually pretty interesting).
And then one morning I woke up and walked out of my house, onto the fresh green grass and I looked at my house and saw its shadow. The satellite dish, the car, the mailbox… and then something emerged from a little bush in the corner. It traveled across the blades of grass effortlessly.
It looked very familiar. I walked to me, laid flat upon the grass, until our feet met and we merged.I looked down at it, and as if seeing an old friend, smiled.
Now I’m not certain that it’s natural for shadows to smile back, but that one did.