KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Flash Fiction: 687 words

The Prodigal Shadow

by Soramimi Hanarejima

When you look up from your book to reach for the glass of water on the end table, you see her on the living room wall, dark and deep as ever, like she never left. She must have reunited with you this evening, after you got home. Like so many summer days before this one, she was absent from the sidewalk as you took your usual route back from the bus stop.

Forgetting about the water, you rise from your armchair and walk toward her, so the light of the reading lamp joins your feet to hers on the cork flooring.

Slowly, her memories seep into you as sensations. You give them your thoughtful attention—like listening, just quieter. The freedom of roving over open meadows and bald hills on moonless nights. The rush of being whisked away in the shadow of a speeding car after it momentarily merged with the shadow of the tree she had been resting in. You feel the rhythm of her days, the alternation of nocturnal autonomy and daylight dependency.

Without you to cast her, sunlight confined her to other shadows, and movement on her own was only possible at night—then, she could glide upon any surface, except those aglow with moonlight. Once, she stayed in an old barn past sunrise, missing her chance to slip easily into the nearby woods. So she waited for hours, for a fox or deer or bird to enter the barn’s shadow so she could leave in its shadow. But no animals even skirted the barn’s shadow. She didn’t mind much, because like most shadows, she is practiced in the art of being patient. When the sun at last swung the barn’s shadow around enough to touch the shadow of the farm’s fence, she followed that shadow out toward a lake, where she hoped she’d find some waterfowl.

She liked being in the shadows of birds best. It was then she could be a shadow upon a lake or mountainside, feeling cool ripples or pine needles beneath her. These shadows showed her what it was like to flow off cliffs onto the rocky scree below and jump from river waters into tree branches. From the shadows of raptors and songbirds, she discovered what it’s like to be small upon the twigs of a nest then leap out into the world, instantly expanded upon scratchy shrubs then streaming over dewy grass.

As these sensations percolate into you, your heart is twinged by the bittersweet sting of her leap out of this nest. You’ve long felt her desire to be cast in the light of distant landscapes; to have her edges caressed by the glow of sunsets on sandy shores and tickled by the crescent moon on gravel paths; to be tossed to and fro by the flames of a campfire shifting with the breeze; to vanish when the fog rolls into a coastal town, then return to the sidewalk, gradually darkening as the sun dispels the grayness. And though you have yearned to take her to new places, work has kept you from travel.

“You didn’t miss much,” you tell her now. “No one even noticed you were gone. Your kind are easily overlooked, except when people need your coolness during hot afternoons. But I bet Mirqali’s shadow missed you terribly. We’ll go see him soon.”

She has always been close to that particular shadow, even though you and Mirqali have never been especially close. Whenever your shadows coincide, you feel their unmistakable affinity for one another, like the pull between opposite poles of two magnets. Human shadows can be indifferent to one another, so often intersecting in the crowded, bustling city, but he has always been fond of her, and they never hesitate to share what shadows can with each other: an essence of being.

And that is what will pass from her to you in the coming days, the substance of other shadows. What she felt and learned in their company. For now, so much of that worldliness remains within her, waiting to tinge and temper you with an ethereal maturity.


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