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       Daniel hated cleaning. And every Saturday, Mom and Dad made Daniel and all of his brothers and sisters help clean the house.  He especially hated dusting because the room he usually had to dust was the room that he shared with his brother Alex.  And right outside the window of his room was a willow tree that in the spring created so much pollen that it made the air sparkle, but dulled every other object in the room. 
       And so week after week Daniel would walk into his room, dust rag in one hand, spray in the other.  He would then proceed to lock his door and take a nap.  After about an hour he would resurface from his room and put the cleaning supplies away. 
       Soon however, the quality of the air decreased and as Daniel’s siblings coughed and sniffled each time they entered his room, his parents caught on.  They quickly ended his Saturday naps and put him on vacuum duty.  He hated vacuum duty slightly less as he could still find a way to entertain himself, the low roar of the machine the soundtrack to his Saturday afternoons. 
       The only thing in the world that Daniel hated more than cleaning was nighttime.  He didn’t have a problem with the end of the day, or the moon or even the stars, he simply hated the fears that came with night.  He hated the way Dad always double bolted the door and Mom closed all the windows.  His parents jumped at every sound the night made and in return, Daniel did too.
       One night, Daniel found himself extra jumpy.  The clock had just ticked to 2:35 a.m.  and Daniel’s bladder was about to explode.  When he realized that there was no way that he could hold it off until the sunrise, he ran to the bathroom.  As he washed his hands he kept his head peering over his shoulder.  If anything were to try to jump out at him at that moment, he wanted to face it straight on, not see its reflection in the mirror.
       As he peered over his shoulder though, he saw the opposite of a reflection; a shadow.  And so he found himself, paralyzed with fear, the water running over his cold hands.  It lasted for just a second, just until his mom popped her face into view, but it was a second of pure terror.  A second of pure terror that was completely unnecessary that had been hiding in the lucid light of the moon that shone through dusty curtains.  And at that moment he realized, the only thing he hated more than cleaning and even night, were shadows.
       That was during the newborn moment of Wednesday, so by Saturday evening, Daniel’s thoughts had had a more than ample opportunity to obsess about shadows.  He thought about how shadows were made and where they showed up.  He thought about how they seemed to like Halloween nights and dark alleys.  He thought about how the only way to make a shadow was to mix oil and water: light and dark.  All the while he thought of this, he vacuumed.  He had discovered that by using the handheld vacuum on the side, he could reach and clean every surface he needed to without having to lift anything. 
       He had just crawled under his desk when he came face to face with it: a shadow.  It was attached to a broken lamp that he and Alex had pushed under there months ago, but that had slipped his mind.  He remembered it clearly though now as he looked at the water colored, black shape that stood at attention against his wall.  He looked up.  The source of light that produced the shadow stared back at him.  Their very presence together seemed to mock Daniel.  He was caught between them like they were playing their own game of monkey in the middle.  He wanted it to stop, so he did the only logical thing, he pulled out the hand held vacuum and sucked it up.
It was gone in a second, leaving behind no trail or trace.  The hand held vacuum sat comfortably in his hand.  He continued to vacuum up every shadow in his room.  He caught them in every corner, even as they tried to run and climb up the walls he caught them.  When his work in his room was done, he left, leaving every object static in the night.
       He went through the whole house, searching for and cleaning up shadows.  The phantom hands that had once extended from objects were cut off.  The shadows that had once helped fill rooms were gone and the house seemed a little bit bigger, but a little bit emptier.
       He found though, that he couldn’t stop.  So he unbolted his front door and stepped outside.  He walked down blocks, as far and as wide as the extension cord would let him.  The vacuum roared on making shadows shake as they heard it approaching.  Every shadow that danced in front of Daniel’s eyes, he sucked up.  And soon, every beautiful mystery that stayed hidden in the light was gone. 




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