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One of us is following you. I know that for certain.
Most people don’t pay any attention to me. I’m nothing more than a dark spot on the wall; sometimes a puppet or a place to hide. I may not be very important, but I’m always following someone who is.
I am a shadow. It’s my job, my life. More specifically, I am the shadow of a girl. She is just over five feet tall, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Every morning I get up when she does. I follow her as she sleepily gets dressed, then goes downstairs and pops two waffles into the toaster. Everything she does, I copy. I’m like an echo, a dark reflection of everything she is.
I’m with her as she goes out the door with her backpack and flute case. She sits down on the bus and takes out her iPod. The shadow of the headphones reach me, so I can hear the shadow of a catchy tune with lyrics that remind me of myself: “It’s like walking on snow without leaving a trace…”
That’s me. Wherever I go I leave no mark. I can be here one second, there the next, and a human could never tell where I’ve been. I do leave a mark, but only the other shadows can see it.
While she sits in her first period class, I converse with other shadows. Some of them are old friends of mine, others are strangers who are new to the job.
When a human is born, a shadow is assigned to it. When they die, the shadow is reassigned to a new baby. This is my thirteenth job.
“What did your person do last night?” one of the other shadows asks me. It’s a very common question, but what else do we talk about?
“She played basketball,” I respond. I like it when she plays. I get to follow her rapidly around, dribbling and taking shots with the ball’s shadow. But I enjoy horseback riding even more. It’s fun to ride around and over jumps on the shadow of a horse.
She sits through her second hour class, then her third. During third period she watched the clock, bored, wondering why this science class is much less fun than last year.
That’s the thing about shadows. Even if I had happened to know the answer, I had no way to tell her.
Next, she hurries downstairs to lunch, where a loud line has already formed. After getting lunch she sits down at the same table as always. I quietly follow her movements when she goes to band, her fingers moving quickly over the flute buttons. I’m there are she walks onto the rickety transit bus that rattles over every bump like the world is going to end. I’ve never before been the shadow of someone who switched schools in the middle of the day. But, she is number thirteen, after all…A very lucky number.
She sits through classes at the other school, and soon it’s time to go home. Luckily the bus isn’t too slow today.
At home she grabs a snack and then heads up to her room. Sitting at her desk, iPod turned on, she takes out a notebook and begins writing. Today, she is working on a short story. As she goes, I read the shadow of the words on the page. She doesn’t know that I always eagerly await the next part of her story. The shadow of the pen and her hand are one, dancing across the page, leaving inky marks behind wherever they go.
I know for sure that there is a shadow behind you all the time. Yes, you may turn around and look; it may be hard to see, but it is there.
Next time you see one of us walking behind you on the sidewalk, or following your movements as a dark shape across the wall, think of us. Reach out and touch your shadow; tell it ‘Thank you.’
For we have been dutifully following humankind around longer than you can remember. And we will continue to follow until the end of time.