The Shadows


She stepped through the cracked frame, her glaze pacing left and right, vary of any movement. But there was none. Her heart skipped as beat as she saw her favourite vase of thin Chinese porcelain shattered.

The devastation didn’t make any sense. Not in her world. But who-, or whatever caused the calamity, they were gone now. There was no smell other than hers.

She sighed, closed her eyes and focused. It was wrong to examine the damage in great detail; she had to ignore it: it would have only made things harder to recover.

She remembered the look of her vase; a blue dragon wrapping its tail around a field of flowers. She traced the shape of the vase with her hands, sliding over its curves. Her fingers glided over the mental image, until the chunks followed, taking their places, restoring the beauty. The vase became solid.

When she opened her eyes, the vase was intact, looking exactly as she remembered it. Almost. The vase had a small chip on top now; it was part of her imagination, and now it was in her reality.

Whatever caused the calamity, she still had enough power within her to restore the damage.

A shadow twitched in the corner of her eye and she automatically turned her head towards it. Nothing was there. The sunbeams sat frozen on the wall, born from the window shards. She rubbed her temples, glancing around and assessing the remaining work. Another shadow rushed past. Curious to catch the movement, she turned her head after it.

Her eyes froze, fixed on the table stand.

The vase was shattered again. Pieces of it started turning into dust.

It was impossible. It didn’t align with her reality.

She rushed to it, picked up the shards, same solid and cold. The dragon head gave her the last inquisitive look and then turned into marble dust. The dust slipped between her fingers. She stood paralysed. It didn’t make any sense.

It was her world; with her rules. Nothing in here could go against her will. Nothing in this whole world mattered more than this vase. All her consciousness focused on one single thing as a dim halo wrapped her body in a soft glow. Her will commanded the vase to come back.

The shadows crept closer. She turned around, growling, but they remained this time. Smokey shapes stood around, mangled humans, with several hands of varying length that moved chaotically.

Were they alive? Or self-aware? She made a careful step towards the shapes, and they didn’t move. The sweat reached her eyes, and she wiped her forehead. Their existence was impossible in her world, but then, what happened to her house in the morning was impossible too.

One of the shadows twitched, floating closer. Her fingers felt nothing. She clearly saw her palm being stopped by the strange grey form, but there was no pressure, no change in temperature, nothing. Up close the shadow form was mist, not bright or dark, an annoying noise of nothing in particular.

The shape wrapped its tentacles around her forearm, and she realised she can’t see her palm anymore, can’t feel it.

Almost panicking, she jerked her hand back. The grey shape followed it, wrapping itself around her body. She hit it with her other hand, but her fist stopped mid-air, and then the shape caught on her other arm. Her glance rushed around, looking for a way to escape; she whined in a high pitch, like a trapped animal. The sunlight looked dimmer now; the room was full of shadows moving towards her.

She charged outside. A glass shard pierced her foot, bringing pain; bringing a momentary clarity. The pain was real. She was real. The world was real. The forest around her house looked as usual, trees quietly rustled in the wind.

Her left leg wouldn’t move. The strange shape wrapped itself around her torso and one leg now. She flailed her arms, trying to keep her balance, but she couldn’t feel or see them. She was running away, but she wasn’t moving. She looked back, only to see the house slowly turning to dust, as shadows crept from within.

‘Help me!’

But no one came.

There was no sound. No sight. No touch. There was nothing. Her mind sprinted through old memories, remembering days of past, re-living sensations again, unwinding her life up to the very first moments of her creation.

And then her mind stopped existing too.

He opened his eyes and stretched. His legs were sore from sitting in the lotus pose, his back hurt. Yet his mind was fully clear, for the first time in many years.

He got up, fully aware of the tingling in his feet, of the wind touching his cheeks, of the birds singing in the distance. His eyes opened to the world free from imagination. The reality didn’t change. It was still there, disappearing every moment, coming to live in the next one. His mind was free now.

He called her name one last time. Smiled.

And walked away.

By Shinyuu



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