#SpookyShowcase: shadow by Emily McKeon

Welcome to the 9th annual #SpookyShowcase, a Halloween artist and author showcase. A full schedule of submissions can be found here so you don’t miss a single entry for THESE DEADLY CURSES. Now, on to today’s submission!

Shadow by Emily McKeon

It happened again. The last time had been years ago when the Darling girl had caught Peter’s shadow and returned it to him. Her stitching had been strong, keeping the willful spirit firmly attached for several decades. The bond would have lasted longer if he hadn’t flew through the thickest part of the woods and gotten it snagged on a branch when he was chasing after the Lost Boys. He didn’t notice the weakened stitch until it was too late. His shadow took the opportunity the moment it could and broke free.

Having not been shadowless for so long, he had forgotten what it was like. An empty feeling, knowing part of him was missing. He needed a remedy, and soon, else other parts of him might start to flit away.

There was no chance of getting his old one back now. The first rays of sun that touched it once it separated from him would have destroyed it. The only reason it had survived the last time was because the Girl had kept it locked up safe in a dark drawer, out of danger from the sun. 

There was no help for it, he would have to find a new one. 

In the old days, before the stitching on of the last one, he had collected shadows the way pirates collected treasure or pixies collected stars to turn into dust. They never lasted long, so he was always on the prowl for a new one. The Girl with her need to help had made him soft and out of practice for hunting. He needed to remember how it was before.

First, he needed to find a shadow. They were easy enough to find, the problem was finding the right one. One that fitted a boy like him. A shadow to make him feel whole again.

Lost Boy’s were no good. Once upon a time, he had used them, but they caused too many problems when their comrades came looking for them. In order to keep peace and retain command, he had taken all their shadows, and started over fresh with a new band of Lost Boys. That was before Tinker Belle and Captain Hook and the Darling children. No one who knew him now really knew anything about shadows.

Pirate shadows weren’t any good, either. First, most of the pirates had long since departed Never Never Land, returning to the mortal world to grow old and die. Those still left behind lost their sense of adventure, as had their shades, choosing to stay in one spot forever.

Mermaid shadows were full of water and not suited to flying. The natives had long ago broken the truce with him when he continually put their lives in danger for his own sport. Showing his face anywhere near their encampment would be met with hostility and possibly death before he could claim a new silhouette.

Never Never Land wouldn’t do for his intentions. He had to venture out into the mortal world again. Out where the shadows thrived, ready to be plucked and spirited back to his hideout. The mortals would never know what happened to them, and he would be whole again. At least until that shade broke loose and he had to hunt again. 

But that was part of the fun, wasn’t it? Part of what he missed for so long, being tied to that one shadow.

“Good riddance, Shadow! I shall find a better one,” he shouted to nobody, for the Lost Boys were all tracking moose in the woods and Tinker Belle had flown back to her tree when Hook had disappeared. She had found his adventures dull without a pirate to battle. And the spirit he was addressing was no more.

He tucked his dagger into his belt and flew off, feeling the tug of something familiar as he left the safety of Never Never Land and headed towards the stars. The tug told him he would find what he was after, if only he followed it. It was the same tug that led him to the Darlings, where he would have taken one of their shadows that night had the Girl not saved and reattached his old one for him. It was a silent siren’s call, beckoning him onward with the promise of his desired prize.

The tug brought him to London, several streets over from where he last lost his shadow. The houses here were smaller and more cramped. No special rooms for nurseries here.

The tug intensified to a throbbing in his chest. His perfect prize was nearby, so close he could call to it, if only it would listen.

Most of the buildings were dark, with a light on here and there to keep the demons at bay. He skipped from window to window, peering in each until he found what he was searching for in the uppermost floor of the smallest house.

The light was dim, a single bulb barely enough to illuminate the tiny attic space. Beneath it, a wooden bed piled high with ratty blankets held a small child. From the window it was hard to see much of the child beyond their limp blonde hair and the glint of something shiny laying in their upturned palm. Spying that glint, he smiled, the siren’s call crescendoing and crashing down. He had found his perfect shadow.

The window creaked as he pushed it open and the child’s head snapped towards him in surprise.

“Hello. I see you have something of mine.”

The child’s eyes widened in disbelief. “I thought you were only a fairy story!”

He shrugged and walked closer to the bed. He could see now that the child was a young girl, perhaps eight years old, but so very small. On the opposite side of the bed, her shadow shrank, melding into the dark corners of the room and disappearing. 

Too late, he thought, I already found you. 

Out loud he said, “all fairy stories have some truth to them. How else could they continue to exist in the world?”

The girl continued to stare at him while rolling the shiny object back and forth between her fingers. He cleared his throat and pointed at it.

“I see you’ve found my kiss. I’ve been looking all over for it.”

The girl stopped rolling the object and look down at it before letting out a short laugh. “A kiss? This?” She held the object up so he could see it. “This isn’t a kiss. It’s a thimble.”

He did not like being laughed at, particularly not by a girl. He knew what it was. He had exchanged it many times before, and this time would be no different. Looming over her, he put out his hand.

“Believe me, it is a kiss. It belong to me and found its way to you. If you give it to me, I’ll give you a better one in return.” Opening his other hand, he revealed an acorn.

“But, that’s not a kiss, either.”

“Are you sure?”

The girl squinted up at him and pursed her lips. “If I trade my kiss for yours, will you take me back to Never Never Land with you?”

A smile creeped across his face. “Of course I will. You only had to ask.”

Beaming up at him, she swapped her thimble for the acorn. The moment the thimble hit his hand, he pulled his dagger from his belt and in one smooth movement severed the girl’s spirit from her body. She gasped and her eyes dimmed.

“Sleep well and dream of Never Never Land.”

The new shade struggled, but was bound by the exchange of the kiss. After a few minutes of fighting to get free, it settled down, casting a resigned glance at its former mistress before giving itself over to its new form.

“That’s better. Let’s get home before the sun comes up.” He launched himself out the window, the shadow following dutifully behind. It knew the new day would rise with one less light in the world to cast a shadow.

As they headed towards the second star to the right, something shiny fell out of his pocket and fell to the earth. It would travel around down there until this shadow figured out the secret to escaping and leave him shadowless once more. Then it would find the right shadow and send out its siren call to him again.

About the Author

A writer and dreamer, Emily is a recent transplant from New England to Kissimmee, Florida where she hopes to find more outlets for her creativity.

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