The Shadow
— fiction by Michelle D'Costa

Karen enjoyed sitting in the dark because she was afraid of her own shadow.

It all began when she was falsely accused of cheating in her 7th grade final exam.

She was simple and straightforward. She never entertained the thought of cheating.

On the night before the commencement of her 7th grade final exam…

She had finished studying for her Biology Exam and allowed herself the luxury of a song she loved the most before she slept for the night.

Knowing that though the tune would play in her head when she awoke early the next day, she was confident that she would definitely not forget what she had studied.

Next Morning..

Just before the exam she sat upright, the way only confident nerds sat with that no-nonsense look.

Giving others the impression that no matter what the questions were they were ready for them since birth or maybe even before that.

When the teacher lowered the question paper on Karen's table, its edge slightly grazed her arm and she opened her eyes from her prayer.

She stared at the paper for a while and then she risked looking to her left.

The exam was of Chemistry. But how was it possible?

She then looked up at the black board, ‘Biology postponed to Wednesday, Chemistry today.’

This unfamiliar news was written with a pink chalk in her teacher's familiar scrawl.

The alphabets swam before her eyes.

Sweat trickled down her armpits and neck. She couldn’t focus.

She suddenly thought of the yellow armpit stains that adorned her shirt every day after school.

She became all the more conscious and started sweating profusely. 

The finger from behind kept nudging her shoulder. She tried to shrug off the finger by raising her shoulder but she didn’t dare turn behind for her fear of getting falsely accused of cheating or rather helping to cheat.

Karen did not even try to wipe sweat off her forehead for though Ms. Archer had her back facing Karen, she knew it was better to be still than arouse suspicion for nothing.

The finger started prodding again. She wanted to scream out, ‘I didn’t study for this subject! If I don’t know shit about it, how will I help youuu??’

She didn’t realise that she actually screamed those words out.

All except the three toppers’ heads turned around to stare at her.

‘Karen?’, Ms. Archer looked worried.

Karen fainted before Ms. Archer could reach her.

When she regained consciousness she found herself on a hospital bed. Someone was nudging her shoulder again.

She froze.

She turned behind and all she saw was her shadow.

The fingers kept nudging.

She tried to distract herself thinking about the consequences of the missed exam.

But that was more disturbing so she had no choice but to look at her shadow again.

Something about it perturbed her. Even more than the missed exam.

She began to fear her own shadow.

She couldn’t tell anyone about the hand that protruded from the back of her head.

They would just scorn at her, ‘Your shadow has a hand too? That means you have three hands? Where is your third hand? At the back of your head? That keeps nudging you? That doesn’t let you forget about your missed exam?’

Only in darkness did the fingers stop nudging and annoying her instead they rested on her shoulder consoling her that her shadow didn’t exist in darkness.

The Writer: Michelle D'Costa is 22 years old.  She never imagined she would be writing so much someday. You can follow her fiction/poetry here. 

The Artist: Chrystal Berche is a photographer, artist, and writer living in North Central Iowa.