Shadows come from somewhere. Simple physical science. An object obstructs light, bends it, and absorbs it. An absence is left; shade, a shadow. Suppose, then, that the object has gone. The shadow remains, but is anchored to no physical source, no obstruction. What one would then witness could be described as an errant bit of shade, changing shape and moving as it pleased.
Just such a detached shadow once wandered a very old plain of dead grass and gopher holes. It lamented the loss of its object, its grounding in the physical world. It bemoaned its inability to exact change, to affect its universe. Nobody heard the dark patch’s complaints, of course, for it had no way of expressing them. The tiny eclipse simply meandered about the ancient place, as was its wont.
The revenant darkness encountered many things on its circuit of the field, and it remembered them all. Most were of a mundane variety, but a few were worth telling of, had the shade the ability.
On one pretty spring afternoon, long after the shadow had stopped counting them, two young people came into its little yard. There was a man and a woman; they kept very close together and spoke in whispers. They sat in the grounded shade of one of the scrubby trees that grew there and looked at each other. They pondered one another in silence for hours on end, until the sky became dark and they could no longer see, at which point they slept in one another’s arms. The wandering blackness, being a keen observer as all shadows are, noticed all of these things. It saw, and it understood the profound sense of connection that these two people had for each other. It saw, it understood, and it felt a pang of sadness for its long-missing object. Its object, the only thing it had ever been connected to, was the singular reason that the shadow existed at all. Without its object, the little bit of night had to wonder why it persisted.
On another day, in one of the hotter seasons of the innumerable years, the little shade espied a man sitting in its dry and dusty garden. The man read a book, a huge affair with multiple columns on a page. The shadow, curious as to the man’s rapt fascination with the thing, meandered slowly over the open work. Annoyed at the lack of light, the man turned away towards the sun. He squinted at the glaring of the white paper and read on. The spot was profoundly confused by this love of the light, as it regarded the sun’s rays as merely the medium in which it moved. That a man would seek it out, would shun his own shadow in favor of the burning luminescence, made not a jot of sense to the darkness.
Like all other things, the man eventually went away. He was replaced, in time and in a colder month, by an elderly woman who had no other place to be. The shadow watched her hunker down behind a bush to stave off the chill wind. It watched her wrap herself in a coat and go to sleep. The errant absence knew, for it had seen such things before, that the old woman would not live through the long night. The shade felt a strange sense of sympathy for the old woman; she had no connection either. Both it and she were cursed with a sort of freedom that neither wanted. The dark place also realized that the woman as an object would soon cease to be and the woman as a lost shadow would begin its endless wanderings. These feelings of kinship soon subsided, however, and the darkness flitted away.
One day, in the coldest season of all, when rooted shadows are longest and last much greater spans of time, the piece of blackness accidentally crawled into the wake of a scraggly evergreen. Beneath the tree, shadows so mingled that the shade soon lost track of itself. It could no longer tell where it ended and others began. At this point, the tiny night’s memories of all it had seen and all it had felt began to melt away. It began to lose itself entirely, and as it did so, the newly freed shadow thought to itself that this was indeed the very best place to be.