A short story by Remontz
If you haven’t read the prequel — Dark Days, click here —-> https://storiesbydude.com/2020/06/05/dark-days/
From me to you::As always thanks for your time! I appreciate any and all who read my work. I hope you enjoy this one, it was inspired by the…..well…you’ll see….
At least the shadow hadn’t lied; after all, he had in fact, been all over the world and seen hundreds, no, thousands of lives. Day in and day out. Day in and day out. Day in and day out, he found himself as the puppet of a new person each and everyday; mirroring their movements to the point of autonomy. He had strode foot for foot with track stars, played for hours with neighborhood kids, in parks around the world and even lounged on exclusive beaches with the rich and famous. Having not actually aged a day since the switch, Deon had enjoyed all of these views with the optimism any child a decade plus one years old would in his predicament. But, oh, what a predicament it was. Trapped to this mirroring life. Trapped to this underfoot existence of non-existence. He was but an afterthought in the worlds day, just the ignorable product of light shining over objects. The dark side of everything light touched. When he wasn’t there…he was there, just invisible until light focused on everything around him; still ignoring his existence, as long as light looked in his direction it was enough to bring the world into view. View was everything for a shadow.
This day had begun just as all the other days had over the past ten years. He awoke to a new surrounding, maybe even a new climate, attached to a new person, awaiting light to grace him a glimpse into that person’s life. A glimpse of life. There was always a fifty/fifty chance of boredom in his line of work…but this…this was something worse than boredom could ever dream of being.
Like most boys his age, when asked the routine question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, his answers ranged from superhero to racecar driver; professional athlete to rockstar; firefighter to discoverer of dinosaur bones — because paleontologist didn’t sound as cool as discoverer—and of course who of us hasn’t at least lingered on the idea of being a police officer? Fighting crime. Taking on the bad guys. Being the hero. Protecting and serving…
So, of all the officers in the world…why must his first experience in this line of duty be at the mercy of the morbidly obese, ill-tempered, foul-mouthed, close-hearted, work of absolute human imperfection: Officer Chad Erickson Vaughn?
For most of the morning he accompanied Vaughn ticketing school and work commuters on various and minor offenses. This seemed to have been the officer’s calling in life, as it was his entire focus while on the job. There wasn’t a missed turn signal, lack of seatbelt or cellphone he let slip past his vision. When Vaughn wasn’t writing tickets, he was using the violation stops to run liscense plate numbers and driver’s liscenses. Praying to catch parole violators or a warranted skipper of court.
It didn’t even take a mile walking in Officer Vaughn’s dusty boots before the work life of policing had lost all of its former glamour and heroism in the young mind of Deon. He wished nothing more than to start the next day, inhabit a new life and forget this ever happened. If the tedious ticketing tactics weren’t enough to drive him insane with boredom, the officer also made sure to incorporate in his route frequent stops to gas stations and fast food joints. When his vehicle was in motion both his hands were always occupied, of course with the steering wheel but also with either a burger, forty-ounce soft drink or deep inside a bag of crisp chips. Snacks were as handy as the officers badge. And as highly esteemed for that matter.
Hours and hours of this torture went by, until finally, at long last Deon caught a glimpse of the ambering pavement: tell-tale sign of the setting sun. It wouldn’t be long until this nightmare had run it’s course and he got to begin a new. Pity to the souls who’d have to take up this post next.
Officer Vaughn had only just gotten back in his car when he switched into traffic stop mode; sirens blared out as once again the cities consummate protector was catching a violating motorist.
Deon’s perspective was minimal as the officer exited the cop car, seeing only his footsteps. As the officer stepped more into the fading light of the sun and towards the suspected-offending vehicle, the young shadow, Deon was able to see more of the scene. He grew to about twelve feet in length, a great viewing angle of the most boring policeman ever. Why now? Why now…when all he would get to see is a ticket being written, would the sun taunt him with the panoramic view. Of all the times in the past he’d been dreaming for more than a sliver of light to witness life. What a joke this shadow business was…
He barely paid any attention, but still the necklace caught his eye. If only he’d been able to feel his own chest and compare the one he also wore then he could be sure of his suspicions; but alas he was imprisoned to copying everything the officer did, which at the present moment was pretending to have difficulty with the drivers middle name. As if that mattered to write a ticket……..
Wait?! Deon listened closer to their discourse:
“What is it again?” The officer leaned his ear towards the driver mockingly, pretending to listen.
“Ah…like ah, holding your mouth open…ah…then m-a-d…like mod—“.
“Now son…That’s what I said…aye-mid.”
“No sir. It is ah….y’know what. It doesn’t matter…I am really late for—“
“Oh. Well I’ll be…you rushing an officer now, boy?”
“No sir…I ju—“
“Out of the vehicle…”
“NOW! Get out of the vehicle! I won’t say it again.”
“I don’t understa—“
“GET OUT OF THE CAR…NOW!!!” Officer Vaughn readied his taser, pointing it at the young man, dropping the driver’s license — that had just been so important to not know how to pronounce — in the process. As it lay on the ground, Deon was able to get a better view of the name. Just to make sure….and make sure he did. His assumption was correct. But how? Like this?? Right now? Please…no…
It was true. He was seeing himself. “Deon Ahmad Tolliver” the driver’s license read, “DOB: 02/17/99”. Not like this. No. He wanted so bad to be able to take control of the officer’s action. Better yet, to take control of himself, the older twenty-one year old self that he had not the privilege to grow up to become. But all he could do was want. Want and watch. He would’ve cried if he could do even just that as he held up his hands, mirroring an angry police officer ready to fire a stun gun into a scared young man.
“HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE EM!! Exit the vehicle!!” Officer Vaughn commanded, spittle flying from between his clenched teeth as he charged his breaths through them.
“My seatbelt…”, the older Deon exclaimed. Neither a question nor a fully toned statement. Just declaring the existence of a seatbelt. Which ironically happened to have been the ‘reason’ for the traffic stop in the first place.
For it’s being an inadimate object, this seatbelt…oh, this seatbelt…wasn’t it just incredible at disobedience. Not only had it obscured itself from the officers view, and thus prompting the stop; but it also acted in keeping Deon from following the officer’s commandments. A cardinal sin when confronted with such power. The seatbelt knew. It had to know…or maybe it was just too afraid to move also. Maybe it needed to hug the twenty-one year old tightly for reassurance.
Officer Vaughn, being confronted with such disrespect and the outright refusal to follow orders from this second-class citizen, called for backup. He called for as many squad cars could respond, on grounds that the fugitive was resisting apprehension. Damn seatbelt.
“You will be tased if you do not comply. Do you understand?” The officer warned more than asked. The boy better understand.
“Sir I just need to unbuckle…”
It happened faster than Deon knew what had occurred, but also it seemed to drag on forever. Time slowed. The impact held within milliseconds must hold some weight as these were very heavy milliseconds. The heaviest he’d ever felt in his eleven (or twenty-one) years. In one moment, he was mirroring the officer holding the taser; then he saw himself — his other self — reach down to undue the unruly safety latch……….then came the fastest motion he’d mirrored over the entirety of the day: Officer Vaughn holstered the taser and yanked up his firearm. And just like that….
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Blink.
Boom. Boom. Blink.
Eight bullets were released from its muzzle before the officer could pull his heavy finger and heavier fear from the trigger.
“Shit. You scared the shit outta me…”, was all Officer Vaughn said after re-holstering the firearm.
Deon couldn’t believe it…had this really just happened. Is this real life? Could he really not cry right now? Not able collapse from the emotional burden? Not rip this overweight murderer to shreds? Not have any justice or reprisal from this nightmare?
The plump-bellied Vaughn leaned a forearm onto the older Deon’s car. His salty, sugar-filled sweat dripping onto the limp neck of the young man. Deon could not take his eyes off of the motionless head that hung out of the window.
The fading sun shone down brightly over Deon’s older self. The sun streaming down was Deon’s only manner of envisioning tears.
Very suddenly the light took on the form of a being, all at once, Deon did not see the light form into this shape at all. It just appeared in a flash.
Officer Vaughn appeared to be completely oblivious to the light formed being that levitated by his side, staring down at the slain young man. Chad Vaughn finally pushed off of the car. “Alright, Aye-mid…where’s it’s at…”, even now, he mocked the man’s name. The officer pulled open the car door, disregarding the limpness of his victims body. He finished unlatching the seatbelt, still showing objective respect to the true, inadimate resistor of his attempted arrest. Deon wished he could’ve winced as he mirrored the policeman, his older body fell out of the driver’s seat and passively consented to a bodily search as the officer began searching for the weapon. He searched. And searched more. Still searching as he rolled the twenty-one year old body over.
“It’s you isn’t it?!” The being of light turned and floated in his direction, “Don’t worry he can’t hear or see us…”
“What…..”. Deon said, still unable to make any movements besides those dictated by the officer’s. “What are you?”
“You know…”, the shadow held out a hand towards Deon’s older body.
Deon wished he could rip the being of light in two as he came to the realization he was talking to the body snatcher himself. The shadow responsible for this ten year imprisonment. The shadow responsible for this torturous day. The shadow responsible. The shadow.
“You hate me…and I can understand why…” the being of light began, “I tried my best.” He paused, letting the events that had just transpired marinate between them as he continued his speech, “I tried my best to lead a good life for you…for me…I was selfish. But your family has taught me not to be. I have been able to grow, to learn, to cry, to play, to feel, to love…”
Deon felt a wave of unstoppable sadness, the kind of sadness that doesn’t warn you it’s coming, tears just burst from the dam of sealed masculine emotions. But unfortunately he could not cry, he could only continue searching for a weapon that Officer Vaughn would never find. A weapon that didn’t exist. The only weapon the young man had was the weapon of being.
Deon’s sadness evolved into envy. He was envious of the life he had had stolen. His soul began to cry. He wanted to be free of this hell. He continued to be forced into searching his own pockets.
The being of light continued, “Deon…I have a strong feeling why I am like this. And where I…well you…are going.” He paused again. “And I do not think I will be accepted there…” he pointed towards the sun.
“Good. You deserve pain. You deserve what you get for what you’ve done to me.” He could not hurt him physically but in this cell — this solitary confinement of darkness — he would at the very least cut the identity thief with his words. Daggers flew from his soul and into the double-crosser, “You have stolen my life! You tricked me!!” The sun was entering its final quarter in the sky before setting for the night. He continued slashing, “I want you to hurt!! Hurt for a long time. Hurt forever! HURT FOREVER!!! You should hurt.” Feelings turned into the daggerous words that his eleven year old mind should not’ve had to understand the gravity of. They spewed out of him like a volcano…Raw, heavy and hot, the only way he wanted to express them.
After a moment of soaking it all in, the being responded, “Will you allow me to fix this?”
“How could you ever fix this?!”
“Will you take your place back?”
“I can’t even move—“
“I know….it took me many centuries to become the shadow I was when I took your place.” The being admitted, “I would like to correct my wrongs.”
“Why should I let you?”
Deon thought it over, watching the time he had slip away as the sun continued to descend. “How do we do it?”
Without hesitation the shadow answered, “We must say ‘lux in tenebris’ together. Ready?”
“One…two…three…” Deon paced the count immediately.
“Lux in tenebris!” They said in tandem. A bright flash of light took over his vision and suddenly Deon felt the weightlessness of floating. He had not realized how heavy he was as a shadow, but now he knew true lightness. It was liberating. The warmth, the comfort, the power he felt surging throughout his being. Before he opened his eyes, Deon just enjoyed being able to move his arms, toes, fingers. He had control of himself again. He danced. He danced hard and joyfully. Jerking and breaking, in complete control of his rhythmic chaos. Steady to his own beat.
Finally he opened his eyes he was floating up above the car and scene of his own murder. As the scene continued to get smaller as he rose, he saw the plump Officer Vaughn. The corrupt enforcer seemed to be stomping at the ground and shouting, trying to run from his own shadow. Soon the officer stumbled into his own patrol car. Then the officer rose robotically, pulled out his service pistol and put it to his own temple.
Deon was too high up to hear the blast, but the scene was quite graphic. The officers body slumped and slid down the hood of the black and white Ford Taurus, a streak of red trailing his head.
The biggest water slide in the world had nothing on the exhilarating joy ride as Deon rode the wave once again. “Whoooooo”. He yelled out excitedly as he rose once again to the heavens. After the Eight-Hundred and Forty-Sixth time he finally looked around during the slide and realized he was heading towards the earth. He closed his eyes and envisioned his home—where he and his older brothers would play ball from sun up to sundown if they could—his direction shifted at the instance of the thought. As he entered the atmosphere he barreled towards his childhood home’s driveway. Colliding with it, he felt no pain, only the rebounding sensation of being hurled back into the sky.
Testing a theory, he tried it again, this time thinking of a more specific moment. One of his favorite days—the day he learned to ride a bike. His theory held true as he traveled towards the earth of yesteryear; racing on sun rays towards his father. He bounced off of his father’s hand just as it released from his younger selve’s back. Before shooting back up to the stars he caught a glimpse of his Mother, who’d came running from the patio, to pull him out of the bushes he’d ran his bike into. His heart delighted to relive such a precious moment.
For hours on hours, days on days, he streamlined on the waves of pure joy towards nostalgia.
There was the time his brothers’ had locked him out of the house as a joke, on one of the coldest days of that particular year. He tried his best to add what heat he could to his own visibly cold ear, before zooming back up into the sky.
He shone down his nutritious light onto the garden he and his Mother had planted in the backyard. He was out of school with tonsillitis that week and the gardening adventure had been one of the most necessary remedies to his aching, tonsil-less throat.
Then he remembered losing his first tooth. He became one of the many sun rays that melted the strawberry ice cream he held on that fine spring day. The tooth sitting atop the mountainous cone; completely hidden from his younger self until his brother Rashad cracked a joke, “O’ snaggle tooth over here lovin’ dat ice cream ain’t he?”
On his next trip he shone through his own bedroom window. He danced across his own fingertips; they taunted him with their freedom – with their fun, fun, sweet freedom. Although he had felt free to shine and brighten any place he could think of going just a moment before — those fingers held the power to grow and learn anywhere they were so lucky to be. Now he would know nothing but going; nothing but riding the lightspeed course of excitement that the giant ball of fire and life set him on. He burned for a purpose beyond bliss, a meaning past ultimate happiness what could he ever accomplish now? As he thought of the life he would not ever get back, he began to feel pity for himself. Perhaps he was just being ungrateful…
He could not remain sad and defeated long, not now, not after how far he had come. He would find purpose…maybe he would find a plant to nourish or a fire flies butt to charge….or better still, a shadows view to brighten. Yeah. That’s what he would do now.
Deon thought of his darkest day….
Copyright © 2020 Kacy Gilbert (Writing as Remontz)
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