Growing up I had an imaginary friend like most kids. I don’t remember how he came into existence but I remember him always being there. It was a shadow, more specifically it was my shadow. It would whisper to me throughout the day.
Even around twelve years old it still hung around and most times would just stand beside me vibrating like it was struggling to keep its form. It had no name, it would just whisper incoherently. I remember trying to have conversations with it, I would ask questions but could never decipher what it whispered back to me.
A few weeks before I entered high school, I started to understand parts of what it was saying. The more I ignored its requests the more viciously it persisted. It begged me to kill something and would say anything to get its way.
For a week the whispers tormented me until I gave in. I found a toad in the front yard and did what it asked as it loomed over me. Once I had finished, the shadow though unimpressed stopped whispering for a few days. It still followed me but for that short time, I felt free.
On my first day of high school, I made a friend and he was just like me. I spotted him at the canteen, I could see that his shadow followed him and it vibrated just like mine. I went over and introduced myself. His name was Ben and his shadow had been following him the same time as my own.
After that, we hung out every lunch and would speak almost exclusively about what these things were. Ben told me that his shadow also whispered to him but it was never malicious and he was convinced it was a good force looking out for him. In fact, it had warned him about my shadow being dangerous.
Of course, I knew my shadow wasn’t inherently good, it had asked me to kill but had been with me so long I felt a certain attachment to it. Since I’d met Ben, the shadow started to whisper more softly, it was like white noise. The only thing I knew for sure was it was saying the same thing over and over. This fact alone raised questions in my own mind. If Ben’s shadow was “good” then was it trying to silence mine from speaking to me?
One Friday after school Ben invited me to a sleepover and I agreed. That night all we did was play Tekken on his new Playstation trying to unlock as many characters as we could in one night. All the while my shadow continued to whisper the same inaudible words to me. I remember being happy that I finally had a real friend and was having fun at my first sleepover.
I had a dream that night, there was a dark figure sat on top of me watching me sleep. Streams of saliva fell from its face. The liquid covered my face and began to suffocate me. I felt the growing pressure of its weight on my chest. This was the moment my shadow started to whisper to me and for the first time since I’d met Ben, I understood it. “Kill Ben” the whisper repeated over and over again.
I awoke thrashing, the pressure on my chest was getting worse. I opened my eyes to find Ben sitting on top of me. The light from the lamp on the bedside table highlighted his facial features. He had been crying, I heard a deep sob and felt his tear hit my face. “I’m sorry” Ben mumbled lifting a kitchen knife above his head and bringing it down towards my neck.
The whispers became screams but it was two voices this time, both of our shadows were screaming on either side of us. Cheering for their side to kill the other. I grabbed Ben’s hand before he buried the knife in my neck and edged my face away. His heart wasn’t in the fight. In the corner of my eye, I saw the shadows slow dancing together as their screams continued.
I used my other hand to push Ben off me and rolled on top of him, I pried the knife from his hand and buried it into his chest. He let out a soft whimper of defeat and went limp. I didn’t stop, I wanted to but I continued anyway. The screaming got louder with each strike and silhouettes continued to dance on the walls in the background, their pace quickening with each strike.
The screams were hushed to whispers as I slowed down and stopped. They left me to the silence as I laid atop of Ben, the knife still in his chest. Panting and covered in his blood, I heard the door burst open and looked up to see Ben’s mother. At that moment the two dancing shadows slowed down and finished their performance.
She pushed me off his body and screamed for her husband. I collapsed into the corner of the room. I hadn’t taken my eyes of the shadows, they were beginning to fade and in their final moments bowed to the audience and shook the hands of each other.
The last whisper I heard before they disappeared was “See I told you he’d win”.