In this world, men and women and children are hanged for their crimes. There is no jail. There is no electric chair. There is the hanging tree.
In this world, shadows have their own minds. You can see them in the streets. You can see dozens of silhouettes with no owner at the theatre, or roaming the mall, or darkening a shower stall. People know they’re being watched. But it’s all a part of this world.
It’s because of the hanging tree, you see. Every time you jump, there’s a chance your shadow will escape, because it’s no longer tied to you. Usually the shadow stays put, but when you commit a crime and are resigned to the tree, your shadow is no longer attached. It goes free.
Hence, most loose shadows are remnants of the hanged.
It’s impossible to know what they’re saying. What they’re thinking. Or even who they are. We might assume a shadow staying by a widow’s side might be his or her deceased love. And we might think a shadow that returns to the same job site as a recently-hanged criminal is, in fact, the shadow of that criminal. But we don’t know.
That’s why I have taken it upon myself to study shadows. A shadow-shadow, if you will.
I began by observing a private hanging. Most hangings are public, of course, but the hanged man, Jeremy Mignola, was a drifter with no-one in his life (at least, none who know of his death) to attend his funeral. Thus, the second he stepped off the stool, I watched his shadow.
It appeared confused, then scared, as Jeremy writhed. It mirrored his movements, then showed hesitation. It was free. No more was it attached to the feet of Jeremy Mignola. It was its own shadow. The shadow of the rope was too wispy to hold it.
Out of some lingering sense of loyalty, it didn’t run away just then. Perhaps it knew what was happening–knew it had time to escape. Or perhaps it was taking a moment to mourn its partner. Whatever the case, the shadow–a lengthy stretch of a silhouette made long by the setting sun–seemed to watch its strangling friend, no longer keeping up the pretense of having to mirror him. It watched, and when Mignola was still, its head seemed to sink into its black shoulders. Then it walked away.
It was here I parted with Jeremy Mignola, as he had parted with life–and his shadow. I followed the wanderings of the shade for some time, keeping a lamp in hand to produce light enough to keep the shadow in sight when night fell. But where was it going? Most shadows stopped at their homes before any other destination. But Jeremy was a drifter, a man without a home.
So I followed. I documented. And I was introduced to the world of shadows.
Today’s random hat trick prompt categories were: “A shadow with a mind of its own,” “In an alternate universe,” and, “The hanging tree.”
Great Gosh A’mighty, I love this one. You can bet I’ll be carrying on with this story in the future. Hope you enjoyed!