Author: mjlb PM
Dancing with his own shadow, a man makes a startling discoveryRated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Sci-Fi - Words: 1,451 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 5 - Published: 03-05-05 - id: 1851479
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Fire is a very strange entity.
It must consume to live, it must breathe to live, it does eventually die away, yet it is never actually alive. I have always defined fire as one of the few actual paradoxes that actually exist in this world.
It has a will to survive when something tries to repress it. It will fade away and hide itself in a single glowing ember until the chance to re-ignite it's flames arises - almost as though it is afraid of dying.
These are some of the things I ocasionally think about when I sit in my den at night, watching the flames dance and flicker throughout the fireplace.
This night was not unlike any other, I sat alone, watching the snow fall outside while enjoying the heat from the fire that crackled busilly in the corner. Lounging in my favorite chair, holding a drink in my hand I let my mind wander as I relaxed my weary body.
I watched my shadow dance across the far wall, jumping around as though it were trying to evade capture from some unseen hunter.
Becoming bored with this spectacle, I arose from my chair to set another log onto the flames as this particular night was a bitterly cold one. The snow always depresses me, and I have a tendency to drink more during the winter months and of that fact I have no shame.
I chose the largest piece of wood I could find, so I would not be bothered to stir again before I dozed off. I held it over the fire for a brief second, watching the flames lick at it as though testing it until I finally dropped it onto the burning pile and turned to my chair.
The flames flared brightly, and for a brief moment my shadow stood out against the far wall with great sharpness. It wasn't my shadow, however, that caught my attention. There were many shadows, covering the entire wall, all dancing about in the same pattern as my own. The shapes shared no likeness to anything that was in the room, and they appeared to be suspended in mid-air.
As the shadows flickered they appeared to drift about, it seemed as though the objects that were casting them were moving around the room independently. I was startled by this, and I shook my head in an attepmt to clear it of the alcohol I had been drinking. I again focused on the far wall and was pleased that only my own shadow was there, dancing alone once more.
However, my curiousity was not quieted by such a simple solution, and I found myself picking up another piece of wood and hesitantly throwing it into the flames.
Again, the fire flared brightly, almost as if thanking me for the new offering. I turned from the flames and looked to the wall once again. The entire wall once again pulsed and moved with lifelike shadows. I waved my arm, watching the shapes on the wall. As my shadow twin's arm moved about, the other alien shadows fled from it's path.
As soon as the fire settled back into it's normal orange glow, the shapes faded and vanished all together leaving only my lonesome shadow on the wall once more.
I sat myself in my chair and pondered this new discovery of mine. I continued to drink, occasionally tossing a portion of the remaining liquid from my glass into the fireplace and turning to see the shadows all reappear on the wall for a brief moment.
Eventually, this game grew tiresome and I soon fell into a familiar drunken slumber. Throughout the night I would awaken, looking at that wall. Each time it was empty save my own shadow, comforted by this, I immediately fell back asleep.
The next morning I stood in front of the large window that was beside the fireplace, and I danced about, watching the wall. I was alone, both in physical and shadow form.
As I walked down the street, my eyes were continously aimed at the ground, my shadow leading the way, once again it was alone. It seemed as though only the flames could unveil those shadows, and even the flames could only do it when they were excited by a new feast.
I found myself eager for darkness to fall, so I could try to recreate the events from the previous night. I napped the afternoon away, I awoke for a brief dinner, and fell back asleep. The next time I awoke, the blue sky had turned black, and the moon shone brightly through the window.
I lit a fire once more, and stood in front of it, facing the far wall and watched. The fire grew in size and brightness, but I still stood alone. As it reached the peak of it's size I turned once more and dropped another log onto the fire. It flared up and emitted that brief bright white light, and as I turned to the wall I was met again by those foreign shapes drifting about.
Something new was there, however. A new shadow was present, this one looked quite human and it stood within only inches of me, not facing the wall as I was, it was facing me. I watched it in awe until the fire finally grew bored of the log I had given it, and the shadows all faded except for my own.
Instantly, I threw another log onto the fire, and those phantom shadows were as real as my own again. The figure had moved, it was closer to me now. Only an inch from me, I could almost feel it's presence in the room. I reached out to it, and it stepped back, just out of my grasp. I lunged for it, looking to the wall. As I dove, the flames faded once more and again I was alone.
Frusterated, I picked up three logs, throwing them all at once into the flames. The fire roared brightly now, I studied the invisible thing that I shared my den with. The flames continued to glow brightly, and I stepped toward where I thought the thing was standing by using it's shadow for guidance. The thing took a step backwards.
Still, my flames glowed brightly enough where the shadows did not fade. I chased the thing until I was out of breath, not once did I come even close to catching it. This deadlock was final, it would seem. I could not capture this being no matter what it was that I tried and I definitely could not force it to leave. It was seemingly here to stay.
I turned and looked to my fire, and to my horror I now saw that it had spilled out from the fireplace and was spreading across the floor of my den. Desperately, I tried to smother it with blankets, I tried to stomp it out, nothing had any effect on it.
It ascended the walls and ran across my ceiling. It passed through the doorway into the hall and ran along the walls to the stairs, spreading quickly. The light coming from the flames was so bright now that I had to shield my eyes from it. The walls were covered with moving, pulsing shadows. There were more of those figures, watching me intently. They turned to face me as I moved about the rooms of my home.
I fled the house, and I stood in my yard, watching the windows fill with bright orange light as the fire spread. I could see the shadow things moving about inside the house, seemingly unconcerned with the flames.
That night I watched my home burn to the ground, standing alone in my yard. I watched as the shadow things wandered about, from room to room, sometimes pausing to look in my direction through one of the windows. I watched the smaller shadows pulse and drift aimlessly about.
I now have no doubt that you and I share this world with beings that we cannot often see. For me, the fire merged our existences together briefly, giving me a glimpse of them. Whether or not they can always see us is unknown to me.
Since that night I have lit countless fires, hoping to see those beings again. Despite my attempts, my shadow always stands alone, no matter how bright the flames.
Fire is indeed a paradox. Perhaps such a paradox does not always follow the rules of physics and common sense and that is why I was once able to see those figures dancing across my wall.