Mourning Shadows

ShadowsInexplicable shadows mill about in the pre-dawn darkness, shadows that follow the early-morning walker, occasionally darting in front of him, then slipping quickly from view. Street lamps and the headlights of passing cars and the weak light of a waning moon and a still-distant sunrise give them sustenance.

In one instant, when they are flush with the fuel of strong light, they are dense, their smoky near-black forms weighty and threatening.  Then, they become thin and ephemeral; barely visible, then they are simply gone.  But they return, first from one side, then another, then from the front, then from behind, stalkers who peek from every alleyway and side street, silently chasing the walker as he moves steadily forward.

Off he goes, dodging tree branches and streams of water erupting forcefully from the buried pipes of irrigation systems, timed, he imagines, to douse early morning walkers. On he walks, stooping to avoid spider webs and stepping gingerly across cracked concrete curbs, victims of the long summer of oppressive heat.  He tries to step over and around pieces of broken sidewalk that have sunk several inches beneath the street.  He walks on, hoping the shadows don’t lay waiting to trip him on a shard of asphalt ripped from the pavement by the  demonic heat of summer gone awry.

The shadows’ movements are, like the walker, steady and measured, as if they are consciously tracking each step he takes.  The shadows grow more distinct from the blackness of the streets as the enveloping darkness succumbs to a dim, blurred wash of light across the sky. The now translucent shadows appear to become more animated, more agitated, more aware that the wash of sunlight will dissolve them into pools of light, indistinguishable from the air around them.  The walker senses the shadows’ impending disappearance and wonders whether they know they will be back.  He wonders whether, instead, they sense an inevitable end and whether they will mourn their own passing.

Then, as if the sky were connected to a fluorescent tube, the darkness disappears in a muted flash.  The shadows are gone.  The walker nears the place where his early morning  journey began, thinking how only an hour earlier there were inexplicable shadows where there is now an irrepressible glow.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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