It’s been almost four weeks since I lost my shadow and I thought I would adjust to it by now, but no such luck. I am, frankly, surprised. You don’t pay much attention to your shadow, do you? It just sort of follows you around – not to make a joke out of it – and you don’t rely on it to navigate, or keep your balance or anything.
And I can’t even say that people stare at me, or at least not that I notice. Maybe each person’s shadow is personal and not of general concern. Or maybe there are enough people these days who have lost their shadows that it has ceased to be a novelty.
Right off let me tell you: I don’t want to tell you the circumstances. Maybe later but not now. It feels sort of personal, if you know what I mean. Or even if you don’t, I still don’t want to get into it.
But I am going on vacation soon and I find that I do worry. What if I am on the beach on Cape Cod, where shadows are typically more pronounced on a sunny day? What if some kid comes running up to his mother and starts crying, like “Mommy mommy that strange man, he doesn’t have—doesn’t have a—[gasp, cry, scream!] SHADOW!” Not my problem but still….
I live in the City and walk to work. Most of the time I am in the shade anyway so no one can notice. And at night, well it’s night, people really don’t have an awareness, light coming out of a shop window might create a shadow but who is attuned to personal shadows at night? I am thinking of taking a different kind of summer vacation, frankly, to off-load this tension I feel. Cave exploring? I laugh to myself. Hiking only in the woods? A stay-cation where I go to a lot of movies?
My girlfriend, that’s another story. Of course she knew the – circumstances – and had notice of the hearing. She said it would not matter and I believe she believed it. But things have not been the same this past month—not at all. She has become more distant. Actually told me one night she had a headache and couldn’t come out to dinner. I have started to drop by her building to see if I can catch sight of her when we are not together; it is almost like stalking but I have to know if she is seeing someone else. So far so good, but I continue to, well if you can take a joke about this: shadow her some nights.
Mr. P presents as a well-groomed Caucasian male of medium height, sandy brown hair, brown eyes, closely shaven; he is 28 years old. Mr. P is employed at a stock brokerage firm in the City and evidences no anxiety about his position or his finances. He came to the clinic first on April 4 in the company of a young woman he identified as a friend, and has returned on several occasions over the last few weeks evidencing increased distraction and lack of focus. On this most recent occasion, Mr. P had a trace of a five o’clock shadow and his tie was undone and his collar was opened at the throat.
Mr. P was given a battery of psychological and neurological tests on his first visit, all of which were returned within normal ranges. On the occasion of his most recent visit, another battery of psychological tests (Stratton-Beaumont II) disclosed a lack of an ability to focus on questions both written and verbal and a lack of association with reality in only one area; that area, however, was so intense as to be described as obsessive.
Mr. P claims to have lost his shadow. When, after prodding which made staff uneasy, we agreed to shine a light on his profile as he stood a few feet from a wall, his tension seemed only to mount and he thereafter refused further to speak of his “situation.” We prescribed 500 mg. of Zardex taken twice a day, morning and evening, with food and asked him to return next week and to keep a log of his movements and perceptions during that time period to discuss with Dr. Lipper. Mr. P. evidenced a near-panic reaction to learning that Dr. Lipper was on the psychiatric staff here, but we did manage to calm Mr. P. down sufficiently to extract his agreement to come next Thursday to at least explore the situation with Dr. L.
I am not sure Mr. P. will come for his appointment and I have asked reception to remind him both by phone and email on Monday and again on Wednesday.
NB—building maintenance is not sure why no shadow appeared when Mr. P. was in the office but staff suggests that the paint, an off-white with a granular sandy texture on the wall, likely diffused the image; it is noted also that the room was otherwise quite bright under the fluorescents……
Gotta tell ya, I am totally, like, freaking. I mean, I really really liked this guy. Finally, a guy with a real job, a clean shirt, doesn’t smell from the gym, and he’s like so – normal. And he’s after me but not in a pushy way and he’s got real – potential, ya know. So after a few weeks we’re hanging out and drinking beers and what the hell, we sort of hook up for the night. His apartment it’s even almost neat and nothing weird is growing on the sides of his refrigerator and all.
Then he gets this – obsession thing. Ohmygod, it comes out of nowhere, like one day we’re just talking at the bar at Maxie’s, just talking and he says something like, did you happen to notice my shadow when we walked in here and I says, like, what are you asking, whaddaya mean shadow. And he looks down and real calmly he says to me, well I don’t want you to get upset but I think I have lost my shadow. He then looks up, serious expression, and gives me a half smile like he’s embarrassed. So I think it’s like a joke and I play around with it, tell him no I didn’t notice but I can go back out and check the sidewalk; and he gets all sorts of upset, ya know, like he’s serious which is bullshit except it turns out he doesn’t let it go. Oh, so then when I think he is going to totally wig out, all of a sudden he just smiles and drops it; but next day is Saturday, we are supposed to go canoeing and all and he then changes it to the movies and I think it’s strange cause it’s some real nice day out, and like he’s all “I want to see this movie” so I say okay but he’s nervous and tells me half way through that he still can’t find his friggin’ shadow. So I tell him to “shhh” it’s a movie and he takes my hand and sorta pulls me out of the movie and I think he’s kidding but he isn’t.
So I tell him maybe he should see a doctor, like he’s getting me scared there, and he says yeah, that’s a really good idea, will you come with me. I don’t know what to say, I say sure when do you want to do that and he says “right now while I still have the nerve to do it” and we go right down to the Hillside clinic, ya know on Third off Hillside Ave, he waits with me and then goes inside and I wait, and after an hour I ask and they are giving him tests they say. So I went out and got a Starbucks and a magazine and a couple of hours later, I ‘m really wigged out, ya know, and he comes out all fine and says “thanks for waiting I am so sorry” and off we go to dinner like nothing happened.
Since then he hasn’t said a thing about this but he’s got some new shit going on, I tell ya. Like he needs a shave, he used to be real close-shaved which is one of the things I liked about the guy. But now he has stubble half the time and his eyes sort of dart sideways when we are walking and I am beginning to think he’s one of those closet nut jobs, ya know what I mean. He’s still sweet and all but it’s like weird. Half the time I’m like blowing him off and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give him the benefits until I figure this all out. And he sort of must like know how I feel, he’s stopped suggesting – ya know?
And when we do go out it’s always night time or, I notice, it’s cloudy out. I think he doesn’t want to go out in the sun. I think that’s like sick. Don’t you think that’s like sick? I sorta want to insist we go to a picnic or something just to break him of this – weird thing he’s got.
But then, like I began to think about what if…. Well, all I can say is, I am TOTALLY friggin freaked out like major league…..
Memorandum: Tribunal Recording Office
From: Recording Secretary
CC: Enforcement; Homeland Security Data Office
Re: Mr. P./Case 379493-2055
Subject came before the tribunal 16 February 2055 charged with an 806; found guilty but only in his thoughts, not in actions, so death decree abated. Was sentenced to shadow deprivation for an indefinite period, subject to six month review. Field report follows:
Mr. P. shows signs of stress; psychiatric eval by Lipper (MD—our agent # XF-440) reveals disorientation, nervous twitches, poor job performance resulting in reduced compensation, recent loss of significant sexual partner (F). Lipper estimates punishment factor (PF) achieved at 4.5 out of 10. Sentencing recommendation was minimum 6.5 given seriousness of guilt and nature of offense. Tribunal this date tabled issue of return of shadow; calendar ahead to 16 February 2056; summons to issue with service by electronics.
I do not know why I did not get it back. They told me they did it; I couldn’t believe it, they said it was experimental. I told them that, now that I knew, I could handle the thing, no problemo. Probably a mistake now that I think about it; if they are monitoring PF, how can I get my severity ratio up to whatever they decreed if I am cool about the whole thing so that it doesn’t feel like punishment at all?
SHIT! Why did I think I was doing myself a favor by being so cocky.
I need to tell Alexandra; she will understand. Maybe. It wasn’t really me, acting like that. Will she believe they can do that to a person? I guess I can prove it if I have to; just run a little demonstration. And how do I handle my firm, I really cannot start explaining about shadow suspension, that will lead into a discussion of that other thing and I can’t have that.
I am going to have to rally next time with Lipper, improve a bit so it doesn’t look phony, and then start to deteriorate again in the next meetings. What more suffering can I conjure? Can I get away with lying about Alexandra? They know everything you are doing, how can I hide that? Maybe I cannot try to get together with Alexandra after all….
This is crazy. Absolutely crazy. If I could only move to Central City and start all over; but you cannot get a new identity any more; Homeland Security declared them a risk to the order of things.
Clipped from the New City Times 22 December, 2055:
SHADOW DEPRIVATION PROTOCOL ESTABLISHED
Citing the increase in suicides by criminals punished to shadow impairment, an experimental sentencing model first silently introduced earlier this year, the Tribunal has temporarily suspended the model and established a protocol by which criminals can retrieve their deprived shadows upon payment of ten thousand credits for each Punishment Factor unit remaining on their sentences, failing which payment the criminal is to be remanded to custody for re-sentencing.
The government has issued no formal explanation for why the deprivation of a shadow should be so traumatic, even to those who were subsequently informed that they had received such a sentence. “You would have expected that the anxiety would have been released,” said Vigor Lipper of Governance Social Services, director of Experimental Psychology. “It just goes to show you that there is so much about the human psyche that we still don’t understand, even at this advanced stage of our society.”
Funeral services for the last group of suicides will be held at Hillside Memorial Chapel on Heathenmass morning, 25 December at 10AM.