I used to know a girl called Shadow. She was a child when we first met, with eyes the colour of deep sea ice, and black hair so long it would collect fallen leaves in the autumn, and tickle the back of her ankles when she walked. Her skin was pale, but her heart was warm, a deep well of passion that when ignited could make her appear translucent. She needed to feel the earth, with all its seeds and stones and soft leafy things, between her toes; she wanted to know it was there, to know that there were still things growing, and that there always would be. Her favourite was the rough touch of the bark as it peeled and fell away from her climbing feet; she loved to climb trees, and she was the best at it.
In the time that I knew her Shadow took on many different forms; she could travel through time, space, dimensions, she could reincarnate into a witch, a vampire, a shape shifter. I could meet her in a marketplace a full grown woman, and come the next day I would find in her in a forest as childlike as the day we met. I would follow her through worlds, worlds we made up together, and worlds that already existed.
Her favourite place, and my favourite Shadow, was the one that lived in Middle Earth. This Shadow would climb up through the high bows of the ancient woods to watch for wizards. She could stalk stray orcs and take them out with a slingshot that she had made herself.
Shadow was smaller than most, and because she was a girl, she would have to stow away if she wanted to go on any of the really big adventures. When found, she would have to prove herself, but that was fine because even though she was young, her orphaned, urchin life had bestowed on her the ability to not take any shit for her size, her appearance or her gender.
Sometimes she would get herself into trouble, and once she was kidnapped by a great host of evil, but she was never the damsel in distress. By the time her rescuers arrived, detoured slightly from a very important quest of their own, she would have dispatched all but one of her attackers. She would, however, be grateful nonetheless. And from then on, they all came to respect and to love her, and she became the only female member of their company.
I saw all of these things happen through Shadows eyes; I would find a quiet place where I could sit on my own and indulge in her adventures. I would sit there for hours, my mind completely out of my body, and gluttonous for detail. Sometimes they made me jealous, the stories, and sad. I wanted to journey, to have adventures, to fight and love and be useful and have magic. I wanted, more than anything, for it all to be real.
Shadow was my first real best friend. I liked her better than myself, I felt like I knew every inch of her. She was the all the parts of a character I longed to possess, that I thought I could possess, if only I were a little quicker, or stronger, or lived in a parallel universe.
But as I grew older I came to accept that it was all just fantasy; she was the meat of my imagination. The development of a muscle that is now just as full, and wild and vital as my heart.
I don’t see Shadow anymore; I haven’t seen her for years. She moved like her namesake across a part of my childhood, enveloping it not in a sinister darkness, but a comforting one. I don’t think about her often, but when I do, I miss her. And I wonder if she lives still, a reincarnated vision in another young girls head, feeding her ravenous imagination, keeping it alive until she knows how to control it. Until she knows how to put it down on paper.