by Chris Kelso


“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”

― C.G. Jung


This is my first journal entry, my first contribution to the great airborne anthology of names and stories hovering over the city.

Being a shadow is a funny thing. You flit between the interstices of light all day long and try to project yourself as far as you can, like a shrill squillo over a loud orchestra. It’s a lonely life – I don’t think people appreciate that. I am merely a tracing on the wall, camera obscura.

Every day, for as long as I can remember, I have watched my light-brother, my sunny overhang, try his damndest to outrun me. Whenever I turn a corner, half expecting to come face to face with the man himself, he shifts into the nearest sunlit street. He does this because he knows I can’t get him there. I’m like a time delay, always three seconds behind actual events. The lobotomised Jonathon, who basks in the golden dawn, serene as an eagle, thinks me a coward. We can never be friends, he and I.

Now, his rejection hurts a lot, it does, but I think I understand it. He sees me and thinks ‘Christ, that’s a lonely, pathetic existence, eh? Loitering in alleyways, running scared all the time…lonely, unloved…no identity to speak of!’ and he’d be right. The bliss found in ignorance, in belonging, is so seductive a prospect that to continually deny it becomes a maddening form of torture. My architect made me this way, made me resolute, made misery a part of who I am. Indifference seems to be a crime, which is a shame because I am forced to feel.

My light-brother, who has a full set of fingers on each hand and a happier frame of mind than most, knows if I got half a chance I’d consume him, assume him. I’d fill his heart with darkness and doubt; I’d kill the glimmer in his eye once and for all. I’d do it proudly, efficiently and with a broad smile on my face because the truth is I’m stronger than he is, even though he treads on me daily, hourly. He’s the one who is always running.

Dazzling flames throw intensely dark shadows.

I’d make my light-brother remember every shitty thing that’s ever happened to him since we both came stumbling into existence. Tattoo it on his soul so every time he looked in the mirror he’d be reminded of our story. Because I think he forgets.

But I know that no matter how much he seems to fight my existence, deny it, he knows we are intimately linked by a shatterproof bond, because – wherever there is light, there is darkness. He lusts for the darkness as much as I covet his inner glow. We love each other.

I’m not special, shadows never are. Everything casts a shadow. The presence of a shadow does not even indicate the echo of something that’s alive. After all, a fucking toaster casts a shadow. A corpse casts a shadow.

I’ll keep dwelling in night, when everyone else is asleep. I’ll hang out in places most people are too terrified to venture. My girl and I can survive if we bring our darknesses together.

I feel that, somehow, my life alludes to all these fairy tales that are embedded in the collective conscious; specifically deriving from a genre you’d call ‘science fiction’. There are all these names of writers looming over me, Philip. K.Dick, Samuel Delaney, Isaac Asimov, and Octavia Butler…all recorded in the filing cabinets of memory storage. The agglomerations hover spectrally in the atmosphere, floating in a shared pool of configurable computing resources.

I was born with these stories already in my head. I remember more from them than I do events in my own life. I am a prisoner of fiction. I use it to shape me.

I see names drift by, buried deep in the filaments of the cloud – Rick Deckard, The Shrike, Offred, Hari Seldon – all men who have seen their own gods and were able to live a real life because of it. They are fictional characters, shadows, but are as real as their creators.

The great science fiction artwork of David Meltzer and Hannes Bok float by in composed ice crystals….

But these stories, they’re significant somehow. As if these are the writers of my story, of every story ever told or worth telling. Christ, it seems as if my life has been steeped in falsehood, boiled down to a series of tropes and clichés that I’ve been inextricably bound to in the process. Every day I meet a Dick Turpin or a Dr Benway – whoever those people are!

Well, whoever they are, I feel like they are important to the canon of literature inscribed on my limbic system.

A sheet of cirrostratus covers the sky. The names disappear and my head empties of all its retained contents.

I remember something of the old world, before the city. Before there was such awful love.



Chris Kelso is a writer, editor and illustrator from Scotland. His work has appeared in Evergreen Review, The Lovecraft ezine, SF Signal, Verbicide, Beatdom and many more.