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The boy's shadow was completely normal. At least, that's what I've heard. His parents were interviewed by the local paper, then the local news, and then it went national.
"He was always a happy boy," they'd claimed, "He liked Baseball and everything a normal American kid should."
I think his mother must've been pretty terrified when her son walked out into the street that morning. He'd been waiting for the school bus with his little Shrek backpack on and all. Then he just took one wide step into the road.
Yeah. She probably screamed.
The boy just stood there, though, like he was sure nothing bad would happen. "Stoic," the parents said. Less biased sources called it "Stupefied."
The bus stopped inches from the kid's face, and he didn't even flinch. He just smiled and stared in the direction he'd been facing as if the rush of wind was a normal breeze.
Anyway, yes, the shadow he cast across the pavement was normal.
Nobody could coax him out of the street. Not his parents, not the Police, no matter what they offered or threatened. When they found out they couldn't just lift him up, that he was glued to the spot, they put down a "Detour" sign and cones.
Everyone had their opinion when the story first hit the big news shows: "Get a therapist in there." "Let him stay there and freeze until he gives up." "Smack him around a bit."
As the day wore on and the noon Sun passed over his head, that's when the boy's shadow started to change. It extended just a bit longer than it should. It was a bit wider than expected. The short, vacant, ever-grinning child was casting the shadow of a full-grown man.
The other kids noticed that first, of course. Adults were too focused on the original puzzle.
Days later, the shadow had grown still larger. It began to crawl up the sides of houses despite the fact the child stayed frozen. He didn't eat, sleep, or even blink. He was a perfect little mannequin dressed for back-to-school season.
Most concerning of all was the fact that each house lost power as the shadow passed. First his house, then the one across the street. As the shadow lengthened and widened of its own accord, other houses were caught up in the day-long back-and-forth pendulum swing of darkness.
The Government only got involved once the shadow grew over thirty miles and began to threaten a nearby city. Hospitals had to be evacuated, along with countless other expensive precautions.
At one point, when the sun was about to set and the shadow was at its tallest, a team of researchers from some undeclared organization began to bring in van after van of mysterious instruments.
You should understand that at this point the Department of Transportation tried to dig everything out around the boy so he could be lifted, by crane, to another location. It was too late, though. Even at mid-day the shadow was still a huge blob of darkness, and no power tools of any use would work within its boundaries.
The researchers took a direct route to the boy's house, and while we all suspected they might hurt the child... suffice to say few of us argued over it.
The shadow had laid out across the landscape, completely motionless, right up until the procession of shiny black vans came within arm's reach. Then, one massive, black hand rose. The shadow's arm extended, and it simply touched the lead van with a single finger.
We watched live helicopter footage as the deadly multi-car pile-up unfolded.
The reports were unclear beyond that point. Some scientists assured the public that it was impossible for a shadow to be cast across the entire globe. Others noted that, to put it simply, that it was impossible for a shadow to do any of this in the first place.
Every town that fell into darkness was sent straight back to the age of cavemen. The riots seemed endless, as did the countless number of gunned-down rioters. We were slipping back into our most primal state, and all the boy would do was smile at it all.
There was a Police barricade around the boy when I arrived to see him for myself. Armed guards stood silently, ensuring the hundredth lunatic wouldn't try to kill him. Not that it ever worked, anyway.
The crowd was silent. This was less of a freakshow and more like a candle-light vigil held for the death of civilization. It was odd to see a perfectly clear sky above me while all around was cast in darkness.
A voice in the crowd cried out suddenly as a small girl slipped under the barricade and began approaching the boy. There was little to fear, however. Two of the guards quickly approached the girl and bent down to talk to her.
The girl showed the guards a small umbrella in her hands. It was foam green with cartoon frogs dotting its plastic surface. The guards looked to her as the three of them spoke. Then they looked at each other with tired, weak smiles.
The girl was allowed to pass as one of the guards waved for her mother to be calm.
The entire crowd was on edge as the strange, frizzy-haired girl toddled up to the frozen boy. The tense, quiet energy was overwhelming.
The girl pulled on the boy's sleeve and tried to crack open his motionless fist. She then stood on her toes, as tall as she could manage, and tucked the handle of the open umbrella into the back of his sweater.
Satisfied with her contribution, the girl raced back to her mother and disappeared into the mob. Some let out a soft chuckle. Others began to weep.
I focused my attention on the distant hills.
I watched the darkness retracting from the horizon.