Fantasticoe -- 2013
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Fading into Black

Shyla Shanklin


Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “When we find ourselves fading into shadows and unrealities, it seems hardly worthwhile to be sad, but rather to laugh as gaily as we may, and ask little reason wherefore. “ Obviously, Nathaniel Hawthorne had never faded into the shadows because that advice is far from practical in that situation. Trust me to say that not only is the advice impractical it is almost near impossible to follow through with.

The first time I faded was months before everything happened. At least, I counted it as fading. A guy on the school newspaper was taking pictures. Usually, I hated getting my picture taken, but when this picture was taken I must have been unaware or something because it was taken. He approached me.

“hey,” That should have been my first clue, someone actually talking to me, well, at first I thought it was someone else as I waited for my parents after getting out of AP World and jumping at least twice to get my books from the top shelf of my locker that was way too high for me to reach. Ignoring the guy didn’t work because he repeated himself and made it clear that he was indeed talking to me. “hey, you got a minute?”

“you are?” I asked confused.

“Alex Rodriguez, I’m a photographer for The Truth. Corny name for a school newspaper, I know. “I took a picture of you and…”

“don’t you have to have permission to put a photograph in the school newspaper?” I think this rule happened after they took embarrassing pictures of some cheerleader and she ended up attempted suicide or something, at least that was the rumor that circulated the school.

“that’s what I wanted to talk about.” He opened a manila envelope. “I was ordered to take pictures, you know how we always have pictures of people and things around school every week.”

“no.” I didn’t read the school newspaper.

That didn’t seem to phase him. He showed me the picture. “we want to use this one.” It was of me trying to get to my locker from the previous day.

“no.” I told them. I preferred to stay anonymous and not noticed, now I don’t know if that is true anymore.

“but, this is so cool, see, you don’t have a shadow.” He pointed to where me shadow should have been. He tried to give me puppy dog eyes and he wasn’t very good at it. I noticed you could see my lock where I should have been covering it up but didn’t mention it.

“something must be wrong with you camera, and you are going to have to find some other picture.”

“I suppose that could be true, but…” he hesitated a moment. At that moment I heard a honk, and turned to find my mother waiting for me on the curb just outside the front door of the school.

“wait.” Alex stopped me and I turned with a questioning look.

“you should be careful, you don’t want to just disappear.”

I didn’t answer and instead ignored him as I entered the car to my waiting mother.

“see you.” I got in the car and my mother bombarded me.

“wait.” Alex stopped me and I turned with a questioning look.

“who’s your friend?” they were constantly pressuring me to be normal and get a boyfriend.

“just met him, he wanted to use a picture I was in for the school newspaper.”

“how did he get a picture of…” Ah yes, my hating of having my picture taken.

“I didn’t notice.” I explained as if that was enough, not really knowing how many times I’d hear the phrase in the next couple weeks.

On the day in particular, I was not expecting any tardiness from my extremely organized parents who rarely forgot a thing because of the notes that could be found posted around the house. I didn’t expect them to have to use a note to remember me, and after waiting for twenty minutes in the rain, I decided to sit down against the brick wall of the school building and wait underneath the awning that would hopefully protect me from the rain.

3:40 ,4 o’clock, 4:30. By this time I was a little concerned, never had they been this late. The teachers were leaving and strangely none of them stopped and questioned my presence, I suppose it was like they didn’t notice me or something. My never ending denial made the truth of that statement even more eerie to think about in hindsight. I used the little light for homework. I was left in silence with only the pitter pater of the rain on the roof to distract me and even I couldn’t stop the what ifs to enter my head. Oddly, enough a feeling of being watched had come over me which contradicted the feeling I had of nonexistence.

The daydreams were interrupted when I heard a honk that startled me. A smile of relief grew on my face as I saw a familiar car and driver. My father was sitting in the front seat and I walked to the car with my backpack on my shoulder in relief. I opened the door and apologies were coming out. “sorry, kid, I don’t know what came over me,”

“it’s alright.”I lied. It was past seven.

“it was like, well, hard to explain, but your mother and I just forgot about you. How could we have forgotten about you?”

“I got my homework done.” I offered in consolation.

“that’s good, how about pizza? Its my way of making it up to you.”

“and ice cream?” I pressed. I loved ice cream when I could get it.

“and ice cream.” He agreed, probably partially because of the guilt he and my mother seemed to feel for not being in my life much.

The second time anything happened was probably a month later then when I was forgotten at school. I probably shouldn’t connect the two events, but I really couldn’t help it. I was in French class. The teacher was lecturing on the past participle form of regular verbs or some such thing. Of course now does it really matter? “Qui est vous? Who am I?

It took me a second to realize she was directing the question at me. “Je m’appelle Ari Black.”

“mais, qu-est-ce fait ici?” What am I doing here? What on earth is she talking about?

“maintenant, je prends ma classe de francais.” What do you think I’m doing, I’m taking French.

“Je n’ai pas vu toi avand aujourd’hui.” What did she mean she’s never seen me before today?

“mais, j’ai prendu cette classe tous cette annee.” I’ve been here all year.

“non, tu n’as pas.” Am I really that unrememberable? Is unrememberable even a word?

The boy next to me spoke up, it was Alex. “oui, Madam Grant, elle est un eleve dans cette ecole.” See, someone did remember me.

“Non…Ari, j’oublie. Qu-est ce nous parlons aujourd’hui?” Sure, now she remembers.

Most other incidents happened similarly. The week after in Calculus, then three days later I was counted absent in history. I got ran into in the lunch line with the excuse of them not seeing me there and at this point I was thinking that this was an awful joke to play on me, not to say I was Miss Popularity. I had no friends and wasn’t noticed before, but teachers at least acknowledge my presence, and I wasn’t run into at lunch by three different people in one day. It was just plain frustrating and I was getting tired of it. From the wake up calls that never happened to the detention threats for my supposed absences, I wanted it to just stop. The joke was getting old and I was just getting plain annoyed. At the end of it, I felt that not a single person seemed to care about me and that hurts.

It took only about two months from the first incident for it to be the final straw that led me to the forest. My parents had forgotten me again and I had walked home and just as I started the last mile, a thunderstorm started. I was soaked and shocked when I entered for what I found. “who are you?” My mother demanded.

“Mom, I am really tired of that joke. Its me, Ari, your daughter.”

“I don’t have a daughter. Definitely not someone that is your age. I’m too young to have a teenage daughter.” Sure my parents didn’t like being such young parents, but they accepted it.

“a random girl, she claims she’s our daughter.”

“should we take her to the hospital, maybe she’s mentally unstable.” Of course that was when I saw the family picture on the foyer table. My place in the center was taken by a nonexistent person. It was just my mother and father, smiling and happy without me.

“I don’t need to be taken to a hospital.” I told them. “I’ll just leave.”

“good, you are getting the foyer carpet muddy.” My mother told me. Was I really that unimportant? How could they do this to me? I opened the door that was usually unlocked and closed it as I ran toward the nearby forest crying. I barely recognized the sound of the door being locked as I dashed away. My own parents, didn’t want me, though what was worse was the fact they had forgotten me, everyone had forgotten me. I ran until I was out of breath, as far away as I could. I rested for a few minutes, glad for the protection the trees gave me from the rain.

I found an apple in my backpack, it was a little old, but I was hungry. After my first bite, the apple slipped through my fingers, literally as if I couldn’t touch it. I had to try three times before I was able to pick it up again. I was reminded of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and that I truly was fading and I wasn’t happy about it. Of course, that was when I heard the screams and raced in that direction that was probably the stupidest decision in my entire existence. I went against my instincts and went toward the screams of pain. Curiosity got the best of me, just like it did that cat, and I don’t think satisfaction would ever be able to bring be back to normal, at least not in this century.

I found the source of the screams after what seemed like hours. The cabin in the middle of the woods was probably made of one room and hadn’t been lived in for years. I had to search for a door and despite the lock, I didn’t have to worry. The door was half ajar and I heard the voices before I saw the figures.

The clothing seemed to be from around the Renaissance period, the first thing I noticed besides the odd clothes were the faces. One was looking straight at me with his hooked nose that reminded me of a picture of a goblin from folklore. “what’s wrong?” the other one seemed to ask.

“nothing.” The goblin as I found out they were called answered. “are we almost done here?”

“yes, the portal shall open soon. I can feel it in my old bones.”

“I’m tired of this world. And what shall we do with the boy?”

“leave him to his fate of course. He tried to stop us and deserves nothing less, now that the Hope of the kingdom feels unloved, how can her love drive her to protect the kingdom?” Where they talking about me? Was this their doing? ”We shall return as saviors of our people and Vizer shall soon be ours. Here is the portal, brother.” The sound I heard after the two people left was the whooshing and I entered the room. It was a mess, but chained to the wall was someone I didn’t expect to see, let alone be able to see me.

“hello, Ari, would you mind unlocking me? I feel I have some explaining to do to you.” Alex smiled.

Space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind union of the two will preserve an independent reality – Albert Einstein