It’s summer. I’m in the middle of my favourite forest, admiring all of the colours. The bright yellow daffodils, the golden light shining through the foliage, the gorgeous green leaves overcrowding countless trees all around me. The wind blows softly along, caressing every plant in its path and covering me in a comforting blanket of warmth. There is no sound aside from the rustling leaves, no sight of other living beings aside from the peaceful forest critters, and only the smells of nature residing happily within my nose. I am at peace. I have not a care in the world, for the world can’t bother me here. I am safe. Or so I think, as nobody ever expects their safe place to be invaded. The leaves fade to dust, the flowers wither until they die, the sky becomes blacker than space itself. Every creature appears to see something at once, and all at once they scarper away, eyes full of terror and dread. As the night unfurls, I see it standing just in front of me. A shadow. A person. Fear. I try to run, I feel its power pulling me back. Every step I take gets heavier, every breath deeper, the weight on my body grows until it is near unbearable. I look back. The shadow is walking towards me. It’s getting faster. It’s getting closer. It wants to overwhelm me. It wants to consume me. Harder I push, dragging my feet through the wet and slippery mud with everything I have, praying for power I know I don’t possess. It’s getting cold now. I feel everything draining away. My strength. My emotion. My soul. I start to question if there is any point fighting. I can’t win. Maybe I should just let it take me so it can all be over sooner. The shadow grows stronger with every passing second, while my strength declines until there is nothing left. My legs crumble, no longer strong enough to stand. I try to crawl, but the mud is too slippery to grab on to. I can’t move. I feel the shadow walking towards me, stopping by my side. It is going to finish me off. It is going to kill me. In a way, I kind of want it to. I just want my suffering to end. I want to be at peace again, no matter what form that peace has to be in. I remain still, just waiting for this nightmare to end. Everything is silent. Nothing is happening. I look up at the shadow and it’s just standing there, watching over me. Now that it’s so close to me I can finally see who it is. It’s me. This is my shadow. The darkness I hide within me. This thing isn’t going to kill me because this thing is me. I see a leaf appear in front of me, green and healthy. My body still weak, I slowly stand up, trembling all over. I look the shadow in the eyes. I hug it tightly. I feel warmth again. Life is starting to return to the forest. Life is returning to my soul. I realise that in order to bring life back into my world, I need to start by helping the shadow of myself. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. I will bring light back into my dark world. I start to walk with my shadow. I learn from it. All of its fears, all of its hatred, everything that makes it suffer. These are the things I need to tackle. These are the things we will make better together. One step at a time, we push through each and every barrier, until things are back the way they should be. I am happy again. I am myself at last. The forest returns to its full beauty, exactly as I remembered it. Except, the shadow still follows me. It still watches me every moment of my life. I don’t mind though. Without the occasional bit of darkness, we forget how bright just a small amount of light can be. Sometimes the shadow stays away for long periods of time, whereas other times it grows immensely and immediately. I am never prepared either way, but I know now I can help the shadow feel bright once more, even if I can’t do it alone. I know there will always be somebody out there to help if I’m not strong enough to do this alone, if only I reach that little bit further. And I promise you, no matter how dark your own shadow gets, there is always a way for you to help it.

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© A. L. Plumb 2020

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