A Man and His Shadow

Tamikio L. Dooley

Tamikio L. Dooley

A

 Man and His Shadow…Arielle Neil positioned her tall, slender, voluptuous frame in front of the wide-length mirror in the extravagant dressing room. In the 1940s, she starred as the seductive lead in the popular film Kill Me Slowly, which quickly spiraled to the top of the charts in one week. The scenes left viewers stunned by the film’s shocking twist and unexpected change in perspective.

In Arielle’s dressing room, the man known as A Man and His Shadow murdered Arielle Neil in the film.

 Kill Me Slowly, actually a telepathy movie. Inside Arielle’s mind, guilt resided in a forgotten bunker, resembling a battle in a graveyard rather than an adventure in a garden. Meanwhile, children floated in the river and a long-lost romance was rekindled, only to be forgotten again. At least, Arielle had forgotten it, but not the man. No, he wouldn’t let it go just like that. At first, it was like magic in heaven, until fear of the fairy tale opened Arielle’s eyes-wide. The entire universe prevented justice in the streets, a world record in the woods, perhaps, a gift from a hologram.

But behind Arielle in the dressing room, a distant figure appeared as nothing more than a shadow.

“My mother is in the hospital with your grandmother.” Arielle whispered.

The man’s shadow breathed on her neck, tapping her smooth shoulder. Her throat constricted, forming a lump. She forced it to go down, dry and hard, like the rocks of that autumn day. She believed the man standing behind her, with his spontaneous nature, was her knight. Then, the history of her old boyfriend emerged. Unlike the man standing behind her in the shadows, she could never perceive his breathing. While she spoke, he didn’t utter a single sound-yet. Once locked up with a centaur, Arielle remembered that all too clearly…

She moved a little, revealing her cherry red lips. Like stolen emeralds, her eyes glimmered with a bright green hue. Settled on her delicate bones was skin as smooth as milk. She donned a lengthy crimson gown with the back out adorned with red sequins, complemented by matching sequined heels. The dim lighting in the dressing room illuminated the striking sparkle of her crimson diamond earrings and necklace, elegantly adorning her petite neck. Her fingernails, too, appeared long and red… and sharp.

Sharp like the knife the man held in the film Kill Me Slowly.

Arielle’s sunken cheeks were adorned with a light rose blush as she nervously batted her long lashes, rather than out of curious inquiry.

In the dimly lit dressing room, Arielle imagined the man’s raven coily hair pulled back in a ponytail hidden by a stylish grey hat, and underneath, she remembered a captivating bony face. Concealed within their sockets were his bulging gray eyes matching his hat? The man watched Arielle with a full beard beautifully complemented his steel eyes, while his captivating memory of luck in love lingered under a raven mustache.

The countenance belonged to A Man and His Shadow, known for being both loved and hated by werewolves. Amongst other men, he stood out with his tall and broad frame. He distinguished about him, lacking any remorse and displaying unkindness. However, women were drawn to him, constantly battling for their lives.

The Man and His Shadow emerged but stayed partially concealed in the shadows.

Arielle tensed. Her lips looked coated in cherry red lipstick that resembled melted candy syrup. Beads of perspiration formed on her forehead and neck. She idly played with the red diamond necklace adorning her delicate throat.

Swallowing first, Arielle cleared her throat.

“It was just a movie. You can’t be serious? I have to visit my mother in the hospital, and what about your grandmother?”

With a never-before-seen action, the man shifted his hands, covered in black leather gloves, as he moved them around in the pockets of his teal-colored trench coat. He was dressed in light gray slacks and black polished shoes.

“Only you and I know it’s not just a movie, Arielle.” The man’s voice sounded dry and raspy, just like the autumn leaves outside the building.

Arielle remained silent for a moment. The silence between them hung in the air like cigarette smoke. It was the truth. Without a doubt, the truth was concealed inside that hovering vicinity. Arielle’s truth remained unknown to the viewers and others. Yet, the man exceeded expectations.

“Where do we go from here? I want to see my mother in the hospital tonight. You must not care about your grandmother.”

“Save the trip. Your mother will die.”

Arielle closed her eyes, pursed her lips, and restrained the cold tears.

“Save your tears. I asked you. I asked you if you were sure and nothing could sway your decision. Now the film is over. What do you think?”

“But please!”

“You’re a selfish woman, Arielle, just like the character in the film. You portray your character well because you are just like her.”

“Not true! I’m an extraordinary actress, a good one!” Arielle stood, facing the man for the first time since entering the dressing room.

“Those people out there tonight don’t know you’re not real. They think you’re a real man… a real actor!”

“They don’t know you’re not real either, do they, Arielle? A greedy woman, selfish and self-centered for her fame and fortune, wants to see her mother in the hospital?”

Arielle’s eyes locked onto the man concealed in darkness, shooting him a fierce glare. Her full bosom rose. She pressed her lips again. The color, a vibrant cherry red on her lips, melted like syrup on a shiny candy apple.

The man stepped forward, but remained in the shadows.

“How deep are the shadows in this room?”

The man remained silent.

As the atmosphere in the room grew oppressive, Arielle’s lipstick melted more.

Soon…

“There is no need to worry. You won’t become like the shadow of the shadows. You made a deal.”

 

“No! This can’t be true! I’m an extraordinary actress! I am!”

“And how can you remain an extraordinary actress after the film?”

With pleading eyes, a tilted head, and quivering lips coated in melting crimson, Arielle expressed her emotions. Before long, the lipstick would make it impossible for her to open her lips, for her sweet voice would fail, complementing the lines of movie scripts.

“Is she still breathing? My mother, I need to see her.”

“No.”

“What?”

“Your mother died an hour ago in the hospital.”

“My God, you can’t be serious? Tell me you’re not serious?”

And the man didn’t tell Arielle anything more.

Leaving the safety of the shadows, he walked into the harsh light. Arielle gasped! Her heart nearly stopped when she saw what was in front of her. As the lipstick melted, it caused her lips to stick together. Her lips, along with the lipstick, felt stale, making it difficult for her to move her lips. Her eyes bulged like oversized kiwi, frantically scanning the room. She became overwhelmed with panic. Her face turned crimson as blood flowed through it. Arielle shook her head. Her sullen cheeks were adorned with golden blonde waves. The melting lipstick covered her lips, causing some strands to get stuck.

 

Arielle’s panic intensified as the man approached her. She hit the dresser and accidentally knocked over her hair brush and makeup. The mannequin head with the brunette wig was repositioned. With horror, she witnessed her eyes filling with blood as the man approached her with a fat gleaming knife. Just like in the film A Man and His Shadow, the man, who wasn’t exactly real?

Arielle ran toward the opened window. A gentle breeze of autumn entered with a flutter. The fluttering curtains greeted Arielle Neil’s death. With no escape or place to conceal her, she would never find solace in yet another dim corner filled with shadows. The chilly air brushed against Arielle’s exposed back in the cut of the dress as she pressed against the open window. Her body brought the fluttering curtains to a halt.

 

With a left-to-right motion, the man slit Arielle’s neck using the knife, similar to what viewers witnessed in the film. Gasps had filled the crowd as the women placed their manicured nails on their lips, and the men seemed accustomed to looking at death, appearing rigid and at ease. Arielle’s eyes popped out in astonishment. Her lips appeared to be melting and were completely invisible. She quickly brought her hand to her throat. The opened slit caused blood to flow across her delicate neck, resembling cherry red lipstick. Drained of vitality, her eyelids fluttered. Until... Arielle twisted toward the window, clutching her throat, her character’s sacrifice then taking a backseat. The open wound in her neck spurted blood. Leaning over the open window, she gurgled for help… blood spilled between her fingers, then she toppled off the ledge.

Falling from ten stories high, Arielle Neil hit the pavement, resembling a mannequin from A Man and His Shadow.

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