The Shadow on the Wall

I am lonely, here in the wall, please read to me? more

I can’t remember when it started. I do remember how it started. I got up one night to use the toilet. And there it was.  On the wall. A shadow. Specifically the shadow of a child. No actual child casting the shadow. It was the middle of the night but light enough for a shadow because we always left the outside light on. It shone through the panelled glass door so that we could see our way to the bathroom. And there on the wall, in the half light, a shadow. It was playing. Skipping. In a world of its own. I was intrigued but I needed the toilet more.

Then the next night again, there it was. I went and stood before it. Not close, against the stairwell. Again the next night. I watched some more and then one night.  It stopped. It stopped what it was doing and turned to face me. I couldn’t make out any face but I knew it was facing me. It was just a shadow. A dark shape on the wall.

It seemed curious. About me. Again the next night, it seemed sad. So I did what every mother would do. At 3am in the morning I read it a book. It seemed comforted. It slumped to the bottom of the wall and lay sleeping. I went back to bed.

Still I didn’t go near it. I sat across from it. Out of reach, but every night, 3am I got up to go to the bathroom and I read a book to the shadow, just a picture book. It didn’t take very long. I never went near the wall, I just felt I needed a distance. Instinct. I must have done that for two or three years, read a book every night. The interrupted sleep was difficult. My husband thought I was mad. He just couldn’t seem to see it. There was no shadow for him. Just a wall.

It grew, over time, the shadow grew, got older, bigger, like a child growing. The books got longer and more complex. In 2013 I did the entirety of Harry Potter-all of it. Sitting down and reading to the shadow over a series of nights. About an hour each night, sometimes more, often more.  

I didn’t understand it. It seemed to get more demanding. Somehow. More down cast every time I stopped and soon I was reading for 2 hours, then four and the toll on my voice, the lack of sleep. Did I say my husband couldn’t see it? He must have left about that time. I stayed on, a devoted mother.

The lack of sleep was consuming me but there was no way to stop. I kept reading to it every night. But I never went near it. I stayed away from it physically. After awhile I never even vacuumed near that wall, I didn’t want to wake it in the day. Soon we were into modern fiction and I was reading the Booker-out loud. I never meant for it to happen.

I went to bed early, got up in the middle of the night and read to the shadow. It never said anything, it couldn’t. It just sat there and listened. I never went very close to that wall. Did I say that already? Ever. I think I never really felt comfortable in its presence. I was attached to it, obligated, but still- fretful.

And then one night I did. I just went closer.

All I really remember is a loud sound, like a bang and feeling sticky all over. Like I was caught under the wall paper. And I could see him. I could see him as a real three dimensional person, walking into my bathroom, a whole human fully formed. He dressed himself in something my husband had left behind. He rifled through my bag and he left the house. Out into the night. He never returned.

I can’t see myself to tell you what I look like now. In the light that shines through the glass panels I know I am visible. In the night. I wait. There are new people who have moved in. I wait for the night. For that person to get out of bed at that exact moment, to see me. I have practiced it. Planned it.  And I know.

I know.  You’re reading this. I know you know. You know which wall I mean. I know how you try not to look my way at night. I was like that once too. But I am lonely, here in the wall, please read to me?


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