Strange Shadows | I Am Your Shadow

Clark Ashton Smith

We present three versions of this story—Version I being a first draft of the tale, Version II a second draft, and Version III an unfinished final attempt at composition. Versions I and II are entitled "Strange Shadows" while Version III is "I Am Your Shadow."
To minimize repetition of prose, sections common to more than one version appear only once, until divergences are encountered. The organization of materials is as follows:

1. A beginning common to all three versions
2. The conclusion of Version I
3. A section common to Versions II and II1
4. The conclusion of Version II
5. The conclusion of Version III

Downing his thirteenth dry Martini, Gaylord Jones drew a complacent sigh and regarded the barroom floor with grave attention. He was drunk. He knew that he was drunk. With superb lucidity, he calculated the exact degree of his inebriation.

A great white light was pivoted in his brain. He could turn this light, instantly, on the most obscure corners of the nothingness called life. At last he was able to appreciate the absurd logic of the cosmos. It was all very simple . Nothing mattered in the least.

It was all very simple, and nothing mattered as long as one could keep himself sufficiently pickled. Ah, that was the problem. Reflecting long and deeply, Jones decided that just one more Martini would help to maintain his intoxication at the right stage.

He had, however, consumed three drinks in a row at this particular bar. The Martinis were well mixed. The bartender's manners were unexceptionable. But Jones felt that he should not play any favorites when it came to barrooms. There were so many others that deserved his patronage. In fact, there was one just around the corner on his homeward route.

"I wonder often what the vintners buy one-half so precious as the stuff they sell," he quoted, muttering to himself, as he descended care­fully from his seat.

Jones prided himself on knowing his capacity. So far, he had never had the misfortune to overestimate it. He could carry one, two, three, even four more drinks if necessary, without deviating from the proverbial chalk line. Every night, for at least a month past, he had collected a full cargo at various alcoholic ports between his office and hotel. The stuff never hurt him. He had never been known to stagger or even wobble at any point along the route. His morning headaches, if any, were light and fleeting.

He stood up and looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar. Yes, he could hold his liquor. No casual observer would be able to tell that he had had three Martinis, let alone thirteen. His eyes were clear, his face no redder or paler than usual. He adjusted his tie neatly, bade the bartender a crisp goodnight, and started toward the door.

Of course, his locomotor faculties were under perfect control. He knew that they would not fail him as long as he observed due caution and didn't move too precipitately. His senses had never played him tricks either. But, as he crossed the long room, Jones received a curious impression. The room was empty except for a few late patrons at the bar or remote tables. Yet once, twice, thrice, it seemed to him that he had trodden on someone's heels. It was a baffling and disconcerting sensation, since, visibly, no one was in front of him or even near at hand. With some effort, each time, he checked himself from stumbling.

Jones went on, feeling slightly disturbed and annoyed. Again, as he approached the door, the mysterious sensation was repeated. It was as if his toes had collided with the heel of some stranger who preceded him down the room. This time, Jones nearly fell on his face before he could recover himself.

"Who the hell--" he started to mumble. But, as before, there was no one, nothing, against whom or which he could have tripped. Looking down, he could see only his own shadow, now stretching doorward in the light cast by the electric chandeliers.

Jones stood peering at the shadow with a vague but growing puzzlement. It was a funny sort of shadow, he thought. There must be something queer about the lights in that barroom. It didn't look like his own shadow, or, in fact, the shadow of any human being. He wasn't squeamish. He had never been a stickler for aesthetic propriety or any kind of propriety. But he felt a sense of actual shock when he began to consider the various things that were wrong with the shadow's outline.

Though he himself was correctly attired, there was no suggestion that the caster of the shadow wore either clothing, hat or shoes. Indeed, it hardly seemed to indicate any sort of creature that would wear clothing.

Jones thought of the gargoyles of Notre Dame. He thought of antique satyrs. He thought of goats and swine. The shadow was gargoylish, it was satyr-like. It was goatish and porcine—it was even worse. It was the adumbration of some shambling, obscene, pot-bellied monster, trying to stand upright like a man on its hind legs, and holding its forelegs a little away from the body on each hand.

Its edges were hairy as the silhouette of an ape. Appendages that were huge ears or horns rose above its swollen head. The rear shanks were bent at a bestial angle. Something like a tail depended between them. The four feet gave the appearance of hooves. The two lifted feet were visibly cloven.

Apart from these deformities of outline, the shadow possessed an unnatural thick blackness. It was like a pool of tar. Sometimes it seemed to swell upward from the floor, to take on a third dimension.

Sobriety had almost returned to Jones. But now the thirteen cumulative Martinis resumed their work. By one of those sudden shifts of a drunkard's mood, he began to forget his feelings of shock and perplexity. The shadow's very grotesquery began to amuse him.

"Must be another guy's shadow," he chuckled. "But what a guy!" He stepped forward cautiously, holding out his right arm at a dead level and parting all the fingers of his right hand. The shadow moved with him. Its right fore-member rose and protruded at the angle of his arm. But still there was only the shadow of a cloven hoof where the shadows of five outspread fingers should have registered.

Jones shook his head bewilderedly. Maybe it was the lights, after all. There must be some explanation.

He stepped backward, maintaining a balance that had become slightly precarious. This time, the shadow did not follow his change of position. It lay as before, its hind hooves separated from his own nattily shod feet by an interval of light.

Jones felt a confused outrage. Here was a problem that defied the blazing white logic of alcohol. What could one make of a shadow that not only failed to reproduce its owner's periphery, but refused to follow all his movements?

To make matters worse, he saw that the shadow had now begun to display an activity of its own. Lurching and weaving while he stood stock still, it danced abominably from side to side on the floor, like the shadow of a drunken satyr. It capered and cavorted. It made vile gestures with its forelegs.

At this moment a patrolman, parched, no doubt, from his long evening vigil, entered the barroom. He was formidably tall and broad. Giving Jones the tail of a truculent eye, he passed on toward the bar without seeming to notice the outrageous behavior of Jones' errant shadow.

Behind the patrolman's bulk there trailed a shadow like that of some diminutive monkey. It appeared to cower at his heels. It seemed to scamper and scuttle behind the arrogant pomp of his advance. It was incredibly thin, wizened, puny-looking.

Jones rubbed his eyes. Here, perhaps, was something to reassure him. If his own shadow had gone screwy, the patrolman's was equally haywire.

This conclusion was instantly confirmed. The shadow that, by courtesy, Jones called his own, had ceased its indecorous caperings. It wheeled about suddenly and ran past him as if following the officer. At the same time the policeman's monkey-like shadow detached itself from its owners' heels and fled swiftly toward a remote corner of the room. Jones' shadow pursued it in great, goatish leaps, with gesticulations of obscene anger and menace. The officer, quite oblivious of his loss, continued barward. Jones heard him order a beer.

Jones decided that he had lingered all too long in that particular drinking-place. Matters had grown slightly embarrassing, not to say compromising. Shadow or no shadow, he would speed his progress to the next bar. After two or three additional Martinis, he could manage well enough without a shadow. Good riddance, anyway. Let the policeman keep the damned thing in order if he could.

The street outside was well-lighted but almost empty of pedestrians. With a sense of urgency and compulsion, Jones hurried to the saloon around the corner. He avoided looking down at the pavement as he went.

Ordering three Martinis, he drank them down as fast as the bartender could mix and pour them. The result was all that he had hoped for. His feeling of cosmic detachment and independence returned to him. What was a shadow, anyway? The one cast by the bartender's hand and arm, moving over the bar, was not that of a normal human limb; but Jones refused to consider it. He could take his shadows or leave them.

He took three more drinks. His sense of alcoholic caution told him that it was now curfew-time. Promptly, though a little unsteadily, he began the last lap of his homeward journey.

Somewhere on the way, he perceived rather vaguely that his shadow had rejoined him. It was more monstrous than ever under the streetlamps—more obscene and unnatural. Then, suddenly, there were two shadows. This, however, was not surprising, since he had begun to see telephone-posts, lights, cars, hydrants, people, and other objects along his route in duplicate.

He awoke the next morning with a dull headache and a confused impression that the scheme of things had somehow gone wrong. Just how or why it had gone wrong he could not remember at first. But he had had one or two drinks too many and had fallen asleep in his clothes on top of the bedding.

Groaning, he pulled himself from the bed and stood up groggily with his back to the bright sunlight that streamed in through his apartment windows. It seemed that something rose with him—a black, solid silhouette that stood erect for an instant in the air. Horribly startled, he saw the thing resolve itself into a shadow stretching across the floor. It was the gargoylish, goatish, satyrish, porcine shadow of the previous night.

It was something that neither sunlight nor lamplight, by any trick or distortion, could conceivably have wrought from Jones' head, limbs and body. In the bright glare, it was blacker, grosser, more hirsute than before. Curiously, it was broader and less elongated than a shadow should have been in the full early light.

It was like some foul incubus of legend—a separate entity that companioned him in place of his rightful shadow.

Jones felt thoroughly frightened. He was sober, with the profound, excessive sobriety of the morning after. He did not believe in the supernatural. Plainly, he had become the victim of a set of bizarre hallucinations, confined to one subject. Otherwise, his sensory perceptions were quite normal. Perhaps, without realizing it, he had been drinking too much and had developed a new kind of delirium tremens. He knew that alcoholism didn't always result in the seeing of mauve elephants and cerise reptiles.

Or maybe it was something else. There were all sorts of obscure mental diseases, symptomized by aberrant or deluded sense-perceptions. He knew little of such things, but knew that the possibilities were infinitely various and terrifying.

Averting his eyes from the shadow, he fled to his bathroom, where there was no direct sunlight. Even here he had the sensation of being accompanied. Again, as in the barroom, he seemed to stumble over the heels of some unseen person who had preceded him.

With nightmare difficulty he concentrated on the tasks of washing and shaving himself. A dreadful gulf had opened at his feet amid the solid reality of things.

A clock struck somewhere in the apartment-house, and Jones realized that he had overslept and must hurry to his office. There was no time for breakfast, even if he had not lacked the appetite.

Dogged by his weirdly altered shadow, he went out on the crowded street in the clear April morning. Embarrassment mingled with his sense of horror. It seemed that everyone must notice the black changeling that followed him like a wizard's familiar.

However, the early throng, hurrying intently to the day's work or pleasure, paid no more attention to Jones and his shadow than on any other morning. It was more and more obvious that he suffered from some sort of visual hallucination: for the people about him were apparently quite untroubled by the oddities which he perceived in their shadows as well as in his own.

Studying these shadows with a morbid fascination as they passed by on the walls and pavements, Jones well-nigh forgot the dark miscreation at his own heels. It was like looking at the shadows of some hellish menagerie. Among them all, there was none that corresponded to the visible physique of its owner. And now and then some person went by, like the legendary vampire, without appearing to cast a shadow at all.

Demure young girls were attended by adumbrations that might have been those of lascivious she-apes or coquetting sphinxes. A benign priest was followed by the shadow of some murderous devil. A rich and popular society matron was paired with the four-legged shadow of a humpbacked cow. Shadows like those of hyenas trotted behind respectable bankers and aldermen.

Jones noted that the shadows cast by inorganic objects, such as trees and buildings, had not shared in the change. But the shadows of animals bore as little likeness to their casters as those of men . Oddly, those of dogs and horses were often quasihuman, seeming to indicate a rise rather than a degradation in the scale of being.

Sometimes, as on the evening before, Jones witnessed the incredible behavior of shadows that moved and acted with complete detachment from their owners. He saw pantomimes that were grotesque, ludicrous, often indecent.

It was in the mental state of a man bewitched that he reached the office of his young but thriving insurance business . Miss Owens, the rather mature typist, was already settled at her machine. She raised her well-plucked eyebrows at his lateness.

End of the common beginning; at this juncture Version I diverges from Versions II and III. The conclusion of Version I commences, followed by sections of Versions II and III.

Jones, trying to control his whirling wits and fix them on the day's work, was thankful for the diffused light in the office at that hour. Somehow, he succeeded in applying himself to a pile of letters, and even dictated a few replies.

Part of the morning went by. At times the mad mystery that troubled him receded to the margin of consciousness. It was too unreal, too much like the phantasms of dreams. But he would go easy on drinking in the future. No doubt the hallucinations would wear off when he had freed his system from any residue of alcohol. Perhaps his nerves were already fighting themselves and he wouldn't see any more crazy shadows.

At that moment he happened to look over at Miss Owens. The rays of the sun in its transit had now entered the window, striking directly across her and making a clear shadow on the floor beyond.

Jones, who was no prude, almost blushed at the outlines formed by that shadow. It showed a figure that was not only outrageously unclothed but betrayed proclivities more suitable to a witches' Sabbat than a modern business office. It moved forward in an unseemly fashion while Miss Owens remained seated. Beside it in the broad patch of sunlight a second shadow appeared — the misshapen one that Jones had been forced to call his own ....

Miss Owens, looking up from the Remington, intercepted her employer's eye. His expression seemed to startle her. A natural flush deepened her brunette rouge.

"Is there anything wrong, Mr. Jones?" she queried.

"Oh, nothing at all," said Jones, shamefacedly, averting his gaze from the two shadows. He plunged again into his correspondence and did not venture to look up till the sun had passed from the window.

That evening he visited a doctor instead of making the usual round of barrooms.

The doctor frowned very learnedly as Jones described his strange affliction. He took Jones' pulse and temperature, tested his knee-jerk and other reflexes, flashed a light into his eyes, looked at his tongue.

"You haven't any fever, and there's no sign of d.t.," he announced finally. "Your nerves seem to be sound though jumpy. I don't think you're likely to go insane — at least not for some time. Probably it's in your eyes. You'd better see a good oculist tomorrow. In the meanwhile I'll prescribe a sedative for your nervousness. Of course you ought to ease up on liquor — maybe the alcohol is affecting your eyesight."

Jones hardly heard the doctor's advice. He had been studying the doctor's shadow, flung across an expansive rug by a tall and powerful floor-lamp. It was the least human and most unpleasant of all the shadows he had yet seen. It had the contours and the posture of a ghoul stooping over a ripe carrion.

After procuring at a nearby pharmacy the prescribed sedative, Jones went to his apartment early. It had become more and more of an ordeal to pass through crowds and lighted places. He had wolfed down some food ordered at random in a small restaurant. Resolutely he tried to avoid looking at people's shadows; but a sick curiosity betrayed him again and again. He had never dreamt that any outlines made by the mere interception of light could contain the foul grotesquery that he saw everywhere. Goblins had seemed to menace him, she-devils had sought to seduce him, in the shadows of worthy men and good women.

He did not turn on the lights in his apartment but groped his way to an arm-chair and sat for a long time in darkness. At last he rose and lit a taper that stood on the table. By its dim, soft light he measured out and drank his medicine. Then, once more in darkness, he went to bed.

His nerves twittered still, and the sedative did not bring the sleep for which he had hoped. Lying with open eyes, he perceived presently that something darker than the gloom towered gigantically from the foot of his bed. It grew more definite, more distinct. It was the Shadow. It seemed to weigh tangibly upon him, crushing his feet with its black hooves. An opaque ghost, an ebon eidolon, it stood there through many nightmare hours, fading only with the approach of dawn.

Jones's weird bedevilment continued for two more days. At the end of that time he was verging on a nervous collapse from the strain. The mystery was a mad breach in natural logic, and he hated the illogical. It tormented him more and more, beyond endurance. Each evening he longed for a row of Martinis, but he did not dare to seek their dubious relief.

He knew that doctors and oculists could not help him. Nor could he confide his trouble to friends or acquaintances, who would merely have thought him insane.

At last he remembered Arthur Quintain, whom he had not seen for some months. Quintain lived in the same city, and Jones had known him rather distantly for some years. He was a queer bird, and had made a lifelong study of such fantastic matters as demonology and occultism. He, at least, would not laugh at Jones' experience or consider him mad. Jones, of course, was still a skeptic when it came to anything occult. But there would be no harm in hearing what the fellow had to say.

Quintain, gaunt and grey-halted but unbowed by his many years of bookish application, received Jones in a white-walled study lit by bluish lamps. His eyes, uncannily brilliant, seemed to scan the inmost thoughts of his visitor.

"Something is troubling you greatly," he said at once. "Otherwise you would not have come to me."

Jones plunged into a detailed account of the visual phenomena that plagued him. While he talked, he was eyeing with nervous disgust the immense shadow thrown obliquely on the wall beside Quintain's standing figure. It was the shadow of some medieval demon, grossly abdominous, outrageously wattled and snouted and crested.

"You have heard of the astral plane?" Quintain questioned when his visitor had finished speaking.

"Yes," admitted Jones, dubiously.

"This plane, which coexists in the same space with the physical world, is of course imperceptible to normal senses. But there are dormant centers of astral perception in the brain which can sometimes be stimulated abnormally by drugs or alcohol. The vision thus obtained is always very partial and distorted, and does not correspond to the vision of a true seer.

"Something of the sort seems to have resulted in your case, from prolonged excessive drinking. The vision is curiously limited, since, as far as I can make out, you have been seeing merely the astral aspect of your own shadow and the shadows of others.

"Evidently you haven't seen anything very pleasant or flattering. The shadows, as you describe them, seem to have embodied all the basest tendencies of human nature—the latent worst that exists in everyone. Sometimes you saw them express these tendencies by breaking away and acting independently of their owners. And you saw people without shadows at all, which would signify living death.

"Of course your vision wasn't literal. You were trying to interpret, with an unused and perniciously activated sense, the phenomena of a hidden world."

"The shadow, I might say in further explanation, is one of the seven essential parts or principles of the complete human entity, according to ancient Egyptian occultism. It is no less important than the soul or the earthly and etheric bodies. It is revealed by light but does not cease to exist in darkness.

"Hence, when your astral vision had reached its strongest, you were able to see your own shadow standing by night at the foot of your bed." Jones was somewhat dazed by this explanation. "Thanks a lot," he said.

"Of course you don't believe me," Quintain continued. "You are the typical materialist, and would probably understand me almost as well if I were talking in Sanskrit. I'll admit, however, that there are some things in your experience that puzzle me. I've never heard of a case like it .... Your astral sense of touch must have been slightly active at times, as well as the sense of sight, since you had the sensation of stumbling over some unseen object. It was your own shadow over which you stumbled."

"It's all too much for me," Jones confessed. "But your explanation is no screwier than the things I've been seeing. However, if what you tell me is true, why should the shadows take such queer and horrible forms?"

"I could hazard a theory about that also," said Quintain rather dryly. "But I doubt if it would interest you." After a slight pause he resumed: "I think your higher spiritual faculties, of which you are wholly unconscious, are involved there. The shadows seem to be a sort of warning from your highest state to your lowest self a warning of the quite undesirable state and plane of being to which alcohol may degrade you if you persist in its use through many more incarnations. Their bestial and fiendish shapes are, so to speak, symbolic of what you may come to in the end."

Jones, at this juncture, had become inattentive. With a shock of bewildered relief he noticed that Quintain's shadow and his own had lost their monstrosity of outline and were now such as their figures would normally cast on a lamp lit wall. "It's gone," he cried out.

"I expected that," said Quintain. "Your were wise to stop drinking when you did. In future, I hope you won't try to kill quite so many Martinis. You might see far worse things than those shadows-—in fact, you are very lucky not to have seen them already."

After an interval of reflective silence, he added: "Oh, by the way, what was my shadow like?"

Jones hesitated. What was it Quintain had said—that the shadows had apparently expressed the worst that was latent in everyone? Of course he didn't believe any of that stuff. But Quintain did.

"Sorry, I forgot to notice," he said tactfully.

End of Version I. A section common to Versions II and III follows; we rejoin the story at the scene in the insurance office.

Jones noted mechanically that his business partner, Caleb Johnson, was even later than himself. A moment afterwards, Johnson entered. He was heavy-set, darkly florid, older than Jones. As usual, he looked like the aftermath of a season of misspent nights. The rings under his eyes were strongly marked as those of a raccoon's tail. Miss Owens did not appear to notice his entrance, but bent closer above her machine.

Johnson grunted by way of greeting. It was a one-syllable, Anglo-Saxon grunt. He went to his desk, which was opposite Miss Owens'. The office settled to its daily routine.

Jones, trying to control his whirling wits and fix them on his work, was thankful for the diffused light at that hour. Somehow, he succeeded in applying himself to a pile of letters, and even dictated a few replies. Several clients came in. There were some new applicants for fire and accident insurance. It reassured Jones a little, to find that he could talk and answer questions without betraying the incoherence of his thoughts.

Part of the morning went by. At times the mad mystery that troubled him receded to the margin of consciousness. It was too unreal, too much like the phantasms of dreams. But he would go easy on drinking in the future. No doubt the hallucinations would wear off when he had freed his system from any residue of alcohol. Perhaps his nerves were already righting themselves and he wouldn't see any more crazy shadows.

At that moment he happened to look over toward Johnson and Miss Owens. The rays of the sun in its transit had now entered the broad plate-glass window, spreading obliquely across them both and casting their shadows on the floor.

Jones, who was no prude, almost blushed at the outlines formed by Miss Owen's shadow. It showed a figure that was not only outrageously unclothed but betrayed proclivities more suitable to a witches' Sabbat than a modern business office. It moved forward in an unseemly fashion while Miss Owens remained seated. It met the shadow cast by Johnson ... which, without going into detail, was hardly that of a respectable business man ....

Miss Owens, looking up from her Remington, intercepted Jones' eye. His expression seemed to startle her. A natural flush deepened her brunette rouge.

"Is anything wrong, Mr. Jones?" she queried.

Johnson also looked up from the account book in which he was making entries. He too appeared startled. His heavy-lidded eyes became speculative.

"Nothing is wrong, as far as I know," said Jones, shamefacedly, averting his eyes from the shadows. He had begun to wonder about something. Johnson was a married man with two half-grown children. But there had been hints .... More than once, Jones had met him with Miss Owens after business hours. Neither of them had seemed particularly pleased by such meetings. Of course, it wasn't Jones' affair what they did. He was not interested. What did interest him now was the behavior of the shadows. After all, was there at times some hidden relevance, some bearing upon reality, in the phenomena that he had regarded as baseless hallucinations? The thought was far from pleasant in one sense. But he decided to keep his eyes and his mind open.

Jones had lunched with more semblance of appetite than he had believed possible. The day drew on toward five o'clock. The lowering sun filled a westward window with its yellow blaze. Johnson stood up to trim and light a cigar. His strong black shadow was flung on the gold-lit door of the company's big iron safe in the corner beyond.

The shadow, Jones noted, was not engaged in the same action as its owner. There was nothing like the shadow of a cigar in its outthrust hand. The black fingers seemed trying to manipulate the dial on the safe's door. They moved deftly, spelling out the combination that opened the safe. Then they made the movement of fingers that draw back a heavy hinged object. The shadow moved forward, stooping and partly disappearing. It returned and stood erect. Its fingers carried something. The shadow of the other hand became visible. Jones realized, with a sort of startlement, that Johnson's shadow was counting a roll of shadowy bills. The roll was apparently thrust into its pocket, and the shadow went through the pantomime of closing the safe.

All this had set Jones to thinking again. He had heard, vaguely, that Johnson gambled-—either on stocks or horses, he couldn't remember which. And Johnson was the firm's bookkeeper. Jones had never paid much attention to the bookkeeping, apart from noting cursorily that the accounts always seemed to balance.

Was it possible that Johnson had been using, or meant to use, the firm's money for irregular purposes? Large sums were often kept in the safe. Offhand, Jones though that there must be more than a thousand dollars on hand at present.

Oh, well, maybe it was preferable to think that excess cocktails had endowed him with a new brand of heebie-jeebies. It would be better than believing that Johnson was a possible embezzler.

End of the section common to Versions II and III; at this point they diverge. The conclusion of Version II is presented first, followed by that of Version III.

That evening he visited a doctor instead of making the usual round of barrooms.

The doctor frowned very learnedly as Jones described his strange affliction. He took Jones' pulse and temperature, tested his knee-jerk and other reflexes, flashed a light into his eyes, looked at his tongue.

"You haven't any fever, and there's no sign of d.t.," he reassured finally. "Your nerves seem to be sound though jumpy. I don't think you're likely to go insane—at least not for some time. Probably it's your eyes. You'd better see a good oculist tomorrow. In the meanwhile I'll prescribe a sedative for your nervousness. Of course you ought to ease up on liquor—maybe the alcohol is affecting your eyesight."

Jones hardly heard the doctor's advice. He had been studying the doctor's shadow, flung across an expensive rug by a tall and powerful floor-lamp. It was the least human and most unpleasant of all the shadows he had yet seen. It had the contours and the posture of a ghoul stooping over a ripe carrion.

After leaving the doctor's office, Jones remembered that he had a fiancée. He had not seen her for a week. She did not approve of Martinis—at least not in such quantities as Jones had been collecting nightly for the past month. Luckily—unless he collected them in her company—she was unable to tell whether he had had two drinks or a dozen. He was very fond of Marcia. Her quaint ideas about temperance weren't too much of a drawback. And anyway he was going to be temperate himself till he got rid of the shadows. It would be something to tell Marcia.

On second thought he decided to leave out the shadow part. She would think he had the heebie-jeebies.

Marcia Dorer was a tall blonde, slender almost to thinness. She gave Jones a brief kiss. Sometimes her kisses made him feel slightly refrigerated. This was one of the times.

"Well, where have you been keeping yourself?" she asked. There was a sub-acid undertone in her soprano. "In front of all the bars in town, I suppose?"

"Not today," said Jones gravely. "I haven't had a drink since last night. In fact, I have decided to quit drinking."

"Oh, I'm glad," she cooed, "if you really mean it. I know liquor can't be good for you—at least, not so much of it. They say it does things to your insides."

She pecked him again, lightly, between cheek and lips. Just at that moment Jones thought to look at their shadows on the parlor wall. What would Marcia's shadow be like?

In spite of the queer phenomena he had already seen, Jones was unpleasantly surprised, even shocked. He hardly knew what he had expected, but certainly it wasn't anything like this.

To begin with, there were three shadows on the wall. One was Jones', porcine, satyr-like as usual. In spite of his physical proximity to Marcia, it stood far apart from hers.

Marcia's shadow he could not clearly distinguish from the third one, since, with its back turned to Jones', it was united with the other in a close embrace. It resembled Marcia only in being a shadow of a female. The other shadow was plainly male. It lifted a grossly swollen, bearded profile above the head of its companion. It was not a refined-looking shadow. Neither was Marcia's.

Marcia had never embraced him like that, thought Jones. He felt disgusted; but after all, he couldn't be jealous of an unidentified shadow.

Somehow, it was not a very successful evening. Jones turned his eyes away from the wall and refrained from looking at it again. But he could not forget the shadows. Marcia chattered without seeming to notice his preoccupation; but there was something perfunctory in her chatter, as if she too were preoccupied.

"I guess you'd better go, darling," she said at last. "Do you mind? I didn't sleep well, and I'm tired tonight." Jones looked at his wrist-watch. It was only twenty minutes past nine. "Oh, all right," he assented, feeling a vague relief. He kissed her and went out, seeing with the tail of his eye that the third shadow was still in the room. It was still on the parlor wall, with Marcia's shadow in its arms.

Halfway down the block, beside a lamp-post, Jones passed Bertie Filmore. The two nodded. They knew and liked each other very slightly. Jones peered down at Filmore's shadow on the sidewalk as he went by. Filmore was a floorwalker in a department store—a slim, sleek youth who neither drank, smoked nor indulged in any known vice. He at-tended the Methodist church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. Jones felt a profane and cynical curiosity as to what his shadow would look like.

The adumbration that he saw was shortened by the nearby lamp. But its profile was unmistakably the gross, bearded profile of the third shadow on Marcia's wall! It bore no resemblance to Filmore.

"What the hell!" thought Jones, very disagreeably startled. "Is there something in this?"

He slackened his pace and glanced back at Filmore's receding figure. Filmore sauntered on as if out for an airing, without special objective, and did not turn to look back at Jones. He went in at the entrance of Marcia's home.

"So that's why she wanted me to leave early," Jones mused. It was all plain to him now... plain as the clinching shadows. Marcia had expected Filmore. The shadows weren't all katzen-jammer, not by a jugful.

His pride was hurt. He had known that Marcia was acquainted with the fellow. But it was a shock to think that Filmore had displaced him in her affections. In Jones' estimation, the fellow was a cross between a Sunday school teacher and a tailor's dummy. No color or character to him.

Chewing the cud of his bitterness, Jones hesitated at several barroom doors. Perhaps he would see worse shadows if he killed another row of Martinis. Or... maybe he wouldn't. What the hell ....

He went into the next bar without hesitating.

The morning brought him a headache worthy of the bender to which twenty — or was it twenty-one — more or less expert mixologists had contributed.

He reached his office an hour behind time. Surprisingly, Miss Owens, who had always been punctual, was not in evidence. Less surprisingly, Johnson was not there either. He often came late.

Jones was in no mood for work. He felt as if all the town clocks were striking twelve in his head. Moreover, he had a heart which, if not broken, was deeply cracked. And there was still the nerve-wracking problem of those strangely distorted and often misplaced shadows.

He kept seeing in his mind the shadows on Marcia's wall. They nauseated him... or perhaps his stomach was slightly upset from more than the due quota of Martinis. Then, as many minutes went by and neither Miss Owens nor Johnson appeared, he recalled the queer shadow-play in his office of the previous afternoon. Why in hell hadn't he thought of that before? Perhaps---

His unsteady fingers spun the combination of the safe, drew back the door. Cash, negotiable bonds, a few checks that had come in too late for banking—all were gone. Johnson must have returned to the office that night. Or perhaps he had cleared out the safe before leaving in the late afternoon. Both he and Miss Owens had stayed after Jones' departure. They often did that, and Jones hadn't thought much about it since both were busy with unfinished work.

Jones felt paralyzed. One thing was clear, however: Johnson's shadow had forewarned him with its pantomime of opening the safe, removing and counting money. It had betrayed its owner's intention beforehand. If he had watched and waited, Jones could no doubt have caught his partner in the act. But he had felt so doubtful about the meaning of the shadows, and his main thought when he left the office had been to see a doctor. Later, the discovery of Marcia's deceit had upset him, made him forget all else.

The telephone broke into his reflections with its jangling . A shrill female voice questioned him hysterically. It was Mrs. Johnson. "Is Caleb there? Have you seen Caleb?"

"No. I haven't seen him since yesterday."

"Oh, I'm so worried, Mr. Jones. Caleb didn't come home last night but phoned that he was working very late at the office. Said he might not get in till after midnight. He hadn't come in when I fell asleep; and he wasn't here this morning. I've been trying to get the office for the past hour."

"I was late myself," said Jones. "I'll tell Johnson to call you when he comes. Maybe he had to go out of town suddenly." He did not like the task of telling Mrs. Johnson that her husband had embezzled the firm's cash and had probably eloped with the typist.

"I'm going to call the police," shrilled Mrs. Johnson. "Something dreadful must have happened to Caleb."

Jones kept remembering that other shadow-scene in his office which had made him almost blush. More as a matter of form than anything else, he rang up the apartment house at which Miss Owens roomed. She had returned there as usual the previous evening but had left immediately with a valise, saying that she was called away by the sudden death of an aunt and would not be back for several days.

Well, that was that. Jones had lost a good typist, together with more cash than he could afford to lose. As to Johnson—well, the fellow had been no great asset as a partner. Jones, who had no head for figures, had been glad to delegate the bookkeeping to him. But he could have hired a good accountant at far less expense.

There was nothing to do but put the matter in the hands of the police. Jones had reached again for the receiver, when the mailman entered, bringing several letters and a tiny registered package.

The package was addressed to Jones in Marcia's neat and somewhat prim handwriting. One of the letters bore the same hand. Jones signed for the package and broke the letter open as soon as the mailman had gone. It read:

Dear Gaylord,
I am returning your ring. I have felt for some time past that I am not the right girl to make you happy. Another man, of whom I am very fond, wishes to marry me. I hope you will find someone better suited to you than I should be.

Always yours,

Jones put the little package aside without opening it. His thoughts were bitter. Marcia must have written to him and mailed the package early that morning. Filmore, of course, was the other man. Probably he had proposed to her the night before, after Jones had passed him on the street.

Jones could definitely add a sweetheart to his other losses. And he had gained, it seemed, a peculiar gift for seeing shadows that did not correspond to their owners' physical outlines... which did not always duplicate their movements... shadows that were sometimes revelatory of hidden intentions, prophetic of future actions.

It seemed, then, that he possessed a sort of clairvoyance. But he had never believed in such things. What good was it doing him anyway?

After he phoned the police about Johnson, he would call it a day and gather enough drinks to dissolve the very substance of reality into a shadow.

End of Version II. The conclusion of Version III follows; the shadow-play in front of the safe has just taken place.

Jones went home at the usual post-midnight hour, after getting himself systematically and completely replastered. He prided himself that he had achieved a sort of bland indifference to shadows. Whatever forms they might manifest, were alike inconsequential. He ignored the ebon monstrosity that still companioned him when he turned on the light in his bedroom.

Still, he was glad of the darkness of closely drawn blinds that blotted it from sight and, he hoped, from existence. He lay with eyes tightly shut, waiting the deeper darkness of alcoholic oblivion.

He had almost reached the indefinite verge where stupor becomes sleep. A sourceless voice, a light, thin, sibilant whisper, pierced the gulf into which he was sinking. Jones was roused into a sort of semi-awareness, without knowing whether the voice spoke in his own mind or from without.

"Who's that?" he mumbled drowsily. "I am your shadow."

"What the hell do you want?" Jones began to awaken now, startled and even a little frightened.

"I shall want many things... in the end. But just at present I can offer to do something for you."

Jones thought: "I certainly must have them now. After seeing things, I'm hearing voices."

However, the bravado of many Martinis had only half evaporated. He said aloud: "What can you do for me, shadow?"

"More than you think," rejoined the whisper. "You have seen the foreshadowing of the crime that your partner meditates: the crime that he will attempt tonight. If you wish I can prevent him."

"You're only a shadow," protested Jones, wondering if the fantastic dialogue were part of some insidious but growing delirium. "You're an ugly bastard: but I'm the only one that can see you. How could you prevent anything?"

"You have made me strong," averred the whisper. "And I have power now over other shadows, both seen and unseen, and can exert myself in the world of physical causes and effects."

"I don't believe it," sneered Jones, feeling even as he spoke a weird horripilation in the mid-region of his back. Something—perhaps a hand or a hoof-—was pressing his chest lightly through the bed-clothes. The pressure deepened by almost imperceptible gradations till it became an incubus-like burden that seemed to flatten his ribs and breast-bone and lungs against his spine . He gasped and agonized for breath; and the dreadful weight was withdrawn with insupportable slowness.

"Do you wish further proof of my power?" resumed the whisper, close above him now in the opaque darkness.

Jones was thoroughly terrified by this time; and his terror was complicated by a feeling of nightmare impotence and muddlement.

"No, no!" he cried. "Go away, shadow. Do whatever you want, but don't bother me."

It seemed that a ponderable presence was gone suddenly from the room. There was no repetition of the thin, rustling whispers, no return of the crushing encumbrance. Jones listened awhile with the curious intentness of which only an alcoholic is capable. His fear lightened; his drunkenness came flooding back upon him; and he lapsed by degrees into a slumber without dreams or untoward interruptions.

He awoke only once during the remainder of the night. His mouth and throat were parched with the all-consuming thirst that ensues heavy drinking. He rose and groped his way to the bathroom where, after much fumbling, he found the switch. As he poured himself a second glass of water, he perceived with senses still drugged and sluggish, that no shadow, either natural or unnatural, was cast by his body on the basin and faucets and wall in the light that streamed directly from behind.

"Damn good riddance," he rumbled, as he went back to bed. "Christ, what a nightmare that was!"

A reiterated buzzing, like that of a badgered rattlesnake, awakened Jones to the horrid realities of daylight. It was the telephone on the stand beside his bed.

He lifted the receiver with a none too steady hand. Immediately a feminine voice, shrill with agitation and hysteria, began to babble in his ear.

"Mr. Jones? This is Miss Lamont, in the office next to yours. Come down at once .... Something horrible has happened."

"What? What?" stammered Jones.

"Your partner, Caleb Johnson... dead... found by the janitor... crushed to death .... No one can figure how it happened. Miss Owens ... stark mad... in your office .... "The babbling became wholly incoherent, till Jones could distinguish only an occasional word or syllable that conveyed nothing of further information to his bewildered mind.

The sun was nearly halfway to its meridian when he emerged on the street. Plainly he had overslept following the strange experience, whether nightmare or hallucination, that had plagued his homecoming.

Heedless, for once, of whatever shadow might ensue or proceed his steps, he reached his office, to find a state of bedlam for which the babbling voice had prepared him all too inadequately with its intimations of horror.

It seemed that all other offices in the three-story edifice had voided their tenants into the hall outside his door. The door itself stood open, with people milling in and out. They made way for Jones, and the hubbub sank to a temporary hush. He entered his office, feeling himself the cynosure of eyes in which some ghastliness beyond belief was reflected.

There were two policeman and a doctor amid the crowd that filled the room as buzz-flies fill an abattoir. Miss Lamont, typist of the real-estate firm in the office next door, detached herself from the clustered group and fluttered toward Jones, still babbling. Jones heard little, and understood less, of what she was trying to say.

Miss Owens, sitting flaccidly in a chair, was moaning and sobbing with the mindless reiteration of a phonograph record. Her eyes were vacant, her face was drawn and distorted as if by some sudden mysterious stroke. The doctor, whom Jones knew by sight as a practitioner in the same neighborhood, was standing solicitously beside her, a hypodermic still in his hand. Plainly he had given her an injection of some soporific drug: her noisy hysteria began to subside, with lengthening intervals of drowsy silence.

Jones gave her only a passing attention. The group of people before the big iron safe had drawn back, turning toward him as if with one accord. Seized and held by an abominable fascination, he gazed at the strange thing that was now revealed.

The legs and hips of a man, wearing the rakish, broad-checked suit that Caleb Johnson had affected recently, protruded at a sharp, stiff angle from the safe door, which had closed on the body like a huge trap. It seemed that the body had been cut virtually in two by this inexplicable closing: since the heavy door was now nearly plumb with its iron and concrete frame. Johnson's coat-tails and trousers were streaked darkly with the blood that had run down and coagulated in a broad pool about his nattily shod feet. It was evident that he had been dead for several hours.

People began to talk all at once, vociferating and expostulating. Bemused with a sense of horror and unreality, Jones gathered by fragments the information they were trying to give him.

The janitor, coming late to work that morning, had heard the cries and sobbing of a woman in Jones' office. Finding the door unlocked, he had entered, to discover Johnson caught like a trapped rat in the safe door, and Miss Owens in a state of shock or seizure that seemingly unhinged her mind. He had been unable to budge the ponderous door of the safe; unable to learn anything from the mouthings of the mad-woman; and had promptly called the police and a doctor. The local coroner had also been summoned, but was delayed in coming.

Other people had appeared from the neighboring offices that began to fill at that hour. Many attempts had been made to release the dead and almost bisected body, identified beyond a doubt as that of Johnson by letters in one of his hip pockets. Crowbars had been employed; but nothing could loosen the grip of the massive metal jaws that had closed so unaccountably upon their victim. No one could conjecture what force or agency had caused their closing; certainly no human power could have been responsible. Why they should so obstinately refuse to open was an equal mystery.

As he listened, Jones recalled the eerie nocturnal dialogue in which he had seemed to take part. Could the thin, whispering voice have been more than a figment of dream or delirium? Had someone, or something, offered to prevent the crime that had been apparently foreshown by a pantomime of shadows? Had the frightfully crushing pressure in his chest been something other than a cacodemon of slumber or alcohol?

It seemed all too patent that Johnson, with the connivance of Miss Owens, had planned to rob the safe, and had opened it with the combination known only to himself and Jones. There was no legitimate reason why the pair should have visited the office during what, from all evidence, must have been the late night or early morning hours. What hellish thing had overtaken them, had slain Johnson so hideously in his act of embezzlement, and had driven his companion to madness? Jones stood aghast before the gulf that was opened by such questions and surmises.

At this moment he heard the familiar whispering voice: "You alone can open that which I have closed."

Jones put his fingers into the inch or more of space that remained between the door's edge and the frame. The dialled mass of metal swung outward easily and without sound, and Johnson's body, compressed at the waist to a ghastly hour-glass attenuation, slumped forward into the safe. It lay face downward amid stacks of currency and standard bonds. A rubber-banded roll of twenty-dollar bills was still clutched in the right hand, which had already stiffened a little with premature rigor mortis.

An hour later, Jones locked the empty office in which nothing could have induced him to linger. His feelings were those of one who has just escaped from some inquisitorial ordeal, but is still dogged by more than inquisitorial terrors. The inquest had been a tedious daymare, from which nothing had emerged conclusively except the irrefutable fact that Johnson was dead. No reason, or suspicion of a reason, could be found for holding anyone in connection with his death. His car had been located in an alley back of the building. In it were valises belonging both to Johnson and Miss Owens . Indications were that the pair had planned to elope for parts unknown following the safe-robbery.

Miss Owens had been removed to a local hospital for observation. Reporters had beleaguered Jones with questions that he was, for the most part, honestly unable to answer. Apparently they, as well as the coroner and the police, were satisfied that the whole affair was no less a mystery to Jones than to others. Nevertheless, he was pursued by dark apprehensions, and his feelings of physical shock and spectral horror were tinged by something that bordered on guilt. Walking along the sunbright street with inattentive eyes, he thought that he was not alone — that a presence walked beside him, step by step.

It was the shadow. The thing had changed overnight, assuming new properties. Opaque and tri-dimensional, it paced between Jones and the sun like a sable quadruped, rising nearly waist-high above the pavement. It was independent both of Jones and the light: a self-existent entity, a black and bestial doppelganger.

The manuscript of Version Ill ends at this point.

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.

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