The Shadow Encounter

Graphic by Divyansh Bhardwaj

“Amaris! Are you alright?!” a worried Janice asked her classmate. Amaris had been sitting frozen in her seat for the past ten minutes; face as white as paper.

“Hurry up. Just five minutes left of the lunch break, don’t you want to grab a sandwich before P.E?” But Amaris didn’t react. She couldn’t even make out what Janice was saying. Something about lunch, sandwich, P.E and…letter?! How did Janice know about the letter? 

“What letter Amaris? Did you forget something at home? Do you want me to call your place?” Amaris looked up, startled. She had been thinking out loud. Janice knew of no such letter. Not even the letter. Amaris excused herself; informing the P.E teacher that she was unwell and had to go to the infirmary. She was in desperate need of some alone time, in order to transpire from her paranoia and recall that ill-fated day’s events carefully.

Amaris’ life was what one would call a ‘model student’s life’. She had built it carefully – brick by brick, collecting all the broken pieces from her dark past. All was well. She had managed to have mundane social relations too – made friends, teachers adored her, her landlady was compassionate. Last year, she had spent all her time working at multiple part-time jobs and saving money for books. Using all the money to purchase second-hand reference books for high school. Amaris had decided to self-study her entire high school and then apply for college. It was not particularly hard for her because she was gifted. Her photographic memory gave her an edge over her peers. 

But then she came across the poster of a scholarship exam for a high school. Being a part of a new government scheme, the poster said that the school would take care of the selected student’s admission fees, tuition fees as well as books. She had taken the poster home and after a lot of contemplation, decided to apply for the scholarship exam, promising herself to not keep any expectations. But deep down she desperately wanted to go to a regular school and lead a normal life. So, when the result said that she was selected, she could hardly believe her eyes. Clutching the offer letter, she cried in her attic room. It was the first time that things had gone her way and she had got what she had wanted. It rekindled something in her. Some emotion remotely close to hope; that was hitherto debilitated or even depleted. That is how she had moved into a new place (far more decent than the previous attic room) and made new friends at her high school. Her brilliant memory easily landed her at the top of her class leading teachers to give her special attention and care.

It was all going smoothly until today morning when the letter arrived. When the landlady had notified her that a post had come for her, she was positively surprised. Who would send her a letter? Perhaps the school? But why would they not just inform her what was to be told in school itself? She didn’t even consider it to be from a relative for she knew there were none. Or even if she did, surely they were unaware of her existence. She quickly opened the letter. The contents of the letter made her drop her glass of milk. The milk spilled on the table and her books and papers on the table were beginning to get soggy but she barely noticed. All she could see was the letter and the flood of bitter memories and dark thoughts that washed themselves in her head. The letter contained three simple lines:


I remember what you did that day.

Yours Sincerely.

That was it. There was no signature, name or address of any kind. But Amaris knew what the date meant. She knew exactly what the entire letter meant. 19th August 2018, the darkest day of her past. A day that she wished had never happened. But it was also the turning point. The point after which things got better. 

It was raining that day. A particularly wet and humid day. On her way back home from school, she knew her step-father would be in the foulest of moods. He was usually drunk and short-tempered but his mood got worse with the weather. She was sure she was going to receive a good beating that day. The thought enraged her. Between the snide comments from teachers about her jilting mother and the bullying of her classmates, there was only so much she could handle in a single day. She entered the room with all the stealth that she could manage. But there he was – her step-father. With a broken whiskey bottle in his hand the look of pure repulsion in his eyes. He staggered towards her and swung the bottle to attack. At that moment, Amaris grabbed the nearest thing in her defence, a wooden key-holder. To block his next move, she swung it with all her might and hit his head.

Slowly, the look of revulsion drained from his eyes. His hand was limp and the whiskey bottle shattered on the ground, and her step-father fell. He was not breathing! Amaris checked his pulse – once, twice, thrice. No sign of life. Had she really killed him? She just sat there next to his lifeless body. But she didn’t feel anything. Not a hint of remorse. What had she become? A monster like the one she just slew. She disposed of the body and didn’t leave her room for the next three days. She sat in silence consumed by the hollowness in her. Her only thought was, ‘I need to find a new place to live.’

Right now, sitting in the infirmary, Amaris remembered what her mother had once taught her. Her mother had said, ‘when we commit a sin in our life, we have given birth to a shadow. Each time you commit a sin, your shadow grows until it is finally as big as you. And then it will punish you for all your bad deeds.’ This was a fable meant to scare her as a child, to teach her what was morally right. But clutching the letter she realised that, perhaps her shadow had come after her. To punish her. We can’t escape our sins after all. 

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