Shadow and Threat

This is an essay I’ve written for a contest. The prompt asked what was the bravest thing I’ve done.

    I have a bad time with driving in residential districts. You know, the ones that are endless curves instead of neat lines. I can’t stand them, they’re so easy to get lost in. The only reason I know they exist is because a friend kept asking me to take him to a house lurking in that labyrinth. I could never go alone. There was a summer when every night, I ended up at that house. Some places I could get to an hour away with my eyes closed. But a ten-minute drive…

Some people show their bravery by stepping into burning buildings. Others by taking a bullet. More than a few take their courage dutch. An untold number aren’t able to show any bravery. A few years ago, I was able to break away from the myriad and found the courage to say “no” to two people.

Speaking evil’s name is sometimes enough to invite it back into your life, so I’ll call the parasites “Shadow” and “Threat”. Under normal circumstances, they’d be legacy friends. Someone you’ve known for years and years. I knew them since middle school and high school. But you shouldn’t be friends with someone just because you’ve been friends. At a certain point, I realized that was my only reason.

I’d like to talk first about the passed Shadow. Our legacy friendship started in middle school. Misery loves company, so it’s only fair that we found each other. Well… I was never one to approach people. I would’ve been “content” with being ignored by everyone until either I graduated or a giant robot vaporized them. I was more imaginative than thoughtful in those days.

Shadow saved them from Robo-Smash and for a time, all was good. I had a friend who complimented my geeky tendencies and my quirkier tastes in music. I had a friend who would be the mouthpiece to this quiet guy. I had a friend who slowly learned to exploit my weaknesses to his benefit.

If Shadow didn’t need a ride, he needed gas. I don’t ask much from the universe, but there’s one request that seems to drift past collapsed stars and satellites. A request that Shadow was always willing to pervert into an excuse to get him where he needed to be. A sick and sorry need for companionship, for “her”. And I made the mistake of being loyal.

Some people are too lazy, too afraid, too comfortable to leave a parasite.

This carrot was dangled for the better part of a decade, and led me through most of my state. Eventually across borders. How can someone be so stupid as to allow themselves to be manipulated for so long, for something so simple as a relationship? When you’re told all your life how great you’d be at it, not being able to have one is maddening.

Then one day, I decided to step out of Shadow. I finally saw that I wasn’t going to be much else to him besides a lovelorn taxi. If I was going to be lonely, I could at least not take it out on my car and wallet. When Shadow called the last time, I told him that I at last figured out his tactic. I told him that I was ashamed of the both of us. I told him “no”.

My other broken legacy friend, Threat, and I made our introduction in high school. I always preferred older friends, even if it’s by a year. Art brought us together. Shadow couldn’t draw to save his life and wasn’t a comic reader, so it was great to have someone to talk to about them. Or however much a habitual mute could talk about things.

It was great hanging out with Threat because he had SO many comics and introduced me to one of my favorite addictions: late-night cafes. They’re the best of both worlds. I can reach my quota for being outside and the only person who’ll bother me wants to refill my coffee and give me food. AND I can talk (but mostly listen) about comics. What more could an antisocial introvert ask for?

As time went on, I started wanting to do something with my imagination that went beyond planning the perfect fight between Batman and Spider-Man (it ended up being a short one, and Batman won). I wanted to create comics and films and things. Who better to ask for help than Threat, right? He and I could think of stories that’d blow the world away. The majors would BEG us to work with them on our yachts modeled after ancient Kryptonian technology from Kara-El’s spaceship before the Anti-Monitor went ahead and– We’d be kings of any comic convention we went to and would be given PILES of free comics. Women would dress up as my characters and hug me…

…but this two-man dream only works with two men. As the years went on, Threat went out less and less, until he barely went out at all. He cared less about creating and more about existing. I thought it’d be as simple as buying him a book about how to be creative again. It wasn’t, and soon I wanted to help him create more than I wanted to help us create. But he was always fine with doing nothing at all.

Some people are too lazy, too afraid, too comfortable to leave a parasite.

I’d be a lot farther in life if I was able to see that Threat wasn’t going to change. I’d have much more to show for what I’ve done. I wouldn’t have as much to say in this essay. But I stuck around because I knew what he was capable of, and I hate giving up. I’m also probably afraid of letting go.

Sometimes I… There’s something dangerously comforting about the past, isn’t there?

One day, Threat made a three-pronged mistake. He outright mocked something I created, he made it absurdly clear that he wasn’t going to change, and he said that he’ll profit from my secrets once I’m famous. As stupid as I was for being friends with Shadow for so long, I’d have to be brain dead to have stuck around after that. Sadly, there are people who still wouldn’t walk away after a similar situation. And worse, I know one or two. Maybe me saying “no” wasn’t just for me.

Imagine if we three ended up living together… quelle horreur!

If you want something a little less realistic, give the first four chapters of my novel a read. It’s called “Lie” and its author, Rathan Krueger, wrote it because he wanted to read a story with non-generic women in it. He eventually made one about four women who go on a getaway to help one of their own through a life-changing problem. If you liked what you read, you can pick it up wherever eBooks are sold for only $1.99. Thanks


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