As Will came near an apparition unfolded
into a gaunt figure whose face was pale,
his eyes black holes, hair billows of smoke,
his voice a storm as he spoke: And you wonder
how I came to be this troll beneath a tree.
Will moved toward the specter to ask
questions on his mind for some time:
What happened to you? Why are you alone?
With no place to live, no friends
and no family?
Shadow moved toward Will:
I will tell you as I told your brother:
I heard a call when I was young
when I was walking near a swamp;
I thought it was a signal of distress
What it was and where it came from
I have never known, and as I searched
for the source, I became unhinged;
wraiths danced before me, moss streamed
down from trees, sweat poured from me like rain
I lost my way and shouted:
Where are you? I wandered deeper in;
the cry came again:
I felt alone, and bewildered I lashed out
in anger and fear
I ran and came to a rundown home,
windows shuttered, but at the front door
a man stood as if waiting for me
This man pointed to the moon and said:
The sun is bright today. And look,
the children play!
I shivered but still approached him:
Tell me who you are;
the man laughed and replied:
I’m the door at the gate
and I await the hinge.
Will stumbled back, trembling,
wanting to escape the vision;
but Shadow was unrelenting:
the man screamed and pulled a knife
stabbing at unseen demons
I turned to leave, but he caught me;
and so we wrestled:
the child and the man
I saw him pitch full length at my feet
and his face staring, helpless:
in his panic he had wounded himself;
I watched his blood mingle with the mud
and I moved away, I tried to run
But back I came to watch the life flood
from him, until this ancient man of men
was no more than a form limned in the dust.
Shadow gathered himself together:
I hurled the blade away;
Will swayed, almost losing his balance
Shadow’s expression switched from terror
to amazement as he said:
I put my hand to my mouth and felt a claw;
looking down I saw I was
a man deformed.
Will cried: But your family, didn’t they look for you?
Shadow blinked: The pain I felt was blinding;
my family mourned the loss of their child,
not knowing I still lived, mocked and feared by all
and trapped in a state of decay.
Will felt Shadow’s terrible secret fade: I’m sorry;
but Shadow raised his voice: Don’t be.
I began my journey before I knew myself
and for that reason spent years
wandering in the wilderness.
Will stood beside Shadow:
Can’t you start over?
Shadow laughed: You are young!
He bowed his head: Once I knew I was capable
of terrible things I sentenced myself to this lonely place.
Will offered: I’ll give you a new name;
Shadow fell silent, and his face was bleak,
but Will saw a momentary spark
in his eyes, before he returned to his shelter
in the trees