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Posted: Jun 26 2016, 09:53 PM
Joined: 21-February 11
Now here's another story for you, 'bout the Shadow Man.
Now you know the Shadow Man lives deep in the swamps of Louisiana, far outside the city of New Orleans. Off a narrow dirt road, in a house on stilts, hovering just above the water - there he live, minding his business, doing what he do. The Shadow Man don't do nothin' with his days but float through that green water on a little raft, or wander the bayou whistlin' to himself, smokin' strange weeds and blowing out skulls and butterflies. But if you come to him with a wish, and some mighty fine payment, sometimes - and only sometimes - he listens. 'Cause even the Shadow Man needs cash to buy food for his gator and keep the generators runnin'.
One evening, when he was just fit to fall asleep, one hot summer night, he heard someone coming up the steps. Bang bang! They knocked on the door. He came out, the crickets chirping, the owls hooting, and there was this girl, poor wretch, crying on his doorstep. She was a little thing, brown-haired, green-eyed. She begged him that she was dying of a broken heart, and he had to help her.
The girl told the Shadow Man it was another girl she was in love with, a mighty fine young lady up in the city. The girl said she loved her at the very first sight, with how the girl carried herself all haughty, and her golden-brown eyes, all beauty and brilliance. This apple of her eye was the daughter of a rich man, and the girl herself was poor. Still, she sought out the rich girl's acquaintance - and lo! They became fast friends, then lovers.
Now the rich girl showered the poor girl with her affections, and guarded her closely from others. This was just fine with the poor girl, who had eyes for no one else besides. The rich girl warned her that there was no other love like theirs. 'Be true to me,' she said, 'And hold fast.' The poor girl promised that she would, and for a long time, she did.
The poor girl did all that she could within her means to show her love, but still she felt small in the face of the rich girl's wealth, and the many gifts lavished upon her by her other suitors. Though the rich girl scorned them all, the poor girl could not help but wish she could offer such gifts. Then, she thought, I will be loved ever the more.
So the poor girl took it upon herself to find work, and to find other friends. Bit by bit, one by one, she won the favors of others, who turned their hearts and resources over to her. These the poor girl used and hoarded, all for the sake of her one love. She gained finery of her own, and power.
When she came to her lover, with great gifts and affection, she was scorned. 'Who are you?' the rich girl demanded. 'You are no love of mine.' For the rich girl was not so rich after all, and it pleased her none that her paramour should keep gifts and friends that were not hers. The rich girl threw her out, and would not speak to her. When they passed by one another in the streets, the rich girl would cross and turn up her nose.
This the poor girl told with tears in her eyes, weeping on the dirty wooden floor of the Shadow Man. 'Please,' she begged. 'Take this love from me. It fills me so that my heart will burst, and I will die. I cannot live if she does not love me anymore.'
'Can't do nothin' about it,' the Shadow Man told her. 'Ain't no magic that can make you un-love love, or love the un-loved.' And he tried to pick her up and turn her away.
'Please!' she said again. 'There must be something you can do.'
And so there was. And so he did.
Now it happened in time that the rich girl recanted her opinion, and felt guilt for her cruelty. It tired her to cross the street every time she saw the poor girl, and to reject all their mutual acquaintances and history. 'Perhaps these changes were not so ill-fitting and terrible,' she thought. 'Perhaps I can make something of them.' So she sought the poor girl out.
She found the poor girl leaving a church one misty morning, having just finished her prayers. 'My love,' the rich girl said, 'I am sorry. I was cold to you; let me warm you now.'
The poor girl smiled, and shook her head. 'I thank you, but I am warm enough.'
The rich girl frowned. 'What's this? Do you not love me anymore?'
'Certainly I love you,' the girl answered.
As they spoke, an old man passed by them, into the church. The poor girl smiled and nodded at him, and said, 'And I love him too.'
'I don't understand,' said the rich girl.
'I love you, and I love him, and I love each person that I meet. I love the flowers on the graves, and I love the nightingales in the oak trees. I love the twilight, and I love the dawn. And I will always love you.'
Encouraged, the rich girl reached for her hand, but the poor girl pulled away. 'I am so sorry,' she said, 'But now I must go.'
For you see, the Shadow Man could not turn love into un-love, or love into hate. Instead, he took the girl's love, and he spread it all over everything, so that no one thing could hurt her so. When the flowers withered in the summer sun, her heart was easy, for so too did she love the sun; when the fox stole the chicken from its coop, and the hound caught the fox, she loved and forgave them all. In this way, the brokenness of heart was mended.
The rich girl heard that the poor girl had gone to the Shadow Man, and down she went into the bayou. 'Change her back,' she demanded. 'You have turned her into a monster and a fool.'
'No can do,' the Shadow Man told her. 'She paid with the past, and ain't nothin' left to pay to fix it twice.'
'Then let me fix it,' the rich girl said.
But the Shadow Man shook his head, because that was as sure as curse as there could be, and crossin' two wishes was the worst of luck. No matter what the rich girl offered, 'no' was all he said, until she went up and away.
Now the rich girl went out and traveled the world. She went to all kinds of places, north and south, hot and cold, green and brown, wet and dry. She met all kinds of people and they told her all kinds of stories, and for a little while she thought them quite quaint. But in the end, she became bored with them, time 'n' again; there was an emptiness in the rich girl's heart that nothing could fill. Once in a while she would sit up at night and look at the stars, and remember the poor girl, and wondered of her love.
One of these nights, when the emptiness of her heart has grown so big, she said to herself, 'It is her fault that I am this way, and nothing can make me happy. It is she who took my happiness from me, by taking her love.' And the rich girl forgot her own cruelty, and how she took her own love away in jealousy and whim, and she went back to Louisiana to find herself an answer.
Strange as he may be, the Shadow Man ain't the only one like himself in Louisiana. The rich girl searched high and she searched low, until she found a woman living in a tiny little apartment on the top floor of a very old building, where the wallpaper was all peeling and the rats didn't hide from the light of the day. There lived a young-old woman, with long black hair and teeth of gold, and when she smiled the world seemed a little darker.
The rich girl told the woman her dilemma, and promised to pay her a fortune to solve it. The old woman gave her a little purple vial, and told her, 'Put a drop of this in her drink, and she will love you as before.'
The rich girl sought out the poor girl again in the city of New Orleans, and once again found her at the church. The rich girl met her at night, and invited her to have a drink. The poor girl said that she would, and only one, and they went down into the Quarter to sit at a table in the street, and talk a little while. One moment the rich girl pointed something out, down the street, and when she looked away, the rich girl tipped the drop from the vial into her glass. The poor girl turned back, and drank it.
At once the poor girl's hands went to her heart, and she began to cry. The rich girl reached for her hands, and the poor girl did not push her away. 'My heart is breaking,' the poor girl cried. 'I love you too much.'
'But I love you too,' the rich girl answered.
'No,' the poor girl said. 'I love you so much more than that.' She took a deep breath, and with a sigh, her heart burst, and she fell from her chair, dead.
The rich girl was miserable and furious. She went back to the old woman's apartment, but there was no one there - as if no one had ever been there. She took the poor girl's body down into the bayou, down to the Shadowman.
'Look what you have done!' the rich girl said. 'Now you have killed her!'
'It's you that's done killed her,' the Shadowman said, rocking in his chair on his rickety porch. 'It's you that could never be happy.'
'There must be something you can do!'
The Shadowman thought a bit, and told the girl, 'Drink from your own vial.'
The rich girl was afraid, but she was also very angry. In spite, she drank from it. For a moment, she too was filled with love, a love so strong that she saw herself and her meanness, and all the good things she had turned from. She wept, and then, gasping, she died too.
Now there's a strange pair of birds that live out in the bayou there - strange for lots of reasons. The scientists can't figure out if the birds are the same species, even though they're always in each other's company, and they can't figure out which bird is the male and which is the female. One of them always starts off duller and mossier, but grows in brilliant blue-green feathers. The other lives its early life bright orange and red, and dulls to brown. Often the birds fight once they nest and mate; one often kills the other. Over and over, the birds scream, and fight, and chase one another through the trees. But every so often, there's a pair of them that lives in peace, and always, both the birds are the prettiest of their kinds, the blue-green one ever brighter, and the orange-red not at all browned, even more beautiful than its youth.
When you ask the Shadowman 'bout them birds, well. He don't say nothing. And the birds don't say nothin' either.