A long yellow school bus drove down a neighborhood road and stopped just before a three-way intersection. A boy and two girls exited the bus. The bus pulled pulled away and turned, and Paul and his little sister, Megan, walked the way the bus had come, back towards the dipping sun.
“Bye, Brittany!” yelled Megan at the girl walking away from them.
“Bye, Megan! See you tomorrow!” Brittany yelled back.
The sun was bright in the cloudless sky, and there were no trees along the road to shade them as they walked. Their shadows stretched far down the sidewalk behind them, matching their every move. The yards to either side of the road were well-manicured and obviously cared for, with nice landscaping and short-cut grass. The only exception was a house two down from the corner that had recently been foreclosed upon. Without a present owner, that yard had overgrown and become wild with weeds and incredibly tall grass. Paul kind of liked it. As they walked, he noticed none of their neighbors were outside. They must have all been eating dinner, it was around that time.
Megan seemed quieter than normal and was lagging behind him. He turned to look at her and tell her to hurry up, but stopped when he saw the look on her face. She looked distracted. He asked her how her day was.
“Have you ever felt like you were being followed?” she asked him.
Paul thought about ghosts or monsters he used to be afraid of at night, or those times when he thought he saw a shadow move out of the corner of his eye, but he didn’t think those counted as being followed.
“I mean, I guess I …” he started.
Megan interrupted him, “Because I feel like I’m being followed. I’ve felt it all day. Brittany laughed at me when I told her, said I was making things up.”
“That wasn’t very nice of her, that’s not something to laugh at. What if you have a stalker or something?” Paul said.
“It’s not a stalker. At least, it doesn’t feel like a stalker. It feels like something weird. I don’t really know how to describe it, I just feel something.”
They walked, and Megan grew quiet for a little bit. Whenever Paul looked back, he noticed her glancing backwards, head tilted down towards their long shadows that trailed out along the sidewalk. They were almost home, just crossing in front of their nextdoor neighbor’s house. Megan would probably feel safer once they were home. Her footsteps stopped suddenly, and he heard a quick scream that was cut off before it could finish.
Paul spun around, ready to fend off Megan’s stalker, but there was no stalker. There was no Megan either, just her backpack lying forlorn on the ground.
“Megan?” Paul said into the silence. Then he called out, “Megan!”
Then he noticed an oddity. Even though Megan herself was nowhere to be seen, her shadow was still there along his. Then Paul heard a rustling and noticed a small hand reaching up through the concrete, clutching fingers gripped hard onto the side of the backpack, pulling it down tight to the concrete. The fingers were slowly slipping off the backpack. Suddenly the backpack flipped, and the hand disappeared into Megan’s shadow.
Paul just stood there, unable to process what he just witnessed. It didn’t make any sense. He stood and watched as Megan’s disembodied shadow took a tentative step towards him. Paul took his own step backwards away from it, but Megan’s shadow reached out and joined with his. With growing horror, he watched as her old shadow shriveled and flowed into his own.
Paul turned and started running towards his house, leaving Megan’s backpack lying abandoned. He made it four more steps before falling.
Later, when their mother began to worry, she walked outside to check for them. All she found were two backpacks on the sidewalk. She called the police, called their father, even called the children’s school, but they were gone.