The Shadow By the Swing It was very seldom for families like the Syers to purchase such an ancestral hall as a residence, but there was nothing wrong with moving to the suburbs for a change. For Michael, this new beginning wasn't much of a chance for a fresh start but rather a curse that had been cast on him. On the ride to his new home, he stared out the window at his reflection oblivious to the beauty of the rural horizon. The thoughts of a new town, new people, new friends, a new school and a new uniform filled him with dread. As the car curved around the last bend of the seemingly endless rustic dirt road, the gates of the hereditary estate loomed before the Syers. Beyond the gates, the twirly gravelled road led to the pinnacle of the hill where a smaller version of Hogwarts sat. Knowing that his request to play catch with Mr. Syers would end in rejection and Mrs. Syers too busy waging war with the ancient layers of dust that had accumulated on the furniture, Michael headed straight for the backyard. The backdoor led out to a grand wooden plank patio that connected the three-acre garden to the main building. Michael took extra time down the wooden stairs as the Nippon daisies, goldenrods and purple asters below the ledges gave him a wave. The primordial sun shone down the earth that made the freshly trimmed grass steam and accompanied Michael as he strolled down the cobblestone path. The path, in the center of the field, gradually stretched a hundred meters until it reached the bottom where it ended at a golden curly willow. Unknowingly, Michael was met with a swing on the branch of the willow which followed the patterns of the breeze. Although there was a rotting odour from the stained ropes, it was the perfect spot for a thinker. Behind the tree, there was a light fortification of wooden fences to prompt what was beyond: the cliff that overlooked a horizon of blue. The Pacific waves sparkled under the non-stop radiance and the seagulls thrived under the year-round sunny weather. The swing couldn’t be seen from the building but one sitting from the swing had a clear view of the mansion. It was sort of a hiding spot of such which provided much beauty and solitude. I found my spot. For what was left of Michael’s summer vacation, he spent it swinging away from the misery in the house with the exception of occasional visits back for meals and rest. But it was on the last day of summer that the shadow caught Michael’s eyes. Rather than moving with the pendulum rhythm of the swing, his shadow was still. Surely, after a few weeks of isolation, anything peculiar attracted Michael’s attention. But the call for dinner appeared more intriguing than the queer phenomenon; thus, he left his unmoving shadow and returned back to the house. The first few weeks of the new school flew by without a wave and the tight and restricted uniform got on Michael’s nerves. Just like him, students at this particular school came from similar backgrounds and just like him, they all had the same dream: Ivy League. Of course, not everyone got the pleasure of making their parents shed tears of joy for them, but every day at school were like battlefields of lore. He suffocated from the intensity that the teachers demanded since his previous school was much more forgiving on the workload. On the football field, the privilege of being the star wide receiver in his other school wasn’t available to him anymore since there was a four-star recruit, Emanuel. Every day in the hallways Michael received a few greetings from acquaintances but certainly not to the point where he was considered popular, smart or athletic. In his new environs, he was a poster on the wall, no longer relevant or even memorable. Every day, his swing would be surrounded by piles of textbooks; Michael felt at ease gently swaying on the dilapidated swing until his light source ducked under the horizon. Only then would he be forced to continue his studies back in his room until the moon gave a yawn. When the first term report card came, there were multiple thunderstorms hovering above the Syers household although rain was quite foreign to their realm. Despite Michael’s rigorous efforts, two Bs were still glaring quite clearly against their distinctive A counterparts. Of course, Michael was only confronted with knives of criticism. Like a balloon stabbed seven times, Michael once again deflated down the endless staircase and headed straight for his spot. Do they even care? I am just a failure, an investment so one day they can brag that they raised a son that got into an Ivy League. U nder the silver lit darkness which cast a shadow of him and the tree, Michael swung rigorously towards the seemingly endless ocean horizon. As the shadow of the long willow leaves danced with the night breeze, Michael’s shadow remained motionless as Michael tried to swing his despair away. The rage turned into 6 am alarms, daily workout sessions and more dates with textbooks. Dark circles and swollen eye puffs started to form, but they were simply remedied with mugs of Americano and squashed cans of Red Bull. At times when he decided to sleep, he would take a great deal of time fantasizing a story of a boy scoring one touchdown after another and being thrown into the air like a hero. All the guys wanted to be like him and all the girls wanted to be with him. He would receive a full-ride athletic scholarship to an ivy league along with his impressive grades. Then his parents would finally be able to spill tears of joy and tell him they love him as their son. I want to be him. As the weather drifted towards more warmth, Michael’s grades ascended with the rising temperature and so did Michael’s football stats. Slowly, Michael earned a starting spot alongside the four-star recruit. I need to be better than him. This thought devoured Michael during every practice and game as he competed for the first spot. When the opportunity would allow, Michael would abandon his route and cut off Emanuel which in turn the ball would be thrown to him instead of his rival. But no matter how many more touchdowns he scored in games, rather than the applauds Michael dreamed off, his status stayed constant while Emanuel was still constantly asked for autographs from the stands. Soon the shadow no longer stayed in the confinement of the swing but appeared more frequently at the luminous field. I need to get rid of him. One blood moon night, after a game, the Syers couple, still trying to digest the shocking news, approached their son to question him of his atrocious act and expulsion from school. Mrs. Sayers screamed at her son with a tone that exploded with distress and frustration. Mr. Sayers, rather than giving his usual condescending lectures that are filled with disappointment and anger, proceeded to his last resort of parenting solutions: loosening his belt. With his white uniform dyed with splatters of his rival’s blood, Michael’s response to his father’s whips was simply mere smirking which turned into an uncontrollable devilish laugh. The devil was his puppeteer who lured him to his hideous action earlier in the night. Now crying from the scene, Mrs. Sayers bestowed upon her son a vile slap followed by admission of regret for giving birth to him. Banished to his swing, Michael left his parents in despair as they tried to comprehend what came across their son that he would plunge his fists into his teammate’s face, sending Emanual to the hospital for surgery. Hours later when the half arc reigned over its kingdom delved into their dreams, multiple sirens pierced through the peaceful suburban streets. The uniformed officers descended on the quiet narrow roadway leading up to the aristocratic Victorian mansion, now ablaze with angry tongues of flames licking the hand-carved sidings and ancient archways. Red and blue flashing lights illuminated the dim dawn, accentuating the lurid glow from the flames. In the midst of the blaze, two cold body bags lay still in the heat of the night. The heat forced a pair of officers as they dispatched themselves from the rest of the investigators and traversed to the back garden for evidence. As they followed the cobblestone path down to the grassy field, the lambency made it seem like they were in a floral wonderland. What they did not expect was a boy swaying on the swing, gazing coldly and expressionlessly into the distance as the lustrous glow shone upon him. His shadow enveloped him.