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Ricardo Neves

Author’s Edition


Let the shadow take the blame, by Ricardo Neves

Author’s Edition


© 2017 Joel G. Gomes

Texto e capa: Ricardo Neves









This story (like any other) gave me a hard time writing. It took research, time, and patience to find the right words. Even if you do not appreciate the result, I ask you to acknowledge this effort by reviewing on this story, sharing it and encouraging others to read it. I’ll appreciate it in advance and promise to come back with more stories, other than the ones available at http://www.pessoaqueescreve.wordpress.com and in several platforms.

(And it’s all right if you didn’t get this book in the most legal way, just as long as you leave a comment or review.)

Jonathan Light has a friend that only he can see. One that knows him better than anyone else. One that always knows how to cheer him up. He calls himself Rudy and he is more than the brother Jonathan never had. He is his best friend, almost a part of him.

But Rudy has a dark side. If provoked, he can become quite dangerous. Especially, when Jonathan decides to ignore his warnings….


Jonathan Light was born with two shadows: one that anybody could see, and another one that lurked inside of him, always waiting for an opportunity to come out and play. He enjoyed playing with his shadow, but sometimes just playing with himself could become quite boring.

From time to time, however, his shadow would do something that’d almost caught him off guard. Jonathan knew exactly when that would happen, but he pretended he didn’t, just to keep things interesting.

One time, he thought about inviting Billy to come and play after school. Perhaps he could even bring his own shadow and maybe the four of them could play video games together. Rudy (that's how his shadow liked to be called, although he wasn't sure that was his real name), dismissed the idea, saying that it was too dangerous.

“Billy would not understand me”, said Rudy.

“You're wrong. I trust him. He's my best friend.”

As soon as the words came out, Jonathan regretted them.

I thought I was your best friend.”

Jonathan thought he heard a tingle a jealousy in Rudy's voice, which would be appropriate, considering what he'd just said.

You are. I mean, you are part of me, so that must mean we have to be friends, right?”

Have to?”, Rudy replied, much to Jonathan's chagrin. “Are you saying our friendship is not something you like?”

“Yes”, said Jonathan. “I mean, no.”

“I see.”

Rudy, I swear you're my friend.” He quickly added: “My best friend.” He meant what he said, but did he believe it?

“If you need to ask yourself that question, then you already know the answer.”

Sometimes he'd forget Rudy knew what he was thinking.

“You don't understand! I'm—”

“No. I understand perfectly. If you want to invite Billy so much, go right ahead. Just don't say I didn't warn you.”

Before Jonathan could come up with something to say (much less say it), Rudy vanished and didn't return for almost two weeks. Jonathan tried to pretend that he wasn't bothered by his absence, but playing alone was not as fun as playing with himself. Despite all his anger and animosity toward Billy, Rudy was still part of him. Could it be that the reason Rudy didn't want Billy to come by, was because he didn't want it either?

A knock on his bedroom door brought him out from his wondering. His mom opened the door and peeked inside.

“There's someone here to see you”, she said.

Jonathan wasn't expecting anyone, nor was he in the mood to, but before he could say so, Billy appeared.

“Hi, Jonathan”, he said.

Hi, Billy”, he replied, rapidly grabbing some random action figure to avoid further conversation. He still thought of Billy as his friend, maybe his only friend aside from Rudy, but having him there, just so soon after Rudy’s disappearance, didn't feel right.

“I called Billy's mom and asked her if he would like to come by”, his mom explained. “I thought you could use a friend. You have been so sad lately.”

His mom didn't know about Rudy. She knew many things about him — some of which he had no idea how she could possibly know — but Rudy was his secret alone. Rudy had never told him to keep his existence from his (their?) mother. He simply decided it wasn't something for grownups to know about.

Well… Aren't you going to invite Billy in?”, his mother asked, though he knew it wasn't an actual question.

“Sorry, mom.” He put the action figure down and went to the door. “Come in, Billy.”

Billy entered the room and practically ran straight to the console.

“Wanna play some soccer?”, Billy asked.

I guess”, Jonathan said. He wasn't feeling too playful, but he could indulge half an hour, maybe a little more, of gameplaying, pretending enough boredom to convince Billy to leave by his own volition.

“You should go outside and play”, his mom said. “It's such a beautiful day.”

“I prefer to stay here”, said Jonathan.

“What about you, Billy?”

“I'm good either way.”

“All right. You two behave yourselves. Have fun.”

She pulled the door closed, but left it ajar. She would give him enough privacy to play, but not so much as not to know what he was up about.

Billy turned the TV on, put a cartridge in the slot, flipped the console on, and grabbed the main controller.

“Huh-huh”, Jonathan said, handing him the second controller. “I'm player one.”

“You're always player one”, Billy complained.

“It's my videogame.”

“Come on. Just this once.”

Rudy’s silhouette appeared behind Billy and nodded his approval.

“Okay”, Jonathan said, trying not to smile too much. “You can be player one, but just this match.”


Billy chose the tournament mode and made the necessary configurations. He went with USA. Jonathan glared at him. USA was his team. He always chose USA.

He did it on purpose”, Rudy whispered in his ear. “What kind of friend does that?”

Jonathan glanced sideways and wondered if it was worth fudging about having to pick another team. After a moment of consideration, he decided to let it slide. At least this one time.

He tried to make his choice fast, but none of the other available teams felt right. He would rarely lose a game, but he also didn't want to win against America. That wouldn't be right.

“Come on, Johnny. Choose one.”

Rudy appeared again. “He's mocking you.”

Jonathan pressed a button which would allow the system to randomly choose for him.

Are you going to let that slide?”, Rudy pressed on.

Jonathan made his best to ignore Rudy’s remarks. He knew he was taunting him out of spite, but he wasn't sure if that was the main reason why he was acting that way.

The first match began. Billy with USA, Johnny with Brazil. It would be hard not to win that one, but he would make his worst.

After ten minutes of game, which equaled one minute of real time, Johnny had already scored twice, much to his displeasure.

Jonathan tried to distract himself from the game, while also trying to ignore Rudy's constant comments.

He scored again. And Rudy grinned.

Nice kick, Jonathan”, Rudy said. “Father would be so proud...”

Jonathan bit his lip and kept a lid on his anger. His father had died in the war protecting the country. How dared he talk about him that way?

“Sooooo proud.”

Jonathan snapped. “Shut up!”

I didn’t say anything”, Billy said.

“Not you, him.”

Jonathan pointed at Rudy, forgetting that no one could hear or see Rudy unless he spoke directly at them first. Once he remembered that, he said: “Say something to him.”

“Who are you talking to, Johnny?”

“What do you want me to say, Johnny?”

“Something. Anything. Just let him know you exist.”

“I'm not sure I should do that. I don't trust him.”

Billy put his controller down and stood up in a hurry.

“Where are you going?”

I think it's best if I leave. You’re acting weird.”

Jonathan ran past him and cut him off.

“Billy, wait!”, he said, not sure why.

“Look, if you don't want me here, just say so. It's okay. I don't mind.”

Billy's father was gone too, not as a hero like his, but to a brand-new family. He had no friends before he met Jonathan. And neither did he. Rudy hadn't yet made his presence known at the time. They soon became best friends, united by grief and coincidence, because what else was necessary?

“You don't understand. Please, let me explain.”

Billy crossed his arms and waited. And then Jonathan did something he knew Rudy would not be happy about: he told about him.

“I was born with two shadows…”, he began.


After his tale was finished, Jonathan expected disbelief, doubt, and disdain; he even expected some anger. Instead, Billy just smiled.

“That's so cool, Johnny!” He surveyed the room. “Where's he? Why can't I see him?”

“I told you. You don't see him unless he speaks to you first.”

Billy wandered across the room, almost bumping into Rudy without knowing it.

“Hey! You can talk to me. It's okay.”

Jonathan could see that Rudy was not happy with what was happening. In fact, he looked furious. Perhaps he should have kept his mouth shut.

“Listen, Billy. I don't think he's in a good mood, right now.”

Billy stopped. “I want to see him.”

“He doesn't want to be seen.”

“That's too bad. I'm not leaving until I see him.”

Jonathan turned to Rudy, but didn't bother to ask. The answer was written all over his face.

I’m telling you he doesn't want to be seen.”

“You lied”, Billy said. “I'm gonna tell your mom.”

Billy walked to the door and Jonathan noticed that Rudy had vanished. As Billy was about to turn the knob, Rudy appeared from behind him and wrapped the cable from the controller around his neck. Billy gasped for air. One hand went to his neck, while the other reached out for help.

“Johnny…. please…”

Jonathan was frozen with indecision. He didn't want Rudy to kill Billy, but he was too afraid to tell Rudy to stop. He had never seen him act that way — so feral, so… primal. Fearing for himself, he did the only thing he could do: he turned his back on a friend.

After a few moments, he heard a thump.

“It's done”, Rudy said.

Jonathan said nothing.

“Jonathan, look at me.”

Jonathan kept his back turned. He didn't want to look. He didn’t want to see.

“Why did you do that?”

“He was going to tell about me.”

Jonathan turned around, avoiding looking at the body.

So, what? He didn't believe you were real, anyway.”

“I couldn't take that chance. Besides, I don't want anyone else to know about me, except you.”

Jonathan tried and managed to look at Billy's cadaver.

“What about him? How can I explain this to mom?”

Jonathan noticed that he didn't refer to her as his mother, but whether he was trying to pull Rudy to his side, or anything else, he didn't know. He remembered her scolding him hard that one time he left the stove on. He wasn't eager to witness her reaction to what'd just happened.

Don't worry”, Rudy said. “Everything will be all right.”

“How?! He's dead, Rudy, he's dead! How can anything be all right after this?”

“I can bring him back.”

“Stop joking. This isn't funny.”

I'm not joking. I can bring him back. If that's what you really want.”

“How…?” He didn't finish the rest of the sentence, too afraid to think of the possibilities, much less say them out loud.

“I can become his shadow.”


Jonathan didn't know what to say.

“You never told me you could do that.”

“I never told you a lot of things.”

I can see that.” He could also see, though not understand, how Rudy was able to know everything about him, but the same principle didn't work in reverse.

We can discuss that later, if you want. Now, do you want me to bring him back or not?”

Jonathan heard footsteps approaching the door. At the very last moment the doorbell rang, granting him some extra time, and he nodded. “Do it.”

He didn't bother to ask how the process would work, what the consequences would be. Billy could return as a zombie — it didn't matter, just as long as his mother didn't find out.

Rudy nodded and dived inside Billy's body.

Not a second past, Billy opened his eyes. And right at that second, Jonathan felt tired and weak, as if he'd been running without food or water for days. He felt so weary that he barely had the strength to sit down and lean against the book stand.

“What's going on? Why am I feeling like this?”

Billy spoke, using Rudy’s voice. “You wanted to bring him back, so I did. Unfortunately, I can only keep one person alive at the same time.”

“But I'm not dead.”

“Not yet.”

“W-what?” Jonathan tried to get up, but if sitting down had been an ordeal, standing up seemed like an impossible feat. Yet, he tried. The pain in his chest hurt almost as much the betrayal. He gave up — he should never had let Billy in. “Why didn't you…?”

“Warn you?” Billy smirked. “You wanted to save your friend, didn't you?”

Again, Jonathan tried to get up; again, he failed. So, he resorted to crawling over to Billy and managed to grab his left foot.

“Take it back.”

Billy pulled away from his weak grip with ease. “Can't do that.”

“Please, Rudy.”

“I wish I could say I'm sorry, but you were the one who chose this.”

“Only because you killed him.”

Billy shrugged and took a step back. Jonathan didn't bother to crawl after him. It would be pointless.

Just then, his mom entered the room and Jonathan knew she would make everything all right. She always did.

She walked over to him, but instead of helping, she went past him, like he wasn't even there.

“Mom… what?”

She picked up the controller from the console. “I told you not to leave these lying around, didn't I?”

Billy bowed his head and replied with Rudy's voice. “Sorry, mom.”

Jonathan added confusion to the mix of feelings he was experiencing.

“Y-you… can see him?”

She knelt by his side and smiled without love. “Of course. He is my son, after all.”

“No. He can't be your son. I am—”

“Something unexpected.”

She made a gesture of standing up, but only a shadow of a woman Jonathan had never seen before got up, leaving an empty body behind. She walked over to Billy and opened her arms. Rudy left his new body and the two shadows hugged.

“I was the one who got pregnant”, his mom’s shadow said. She nodded to her human husk — silent, almost lifeless — and spoke with contempt. “But someone else felt entitled to the same thing, didn't you, Eliza?”

Jonathan's mom’s name wasn't Eliza — it was Wendy.

“Except I'm not your mother, Johnny. She is. And she's not going to help you.”

Jonathan gazed at his mom — his quiet and paralyzed mom who he had never seen before — and pleaded.

Don't bother”, Wendy said. “She is just an empty shell, with no mind of her own.”


But his mom just stood there, placidly watching him withering away.

Wendy turned to Rudy. “You should go now, or Mrs. Randall will be worried.”

Rudy nodded. “What about Jonathan? People will notice he's gone.”

“I'll think of something. I'm good at making people disappear.”

Rudy smiled and hugged his mom one last time before returning to Billy's body. He walked to the door and turned around to say: “I hope we can still be friends.”

Jonathan felt too tired to think of a proper reply. He kept his eyes fixated on the face of his real mother — the one he never knew, always subdued, never able to say how much she loved him. Or if she loved him. For a moment, he thought he saw a tear trailing down her face — a moment of brief defiance just before he closed his eyes and died happy.



Thank you for taking the time to read this story. I hope it didn’t kept you from anything important, like your marriage or the birth of your first child.

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Thanks again and see you next time.


Unlike other authors, whose existence is real, I am just a fictional character, co-protagonist of the novels Um Cappuccino Vermelho and A Imagem, (both Portuguese novels not yet translated) by Joel G. Gomes, who shares with his creator the passion for writing, coffee and not much else. (We are not that much alike,despite what some people say.)

In my fictional world it seems that I already published several novels; in reality, my focus has been mainly with short stories. This isn’t my first English short story, and if all goes well it won’t be the last.

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