display | more...

When nobody's looking, Citlali eats shadows. She doesn't mean to, and she doesn't know how she does it. She only knows that sometimes she'll be walking down the street and be suddenly overwhelmed with a strange, clawing hunger and the urge to bend down and grab a shadow off the pavement.

Usually, the shadows are of things. The shadow of a car, of a street sign or lamp post. Tiny shadows of pebbles in the afternoon, long shadows of grass clusters growing trough the cracks in the pavement. She just plucks them from the ground and pops them into her mouth. They don't taste bad, but they don't taste good, either. They don't really taste at all.

Bigger shadows don't change. What's a few mouthfuls of shade to the shadow of an SUV? What's one bite out of a mailbox? The smaller shadows vanish entirely; there wasn't much to begin with, and there's nothing left when she's done. From then on, the rocks or weeds or whatever else will cast no shadow, no matter the time of day.

That's how the woman from the Home found her. She said she'd followed the trail of shadowless things straight to Citlali's home.

Had she ever tried eating the shadow of a person? The woman had asked.

Citlali shook her head. But she had eaten the shadow of a squirrel once, she added.

What had happened to it? asked the woman from the Home.

It was fine, Citlali said. Sleepy, maybe. A little washed out looking. But it was fine. At least for a bit. It got hit by a car not long after.

Would you like to come to the Home? the woman said. We can try to help you.

And though she wasn't sure what help she needed, Citlali agreed.

299