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Me and My Shadow, a Freshman Story

Alex couldn’t remember applying to Elsewhere University, that’s how it worked sometimes, but the course he was accepted on was perfect for him. He loved the feel of the liberal arts college, but their Computer Sciences department had a great reputation too, he wasn’t sure how he hadn’t been rooting for this school all along.

The suggestions for living on campus seemed a little silly, he mulled over them a few times, puzzled by the descriptions of salt and iron, and outright baffled by the need to use a fake name.  He spent the summer determined to ignore them. He would be a voice of reason amongst the student body, he thought, as he imagined parading around with his real name printed on a teeshirt, emblazoned on his backpack. Nevertheless, as the day of his departure grew ever closer, he relented, and packed a handful of iron washers, a large canister of salt, and a thesaurus to pick a name from. If he had to live by a pseudonym for the next 3 years, he wanted an impressive one. Alex hadn’t been popular at school, much more of a wallflower than the centre of any social circles. This year would be different, he wanted a name that stood out, a name that would bring an air of mystery.

By the time he set foot on campus, Alex was Shadow, and Shadow was cool.

The first few weeks of school, Shadow managed to keep his social profile higher than he ever had before. Parties every week, no embarrassing stories to follow him from high school. It was the best few weeks of his life and, while the following weeks never quite compared, Shadow built up a reputation. The cost, however, was his grades.

The first few projects Shadow handed in were graded poorly. He fought the feelings of embarrassment at the idea of failing, he had never gotten less than an A in his life, even at Elsewhere, it only took a couple of months before he was called before his Professor.

“ Look, Shadow. I didn’t want to say anything, I actually thought you had been taken. It was a bit early, but then thats when the most simple mistakes are made, but I had a quiet word with a few people and I hear you just aren’t putting the work in.”

Shadow was glowing scarlet. This wasn’t what he wanted, he had made a crucial mistake.

“ I’m sorry Professor, I really am. It’s all just been a bit overwhelming and I lost track of priorities, I’ll try harder.”

The Professor seemed unconvinced.

“ I want to give you a second chance Shadow,’ he removed and started polishing his silver glasses.

“ You’re grades have really suffered, it will take a lot of work to get back up to an acceptable level.”

Shadow was in full panic mode, he needed a second chance.

“ Can I redo the projects?” He gasped. They had a week free for study coming up, he could sacrifice his time then as a lot of his friends were heading home.

“ I will let you hand them in if you manage but, I have to say Shadow, it’s a lot of work, I don’t know if you have time.”

They agreed that the Professor would grade the papers again, on a reduced scale. It wouldn’t get him anything resembling an A level score, but he might scrape by with something respectable. He ran full sprint to the library, setting himself up in the computing department.

The EU Library was odd, but the computing department at Elsewhere University Library was odd in it’s own special way. Each shelf had a locked door, able to be opened only on presentation of a special ID card (made of iron, naturally). Apparently the campus had an ongoing issue with books about technology being vandalised at night. Far at the end of the room, one cabinet was sealed with, apparently, no lock at all. He asked in the first week about that shelf, the Librarian mumbled “Those books aren’t finished yet,” and somehow escaped from sight.

He gathered what he needed for his first project of the year, and got to work. It had been a couple of hours when someone came and sat across from him at the table, a young man, around his age, black hair, smart clothes. A few moments later, Shadow noticed the student was not doing work.

“ Can I help you?” he asked, looking up from his book.

“ No, but I think I can help you,” he replied. “ If you go upstairs to the 12th floor, theres a room. 17c. Time works weirdly in there, its good for concentration or something. “

“ I’m fine here,” Shadow mumbled, mildly irritated at the interruption.

“ Someone is about to come in and clean, it’s gonna get loud.” the stranger added. Shadow took the bait and packed up his stuff.

Shadow was sure there had only been 9 floors to the Library, but there it was, the button for floor 12.  17c was creepy. A single room, with a single desk. Olive green walls and a single pendant lamp with a heavy shade, making a spot of light on the floor and sending the dark corners into wild shapes.

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