My Own Shadow

A short story

Alexandre Aimbiré
9 min readDec 19, 2023
Photo by Teena Lalawat on Unsplash

"A friend in need is a friend indeed; a friend with weed is better." — Placebo

Good evening, gentlemen. Yes, thank you. I will take a seat. Yes, I'd appreciate a glass of water.

What was it that you asked? Ah, yes. Yes, I do know where I am and why I'm here. I am very aware if my actions and I wish to tell you what happened exactly and how everything came to pass. I've had some moments to recollect myself before you arrived and tried to make sense of this whole situation.

Gentlemen, what I am about to tell you is the absolute truth. No, I do not need a lawyer. Yes, I am waiving away my right. If you wish to record this, now would be the time to start. I know what has come to happen and no lawyer in the world can save me right now.

I should start this story from the beginning. Years before the events that happened today. I can't remember exactly how long ago it was or how did he enter my life, but after he did it felt like he had always been there. We were best friends, you know? An instant connection. We went everywhere together. Usually bars and places of ill repute. Well, not at all places where fine gentlemen as yourselves would dare to be found. There was this place downtown where I was a regular. I had never seen him there before, but after we were acquainted, I met him there even when we hadn't planned on it. I didn't think much of it at the time. It was very convenient to have a friend around, specially when I was alone.

It didn't bother me at all, even when my friends called him my shadow. I was amused to have a loyal friend everywhere I went. One that always supported me in my wretched ideas. When my pockets were empty, Raphael was always there with an open wallet. I don't think he ever collected on any of my debts and this made me keep on using his money, even if I had my own. It didn't matter what I wanted to do, he was always there. One night we decided to steal a car, a quite fancy one that belonged to a gentleman that I had lost to in a game of cards. While many of my friends would try to persuade me not to do something like that, Raphael would whisper acquiescingly in my ear and go along for the ride.

Things went on like this for a while, and we were never caught in our shenanigans. One day I started noticing that he started to dress more like me. I though that was great, he really needed a makeover and to dress more appropriately. The rags he wore did not suit someone that would be my companion. When we were in company of other people, he would never speak, but sometimes he would whisper a quip or something smart to say in my ear and I would promptly say it out loud at the table. He would chuckle shyly at the remark, but never utter his voice aloud if there was someone else other than me or him around.

And then, there was her. And then it all changed.

Lucy and I met at a function at the University. It was a dinner party hosted by the faculty. I can't remember the occasion. All I can remember about that night is her long black hair and those fiery red lips. The contrast between them and her pale white skin was mesmerizing. We ended up sitting next to each other at the same table. You can imagine how I felt. I had never even talked to someone that beautiful before. The sparks were mutual. and we exchanged contact information and promised to meet in another occasion.

Now that I recall that night, I don't remember Raphael being there.

Lucy and I started seeing each other regularly. Raphael was never with us, but I always saw him in the street whenever we were out. We'd wave to each other, but he would never come around. Lucy always asked who that was and I'd always reply: "That's Raphael."

"Funny, he looks a lot like you."

They were never introduced until one of my friends hosted a Christmas party and I brought Lucy along. Raphael was there as well and I finally introduced them. And then something funny happened. Raphael spoke. His voice was not a shallow whisper, but a deep and strong baritone voice that filled the air. I looked at him in astonishment while he smiled back at Lucy and made all the quips to her that he would usually whisper in my ear.

Of course, dressing up to impress me and going anywhere along with me was perfectly fine. But flirting with my date? Surely that man had another thing coming. After the party was over, I took Lucy home and went straight to the dingy bar to find Raphael. I knew he would be there, as he always was. I found him and confronted him. He had no right in humiliating me or going after my girl like that. It was unthinkable. I felt betrayed and berated him. He kept his head down and muttered an apology, saying he just wanted the girl that I liked to like him as well. He said that I was his best friend and that it was important for him to be on good terms with the both of us.

I felt sorry for the man, what can I say? I should have broken things off with him then and there, but we were friends for so long and had so many stories together that I just couldn't leave him.

After that, the three of us became inseparable.

Can I have a cigarette as well? Yes, thank you. Now, where was I? I'm sure that your superiors behind that see through mirror are dying to know the rest of the story.

We went everywhere together. Dinner dates, the theater. Wherever Lucy and I were, Raphael was there with me. Soon it wasn't just his clothes that mimicked mine. His shaggy hair was cut into a well mannered short cut. He grew a mustache just like mine and started wearing even better clothes than mine. Still of the same maker, but much better tailored and styled. I reckoned that he had just decided to spend some of the money that was always in his deep pockets on himself to his own improvement and was proud of him for it.

Until one day, it happened. My friends were always warning me of him, saying that he was too interested in Lucy. That it was, how did they put it? Unnatural. I dismissed them, always. "He's just shy and needs friends", I would say. Lucy came to my house one day in tears. She said that Raphael tried to woo her attention. I was shocked. She was at a tea house when he entered. At first she though it was me, but upon a second glance, she realized it was Raphael. He confessed to her that he loved her and wanted to be with her. And before she left in disgust, he tried to grab her arm and force himself to a kiss.

I was appalled. I was furious. I stormed out of the room as Lucy cried and begged me not to do anything rash. But I didn't listen. I went straight to that filthy bar and knocked him with a punch before he even realized what was going on.

It hurt.

Raphael fell to the floor while some patrons tried to wrestle me. I just wanted to kill him. I spat and said that he was no friend of mine and left before I did anything else.

Things were never the same after that. Lucy said that she needed some time to think and took the opportunity to study abroad. I said that I understood and encouraged her to do so, even if I loved her. I became a gloomy figure and never saw Raphael again.

Until yesterday.

I too decided to spend some time away and took a sabbatical. Went overseas, worked some odd jobs to keep myself moving and spent a whole year abroad before returning here. As soon as I arrived, I saw an acquaintance of mine. He quickly congratulated me and I asked why.

"The wedding, of course! You finally decided to stop dodging that poor girl!"

"What poor girl?"

"Man, are you daft? Well, Lucy of course! What a fine catch!"

I went running to the church and saw the invitation on the bulletin board. It was my own name alongside Lucy's and the wedding would be the next day. I went to the same dingy bar, hoping to find Raphael and there he was, sitting in the same place I had seen him the last time before I sucker punched him to the ground. He looked at me as if he was expecting me and I saw my own eyes in his face. Raphael had brown eyes, but now they were green, just like mine. He smiled and greeted me.

"What's going on?", I asked.

"Well, you're marrying Lucy, right?"

"No, I'm not. Who is?"

"Well, you, isn't it? The name on the invitation is yours."

I was too stunned to do anything. I couldn't move. Then I noticed something strange. His hands. He wore the same rings as I did. My eyes moved around his whole body and everything on him was identical to something I owned, even the shoes.

It was maddening! The man I once knew as my best friend had turned into me!

I ran out without realizing what was going on and just walked all night, thinking about him. I tried to go to Lucy's house, but she had moved and didn't leave a forwarding address. I had no idea what was happening. I don't know when I fell asleep, but woke up in my old room. I still had my clothes on from the day before. I put on my shoes and ran outside towards the church.

The wedding had already started and there I was, standing at the entrance of that church seeing myself holding hands with the woman I loved. Only, it was not me. It was a weird simulacra of myself at the altar. Like a badly drawn version of me pasted right in front of my eyes. It couldn't be me, I was not there! But there was something wrong with than man, something otherworldly.

Suddenly I was possessed by a feeling that I cannot describe. It was rage, but a thousand times more. I raced through the aisle and without even thinking, I tackled him to the floor. I could hear Lucy's screams and the commotion of the crowd, gasping and sighing. And then the first punch came down. It was if the Devil himself commanded my hands and drew them into his face. Again and again, I punched him until my fists were sore. He did not resist. He just laid there and took the beating, while I battered him relentlessly. No one dared to come to the altar. Lucy's screams pierced my ears as I continued to slam my fists into him.

I confess, it felt good. It was reinvigorating. As if each punch was a sip of the ambrosia that gave the gods their eternal life. Until I couldn't take it anymore and I punched him one last time. My fist came down like a guilhotine and my arm swept the air down and hit the mouth that had once belonged to a friend. I could see a gush of blood spattering through the wooden floorboards and two of his teeth rolling like dice.

I held my hands to my face. My vision was stained red from his blood. I looked down do expect his face to be reduced to a bloody pulp. But it wasn't. And it wasn't my own face that looked back at me.

It was Raphael's.

He grinned at me. The blood spewing and frothing from his mouth as he smiled at me, victoriously. All I heard was silence and his chuckling between coughs of blood. I looked around and Lucy was pale. A sickening pale, looking at me in horror.

"Raphael, what have you done?"

"I am not Raphael", I replied. "It's me! Can't you recognize me? Your love!"

But she did not, she threw herself to the body lying in front of me, pushing me aside. I was perplex, I couldn't move or speak. I was paralyzed looking at Lucy as if her body was being pierced by his eyes looking maliciously back at me. His chuckle grew into a laughter. A hideous laughter. One that still echoes in my head, even as I speak to you and I cannot silence it.

And then it stopped. I saw black and all I can remember from that moment on is being brought into this room to speak to you fine gentlemen.

Yes, I would like another cigarette.

Now tell me, detective: What face do you see when you look at me? Because when I look at the mirror, as I feel your superiors looking at me in horror believing me to be a madman, I can only see his face and not my own staring back at me and grinning.

Published originally in the 2023–2024 Fall Issue of The Issue, USA Nijmegen’s Student Magazine in December of 2023.



Alexandre Aimbiré

Sociólogo de boteco, estudante de Letras, guitarrista ocasional, pai, marido e leitor ávido de caixas de sucrilhos. Leio e escrevo sobre o que me dá na telha.