Jun 21
fiction challenge: Writing 2022

Hugo and the Shadow

From a distance, way out on one of the shaky space matter found in the Kuiper Belt nearby Neptune, the earth had looked pretty and pristine when the aliens were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it from the night sky. Initially, flitting through the dark their little white spaceship privately owned, the Flimlite family had become nearly ecstatic at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to planet Earth.

They’d been given the wonderful opportunity because of Ambassador Flimlite’s authority and royal status. Now, however, thought young Hugo the alien, Earth was really quite ugly. When the family arrived, they were privately escorted into a glimmering rococo mansion, where they settled in and set off to observe the strange planet.

As he was too young to explore, Hugo remained crumpled in his room day after day, forced to succumb to every one of his father, the Ambassador’s, rules, although boredom overwhelmed him.

One cloudy evening, just before his father had returned from his latest exploration, his sister was still knitting in her bedroom, and his mother remained taking notes and notes on her husband’s observations, Hugo cleverly scrambled out the golden back doors of the mansion. Armed with truly nothing and with not an idea of what he would do from there, he scampered off into the chilly, wet forest to escape the heavy, raging downpour.

Weaving his way between trees, he finally peeked behind an adequate-appearing pine with shady needles and settled down, until he heard a brief hiss nearby. Hugo was not alone. A sleek orange cat slowly crept from behind the very tree in which Hugo rested against. The young alien exerted a strange, alien-like note of surprise and jumped to his feet, slowly scampering away. Yet, the cat followed. Realizing the creature would not resent, Hugo finally halted and whispered, “What do you want, you foul being?”

The cat replied in a deep growl, “I’ve come to help you.”

Hugo frowned and sniffed pompously. “You should know that I am fully capable. I do not need the aid of such a pathetic creature like you.”

“So be it,” the cat said. “I’ll be in this forest, should you ever need me.”

“I will not,” Hugo sniffed, and trotted off into the dark. Suddenly, something else darted behind a tree. Hugo’s sharp breath hitched in his throat. What could it be? he wondered. Surely not that cat again. He’s far behind me by now. To the alien’s relief, the shape was no prowling cat at all. In fact… it merely was a shape. A dark one. A shadow, rather.

Hugo nervously peered around. He assured himself that this was perfectly normal— there were shadows everywhere. Creeping and crawling yet remaining fairly still behind every tree and raindrop, there were shadows. Hence, what was different about this one?

Burying his fear, Hugo watched the shadow more closely. It was much darker than the others, and it moved quickly, darting between trees and twisting its midnight-colored form into different shapes: some as simple as triangles and blobs, yet some as elaborate as cats and dogs. Hugo struggled to hold steady breathing, and followed the mysterious shadow intently.

Shortly after, having been tracking the shadow through the deep forest for some time now, the dark mass suddenly halted. Yet, Hugo did not skid to a stop quite quick enough. Instead, he unceremoniously slid into the shadow with a little shriek.

Rather than bumping into a normal shadow, which would presumably feel like nothing, Hugo could feel a piercing consistency in this one. A strange, chilly feeling trickled through his bones as the shadow blinked and flashed before his eyes, surrounding him. Fear coursed through the alien’s bones. What is even happening? he wondered. His little mind flipped and twisted and screamed, until the world suddenly went black.
When Hugo awoke, he remained just where he had been in the forest. Fortunately, the shadow was gone. In its place stood the cat. The sleek, beautiful orange cat. Hugo stumbled to a sitting position. “What’s going on?” he mumbled quietly, his gaze intentionally flitting anywhere other than the cat’s bright eyes.

“You encountered the shadow,” the cat replied.

“No kidding,” Hugo said snarkily.

“You were lucky to survive.”

Hugo raised what would have been an eyebrow, but instead was an ugly, wrinkled patch of forehead. “So you say. I wouldn’t call it luck, rather than pure skill. You should know me,” he muttered.

 “You can play that game,” the cat said, seeing right through the alien. “But I know better.”

Hugo shivered, knowing that the wise, bright creature was right.

“Regardless,” the cat continued uniformly, “Whether you deny it or not, it was luck. But if you encounter the shadow again, you have virtually no chance of survival. Hence, I advise you to stay away from it.

“The shadow has been around for years in this forest, murdering innocent creatures because they are different in some way. Doubtful that you’d like to end up the same—you’re certainly different. Don’t even try to deny it, you’re from Neptune.

“You see, I’m protecting you. You could thank me.”

Hugo remained silent for a moment, struggling to find words. Finally, he whispered, “You’re right. I don’t know what I’m doing.” The insecure little alien blinked and held his head high. “But you know what? Nothing is going to change if we keep running from this shadow. Instead, we must end it for once. It’s the only way.”

The cat considered this. It muttered, “Perhaps,” and then vanished into the night.

Nearly accustomed to the bizarre abilities of the forest and its creatures, Hugo accepted the cat’s strange disappearance and scurried back to the castle before his family arrived home.

For the next few days, Hugo continued to venture into the forest, searching for the cat, who offered him some sort of peace and solace in the midst of turmoil. He yearned for the wise orange creature, along with the bright sun, which always seemed to be obscured by a foggy gray shadow. He searched and searched, and although both appeared occasionally, Hugo’s encounters with both were never long enough to make an impact, initiate even brief peace, or devise some sort of plan to end the shadow creature. Yet Hugo stayed determined—he could not accept a world where creatures were harmed for their differences.

Even worse, the shadow followed him everywhere he went. Whether small or large, Hugo cleverly managed to dodge it every time. However, he did not enjoy this endless game of cat-and-mouse, whether he kept winning or not. He wished for the shadow to have a taste of its own medicine, once and for all.

One day, Hugo managed to scramble up a tree, escaping the cruel creature. He watched from below as the shadow searched for him, and suddenly came across the cat. Hugo gulped and nearly screamed, yet struggled to remain unnoticed, as he weakly watched the shadow surround the wise cat. Finally, Hugo decided that we could not wait any longer. Bravely, acting on instinct, he dashed down the tree and leapt into the shadow, reaching for the cat’s paw. As their fingers met, an electric bolt of peace lit up the night sky as the raging clash of good and evil spun around them.

All of a sudden, the shadow disappeared.

Hugo released its grip on the cat’s paw. “What happened?” he muttered.

The cat smiled weakly, and hoarsely replied, “The shadow’s gone, Hugo. Gone forever.”

The alien’s wide eyes expanded in shock. “How?” he whispered. “I mean—I don’t know how, but it’s all you. Thank you.”

“No,” the cat explained. “Thank you. You were right. It was wrong of me and the other forest creatures to merely let this happen for so many years. What finally broke the shadow was peace even amidst diversity. Although the two of us are so different, our peaceful bond conquered the shadow’s hatred.”

Hugo grinned. “Like in the books. Love beats hate.”

The cat agreed, “Exactly.”

As the sun burst into the sky and the clouds parted, all of the other unique forest animals darted into their small clearing. The cat explained the story—how peace had finally conquered the shadow. The forest animals regretted their passiveness. Although some remained nervously apprehensive for now, many vowed to take action when the next challenge arose.

The bear said, “All together, we can take down anything.”

The deer said, “I don’t know if I’m ready to face such challenges, but I will work up to it.”

The fox said, “Love defeats hate. Good defeats evil.”

And the forest animals, along with the rebellious alien, lived happily ever after in the finally bright forest.