When I was young I had dreams. Lots of them. I would be a famous artist—struck with genius, creative, unique. Or maybe an inventor—ground-breaking innovations that would change the world as we know it forever. A brilliant scientist—discovering cures for the most devastating illnesses known to men, or decoding the last secrets on earth. Celebrated, respected and admired throughout.
And I would have friends. Delightful, glamorous and talented people, who would love me for the charming and captivating person I was, for my intellect, wit, brilliance, my beauty.
We would live in an imposing, bohemian mansion, which would be furnished and decorated in an eclectic yet effortless style. I would use the enormous, sun-filled attic with its large round window, revealing breathtaking views over the city, as studio, or laboratory, or maybe just my study. And there would be huge, out-of-this-world parties. A wonderland of strange and mesmerizing events, intriguing performances and the most intoxicating music. And the guests—the most fascinating, thought-after, talked-about personalities society could muster—artists, actors, scientists, philosophers, philanthropists, magicians, entrepreneurs, astronauts, shamans…
But I wasn´t all that, was I? I had no friends. Well, I had one friend. But he didn´t really count. Frank was goofy, clumsy—big ears, angry-pimply skin, which he would constantly pick. One of his front teeth was yellow and crooked. When he laughed at his own ludicrous jokes, he snorted, and I wanted to punch him. But I didn´t. Better then being alone, I thought. He was not a bad friend, I guess—loyal, kind, sometimes even funny. But I thought he cramped my style. He didn´t. I had no style.
As I grew older, waiting for my extraordinary future to reveal itself, to manifest in some way or other, I came to realize, that my life would be ordinary. No —worse—mediocre. There was nothing special about me. I wasn´t that smart, interesting or particular good at… well… really anything. And I certainly was not beautiful. And there was no App in the world that could enhance my image or personality into the gifted, compelling, irresistible creature I so ached to be.
And then, one day, I discovered it. The thing I was really really good at. For one, I excelled at being invisible. I had always thought of it as a flaw, people failing to recognise me in the street, not being invited to parties, forgotten at the back of the classroom, my name irrelevant. But then I became to see it as an asset. The other thing I was good at was: sussing people out, understanding what made them tick. Reading them…
Always on the outside, spying, prying with hunger and envy into other people´s lives, seeing their dramas, affectations, their moments of happiness, their humiliations. Watching, learning, archiving, understanding… seeing them for what they really were. And years of self-deprecation and -loathing have also taught me very well.
If I could not lift myself up and above this mediocre half-life, I would take them down. And I was, I am very good at it. In fact, I am brilliant, I am THE BEST.
You might see yourself as kind, educated, well-adjusted human being, with a life of values, integrity, achievements, love—well, it is not so. I will find your secrets, I will know your inadequacies, your digressions, your moments of weakness, your worst fears and nightmares. I know when you are vulnerable, and I know where it hurts. I know you for what you are. Nobody is perfect. I will take your most glorious moments, your celebrations, the pinnacle of your career, your greatest hour, and turn them into tears, regrets, your greatest miseries and failures. I will shatter them and I will ruin you. You will fall so deep, so low, you will forget who you are.
I have no pity, nobody is exempt, nobody is safe. Talent, kindness, beauty, bravery, brilliance, generosity, genius—I will find you, and I will find out… I can take angels down.
Everybody knows me, but nobody knows my name. I am invisible and invincible. People hate me, fear me, despise me… many admire me too… imitate me, worship me…
I know you better then you know yourself. And when you least expect it—maybe you are at work, just a sneaky look at your profile, —or on your once in a lifetime cruise-holiday, —it could be just a casual evening out with your friends, – or alone, late at night, in your bedroom, in the dark… I will find you, and I will whisper in your ear… the truth…
I am your shadow, your reckoning, your judgment… I am you. The worst of it, the one, you thought to have hidden so well…
Do you judge me?
What would you do—if you had great talent, an extraordinary talent, if, in fact, you were the best… your one chance for true greatness? Would you waste it?
Banner image: by Gerd Altmanns from Pixabay
6 thoughts on “Extraordinary by S.K. Roch”
The Shadow side can be very powerful. The story changes from being about an individual with daydreams trying to express himself in the world to being about the shadow side in general. Frank seems to appear then vanish. Maybe that’s part of the theme. Some people do grow into their shadows, and become them.
Our own conscious is all we have, love it or hate. A great story of a deflated ego.
Fine example of how we allow others to shape our self image, even though the others are not aware of us.
Giving up on your dreams can be a dangerous thing … for oneself as well as others.
The first three paragraphs are strangely compelling. You transport the reader into that time of their own life with their hopes and dreams. The reality of where they end up compared to where they wanted to be can be a painful realisation.
Any self exploration in no matter what form can materialise in some very interesting and worrying ways.
This is a very thought provoking piece of work!
My first response to this story was to attempt to answer the question it poses: I found I could not. I found the story perfectly structured in it’s simplicity. Yet how evocative it is in its hard and complex questions about ourselves.
I admire the way the narrator moves so seamlessly from the matter-of-fact candidness about the petty resentment that initially drove them to the discovery of their skill – through to an elevated ‘dark’ semblance of their original aspirations: a skill the narrator sees as not so much endowing them with purpose, so much as defining them AS one. The narrator has become ‘us’, our shadow, a mirror reflecting back to us all the dark and uncomfortable things we conceal from ourselves: The Truth, albeit an uncompromisingly dark one: Has an arguably ‘unhealthy’ agenda bloomed into something of potential merit or merely a malign and destructive force? In the realm of our conventions the moral conundrums of that are highly stimulating. And the question of whether we would use such a skill opens up another: If such a mirror existed, would we dare look into it?
A succinct story that opens up a whole can of complex piranhas. I found the story to be extraordinary indeed.