Shadow Dance

Are you asleep yet, Johnny?
You’re lying in bed, tugged up tight and snug,
But your eyes are open, aren’t they?
I know you’re not asleep.

They know it too.

The shadows come alive at night, Johnny.
Can you see them on the walls?
In the blue glow of your little doggy night-light,
They stretch and bend, preparing for their dance.

It’s well past your bedtime.You should be fast asleep.
I know you wish you were.
Your fingers clench the sheets and you’re trying to count sheep,
But it’s no good, Johnny.

It’s too late for that.

Mummy would be cross if you got up,
You’ll just have to lie there and watch.
Watch the shadows, Johnny.
Watch them as they grow and dance.

Do you see Pinocchio’s shadow?
So much taller than the puppet on the shelf.
Watch his thin arms stretching longer,
He needs no strings to move.

See the dark hump behind the chair?
A hunched giant, slouching towards your bed.
The silhouetted bars at your feet look frightening, don’t they?
Gnawed, blackened fingers, reaching out towards you.

Even Teddy’s shadow’s very big now, isn’t it, Johnny?
Just like a real bear,
A towering hulk of claws and crushing limbs outstretched.
Can you hear him growl?

He’s angry you didn’t take him to bed.

One by one they slip and slide along the walls,
The shadows are dancing,
Twisting and weaving their way closer,
And closer.

They can smell you, little Johnny.
They can taste the whites of your eyes,
They hear your pounding heart,
And they dance to the beat of your breathless fear.

They creep along the floor and they seep across the ceiling.
The shadows are unfurling all around you, Johnny.
Do you see them?Are you watching?
They’re stretching and straining to get to you.

You’d better pull the covers up, Johnny.
That’s it.Nice and tight.
Right up over your head, not an inch of you exposed.
You can’t see them anymore.

But you know that they’re still there.

You can hear the shadows, can’t you, Johnny?
You can hear them dance and hiss and wait.
They’re waiting for you, Johnny,
But you won’t come out.

You’ll stay hidden until morning.


Debbie Cowens  Debbie Cowens's website is a writer living on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand.  She has recently swapped teaching English to classrooms of teenagers for running after and reading picture books to a rampaging toddler. She is an enthusiastic short film maker and has designed and produced a number of card games.