Shadows by Gray Winsler | Art by Jason White

JasonWhite_106_Shadows by Gray Winsler
Art by Jason White

By Gray Winsler
Art by Jason White
Published Issue 106, October 2022

Charlie walked along the shore, cold waves lapping at his feet. His little legs wobbled over uneven stones, water breathing in and out of every crevice. The tears on his cheeks had dried and been washed away by the salty mists. He raised his hand, touching the tender edges of his eye, skin bruised with purples and grays. The sun was starting to set, sky awash in harsh violet hues. He knew he should be heading home, but all he wanted was to be alone. Wind, bitter and cold, cut across the sea. He wrapped his arms around himself as he shivered.

Then, along the shore he spotted the abysmal mouth of a cave. He hobbled toward it, hopeful for any respite from the wind. His eyes adjusted to the dim light as he clambered over boulders deeper into the cave and found a spot to sit. The air was still around him, but the stone was ice on his skin. He curled up into himself, teeth chattering, cold from the inside out. The only heat he felt was the welling of more tears in his eyes.

But Charlie soon found his gaze drawn toward the cave’s mouth. A shadow flickered upon its edge. Squinting, he blinked away his tears. Standing against an amethyst sky, when a slender creature made itself seen. Charlie’s eyes widened at the thing. Its form seemed vacant, like a drawing yet to be filled. Except for its eyes, which stared back like lunar saucers hovering in a night sky.

“Who are you?” Charlie called, tremor in his voice.

The creature said nothing. It stepped its long, slender leg into the cave.

“Is this … your home?”

The creature’s eyes blinked.

“I — I didn’t mean to …” Charlie trailed off, watching as the creature’s head tilted to the side. It seemed curious of him. Its movements reminded him of a stray cat he’d found a few weeks back — hesitant but intrigued; wishing, perhaps, for affection. It blinked at him again, and Charlie felt the tension in his body ease. The creature seemed to carry the same loneliness he felt.

“You have a … nice home,” Charlie ventured.

“Home,” it repeated, the word a gentle whisper, more felt than heard.

It stepped closer, each foot seeming to disappear into the long shadows that stretched across the cavern. Charlie kept still, even as it began to reach out its slender arm toward him. He felt his skin begin to tingle as the creature’s fingers grazed over his cheek. He giggled at the sensation, but the creature seemed startled by the noise, pulling away. Charlie watched as its glowing eyes were drawn to its own hand then. Its fingers began to take on a more pallid color, as if impersonating skin.

“What are you?” Charlie asked, amused.

“You,” the creature whispered.


Charlie returned to that cave every day after school. It was all he could think about. It was the one thing in the world that was fully his own, that no one else could take from him. 

“I’m Charlie, by the way.”

“Charlie,” it whispered.

“Do you have any other friends? I have a few. They’re pretty cool. One of them has a Switch. Do you know what that is? You can play games on it. Like Mario. I like Mario Kart, but I’m not very good.”

The creature blinked.

Charlie laughed. “You’re weird. But that’s okay. My mom says I’m weird, too.”

Each day Charlie came, he noticed the creature seemed more human — like the empty sketch he’d seen before was starting to fill in. It even seemed to shrink down to Charlie’s own height.

“Do you have a name?” Charlie asked.

The creature shook its head.

“Hmm, well we need to give you a name. Everyone needs a name. And a good one, not like Charlie. Something unique. Something strong. Like … Thor!”

The creature blinked.

“Nah, you’re right. Too popular. Maybe, um, Wrex? Or Shadow? Oh oh oh, no wait, I’ve got it — what about Stone?”

The creature seemed to think for a moment, then nodded.

“Stone it is,” Charlie smiled.

Charlie kept visiting Stone every day, and every day Stone seemed to come more alive. A nose began to protrude from its face, curly brown locks from its head, even a belly button sunk into its abdomen. Charlie was fascinated, endlessly curious to see how Stone would look today.

“I like you. You have … good vibes.” Charlie was trying out this new word, vibes. He felt he’d nailed it.

“Do you have ‘good vibes?’” Stone asked.

“Me? Hmm. I don’t know.”

“I think you have ‘good vibes.’”

Charlie laughed. “So why do you live here anyway?”

“It’s my home.”

“Yeah, but like, are you dead? Are you like one of those ghosts that wanders the shores? One of my friends told me about those. There was this one guy, Bill, whose wife died, and he was so sad that he swam out into the sea and drowned himself. Now they say his ghost walks these shores at night. Is that you? Are you Bill?”

“No, I’m alive.”

“Well, that’s good. I don’t think anyone would believe me if I said I was friends with a ghost.”

“Your eye. What happened?”

“Oh, just these kids at school. They’re assholes.”


“Shh, don’t tell anyone I told you that, okay? 

Stone nodded.

“Look, just forget about it. I don’t want to talk about them.”


By the second week, the creature appeared identical to Charlie. It’d even started to take on some of his mannerisms — the sniffle of his nose in the cold, the squint of his eyes when he was thinking, the way he scratched at his cuticles when he was nervous. Charlie was flattered. He’d never seen himself as someone worth imitating.

“Can I see your home?” Stone asked.

“My home? Oh, you don’t want to see my home. It’s boring compared to your home here on the beach.”

“But at your home we can play Switch, right?”

“Ha, I wish. My parents won’t buy me a Switch. They say it kills brain cells.”

“But … you’ve got to see my home.” Stone said.

Charlie found this compelling. “Let me think about it, okay? My parents … I don’t know if they’d like you.”

The next day, Charlie decided he’d take Stone home with him. But as he was biking out from the schoolyard, he spotted Kevin in the distance with his gaggle of acne-riddled goons. Charlie squeezed his breaks and made a hard right, hoping they didn’t see him. But he heard Kevin’s scratchy voice shout after him. 

He pedaled faster, but it wasn’t long before the flock of bikes appeared over his shoulder in the distance. He pressed his tiny feet harder, pedaling madly even as his bike was rocked by the uneven ground that led up to the rocky shore. 

“Where ya goin’ you little shit?“ Kevin shouted after him.

The bike’s chassis shook violently over the stones, forcing Charlie to toss it aside and take off on foot. He sprinted down the shore toward Stone’s cave, winter wind stinging his lungs. Water splashed beneath him as he dashed over the rocks, forcing himself not to look back. 

He burst into the cavern and screamed, “Stone! Hide!”

But Stone didn’t move. Charlie pulled at its arm, begging it to duck behind the rocks together. But Stone merely shook its head. 

“Stone, please, those kids— ”

Charlie broke off as Kevin appeared at the mouth of the cave, Max and Fin following close behind.

“Well, well, well. You didn’t tell me you had a twin, Charlie. Now why would you go hiding a secret like that?”

Charlie shook his head, staggered back. “I don’t …”

“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Kevin jumped further into the cave.

“His name’s Stone,” Charlie said under his breath.

“Stone? Ha! What, was he named after a dog or something?”

Kevin stalked up to Stone, the two of them standing eye to eye.

“What are you looking at, huh?”

The cave was still for a moment, air stinging with tension. Charlie’s hands were shaking as he watched the two of them. Stone’s head tilted to the side, studying Kevin. Charlie noticed Stone wasn’t afraid at all. It seemed just as curious as it was the day they’d met.

“You think you’re tough or something?” Kevin jeered.

Stone’s hand lurched out and took Kevin by the throat, lifting him off the cave floor. Charlie gasped, stumbled backward. Max and Fin looked nervously at each other as Kevin choked, “Cut it out man.” 

“Asshole,” Stone said, lifting Kevin higher in the air.

“Stone! Stop it!” Charlie screamed.

Kevin scratched at Stone’s hands, but flesh peeled off to the empty shadow beneath that wrapped around his neck. Charlie watched, horrified, as Kevin’s eyes flared with fear, the veins bulging from his face. Max and Fin turned and ran.

Charlie rushed up to Stone, yanked at the arm that held Kevin up. “Put him down!” He screamed.

Stone looked to Charlie as Kevin writhed in its grip.


“Because … because we don’t kill people!” 

“Hmm.” Stone said. “Okay.”He let go, Kevin crashing to the rocks below. The cavern was filled with the echoes of his gasping breath as he crawled toward the cave’s entrance. They both watched as Kevin scrambled to his feet and took off down the shore, not looking back.

“Asshole,” Stone repeated, smiling to itself. 

Charlie looked to Stone, and as his breath began to ease, he found himself starting to laugh, a carnal release of tension accrued over years of torment. And as silence returned to the cave, only the gentle lapping of waves upon the rocks, Charlie realized that for the first time in his childhood, he finally had someone who was looking out for him.

Gray Winsler is the first ginger to be published in Birdy Magazine, Issue 091. He loved living in Denver despite his allergy to the sun and is now based in Ithaca, NY. He spends his mornings with his dog Indy by his side, writing as much as possible before his 9-to-5. If you’re curious about Normal, IL or why TacoBell is bomb, you can find more on his site.

Jason White is an artist living in the suburbs of Chicago. His favorite mediums are oil on canvas and pencil & ink drawings. When he was a kid he cried on the Bozo Show. His work varies from silly to serious and sometimes both. Check out more of his work on Instagram.

Check out Gray’s September install, Suburbia, and Jason’s, Extraterrestrial Picnic, or head to our Explore section to see more work by these two creatives.

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  1. Pingback: Discontinued by Gray Winsler | Art by Eric Joyner - BIRDY MAGAZINE

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