The girl consumed by her shadow laid upon the matted yellow grass, near the spot where the plain-clad man had seen her change. ‘There is no way, then’, the leopard thought, ‘to be all parts of myself and not be alone.’
When she changed, her plea for him not to touch her changed as well. Instead of the soft back-step of the soft-skinned girl, it was a yelp of fear from deep inside, as her fur covered her all at once. What might have been a greeting was a snarl, and the possibility of deciphering the touch was shed as soon as the hairs along her back erected against her will. In panic, she had driven him off.
When her shadow finally slipped away, it fell from her heavily, like lead woven into the configuration of gossamer. When it slumped onto the grass below her, the sun had just started to dip into the horizon. The girl sighed heavily; relieved and yet alone.
. . .
The girl with the encompassing shadow set off again soon after her encounter. She briefly considered tracking the man, but as she neither desired the contact nor felt terribly comfortable staying nearby when she had scared him off, she picked her way quietly through the low plants which blanketed the world before the foothills. Every step she took was cushioned by a springy mat of intertwined grasses and thick stems, partially rebounding behind her as she made a light mark in the expanse. She held her arms to either side and they brushed the seed-rich ends of the tall plants. As she continued along, they got higher and higher over her arms, until she couldn’t reach the tops of most of the stalks, and she had to push them aside in dense locks, the stems rolling and sliding among each other, spilling like water back into place behind her.
Some of them stung her soft arms. The first one which nipped her suffered a rude retort, as she flicked her claws out of her hand and slashed at it savagely. Over time, though, she learned to ignore them. At times, she thought she heard people around her. When she walked in her leopard’s skin she knew where they stood and knew she could come on them before they knew she approached. But none of them interested her enough to risk being swallowed in front of. “If I am to deal with any more people of soft skin,” she said softly, “they should know their shadows. At least, they should be more like myself and the man shrouded in smoke than like the plain clad man with the imploring grasp”. ‘Be very careful,’ she thought then, only for herself, ‘and perhaps no more will find you.’