Researchers in Boulder made a startling discovery last week. “Shadows,” the oddly shaped patches of darkness commonly seen near people and buildings, possess a rudimentary form of vision and tend to follow people around. “This is absolutely groundbreaking,” said lead scientist Raphael Mechoulam, “We finally have proof of something that people have suspected for millennia.”
It is unclear what shadows seek to gain by clinging to humans, though Mechoulam speculated that they might be extremely photosensitive. “When we were trying to isolate the shadows,” he said, “we found that they had a strong aversion to light, and would cower behind the nearest available object in order to avoid it. It’s really amazing, actually, how superb they are at evading light. Measurements indicate that not only do they hide at an angle precisely opposite to the light source — indicating advanced innate trigonometric skills — but they also have some kind of natural shielding that further diminishes the amount of radiant energy hitting their surface.”
Other labs are already contesting Mechoulam’s claims. A team led by Berkeley’s Albert Hofmann claim that shadows are, in fact, the absence of light. Said Hofmann, “We isolated light back in ‘89, and it turns out to be composed of small, flying, phosphorescent fungi. These fungi are motile and have a highly developed eusocial structure, forming hives in energy sources such as light bulbs and stars. Some subspecies of light breed at regular intervals, while others are reproducing more or less continuously. Regardless of type, newborn lightlings stream out of the hive in large swarms, seeking a home in which to pupate.”
The lightlings, Hofmann explained, sample possible nesting areas by touch, and appear to have “an unknown criterion” for deciding where to settle. “They often fly from place to place for a while before sticking somewhere,” he said. However, they also have a very regular flight pattern, Hofmann explained, and this can prevent them from reaching certain areas, or ‘shadows.’ “If something stands directly in their path,” he said, “usually they’ll all get stuck to the surface of the protruding object. They don’t seem to want to fly around things very much.” The pupal stage can last anywhere from minutes to eons, and, if successful, will end in a reproductive frenzy that forms another hive.
Mechoulam seemed unperturbed by the competing theory. “It’s still possible that the Berkeley team is correct,” Mechoulam said, “and that we are right too. I suspect that if Hofmann’s light creatures do exist, they are the natural predators of shadows. When a spotlight is directed toward a shadow, it dims or disappears. Thus, it would not be surprising that shadows try to hide in places that light swarms are physically incapable of reaching.” On a lighter note, Mechoulam pointed out that shadows make very easygoing, low-maintenance pets. “I would definitely recommend shadows to college students,” he said, “all they need to live in is a sturdy, closed box. Shadow organisms are not well understood yet, but they seem to form their own ecosystem when confined and do not need to be fed.”