Shadow people (not the movie)

Shadow people move around by pretending to be someone's shadow. They fix themselves to the soles of your feet. If you already have a shadow they will overlay it. They carefully copy your every movement.

In fact they are not people at all but they are creatures. They are only a few millimetres thick and, of course, dark in colour although they can change colour somewhat to allow for local conditions.

Usually they manage to move around undetected in a human world but when detected humans detest them and try to stamp them out.

The population is small when compared with humans - they can transfer from one person to another in order to get to where they want. Over thousands of years they have evolved to become better and better at emulating real shadows. This is not surprising given the immense selective pressure against them.


Shadow people tend to live in areas where normally there are clearly defined and predictable shadows.

Given that they have to eat several times a day, how can we explain their survival during long periods of cloudy weather when real shadows are ill-defined or non-existent?


Despite their origins as scavengers around human encampments, they have evolved to eat by enveloping waste food scraps particularly around fast-food outlets. They are now town and city dwellers.

They can't change their mass but they can extend themselves (rather like an amoeba does) and become thicker within reason - say when shadowing a small person or animal. They could in an emergency fold themselves but not hold that position for long. They can support themselves on upright surfaces if that is where the shadow would be.

They are considered unlucky and, in any case, it is pretty creepy to have a creature literally shadowing you.

While they eat scraps, they defecate black slime - usually under furniture - so this makes them very unpopular, even for those who aren't superstitious.


The most effective way to kill them is to throw petrol on them and set them alight. Of course you have to be careful where you do this. It's not recommended in a city! They are pretty immune to simple stamping with feet as you might expect. If hit with a sizeable hammer you will destroy where you hit but they can flow back to fill in the hole. They can be cut in pieces but each piece tends to grow into a new one. They are difficult to trap because they can slide up walls however at least part of them has to be touching the ground.

Please ask for other clarifications.

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    $\begingroup$ "Selective pressures against them" I wonder how evolution would select a thing who's survival depends on being very near the other thing that wants badly to "stamp them out." $\endgroup$ – BMF Aug 23 '20 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @BMF Additionally, I don't see the downside to these creatures. Eating waste food scraps? sign me up! my desk area will be cleaner than ever! $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Aug 24 '20 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @BMF - rats manage to live very close to us in big cities as do cockroaches. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 24 '20 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ @IT Alex - Yes but they have to defecate as much as they eat - black slime! Also it's very creepy being followed by one and they are seen as bad luck. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 24 '20 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ @IT Alex - Extermination added to assumptions. Also downsides. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 24 '20 at 15:26

Humans have been soooo accommodating!

The only time of day or time of the year the Shadow People1 find more joyous, more exciting than a cloudy day is nighttime. Shadow People may have evolved as human parasites, but they certainly needn't be bound to them! At night they can roam free, anywhere they want to! There is no more amazing, more affirming time than to watch the Shadow People dance under a new moon!

But cloudy days are trickier! Obviously, the darker the day, the better for the Shadow People. You see, the perception of shadows by the human eye make them darker in full daylight due to how we react to that brightness. In other words, our eyes see the shadows as darker than they really are because the rods & cones are a bit overwhelmed, reducing our low-light abilities.

The Shadow People take full advantage of this! But it's certainly true that the hazier the day at noon, the harder it is to stay undetected. So what do they do?

They find shrubberies, of course!

Humans have done wonders for increasing the natural habitat of the Shadow People by planting square hectares of low-growing but very dense shrubberies. It's dark as pitch under those things no matter what the conditions of the day. And the icing on the cake is that those amazing humans surround everything with them! Their stores! Their houses! Their parks! Everything! And for reasons the Shadow People have never understood, humans prefer to discard their half-eaten food in their shrubberies rather than in the round cans on every street!

So, if you think about it, the Shadow People haven't really been dependent on human shadows for a long time.

1Not to be confused with the Vashta Nerada, their evil human-eating cousins.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, that sounds good. Of course in cities there are usually lights at night so the shadow people can sneak around then as well. But I like the shrubbery idea. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 22 '20 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @chasly-reinstateMonica Do the Shadow People require the light? Shadows are simply regions with less light. Ignoring food, would a Shadow Person find the darkness of a deep cave uncomfortable? I admit that I answered on the assumption that less light is better. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 22 '20 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ Cities have only had lights at night for a very brief period of history. Outside lighting started with gas lighting. $\endgroup$ – Mary Aug 23 '20 at 15:46

It would come down to a matter of size and shape: can the shadow people alter their form? I presume so, if they're able to match and mimic different people's shadows, so how small or large they can make themselves is a matter of some importance.
There are always shadows, it's just a matter of where and how they appear. In art (You'll see it in 3-d modelling, especially) the concept of 'ambient occlusion' is often used to help give extra depth and dimension to a piece. Ambient occlusion is essentially an agnostic shadow, or the areas of a surface that will be darker than other areas independent of light sources. You can find a clear example of it if you simply press your fingers together and observe the black line that forms in the crease. If the shadow people are able to shrink or compress themselves down in size, then they would be able to fit into all sorts of nooks and crannies during times without direct lighting. Even if they have a fixed mass, they should be able to work themselves under people's shoes, almost like the circular drop shadows that are sometimes used in video games (the ones that always appear directly under your character even when airborne).
They could also 'stick' to objects, as a deep enough shadow would be created when two objects come in direct contact with one another, and use this to attempt to transport themselves somewhere with more Accomodating lighting. They could also exist in an extremely spread out state on a cloudy day, as everything is both partly in and out of shadow when the light is so diffuse. Possibly losing what semblance of intelligence or sentience they have during this time, being forced to wait it out until they can regain their mobility: almost like a hibernative period that would allow them to survive the leaner times, but rob them of their consciousness.

  • $\begingroup$ They can't change their mass but they can extend themselves (rather like an amoeba does) and become thicker within reason - say when shadowing a small person or animal. They could in an emergency fold themselves but not hold that position for long. They can support themselves on upright surfaces if that is where the shadow would be. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 23 '20 at 10:56


The solution for long periods of cloud-cover is to avoid locations where there are long periods of cloud-cover.

Actual deserts may not be required if there are places with definite dry and rainy seasons, and it is always practical to migrate between them in a timely manner to avoid all regions during the periods with extensive cloud cover, but deserts are best.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. The problem is what would they eat in a desert? Note - as I said they have evolved to live around fast-food outlets. That really implies a city or at least a town. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 22 '20 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ As long as there have been fast food outlets there have been fast food outlets in various deserts. $\endgroup$ – Mary Aug 22 '20 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean oases? $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 22 '20 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Err -- you did state "fast-food outlets" -- if we are going back to periods before them they would have work with scavenging the remains after humans and animals hunt for protein. $\endgroup$ – Mary Aug 22 '20 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ Actually it is quite possible that they originally followed nomadic peoples around, including in deserts. However over the centuries they have adapted to city life (like urban foxes) to such an extent that I don't think they could go back to their old lifestyle. I've added some info to clarify. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Aug 22 '20 at 19:02

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