a beggar, sitting in the shade of a bridge, watched a traveler approach.
the traveler’s shadow fell on the bridge.
o traveler, cried the beggar, give me what i want.
the traveler, not breaking stride as he crossed the bridge, laughed.
but i do not know what you want, the traveler replied, not glancing down at the beggar.
i want whatever you have, cried the beggar - a bird, a bag of gold, a book with pretty colored pictures, your soul, your memories, a letter to the emperor testifying to my unique worth, a mythical beast, immortal life - anything.
i have a shadow, said the traveler, laughing, you can have that.
and the traveler’s shadow stayed behind on the bridge for a few seconds after the traveler had crossed it.
the beggar reached for the shadow but the sun went down and the shadow vanished.
the beggar continued to sit beside the bridge for many years, calling to the travelers who crossed it to give him what he wanted, to give him anything they had.