Shadow meets the other himself in Iceland, in the streets of Reykjavik. He doesn't know who the other person is, but at the same time he knows, he feels it. He can sense when another god is near, now, because it's all goosebumps and skin tingling and blood rushing and something as old as the pale sun above his head.
When they shake hands, the other god – the other himself – burns like the sun. Pale or not: he burns.
And Shadow burns, too. It doesn't hurt but, still, it's not pleasant. He pulls his hand away from the handshake, in order to make the energy flow stop; the burning sensation lingers anyway. On his skin, in his muscles, inside his chest, and deep down into his very core.
«How does it feel?» asks the other himself, politely, in a language which is neither English nor modern Icelandic.
«Bad,» replies Shadow, in the same language. «Will it go away?»
«No, it won't. Because it has always been inside of you. It's part of you like I'm part of you.»
«Are you me?»
«No, I'm not,» replies the other god, all fair skin and hair so blond it's almost white – like the pale sun. «But you are me.»
Shadow feels itchy. He scratches his arm, but it's to no avail. It's like trying to scratch a ray of sunshine.
«You'll get used to it, don't worry. The sooner you accept your power, the sooner it will turn from an unpleasant sensation to a quite nice one. Where, of course, 'quite nice' is an understatement. If you get what I mean.»
«No, I don't,» says Shadow. «I just want to be myself. I just want it to go away.»
«I'm sorry, but it won't happen. It can't happen,» explains the other himself. His faded smile is nice, but his words are firm like his confident tone. Shadow can't believe they're the same person. He's never been so calm: he's always fidgeting, looking uncomfortable in his own skin, trying to drown any unrequited feelings under tons of reassuring numbness.
He's about to reply when he catches a glimpse of something with the corner of his eye, and he turns around to check what it is: it's nothing. When he turns around again the other god is gone.
«There can't be shadow without sunshine,» a faraway voice – which resembles the washed-out god's one – says in his head, like an echo of something as ancient as the soil he's walking on. It's unsettling.
Shadow burns and burns and burns until the sunset. It's July, and in July, in Iceland, you get only three or four hours of semi-darkness. He looks for the moon in the dim sky: it's there, but it's paler than the night sun.
He bathes in its faint and fleeting light and he feels better. However, it lasts a few hours only: until the early sunrise.
He knows that he's bound to let the sunshine in, to acknowledge and accept his past – and, with this, his destiny and his future. It's unavoidable. And, as the sun rises, Shadow wishes he were the moon.