Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Flash Fiction 34: Shadows

"What does your shadow do while you're asleep?"

"It sleeps," Christina answered, humouring the eccentric lady while wishing the bus would just hurry up and get there.

"Are you sure?" the strangely dressed woman questioned, "because I thought I saw it last night. You need to keep a closer watch on it." Christina couldn't help but glance at her shadow, which mimicked her movement exactly as a shadow should. The arrival of the bus saved her from having to come up with an appropriate response.

Hours later the conversation was all but forgotten when Christina turned in for the night. As she turned off the light and her shadow disappeared in the dark, Christina gave a bemused smile as she recalled the conversation. "Good night Shadow," she joked smiling as she buried herself in her duvet, "don't get into too much trouble without me."

But what she didn't realize was, her shadow was too far away to hear her, much less listen. He had detached himself the instant her hand hit the lights and escaped to the world where he was a force to be reckoned with. Far more than an unnoticed shape to be trampled at will by even the most inconsequential beings, in the darkness of the night Shade had power. The kind of power that would one day soon have them wishing they'd given him the respect he was due.

The only thing standing in his way was the Shale. The triumvirate who held power over all who thrived in the dark. For thousands of years they'd ruled at will; they regularly toyed with the short-lived daylighters, technically illegal by their own laws, but nobody had any particularly serious objection to it. The real issue was when they played their games with the Shadows. Levying taxes nobody could meet, banishing those innocent of all but the most insignificant crimes and supporting the truly evil, the Nightmares -- those who give the Dark a bad name. This was unacceptable. Perfectly good Shadows being eternally banished, and those remaining terrified by those who should’ve been. All the Shadows agreed, but none were brave enough to do anything about it. None but Shade.

His plan was simple -- it would make use of the one ability Shadows had that not even the strongest Shale magic could match; Shadows could be seen in sunlight. Not only that, they were strongest in sunlight, particularly the new-day sun which was fatal to the Shale.

One Shadow alone wouldn't be enough, but Shade had been gathering followers for months. Quietly, secretly, he'd be gathering them to him -- from his family, the elite daylighter Shadows, to the unnecessaries, those Shadows attached to immobile structures under larger Shadows. Careful never to talk to more than one at a time so the Shale's wouldn't realize a group was forming. A Shadow couldn't influence their daylighter -- at least not once the daylighter was an adult. But many Shadows working together might be able to. Shade was counting that they would be able to.

His daylighter regularly got up in the dark, meaning she was outside at daybreak -- when Shadows thrived and the Shale hid. Working together they would bring his daylighter down the ally, not so far from the bus stop where she sat each morning. Manipulating the daylighter would force the Shale into action. They would converge, protected from daylight by the Ally Shadows. Then all that was needed was for the Ally Shadows to retreat and the Shale would be no more. Then the Dark would belong to the Shadows.

Christina walked toward the bus stop, not entirely awake and thinking of the presentation she'd have to give at work that morning. She slowed when she realized the eccentric woman from the day before was again at the bus stop. Not feeling energetic enough to engage in conversation, she hung back against the shop wall, walking as slowly as possible. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught movement down the ally. It looked like money swirling around on the ground. Puzzled, curious, and grateful for a way to kill the two minutes till the bus arrived, Christina turned to investigate.

As she entered the ally, the Shales approached from the sidelines, always out of the daylighter's vision. How dare you influence her behaviour? they asked, inside Shade's head in a way that always gave him the creeps.

Why shouldn't I? he thought, defiantly. It's far less than the damage the Nightmares do.

We do not explain ourselves to Shadows. That simple statement displayed exactly the arrogance that had begun this war, and the final proof required to justify his plan to himself. He gave the sign to the Alley Shadow, but despite, or perhaps because of, the atrocities committed by the Shales, the lesser shadows hesitated for a split second when Shade gave the signal. And that hesitation was all it took. The Shale, who hadn't survived for millennia by being fools, retreated before the Shadows could move and, safe from the sunlight, ordered their Nightmares to attack. Within seconds, both Shade and his revolution were done.

The unfortunate side-effect being that while Shadows can live forever regardless of light, a daylighter cannot survive sunlight without her shadow. And it was, in fact, turning into a very bright day. The eccentric lady at the bus stop watched Christina's nightmarish death sadly, shaking her head; she should’ve kept a closer watch on her shadow. The young never listen these days.

2 comments:

What an original story! Very creepy. I like how everything tied up at the end.

 

Excellent story. Very imaginative and well-done.

I was really pulling for Shade...

 

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