Chapter 8 – Pigtown’s Shadow
Both Marlon and Jimmy had been reluctant when Kyle had suggested going out to a club that night. It wasn’t that they were bothered by the idea of going out, or drinking underage, it was that in their opinion, gay clubs were passé. Who went out to a club anymore? It seemed like such an anachronism. If you wanted to meet a guy, you got on tinder. If you wanted to get a drink or party, there were way more exciting places to do it than with a bunch of gay guys. But with enough badgering they relented, climbed into Jimmy’s car, and headed downtown to Depot.
But now, Jimmy and Marlon were converts. The sheer energy and vitality in the room was unlike anything they’d felt before, and by far, the strangest and most thrilling part was that in Depot they were normal. Growing up in the wealthy suburbs, going to wealthy schools, they were all part of the same upper class as the rest of their peers, and for the most part, the homophobia they’d faced was minimal in the liberal culture. But while they weren’t hated, they weren’t normal, either. They’d never really thought about all the ways they were constantly pressured to conform and tone themselves down, so that the people around them–the straight people–didn’t have reasons to be afraid of them. To hate them.
But here, they weren’t just normal, if anything, they were boring. The makeup, the bodies, the sex, all of it. The energy was infectious, and by the time last call came around, the two of them were amazed to discover that hours had passed and felt like no time at all. That, and Kyle was nowhere to be found. They checked their phone and found his message saying he’d gone home already, and they chuckled at that. The guy who had been so eager to come out had left early, and here they were, still having fun.
In an effort to be responsible, Jimmy hadn’t had a drink since that first one, but Marlon had gone back to the bar for a few more as the night progressed. He wasn’t falling over wasted, but he was more than a bit drunk, enough that as they walked down the sidewalk towards where they’d parked the car, he was leaning on Jimmy for some support. It was cute, Jimmy thought. Looking around, the streets were emptier than he’d ever seen, and it was a little unnerving. As they got closer to the car, he also had the distinct sensation that something was watching them.
He paused, and Marlon almost fell over. “What’s up?”
Jimmy looked behind them, but there was no one there that he could see–but oddly enough, from the corner they’d come around, to a couple of yards away, all of the street lights had gone out. And not just the streetlights–every light on the street. About twenty yards away, everything just went completely black, which shouldn’t even be possible. There was still light around, after all–but it was like something was just absorbing all of it. As he stared into it, trying to look and see what might be in there, another street light flickered and went out, leaving just two between them and the void.
“Come on Jimmy, what’s up?”
“Doesn’t that seem strange to you?” he said, pointing into the darkness. “Those were all lit up a second ago.”
“Everything around here is falling apart man, it’s not that strange,” Marlon said. He tried to stand up on his own, but ended up stumbling over and leaning against the side of the building.
“Hello there, boys, how’s the night?” The voice came from the doorway not far from where Marlon was leaning. The space was dark, the same kind of shadowdark as the street they’d come from. A man in full black leather stepped out onto the sidewalk, the only bit of skin visible was the lower part of his face, and even that was obscured by a thick black beard. The band of his muir cap was pulled low, so his eyes were impossible to see. “You aren’t going home yet, are you? You know the night’s just getting started around here.”
“Actually, we are heading home, thanks,” Jimmy said, pulled Marlon over to him, and they kept walking down the street. As they passed under each street light ahead of them, it would flicker, and then go out as they crossed to the next. He looked behind them, but the man had slipped back into the darkness and was impossible to see. They were almost to the car, which was on the next block, and at least the guy seemed to be alone. But then, the light ahead of them flickered and went out leaving an empty hole in front of them. Jimmy pulled up short, but Marlon, whose head had been watching the sidewalk for cracks, stumbled on into the dark, and just…disappeared.
Jimmy just waited, expecting him to come back out, but there was nothing. Not even the sound of his footsteps, or of him breathing. He stepped closer to the edge of the light, when he heard something behind him. Boots on pavement. The stranger stepped out of the shadow again, right on the edge of the light. “Where’s your friend, boy? Wasn’t he just here?”
“Dude, get the fuck away from me, alright?”
“He just stumbled into the darkness, didn’t he? He can’t be that far away. Go on, just take a little step–you aren’t afraid of the dark, are you?”
The man stepped closer, looming over him, the dark behind him, the man before him. He edged his foot back, but he couldn’t…feel the sidewalk there, in the dark. He felt like he was being pushed to the edge of a pit.
It was Marlon’s voice, but it seemed so far away. “Jimmy, where are you?” he replied.
“Right here Jimmy, I’m at the car. Come on, Jimmy, let’s go home, you have the keys.”
Another moment, and maybe he would have stepped back, and found out what was in the dark. But instead, a bright beam of light cut through the dark behind the man, and he winced, visibly, as though the light had hurt him.
“Fuck, is it another one of Shadow’s puppets? I thought we’d gotten them all!” someone shouted.
“He has someone cornered!”
The man in the leather, glowered. “A pity,” he said, straightened his coat, stepped past Jimmy into the dark, and like a switch, all of the lights came back on up and down the street. He blinked, and saw a couple of men running towards him with flashlights, and coming closer, he saw they were police officers. “Fuck, it’s just a kid,” one of them said.
Jimmy looked around for Marlon, but he wasn’t on the sidewalk. Looking further up, to the car, he wasn’t there either, that he could see. “M-Marlon?” he called out. “Marlon!”
“Hey, hey!” one of the officers grabbed him by the arm, and shone the light in his eyes. “What the fuck are you doing out here this time of night, kid?”
“I…My boyfriend and I, we were just going home!”
“What the fuck are you doing out here? God fucking damn it!”
“Give him a break Williams,” the other officer said, and pulled the other off him. Something seemed off about the two of them, somehow–they weren’t quite…right. They didn’t quite seem to have the build he would have expected from the police officers out in the suburbs. Their beards were longer and unkempt, their uniforms dirty and wrinkled. “Did you say your boyfriend?” the officer asked.
“Yeah, he…he stepped into the dark, and…and now I don’t know where he is.”
“Into the dark?” the officer said, “What do you mean ‘into’?”
“It was the shadows, I don’t know. The guy wanted me to go in too, but then you showed up.”
“I didn’t think any of his puppets could do that,” the other officer said, looking around.
“What’s your name, kid?” the nicer officer asked.
“Alright Jimmy, I need you to listen to me,” he said, and locked eyes with him. A sense of calm washed over him, and the only thing that was keeping him standing was the officer’s firm hand on his shoulder. “Is that your car over there, kid?”
“You’re going to walk straight there, Jimmy. You’re going to get in, and drive home. What’s your boyfriend’s name?”
“You let us take care of Marlon. You don’t need to worry about him. You don’t need to think about him for a while, or wonder where he is. The most important thing for you to do now, is to go home, and don’t come back here, for Christ’s sake kid. Stay the fuck out of Pigtown if you know what’s best for you.”
Jimmy nodded, the officer looked away, and gave him a little push towards his car. Jimmy did as the officer said, went right to his car–half expecting that Marlon might be inside waiting for him, but he wasn’t. He drove himself home, and found himself staring at every shadow he passed, but they were all empty ,and normal. Not like that strange, deep darkness. Still, he kept a lamp on next to his bed all night long, not that he slept much. He might not have been afraid of the dark before–but he was now.
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