Marlon was lost, had been lost for a while now. Sometimes, he was there in the cage, feeling his body slowly draining away, too exhausted to move, too exhausted to do much of anything. Other times, he was out of the cage, with Shadow, who for the last week, had been tormenting Marlon’s shade almost non-stop. Shadow didn’t seem to need sleep, or food, or water. Marlon, on the other hand–or at least, the part of Marlon in the cage, didn’t seem to require them any more either, but didn’t stop feeling hunger or thirst. When he managed to find a voice, he would occasionally call out, begging for sustenance, but Shadow and the shade saw no reason to engage. It ought to be wasting away, after all. It wasn’t going to be important, from now on.
The shade had been flat, at first. Marlon hadn’t quite understood how Shadow could grip something flat, but he could. His manacles could bind it, his whips and floggers could strike it, his needles could pierce it. There was never any mark on the shade from any of this, no matter how hard it was struck, no matter what sadistic torture it was given. There was no mark on Marlon’s body either, in the cage, but he still felt every strike as though it had been against his own flesh and bone under Shadow’s implements.
The hunger and thirst made him delusional, or at least, he thought they were delusions, at first. Visions that he was outside of the cage, looking down on himself, but without control of his body. It took a few of these before he realized he was literally looking down at himself, through the eyes of the shade. It seemed to happen when Shadow fucked the shade, or fed him a load. Often the shade would have an orgasm of its own, and Marlon’s vision would slip for a moment, looking at his own body. It was pale, flat, sagging. It seemed less like a body, and more like a costume that someone had left crumpled up on the floor. Then he would be back, shuddering, the torture would begin again, and he would return to screaming.
He didn’t understand why he wasn’t dead. Perhaps he was dead. Perhaps he was dying. He asked Shadow, asked him why he was doing this, why he wasn’t dying. There was no sense of time down in the windowless room, just that constant red light. Shadow never replied, of course. The question didn’t particularly interest him. After all, Pigtown had never killed anyone, to his knowledge. Pigtown didn’t want to kill you, it wanted to use you. The men of Pigtown wanted to use you too. Use, or be used. Take, or be taken.
At some point, Marlon’s voice was taken from him. It took a few minutes, or hours, before he realized that the moans and screams he was hearing were no longer coming from his own mouth–they were coming from the shade. They were different as well. No longer were they full of terror–they sounded pleased. Delighted, almost. His voice croaked out, asking for more, “More, Master, more…” and he clawed at the bars of the cage, furious at his own shadow’s betrayal. He’d been his, after all, all his life. And now, he was taking everything from him. He tried to scream, tried to shout, but nothing–not even a whisper would leave his lips. It was one of the few times Shadow even acknowledged that he was still there, the shaded face turning to the cage, a slight smile across those bearded lips, and then he turned to the shade. “More of what, my little puppet?”
“Everything, all of it,” the shade said. Even worse, Marlon felt his own mouth move with the words, though no sound came from him.
Marlon found himself slipping back and forth, between his dwindling existence in the cage, and the painful pleasure outside of it, under Shadow’s controlling hands. He could feel the shade’s voice growing, not just when speaking, but in his own mind, too. How much it hated him. Hated that body in the cage, how it had been tethered to him for so long. Marlon found himself growing more and more sympathetic. The pain on the cross, or over the bench, or whatever else Shadow did to him was nothing compared to the aching hunger and thirst and weakness when he slipped back into the cage. He was miserable. He was a miserable little fleshy thing. Better for it to wither away, better for it to disappear. Eventually, he did–mostly. The shade overwhelmed him, took on color, took on space, took on form and feature. The shade became Marlon, and whatever it was that was in the cage continued to wither, until there was nothing really left at all, not after Shadow shared it with his new puppet.
To an acquaintance, the shade would have been easily mistaken for Marlon, as he had been. There were only a few differences, the most obvious of which was that he lacked a shadow. After all, he was the shadow, where Marlon had put all of his degeneracy, all of his fear, all of his weakness. But the shade had taken all of the substance from him, locked what little remained of Marlon away deep in his own mind, not that he planned on using any of it. It would take the name though–the shade had always liked the name. He had always hated the man it had been tethered to–most shadows resented their living hosts. Of course, the shade was indebted to Shadow, and more than happy to service him. But now, Shadow turned his attention to the two pitch black cocoons which were still quivering, where they were suspended from the ceiling.
He formed a knife from the darkness of the room, sliced one of them open, and what fell out was…something else. A shade, certainly. The shade of one of the officers, but only half-formed. Shadow had devoured quite a bit of them both, weakened them enough that their shades could overtake them, suck what substance remained from them, but there wasn’t enough.
“Are…are they alright?” Marlon asked.
“They will be, we just need to give them some more to eat, is all,” Shadow said, gave a little flourish with his hand, and gathered some of the shadows in the room around Marlon’s naked body. It condensed against his skin, becoming a set of leather gear, pitch black aside from the metal buckles that seemed to hold the light shone on them. “Why don’t we go out tonight? I have some social calls to make, but we can get these two fed first.”
The shade cradled one of the little shadows in his arms, could feel it beginning to understand itself. There was pale body mixed in with it too, somehow. Whatever it was, he could tell that it would be different from what he’d become. Shadow picked up the other shade, pulled the shadows of the room together and Marlon followed him through the darkness.
What the old Marlon had only understood, before, as a void, the shade understood as a tapestry. There were all kinds of darkness there, stretching in all different directions. Follow a strand, and you could go, well, anywhere. Shadow led them out of the darkness and into an alley not far from where he had found Marlon and Jimmy that night a few weeks before. It was night, but not that late. Shadow dimmed the lights, and the two of them waited.
It wasn’t long before the darkness of the alley lured a couple of Pigtown’s residents into the alley for a little fuck before heading off to the next bar. What they didn’t expect, was for the two shades to bolt and scurry out of the darkness, crawl their way up their bodies, and latch themselves onto their heads, the two men screaming and prying at the darkness, trying to rip it from them, until they stopped moving.
“They’ll probably just remember it as a nightmare, is all,” Shadow said to Marlon as they watched. “They’re not strong enough to take everything yet, like you or I could.”
“Like…I could?” Marlon asked.
Shadow nodded. “I may call you my puppet, but it’s merely a term of endearment. You can do anything I can do–I’m just as much a shade as you are. After this, they’ll be strong enough to make it on their own if they keep to the darkness. I had so many of them for a while, but I can’t feel them at all, not since I escaped.”
Shadow didn’t say. He just started off towards the mouth of the alley, and down the sidewalk, Marlon hustling a bit to catch up. Apparently, his questions would have to wait.