“What do you want pig? You want more smoke?”
The man on his knees in front of Kyle gave a little whimper, but the size of his hard on, and the hunger in his eyes showed that his hesitancy was no longer as powerful as his newfound lust. Kyle took a long drag off the jumbo pipe he was smoking tonight at The Hideaway, wrapped one leather glove around the man’s chin, and fed him the smoke. He snorted it down, his already substantial waistline filling out even further, eyes glazed over with lust, and Kyle pulled out his cock, shoved the man’s face onto it, and he started sucking, only to be surprised when even more smoke filled his mouth. Kyle heaved a sigh and shuddered, leaning over against Marshall, who was watching his apprentice work the man over in the bar, where a small crowd of regulars had gathered to watch.
It had been clear that he was freshmeat. Enough time spent in Pigtown, and you began to smell the scent when they walked past. Everyone described it a bit different. Some compared it to a steak coming hot off the barbeque. Others said it reminded them of the smell of good whiskey rising up out of a glass. Each person had their own take on it. To Kyle, it was like his mother’s fresh cobbler, fresh out of the oven, too hot to touch, and yet it called to you all the same, no matter how much you wanted to deny it. Everyone knew, and everyone wanted you. Pigtown wanted you, and they were all Pigtown. Of course, not everyone could have you, it wasn’t a free-for-all. The freshmeat had to want you first. It made it worse, somehow, when you could smell it, and somehow know it wasn’t for you. Tonight, though, the older fellow had wanted Kyle, and Kyle had wanted a smokepig, and so here they were.
Kyle had thought he’d miss his old life. Thought he’d miss going to college, thought he’d miss his old friends, thought he’d miss his family. Pigtown, though, didn’t give him any space to miss things, every moment was taken up with some little hedonistic delight now, a constant drip feed of pleasure, so he no longer needed to consider what he might be missing. Even his work in the shop was becoming more pleasurable, now that the regulars were involving him in their conversations, since he was one of them as well. Outside the shop, though, he could sense that a number of people feared Marshall, and feared him in turn.
He asked him about this, one morning as they were eating breakfast. Marshall had seemed hesitant to say something at first, but eventually had told him that even among the men in Pigtown, they were different. “You’re not like the people outside of Pigtown anymore, but you know that. We also aren’t like the men inside Pigtown either. No one really knows what to call us. At the precinct, they call us aberrations. I’m not a fan of the term, but you should know what it means, if someone says it to you. We aren’t quite human anymore, not in the ways that humans would say matter. We need different things than humans do, too. I, of course, still think of myself as human, for the most part.” He took a long draw off his second cigar of the morning to make the point, then continued, “But we’re still men. Now, there are some like us who I would say aren’t even men anymore, either. I would hesitate to say that they are dangerous. Pigtown is dangerous, but nothing here will kill you. It will change you, render you into something unrecognizable, but it won’t kill you.” It was more or less an answer. It wasn’t until he met Shadow for the first time that evening, that the boundaries Marshall had outlined became wholly clear.
It happened like this:
The light in the room changed, everything seemed to glow a bit brighter as all the light left one corner of the Hideaway, and when the darkness receded, there were two men in full leathers standing beside a small round table, and the men in the bar fled that corner just as the light had moments before. A number of men shot up from where they were sitting or leaning and booked it out of the bar, a few others sat up a little straighter, clearly ready for something, and the bartender poured a couple of whiskey sodas, and sent them to the table, free of charge. Kyle was left looking at Marshall for cues on what to expect, but his Master held the same laid back confidence as always, though perhaps the smoke inside him had quickened, ever so slightly.
“Leave the pig for a bit. We should go pay our respects, and you ought to be introduced,” Marshall said.
“Who…is that?” Kyle asked, “Is that…Shadow? The guy that took Marlon?”
“That is Shadow, yes. I would be very careful with the words you use, though. How is Shadow ‘taking’ Marlon any different than what you’re doing to this poor soul right here?” The sarcasm was exaggerated, but the point stung regardless. Kyle nodded, and followed Marshall over to the dark corner, where Shadow gave Marshall a nod as he approached.
“Marshall, it’s been a while. How’s the shop?”
“Business has been booming around here since you went away for a while,” Marshall said. Shadow stood, the two of them embraced, and then Shadow sat back down. “I heard you were in the jail.”
“Yes, I was.”
“And…you escaped. From what Rumwell is always spouting off, I’d have thought the Warden had the place locked down tighter than that.”
Shadow let a little smirk cross his mouth, the only part that Kyle could see beneath the brim of his cap. “Well, I’m sure he will attempt to return me there as soon as possible, in any case. Now, who is this strapping young man with you? Last I recall, you were rather reluctant to spread your gift, Marshall.”
“I like to think I was waiting for someone worthy of it,” Marshall said, and Kyle couldn’t help but swell with a bit of pride. “I see we have a new shade among us as well.”
“Marlon,” the other leather clad figure said, extending a hand, and Kyle gave a little jump.
“Wait, Marlon? Really?” Kyle said, leaning in close and trying to get a good look at Marlon’s face, but his eyes couldn’t pierce the shadow that seemed to fall across his eyes perpetually, “You…You’re ok then? Jimmy’s been worried sick about you, since you disappeared.”
Shadow stood up, placed himself between them, and pushed Kyle backwards, knocking him slightly off balance. “It’s very rude to look under a shade’s brim, you know. It’s very private.”
“I…He’s my friend. He went missing.”
“I don’t…wait, I do know you, don’t I?” Marlon said, leaned over and laid one hand on Kyle’s shadow. He could…feel it, somehow, and he shuddered. “Ah, of course. I didn’t recognize you from up here. Kyle, right?”
“You don’t remember me?”
“I was Marlon’s shadow, Kyle. I remember, and know, different parts of you than he would have. The Marlon you knew is gone. I took his name; it was one of the few things about him I liked.”
“What do you mean gone?” Marshall dropped one hand on the back of Kyle’s neck and gripped him there, hard enough to make him reassess what he was saying. “I mean…I’m sorry. I was mistaken.”
Shadow looked down at him, or at least, Kyle assumed the blackness under the cap was looking at him, and sat back down. “I wouldn’t have expected you to know everything that goes on here, but I would advise you to be a bit more cautious, in the future, little smoke.”
“Why don’t you go tend to your pig, Kyle. Go have some fun.”
“Yes…Sir,” Kyle said. He left, and dragged his pet pig for the evening towards the maze, wondering if he would have been dismissed so easily if he’d been a little more tactful. Marlon watched him go, rubbing his leather gloved fingers together, feeling that particular darkness, and that name, Jimmy. “Shadow, you said that I can go somewhere else, if I need to, didn’t you?”
“I am not your master, my shade,” Shadow said, “Come and go as you please.”
Marlon stood up, summoned the darkness and slipped away into it, leaving just Marshall and Shadow alone at the table together. Marshall took the seat that Marlon had been in, and watched as the rest of the bar slowly fell back into its prior rhythm, though several men were still glancing back at them both on a regular basis.
“Is it…time for you?” Marshall asked. “It’s been calling to me, lately, that’s the only reason I ask, and I know you’re quite a bit older than me.”
“Oh, all the time. But I have work to do, first, before I go there. He’s a handsome fellow, a little prone to putting his foot in his mouth, perhaps.”
“What about yours? Where has he gone off to?”
“I do not keep tabs on my shades. They go where they please. I’m in the business of freedom, you know that.”
“Chaos, some might say. I like that the nights are more interesting with you in them. I should go follow that little apprentice of mine, before he gets into too much trouble. He still has a pretty heavy hand.”
“I could use something to eat, myself. You’re welcome to join me, if you want. I think your little apprentice will manage one way or another, without your supervision.”
“I ate last week. You know I don’t need as much as you do.”
“You need just as much, you just swallow it all at once. I prefer to share.”
“Have a good night, Shadow. Let me know if I can be of assistance.”
“Last I checked, we weren’t quite on the same side of things.”
Marshall stood up, and adjusted his leather coat. “If the rumors I hear coming out of the precinct are at least half truths, I’m not quite sure where the line is anymore. Things are…breaking down, around here. Getting messy. I hate mess, you know that.”
Shadow chuckled, and from one moment to the next, the chair was occupied, and then it was not, leaving Marshall standing alone in the bar again. The men there breathed a collective sigh of relief, and Marshall wandered into the maze, sniffing out his apprentice’s pipe smoke. Shadow, meanwhile, materialized a few blocks away, in the dark of an alley, closer to the edge of the district. Still a bit early, perhaps. No matter, it would only be a matter of time before some prey wandered along, as it did.