Chapter 11 – Shadow’s Den
Whether it was morning or night now, Marlon didn’t know. One moment, he’d been on the sidewalk with Jimmy, talking about the streetlights or the shadows or something, and the next, he’d stepped into the dark and everything had disappeared around him–and now he was here. It wasn’t that he was falling, or at least, it didn’t feel like falling. There was nothing to fall relative to, so he could have just as easily been floating. He called out to Jimmy, but his voice wouldn’t cut through the vacuum. After some amount of time, it was difficult to say whether it was minutes or seconds, a figure had appeared in the dark with him. It was the man who had stepped from the shadows, before he’d fallen in. He called out to him, asking him for help. The man came close, and perspectives shifted. He became larger, and swaddled Marlon somehow, there in the dark. Cupped him in the darkness itself, and he felt it crush against him, even though there was nothing there. It was like drowning, like he was seven in his cousin’s pool again when hadn’t quite mastered swimming enough for the deep end. He was certain he should have died, at some point. Perhaps, he told himself, he had. But the darkness ebbed away, or pulled back from him, replaced with a deep red light.
There was space again. The colored light was disorienting, but he could make out that he was in what looked like a basement, or at least, a room with no windows–or doors, he realized after that. The floor was concrete, and the walls were adorned with what he could only really describe as a dungeon, though he’d never been one for fetish porn on the internet. He himself, he realized, was in a cage–thick metal bars, not tall enough for him to stand up inside. There was a sound behind him, and he managed to twist around. There on the wall were two figures hanging from a pair of wooden crosses, their limbs in steel manacles and pulled tight. Their faces were hooded, they were naked, and Marlon realized that he was naked as well. There were no clothes anywhere that he could see in the room.
He was aware of the darkness in the room somehow solidifying, and the man from the street stepped out of what should have been a wall, just appeared with no way to explain how. Marlon scrambled back, banged his head on the metal of the cage, his vision bursting with stars. The man chuckled, strode over to the cage in the middle of the room, and squatted down. “A shame, the two of you would have been fun together, but this will be just as nice, and more filling.”
“Who…who are you? Let me out of here, please, I’m not into this shit!”
“You’re not?” the man said, pushing his face closer to the bars. The light in the room was strong enough that Marlon knew he should have been able to see the stranger’s face through the shadow of his cap, but it was made of the same inky darkness that had surrounded him before. “How do you know, little one? Have you ever tried any of it? Did you ever ask your shadow what he might like to try?” his mouth gave a little smile, “I asked him for you, by the way. He was more than a little curious.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Later, little one. I’m famished.”
“Wait! Don’t leave me here.”
“I’m not going anywhere little one, I have my meal right here,” he said, and walked over to where the two figures were strung up against the wall. The man made a little motion with his hands, and the hoods that were covering the faces of the prisoners melted away–Marlon realized that what he’d thought had been leather had been more shadow. A moment later, one of them gasped, his eyes opening wide, followed by the other, looking around, before staring at the leatherman in front of them. “You–you’re not a puppet, you’re Shadow! But you’re in the fucking jail, how did you get out?”
“Oh, it was harder than I thought it would be, I’ll admit that. Almost gave up a time or two, but why give up when I had such good reason to get out again, and see all you officers of the law again, after where you put me?” he said, gripping their faces with his hands. “One thing is for sure though, I am absolutely starving.”
Their eyes went wide. “No! Wait, we…we’ll get you the commander, that’s who you really want, right?” one said, “Please, Shadow, don’t!”
Marlon watched what happened next, from just a few feet away, and when it was done, he still couldn’t convince himself that he hadn’t dreamt it. Shadow, or at least, that’s what he assumed was the leatherman’s name, pulled one hand away from a face, and his fingers started to wriggle, and then extend. The way they slid across the man’s face, they were somehow flat, and yet retained all of their texture, then divided into even more tendrils, and began to dig their way into his nose, his mouth, his eyes, his ears. The man choked and shuddered as Shadow did his work, thrusting in deeper into the man’s mind, and then there was light–or a kind of light. It pumped it’s way backwards, drawn from the man down the tendrils of shadow and into Shadow’s arm, and when it reached his body, he gave a contented sigh. “Oh yes, quite delectable.”
After a few minutes of pulling whatever that light was from the man, he retracted the tendrils and the man’s face sagged forward. The last thing Marlon saw was the man’s eyes, which were now hollow sockets, as it dropped. He wondered if he was dead, but when Shadow unhooked the man’s manacles and the body slumped to the floor, he could see that he was still breathing, though it was shallow. His face had landed facing him, and Marlon stared into the hollowness, but the eyes were still there. They were just pitch black. Then the man’s own shadow rose up from the floor, spreading up around him, drawing his body in and holding it in something that looked like a cocoon. As soon as it was sealed, it shuddered and there was a scream from within–muffled, but obvious. The other man was shaking and pleading, but Shadow did the same to him, and when he was finished with his meal, there were two blobs of shadow there on the floor of the dungeon, quivering occasionally, mumbling and shouting and yelling. He drew down some darkness from the ceiling, strung the two cocoons up and left them to hang, while he turned his attention to Marlon again.
He was pressed up against the bars of the cage, trying to reach something that he could use to fight back, but there was nothing near him. Shadow squatted down in front of the cage again. “Much better, little one–now where were we?”
“What did you do to them?”
“I ate some of them, and left the rest of them for their own shadows. They’ll be ready in a while. You don’t need to worry about that just yet.”
“Are…you gonna eat me?”
“I don’t know, are you delicious?” Shadow said, and Marlon gulped. After letting the silence hang for a moment, Shadow laughed, “No, I don’t think I’ll be eating you. I already promised your shadow that we’d play for a while.”
“What do you mean?”
Marlon felt something come unstuck from him, something he didn’t even know could come away, and there, standing outside the cage, was a silhouette. His silhouette. He looked down, and underneath him where no light should have been, his shadow had simply disappeared–or rather, left him somehow. Shadow stood up, and embraced Marlon’s shadow, pulled it close, and he felt the embrace there in the cage, and shuddered, felt Shadow’s tongue press into his silhouette’s mouth.
“Oh yes, I do like you, very much. I think I will keep you,” Shadow said, “You don’t mind, do you?”
Marlon objected, but realized that Shadow had not been talking to him–he had been addressing his silhouette, who nodded vigorously, and then looked to Marlon there in the cage.
“Don’t worry about that–come now, I want to play, little darkness. Here, taste this,” Shadow said, put a finger to the silhouette’s lips and a bit of the light that had come from the two men before slid into it–and Marlon watched as his shadow shuddered, and popped. For a moment, it had definition, depth, presence. And when it had, Marlon gasped, and felt a moment of weakness wash through him.
“See? Doesn’t that taste good? He’ll never be able to give you that, but I can. I can give you so much. All you have to do is let me guide you. There’s so much I can show you–pleasure, pain, power. Isn’t that what you want?”
Marlon’s silhouette nodded, and Shadow embraced it again, then bent it over a bench, and fucked it–and Marlon, there in the cage, felt every thrust–but he felt something else too. Delight. Ecstasy. They weren’t his feelings though. It was his silhouette thinking and feeling all on its own, and realizing it was thinking and feeling on its own, and delighting in the sensation of the world around it. Marlon begged, when they finished. Begged Shadow to let him go, but Shadow never addressed him again, directly. He was no longer important. In the darkness, shades ruled, and Shadow ruled the shades of Pigtown–and Shadow was back at last.
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