now the Shadow (WTSCO #2)

Written in response to: Set your story during a complete city or nation-wide blackout.... view prompt

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Science Fiction Fantasy

Shadow /ˈʃadəʊ/ noun

1.1 A dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. "trees cast long shadows”.

1.2 A creature that exists in and of darkness, feeds on darkness, thrives in darkness. ‘’The Shadows were never supposed to reach us’’.


***


I’m dreaming about fish and samurai, and then familiar hands are violently shaking me awake. My first thought is hot dayum that blue fish was sexy, my second is on my frantic mother’s wide eyes and iron grip on my shoulders.

My third is on the dim lighting: the single waxy candle in my father’s shaking hands illuminates the wet streaks on my mother’s cheeks. 

‘’Get up, Tally, for all things’ sake, get up!’’

‘’What’s going on?’’

‘’The power is out; we have to go. Now.’’

The power is out.

For a moment I don’t register, and then it hits me like a truck.

Pikes, the power is out!

A wave of nausea whelms me over as I’m dragged staggering out of bed and bundled into a jacket. Probably Dad’s. I follow my parents out of my bedroom, through the narrow halls of our home, through a dark that tugs at my hair and grasps for my ankles.

Into the street that has always, under every single circumstance in my whole life ever, been lit by either sunlight or the glowing phosphorus of the many, many streetlamps.

The street that is now pitch black.

My heart is beating so violently I fear it might just burst out of my throat.

This isn’t supposed to happen, I think, stomach churning. This is never supposed to happen.

Can Shadows hear things? I can’t remember.

Of all things to forget right now…

All around me, neighbors, and friends pool in the street, holding onto one another as we do. Frightened faces flash briefly by.

When their candles turn the other way, I cannot tell whether they are human.

A baby wails, or maybe it was its mother. The ground feels wobbly beneath my feet. Up and down the street bundling groups of frightened people shivered, holding candles, flashlights, phosphorus light vials, cellphones, LED light strips, any, and every light source.

’Where are the Light Guards?’’

‘’Dad, I’m scared!’’

‘’What happened? What’s going on?’’

‘’Where the blazes are the piking Guards?!’’

Where are they, exactly, I want to cry with everyone else. Where none of them on duty? Aren’t they supposed to be here? They’re supposed to be watching the streets in case of crisis. That’s their whole job! The one time we need them, the one time their job requires anything remotely like effort from them, they’ve vanished.

I can’t breathe. I keep seeing things from the corners of my eyes, spinning around to see things that might be there but just as well might not.

Can I blame them? The power hasn’t been out in decades. No one was expecting this.

Hyperventilating. 

In and out and in and out and in and out and in and out.

Think of the plan. What are we supposed to do once the Guards show up?

I whisper as I count the steps, reciting them as Mrs Asdas had drilled them into us in our well-lit Life classroom in our well-lit school:

The Guards will show up.

They will form a wall around us, luminescent skin and spears and armor blazing hope into the darkest of moments.

Everyone will march briskly, efficiently, to the nearest Sphere. The Spheres are safe. They were made to protect us long, long ago, our ancestors had our best interests in mind. The Spheres are safe.

Everyone will be inside the Sphere. The Guards will light the rim crystals, seal it off.

Seal Shadows out and us in. Dark out, light in between, and us after that. Safe.

The Guards will watch over us until dawn. 

We will go home.

Everything will be back to normal.

Safe…

Still hyperventilating.

In and out and in and out and in and out and in and out.

My legs give are giving in, and then I am on the cold pavement, dragging my parents with me. I hug my knees to my chest, eyes shut tight because at least this is a dark that I am in control of. It feels as though my throat itself is writhing. My face is cold and wet, and I have no power, none at all. 

And then there is a hiss. And people crying out, and the opening of eyes and there is a beam of pure light. A shaft of hope.

And then there are several.

Dad is pulling me to my feet, Mom is hugging me so tight I can breathe barely more than the moments before. We are pulled along by the crowd, jostled this way and that but it is okay because there is light.

I catch glimpses of pure white armour, I see strong luminous hands showing the way, I think I see Micah’ brother, Michael, eyes wide and glistening, mouth agape.

We move through the neighborhood, away from the Forest. When we come to a stop there are whispers that we’ve reached the Sphere, the thing that would be our salvation, that we were trusting our lives and those of our loved ones with.

Which is why it was wholly dissappointing when my parents and I reached the entrance and the Guard simply told us to watch our step as to not trip over a narrow circular ditch.

This is it?

In and out and in and out and in and out and in and out.

The space is crowded. It’s uncomfortable.

In and out and in and out and in and out and in and out.

It’s cold and it’s dark.

The voice comes from behind and it is loud and from a tall, black haired Light Guard with a wide mouth.

‘’Is this everyone?’’

My first thought is: BLUE FISH!!

My second is on the other Guard’s stiff nod, the worry in his posture, the way his armor’s glow is slightly dimmer than everyone else’s…

But my third and fourth swallow everything, because suddenly light swallows everything, and the ditch isn’t a ditch but a shimmering white wall, and everything is visible. I stammer backwards, not wanting to shield my eyes because we'd been in the dark so long and all I wanted was to look at the light.

But in my head there are just two thoughts, hammering in the corners of my mind over and over and over again:

This was never supposed to happen. They promised it would never happen.

And

Now it might happen again. 

February 10, 2023 15:43

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1 comment

Mila Van Niekerk
07:32 Feb 11, 2023

This exists now... make with it what you want...

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