73 comments

Fiction Suspense Fantasy

Working with shadow is difficult. It’s slippery and my hands always come away damp. The fluid slips through my fingers in ribbons, a glistening ebony the color of coal and spiders. All light is absent from the room since even a minuscule flicker can damage the material. Burning holes in something flawless yet fragile.


Onyx curtains obscure the windows, as to not let even a wisp of twilight inside the secluded workshop. The fire in the corner is cold, the wood damp. I haven’t lit it in weeks, leaving the chalky ash left to settle in drifts on every surface. My work absorbs every fiber of my being, making me forget to live from time to time.


As the shadow cools, retaining a more consistent shape, I drape it on a rack to set overnight. From dusk to dawn, it takes the shape of a human. Made to accompany its owner wherever they set foot, a silhouette of the darker aspects of their being. Their fears, guilts, and need for forgiveness. The hopeless dreams that still nag them in the depths of their thoughts, the possibilities of what could have been. But, nevertheless, their shadow is something nearly impossible to live without.


Just as I am finishing scrubbing my hands clean of inky stains, footsteps clunk outside the door, and a golden piece of parchment is slipped through the thin letter slot. It lands on the worn mat by the door, sending a cloud of dust erupting into the air. Once it settles back down to the creaky floorboards, I unfold the message and my eyes gloss over the sprawling cursive letters.


S,


I’m calling upon you to perform a difficult procedure for me, one I’m sure to pay through the roof for. I need a part of me removed, the darker side of me before it consumes me. And I’m afraid I don’t have much time left. I understand this is something considered extremely dangerous if not impossible, but I am more than ready to take the risk. If I don’t, the consequences are unthinkable. I’m willing to exchange any amount of gold coins, as long as I leave this place detached from my shadow. I’m hoping for an answer soon, I won’t be here in this town for long. I have things to do in towns with more than a few dusty cabins and a field full of cattle. 


༺A


A for Acheron. I recognize the handwriting immediately, it’s hard to remember back to a time I wouldn’t. How one person could be like a son to me and at the same time the son of a demon, I don’t know. I’m not surprised his work finally caught up to him, it was only a matter of time. I never would have expected him to last this long. But then again, the blood the courses through his veins grows blacker every day. Not someone to underestimate the strength of.


My nimbly fingers tremble as I smooth the parchment out on the table, picking a cerulean pen from the feeble drawer. I flip to the back of the parchment and the ink flows in waves across the surface. 


I’ll need a week to prepare, this is a demanding request, after all. Be here at dusk seven days from now, and I’ll do my best. But remember, I cannot make you any promises.༻


I shouldn’t agree to separate him from his shadow, I know that from years of experience in this work. Such a process shouldn’t even be attempted, for the risks are astronomical. But I can’t say no to him, not after all those years we worked side by side. I can’t let him down now, no matter what he has become.


I fold the letter with four sharp creases and hold it out for my owl to clamp in her beak. She’ll know where to take the letter, whichever abandoned shack or cave he is calling home for the next few weeks. She always does. 


I let her soar out the open window, gleefully stretching her charcoal wings, and I get a glimpse of the fields and dirt roads outside my home. It’s barely a few seconds before I slam the glass panes shut again and draw the curtains closed. I’ve seen far too much of this world. I don’t care to travel outside again, not in this lifetime anyway. 


✺⑅✺⑅✺


The hundred-year-old knocker hits the shaky wooden door, echoing throughout my workshop. My stiff back aches as I walk to the door and slide the thick bolts open. When I open the door, and Acheron slips inside, a thousand years' worth of memories dance across my eyelids. But I push them away, maintaining a neutral expression and flat voice.


His dark eyes bear more scars than the last time we met, and he seems to have aged so much since then. That’s the effect of experimenting with dark magic, with every spell a small part of who you used to be dies. Six metal crows gleam on a chain underneath his cloak; the symbol of gold and wealth, all he ever seemed to work for.


He refuses to speak first, not to my surprise.


“So, long time to see?” I mutter, pulling out a chair and gesturing for him to sit.


With a swish of black fabric, he perches lightly beside me, “I’ve had important matters to take care of.”


“What matters? Bleeding dragons? Wandering aimlessly? Deserting everything with time?” I ask bitterly as I cross the room to a set of ancient shelves.


“My work always comes first, you should know that by now. The less I care, the less human I am. And I’m done being human.” he spits out, tapping his black boot in an anxious staccato.


I don’t reply. He didn’t come here to change his mind, I’m not stupid enough to believe that.


“How do you plan to complete the procedure?” he asks. Maybe I’m not imagining the touch of terror in his voice.


I finally come up from the drawer and join him at the table once more, brandishing a shining silver pair of scissors. The handles are made from a nearly extinct volcanic rock, while the blade is made from a gemstone with destructive abilities. A powerful instrument, indeed.


“You must understand that once you lose your shadow, there’s a price to pay. With part of you gone, you’ll never truly be whole again,” I whisper, running a finger across the smooth handles.


“I understand,” he replies. His breath shaking ever so slightly as I pull a switch and let the skylight on the ceiling open. Crepuscule streams in the room washing over every surface, much to my dismay. A long jagged shadow now stems at his feet, reaching across the floorboards.


With a deep breath and a quivering hand, I slowly cut away his outline with a horrifying snipping sound. Razors of white light blind me as the silhouette falls away from his figure. Acheron stumbles back into the chair, his entire body shaking uncontrollably. His eyes meet mine across the blade, but he doesn’t look like the person I thought I knew.


His eyes look more empty than I could have ever imagined, devoid of any pain. Or memories.


Without his umbra, he has nothing left. Only emptiness.


May 06, 2021 04:25

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

73 comments

Charles Scandura
20:13 May 13, 2021

Hi Maya, This story is well written. I appreciate the richness of language in your story. You found a way to insert uncommon words without feeling contrived while remaining relevant. I also like that you didn't over-explain or dumb anything down. I was compelled to read forward by the fluidity of the writing. I tripped up on one sentence "But then again, the blood the courses through his veins grows blacker every day." -Did you mean "the blood that courses..."? If it is supposed to be, "that" instead of "the". It ultimately has no bearing ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Blue Green
19:21 May 13, 2021

Great story, well written and very atmospheric! I found the ending rather abrupt, I felt the actual shadow surgery could have been a bit more drawn out and dramatic. But only a minor point, great job!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jinnie Levi
19:11 May 13, 2021

Wow: This is... INCREDIABLE!!! I can tell how hard you must have worked on this, your work is already so inspiring for me! I love your imagery and the notice of every detail in your descriptions! Plus the premise alone can be enough for a whole novel! I love the world this is set in, ahh I have to learn more! I can't wait to read more of your stories!

Reply

Maya
03:43 May 16, 2021

Thank you so much, Jinnie! :)

Reply

Jinnie Levi
13:18 May 16, 2021

Your welcome! I love your stories so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jinnie Levi
13:18 May 16, 2021

Your welcome! I love your stories so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jinnie Levi
13:19 May 16, 2021

Your welcome! I love your stories so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 3 replies
Show 1 reply
Avid Writer
02:11 May 13, 2021

Woww powerfully done! Very nice story! :D It has this dark feel to it that is very wonderful. Good job!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Gerald Daniels
17:41 May 12, 2021

...need those scissors...great tale.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Aloe Plant
16:06 May 12, 2021

I love the fantasy world you managed to construct with so few words. The final line to the story was a shock to me, but makes sense. Love this!

Reply

Show 0 replies
15:06 May 12, 2021

I- I'll just take a second to appreciate how descriptive and detailed this is. Wow just wow I'm speechless. Ahh I enjoyed this story a lot, great job :)).

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 0 replies
02:21 May 12, 2021

Hey, Maya! It’s been a while. This story was beautiful. I feel so repetitive because I describe all of your stories as “beautiful,” but it’s true. Your descriptions and tone flowed so well, and they seemed effortless. I can easily imagine this published; this story just gave a polished and professional feel. I would just say to watch out when you use commas. I’ve noticed a few instances when you could’ve replaced those commas with semicolons or colons. And I would’ve liked more of the inner thoughts of the main character, but I also feel li...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Rayney Day
16:46 May 11, 2021

This was SO BEAUTIFULLLLL OMLL. The more I read stories on here the less confidence I get for my own but oh my goodness this, THIS. This deserves the win oml. Bravo, amazing job Maya. I wish i could write as well as you<3

Reply

Maya
17:37 May 12, 2021

Thanks! I'm sure you do <3

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Alison Brewis
10:11 May 11, 2021

Great opening, I like the idea of sewing shadows. Perhaps you could add more description of the shadow making, that would be interesting.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Charli Britton
20:36 May 10, 2021

I loved that! So creative! The only thing I would have done different is maybe add a bit more contemplation before she agreed to execute the procedure, but other than that I am thoroughly impressed. I wish I knew more about these characters and the woman who works with shadows. I was going to look at my own submission (Such a narcissist I know) and the first sentence caught my eye. I really enjoyed this and I think you could do so much with this idea. If you don't want to, then I ask you permission to write something with this general idea...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Angelina Jeong
18:35 May 09, 2021

I love this storyyyyyyy !!!!!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Writers Block
16:38 May 08, 2021

Intriguing 😃

Reply

Show 0 replies