Shadow Theory

The heavy wooden door creaked and squealed as it closed, despite the man's efforts at a stealthy entrance. He was clad in black, complete with a matching trench coat and a wide-brimmed hat. His fingerless gloves did little to warm his bone-cold hands that clutched the door's handle in an attempt to ease it closed. When he finally succeeded, he turned to gaze upon the inner architecture of the Saint Paul's Cathedral. Ornate electric lamps suspended from the vaulted ceilings were the main source of illumination. Stained-glass windows depicting the resurrection of Christ momentarily roared into life as lightning and thunder accented the biblical scenes with light and sound. Concrete angels towered over the wanderer with looks of hope, joy, and love, but he did not care. He had more distressing concepts to deal with.

The dark man shook off what could have been a gallon or two of water before continuing along his somber way. He trudged slowly, like a soldier to his doom, with his face covered in shadow. He was a dark, morbid imperfection in an otherwise holy scene. He hung his head as he walked, refusing to make eye contact with the hollow eyes of God's servants. He didn't think he had it in him to deal with them now. Silently, calmly, the stranger slid into a pew near the front of the hall of worship, and bowed his head. He did not want to see the altar, he did not want to see the crucifix. It was hard enough just to be there. He sat for several minutes, simply waiting, simply listening.

"What now?" he growled, as if speaking to the Lamb of God. His voice was deep and cracked. "You know why I'm here, don't you?" He thought for a moment. He tried to imagine his predicament from God's point of view, the view of an all-powerful, benevolent being who sees and knows all. This thought, a thought that fills most with awe and reverence, filled the dark stranger with rage.

He clenched his fists. "I don't know what would piss me off more, you not caring enough to know what's happening to me, or you knowing and still letting it go on. If you're so great, save me! Save me from this! Come on! Wave your magic cross and make these problems go away!"

"Perhaps He feels you have something to learn from your pain." Called a calm, mild voice. Unknown to the man in black, a priest had been diligently working on a flower arrangement that had concealed his presence. He stepped into full view. He was an old man, pale, with dark, sunken eyes. In the light of the Cathedral, his face was accented by disturbing shadows, granting him a visage similar to a corpse. "My name is Father Jacob. Might I be able to help? What is your name, child?"

"My name is Cody Kane, and I'm not your child." Snarled the dark stranger. He glared at the priest, obviously displeased at the disruption. Jacob did not seem to care. He shambled to the pew, seating himself beside Cody.

"You are God's child. What brings you here, to this House of the Divine?"

"Honestly, I came here looking for guidance and strength." He sighed. "I haven't found any."

"Do you come here often?"

"No. I don't believe in God."

Father Jacobs smiled. "You feel we are alone in this world to fend for ourselves, Mr. Kane?"

Cody examined the centerpiece of the Cathedral, a golden Jesus nailed to a marble cross. He absentmindedly wondered if it was actually painted plastic. "Yes." He responded.

Jacob gently placed his hand on his dark companion's shoulder. "Perhaps that is why you feel so much pain?"

Cody turned his attention to the aged priest. He glanced at Jacob's hand, still resting on him. The old man removed it. "I'm about to do something horrible. I came here to see if the son of God could convince me otherwise." He closed his eyes and sighed. "I guess not." He rose to his feet.

"All is not yet lost. Please, sit. Talk with me. Perhaps we can come to a better solution. What is it you plan to do?" Father Jacob asked, his concern evident in his voice. Cody reluctantly returned to his seat. He stared blankly at the altar, wishing it meant something to him.

"I'm going to kill someone tonight." Cody said, coldly. The long silence that followed was disrupted only by an occasional rumbling of thunder. Jacob proceeded with caution, fighting his way through his own fog of fear and uncertainty. "Why do you feel the need to… to take a life?"

"I don't want to. I have to. It's complicated." Cody's voice and manner was completely serious.

"Explain it."

"Do you believe in demons?"

The priest raised an eyebrow. "Of course. Are you saying a demonic influence is… telling you to kill?"

"That shadow. Over there. By the door." He pointed. The priest turned to look upon a doorway, unused, concealed in darkness by a large statue of an angel.

"Yes, I see it."

"How many sides does it have?"

"Sides?"

"Yes. Sides." Cody snapped back. "How many does it have?"

The aged man inspected the shadow. While cast by an angel statue, it creeped and curled around pillars and walls until it lost all semblance of a shape. "None, I would assume."

"They have two."

Father Jacob gazed at Cody incredulously. "Two?" He questioned. He found Cody's reasoning to be fundamentally flawed, but decided it would be best to humor a man who claimed he was contemplating murder. Jacob was pious and devout, but also rational.

"Two. Our side and their side." Father Jacob's dumbfounded stare indicated to Cody that more explanation was needed. "We call them shadows and look at them as objects only because we can't pass through them. Imagine a door in your house that is sealed shut. You start to think of it as a wall, right? Same thing with us and darkness. But they don't. They can pass through the shadows. To them, that sealed door we call darkness is a beaded curtain. They can see and pass right through it to our side."

Jacob was horrified. He was talking to and within arm's reach of a madman. His first instincts were to bolt or scream for help, but he knew it wouldn't work. Judging by the man's build, Cody was very athletic and could easily catch and silence an old man. He hoped that playing along would be more effective.

To his surprise, he actually found himself intrigued. Whether it was genuine curiosity, fear, or morbid fascination, he craved to know more of Cody's twisted philosophies. "So… what are They?" He asked, his otherwise placid voice trembling slightly.

"Shadows." Cody responded. "They're made from the stuff. They can come out of it wherever and whenever they want." He smirked and raised his brow. "You didn't think kids just made up stories of horrible monsters under their bed, did you?"

"Well, yes. I did." The old priest responded. He found himself avoiding eye contact.

Cody leaned forward, and spoke in a hushed tone. "Have you ever seen a shape out of the corner of your eye? Something that didn't seem natural? Something that disturbed you even though you didn't actually see it?"

"Yes. We all see these things sometimes."

"Where do they always seem to appear?"

"Everywhere."

Cody was aiming for another answer. "When you go to look at them, but they disappear, where did they happen to be standing?"

"Perhaps off to the side, or in a corner?" Father Jacob wasn't sure what Cody wanted to hear, and it made him very nervous. He fidgeted with a silver cross dangling from a chain on his neck.

Cody looked serious. "A corner? Like that one?" He pointed again.

Father Jacob peered at the corner Cody indicated. It was between two stone walls, near the door. It was empty. Jacob suddenly realized why Cody was pointing at it, and what he was trying to say. The corner was completely bathed in shadow. The black-clad madman seemed to know that Jacob understood, because he continued speaking. "They're the demonic influence you asked about."

"These Shadows… they tell you to kill people?" Father Jacob was no longer able to hide his revulsion and horror.

"No." Cody shook his head. He seemed frustrated. "They use people for their sick little plans. Some of them can climb inside a person and pretend to be them. They're very convincing. The problem is that even when you figure out who's got a Shadow inside them, you can't just wish the damn thing out." Cody's eyes wandered to the crucifixion. "You have to kill the host."

Father Jacob's mind was alight with a mixture of blinding fear and commanding curiosity. "How were you planning on going about this… um…"

"Mission."

"Mission." The old man repeated.

Cody gingerly reached beneath his coat, and pulled out what appeared to be an over-sized hunting knife. It was completely silver in color, except for a line of runes along the blade, which were pale blue. He slid his fingers up the seven-inch blade. "With this." He declared.

Jacob's eyes widened as he unconsciously slid himself away. "Oh my God." He gasped.

"No, this is my God." He pointed the blade at the figure of Christ. "Yours is over there."

"You… you think you are doing the will of God, by destroying these… monsters?"

"No. I told you that I don't believe in God."

Jacob's voice was concerned and reassuring, but tinged with desperation. "Then why do it?"

"If I don't fight them, who will?" Cody asked flatly.

Father Jacob's words flowed like a torrential river. "No one, Mr. Kane. They do not exist. The Shadows are not real. You are ill, and need medical help." His heart skipped several beats as he realized what he had just said.

Cody did not appear to be insulted by Jacob's outburst. "Do you remember the last sermon you gave? What was it about?"

The aged priest was unsettled by the stranger's disregard for his verbal attack. "I… I do not recall. Why? What does it matter?"

"Do you remember any of them, recently?"

"No, I… I give too many of them to remember them all."

Cody gripped the handle of the knife tightly. "Mr. Jacob, you do not remember the sermons because you were not the one who gave them." Cody's voice was cold and heartless. He turned dutifully to the priest, blade in hand.

Father Jacob panicked. He struggled to stand, but his uncontrolled terror turned his legs to blocks of concrete. He crumpled to the floor only feet away from his seat. He laid on his back, paralyzed with fear, his mind screaming for his body to move. His limbs did not respond. His heart felt as if it were going to burst from his chest.

"You see, Mr. Jacob, The Shadows have been using you to reach people. Every time you'd give a sermon, the Shadow within you would twist your words to influence the people listening." Cody slowly drew a glock from his trench coat. He held both weapons together, a knife and a handgun, implements of murder from past and present. He sighed. His face was solemn and dutiful. "I came here to kill you, father." He aimed his gun at Father Jacob's head. "I just wish you understood."

"Stand." a voice demanded in Jacob's mind. He did as it commanded before he even became aware of his own motions. Despite his newfound vigor, he could do nothing to prevent the cold steel of Cody's knife from piercing him, through his skin, through his muscle, and into the soft cavity of his stomach. The agony the priest felt was crippling. Cody met his gaze. He stared into Jacob's sunken, brown eyes as he drove his knife deeper, finally piercing something hard, dry, and inhuman. Father Jacob's body convulsed as the blade pierced this unnatural material. With an unceremonious thud, the priest collapsed.

The old man lay dieing in a pool of blood, his unfocused eyes gazing up at his killer. Cody inspected the knife. It was dripping with the priest's blood, as would be expected. However, it was also covered in a black, tar-like substance.

"I'm sorry you got in the middle of this, Father. I didn't want to hurt you." He aimed his glock at the priest's head. "But I guess it's too late for forgiveness, now."

The gunshot was almost indistinguishable from the roar of thunder that accompanied it.

Cody kneeled over the priest's dead body. His heart sank as he recited a small prayer for the man's soul. "Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur a modo; etiam dicit Spiritus, ut requiescant a laboribus suis." He chanted softly. He remained crouched, his mind numb, slowly trolling over the events that had transpired. After a moment of reflection, he sighed, and glanced up at the Lamb of God, nailed to the artificial cross. Christ's golden face was a face of solemn dignity, as if he too felt the pain of Cody's duties. He pulled his eyes away. He couldn't bear to look upon the face of God any longer.

Cody ran his hand over the corpse, and again over the knife, both times reciting the simple word "tergeo". A simple word and a simple motion that took months of work to perfect. He watched idly as the blood slowly faded until none was left behind. Content that his mission had been completed and that the evidence had been destroyed, Cody rose to leave. He replaced the gun and dagger to his belt, and hurriedly marched past the sorrowful angels that lined the Cathedral. He felt nothing. He decided it was better than feeling guilt, however, and opened the heavy door to leave. The storm still raged outside, shredding the darkness with a cacophony of light and sound.

"I'm going to step outside, into this tempest, and disappear. No one will know what really happened here. No one." he told himself. The cathedral compelled him to take one last look back. He turned, his gaze drawn to the crucified son of God.

"Except him." He said to himself, and closed the door behind him.

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