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Thread - Part 1
God I’m tired. And cold. And hungry. From a distance, down a hallway, a light flickered. The dusty, dank, depressing cell, having no light source of its own, went back and forth between being dimly lit, and pitch black.
Concentrating with all of his might, Shadow began to delve into the darkness. The already dim lights began to disappear, the stone walls and metal bars of his confinement becoming blurry, so that within a quarter of a second he was gone. Much to his bemusement, however, the scene which he had hoped to see was not there; in fact, nothing was, and so he let go, returning to the confines of his cell.
If he ever got out of this place, he decided he would write a book about it. “The Greatest Fiction Novel of All Time,” they would call it, when it was truly an autobiography. It would have to start with that fateful day, though.
It was roughly half a year ago, although he couldn’t be certain, it might have been closer to a year, that he had been walking home from the store. It was a stupid idea; the neighborhood wasn’t all that friendly, and it was just before 11 PM. Rachel was sick though, and so he had gone out to fetch some of her favorite foods. He walked along the sidewalk, with a few bags in his hands, humming a tune as he went. The streets were mostly deserted at that hour.
Mostly, but not completely. One man wearing a black beanie and a grey hoodie walked slowly towards him. As he came closer, Shadow gave the brief, masculine head nod that signified recognition. The man gave no response, except to reach down towards his pocket. In a single second he had out a small gun and had it poised, ready to fire.
“Money,” he uttered.
Shadow slowly lowered the bags he was carrying onto the ground and reached into his back pocket for his wallet.
“Hey! Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Some random pedestrian with large circular glasses came onto the scene, idiotically yelling. “I’ll have the cops down here in a second!” he threatened.
Taken aback, the man with a gun looked slightly frightened, as if he didn’t realize he was still the one with the power. He quickly fired two shots, aimed for both Shadow and the newcomer, then began running. And that’s when the darkness came.
At first, it was everything. The sky, the ground, and everything between the two. Blackness. Slowly, though, the world began to return, but not like before. Everything was light. Dim at first, but slowly grander. It was if someone had taken the world, and dipped it in molten gold, and was slowly polishing it before his eyes. Everything around him came into bright contrast but was now motionless, in stop time.
It was marvelous, but Shadow’s mind couldn’t appreciate it. He thought what any sane man in his position would think. I’m dead.
A million thoughts raced through his mind all at once. What kind of twisted afterlife was he in? Why was it so eerily silent? He couldn’t handle it. He fell down to his knees. He let loose a cry and bellowed into the sky. And then there it was. Right above him, fluorescently shining, was a bullet. It hung there, inches away from him, levitating in the air.
He examined himself, and finding no entry wound, he examined the bullet. At first glance, it looked to be made of gold, but upon looking closer, it was almost as if someone had woven it with very fine thread. Shadow reached up and grabbed it, finding that it did indeed feel as if made of thread. He hesitantly crushed it between his fingers, and the entire bullet came undone in his hands. Now just a pile of thread, when he let go, it dropped to the earth and disappeared.
He found some solace in this process, and yet, still within him lingered a feeling of incredible dissatisfaction. Not at being stuck in this peculiar glittering landscape, but more so as if something within him itched. Shadow found himself gravitating towards the man who had so foolishly yelled just moments ago. In front of him, still hanging in the air, was another bullet. Repeating the process, Shadow grabbed the bullet from the air, and crushed it between his fingers.
And then the world returned.
The grumbling of Shadow’s stomach seemed to overpower every sound but the footsteps of an approaching guardsman. The guard’s slow, nonchalant carriage struck his captive as obnoxious, and yet he carried the meager rations that had been sustaining Shadow for the past months. At first Shadow had opted not to eat any food they gave to him, suspecting drugs, and more so, in defiance. It made no difference; they had no issues force feeding him.
The guard stopped at the front of the cell, key in hand. Presently, he spoke not a word, but instead opened the cell, walked in, and laid the food on the floor. Instead of walking out, however, he stood above Shadow as he ate.
“Can I help you?” Shadow asked in as cheery and sarcastic a voice he could muster. His voice had an intimidating gravelly sound that he had always appreciated. Receiving no answer but the light hum of a fan somewhere deeper in the building, Shadow continued eating. It was a thick paste-like substance accompanied by a bit of murky water. He scooped the last bite up into his mouth and swallowed.
Suddenly he was jerked to his feet. The silent guardsman cuffed him before he had time to react and dragged him out of the cell. Shadow was made to walk through filthy corridor into damp chamber into winding tunnel until he was disoriented and could no longer recall exactly what direction his cell laid in. Finally, coming upon a door, the guardsman thrust it open, letting artificial light stream through, sending a stab of pain to Shadow’s light deprived eyes.
Once Shadow’s eyes adjusted, the scene before him bespoke enough money on the part of his captors for him to have better than a cell. The floors had switched from concrete to wood, the walls were now well painted, and the rooms he could see were well furnished. Shadow was dragged further, up a wooden staircase, then another. Now on the third floor, there was only a single door. The guard opened it and waited. Shadow gingerly walked through.
A man wearing a suit with a dark yellow tie sat at a desk, smiling at him. This was not the smile of a friend.
For half a minute, an incredulous pedestrian screamed in fear, surprise, anticipation, and various other mixed emotions, all amplified in his eyes through the large circular frames of his glasses. They were not remotely close to screams of pain, and, instead, they sounded more like the result of messing around with a nerd’s computer. Eventually calming down enough to stop screaming, he shouted. “He fired a gun at me!” Then after a short pause, “He fired a gun at you!” Then shortly afterwards, “You fracking teleported!” Still dumbfounded, the man took both of his hands and started shaking one of Shadow’s. “My name is Sonny! Sonny Carin!”
“Let’s walk and talk.” Shadow was shaken and deep in thought, but he saw no point in standing right near where they were almost shot. “My name is Shadow.” The two started off, and Shadow picked up the groceries he had set down as he passed them.
“How did you do that?” The question was obvious, because the answer was not. The entire world was still and silent as if waiting to hear the secret. The only sound was that of four feet hitting pavement.
“Ya, I’m wondering that too...” replied Shadow as he made a right, turning towards home. Sonny continued in the same direction. “Night,” Shadow said, and walked on.
“Wait! God only knows how, but you stopped a bullet for me tonight.” Sonny whipped out a business card. It read “Sonny Carin: Technology Specialist,” along with his address and phone number. “At least let me buy you coffee or something.”
Shadow didn’t intend to let him. He wanted to think about what had happened logically at some point, but at least for the time being, he wanted to forget. He uttered compliance with the notion then walked home.
By the time he got home it was just past midnight. Rachel was still up, with a cough. Shadow stepped into the living room triumphantly as a valiant hero returning from war. He said hello and gave her a kiss, then started putting the food away. Rachel walked into the kitchen, and as he was putting away a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream, she stopped him. She grabbed a spoon and opened the ice cream, thankfully preserved by the cold of night, though slightly soft nonetheless. She thanked him with a hug.
Shadow finished putting away all the food as Rachel downed a bit of foul smelling syrupy medicine. She scooped up some ice cream to get the taste out of her mouth. Shadow smiled, kissed her, and went upstairs to the guest bed. Rachel insisted on sleeping in separate beds when she was sick. Not for her, she said, but instead so that Shadow wouldn’t catch anything.
Shadow dressed for bed and threw a blanket over himself, painfully aware of how dazed and unfocused he had been for the past hour. He hoped it didn’t show. On that note, he tried as hard as he could to stop thinking about the recent past and go to sleep. Soon he drifted off, a long day behind him.
And then he was back outside, everything shining. The shooter in front of him had his gun poised in the exact same position, his face woven from golden thread, just like his gun. This time though, the world hadn’t stopped. From a distance came a cry, not from Sonny, but from Rachel. She screamed pure agony at the man holding a gun. He ran and fired his two shots, but while when the golden bullet hit Shadow, it just broke and faded away, when it hit Rachel she faded away. Shadow ran towards her, sweating and screaming.
Then he woke up – in a tangle of thread. The world had gone gold once more, but this time it felt much more real than any dream. Shadow thrashed around, entangled by a mass of golden thread. Where he struck it, it broke, and faded. And eventually he lay on the floor, motionless, and the world returned back to normal. Except with no bed.
Shadow was, despite himself, afraid, and wanted – no – needed help. Who could he turn to, though. Who the hell would believe him? He sighed then walked over to where he had put his pants. He fished through the pockets. “Sonny Carin: Technology Specialist.”
“Have a seat.” The man with the yellow tie motioned towards a seat on the opposite side of the desk. Shadow warily walked up to the chair and sat. “Good. Now, before we get into business, let’s get any questions you may have out of the way. I do detest it when I try talking to someone and they interrupt me every so often.”
Shadow thought for a moment. It wasn’t worth it to ask to go home. He would just sound stupid. He looked around the lavish room. “Can I have a nicer cell?” Worth a try, he thought.
“Can I have better food?” Shadow hoped captors had shreds of common decency too. It had been ages since he had had a pizza.
“Because I don’t like you.” The answer was blunt, but at the very least, the man was honest.
“Oh.” Shadow could tell the man’s patience was wearing thin. He tried again anyway. “And why would that be. I don’t believe I’ve given you any reason.”
“Because my job is dealing with you, and I’d much rather be doing other things. If they had given me the OK, you’d have been dead months ago.” The severity in his tone matched his austere eyes.
Shadow noted with interest the word “they.” It seemed that he was in the hands of some big organization, and that the man in front of him was low enough to be taking orders.
As if sensing his thoughts, the man continued. “Despite what they tell me, though, I’m the boss around here. Keep it in mind. Or you might have an accident.” The man gave a sinister smile. “Any more questions?”
Shadow nodded his head no.
“Good! Now, you’re a freak. We want to know why, how, and what you can do. We’re then going to figure out how to use this to our advantage, and somewhere down the line when we don’t need you, you’ll die. Tomorrow starts the testing. I trust you’ll get a pleasant and good night’s sleep in preparation.” He motioned to the guard. The guard grabbed Shadow by the arm and started dragging him out.
Shadow turned for a final question. “Do you have a name?”
“They call me Bane.” He curved his lip slightly upward.
The guard took him back to his cell, then locked it and went away. Shadow concentrated and delved into the darkness. Nothing. He sat down, feeling empty inside. God I’m tired. And cold. And hungry.