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Silently a shadow crept across the wall. Up a head a man sat crouched in the shadows of a dark ally. His hat was pulled low over his face. Deep locks of dark hair crept out from under his hat. His gnarled hands quickly counted a wad full of cash. He glanced around nervously but failed to notice the menacing shadow behind him.
A piece of paper blew in the breeze, flitting down from a nearby roof and landing in the man's lap. Scooping up the paper, the man carefully looked it over. It was a rather old piece of paper about the size of the man's thumb. A single word was inked on the paper: Prey.
Quickly scanning the area but seeing nothing, he stuffed the money into a wrinkled, old bag and ran out on to the busy street. A pair of watchful eyes followed the man through the crowd.
Dashing down side streets the man slipped into another alley, watching and waiting to see if he was being followed. Several minutes passed with no motion finally convinced that the coast was clear the man casually walked back out on the street and continued on his way.
Hailing a taxi he made his way to a more industrial part of town. Long columns of smoke rose from the gigantic smokestacks filling the air with soot. Dirt and other such filth coated the streets. Many of the big industrial buildings had broken windows and appeared vacant.
Shoving a few bills at the driver, the man sauntered off to one of the soot-covered buildings. Out back of the building several suspicious looking characters were waiting for him. The man counted out a large pile of cash and then swapped it for an odd looking bag that the factory workers were carrying. The factory workers counted out the cash while the man surveyed his new bag of goods. They made light chat about their recent escapades, while they checked out their new treasure and then went their separate ways.
The man walked down the vacant street to a taxi sitting at the end of the street. An autumn wind blue through the street kicking up trash. A cold chill ran up his spine; he could not escape the feeling that he was being watched. Clutching his bag, he glanced around nervously and quickened his pace. His vision set on the refuge of the waiting taxi ahead. Arriving safely the man quickly jumped inside and ordered the driver to take him to a run down section of town.
Pulling up at a dirty, old brick apartment in a bad section of town, the man quickly made his way to the fourth floor. He walked over the stained covered carpets and reached a rickety, old door. Fumbling with the keys while constantly searching up and down the hall. He finally managed to push the door open and stumble into the room.
The room was a trash pit with junk cluttering most of the walkways. The beds sheets were wrinkled and all the furniture was covered with empty wrappers and half-eaten food. A terrible stench filled the room, which would have been strong enough to kill any green thing that might have existed there. The man stuffed the bag under his mattress and opened up the window. The autumn wind flew into the room and quickly stole the dry, stale air out the window.
The man pushed the wrappers to another part of the couch clearing and sat down. He tried to relax but the autumn wind reminded him of the eerie feeling that he had earlier. Wanting to clear his mind, the man decided to head over to the local bar.
He shuffled down the street. There was less than an hour of daylight left so he decided to only grab one drink. He ducked into the dingy corner bar. The bar was dark and lit only by small lights hanging from the ceiling. The smell of cigarettes and alcohol was thick in the air. The man ordered a beer and limped over to a seat in the corner and quickly consumed the beer
When the man finally emerged from the bar it was almost sunset. He staggered a bit from the drink. He was about to head back to his apartment for the night when a strange sight caught his eye. A light was on in an old, abandoned house. Looking around to see if anyone was watching he made his way over to the old house.
Sneaking up to the front door, the man gave one last look around and then turned the knob. Surprisingly the door was unlocked. Opening with a creek, he carefully stepped inside. Old splintered floors covered the entire first floor. A narrow wooden staircase, which did not look entirely stable, led up to a second floor. The rays of the low hanging sun came through the far window and provided the only light other than a single bulb hanging in what used to be the living room. Instantly the foul stench of blood drifted up to the man's nose, making his nostrils flare up.
The man desperately scoured the first floor for the source of the foul smell. It wasn't until he walked into the kitchen that he saw it. A trail of blood led from on top the kitchen table, onto the floor, and into a nearby closet. The man's better sense told him not to open the closet but he might have had too much to drink. He knew that he could not go the police but his pride would not let him back down from a challenge. He finally convinced himself that he had to do this. The man walked boldly up to the closet. If he had been watching he might have seen a big grin in the wallpaper behind him. The man yanked the closet open. Immediately a dark pillar of smoke emerged from the closet engulfing the man.
Falling back in terror the man clutched his stinging eyes. Complete darkness initially covered his eyes but quickly gave way to a raging fire. The fire and smoke filled his vision. The world itself seemed to swirl around him. Groping about on his hands and knees, the man grasped the door handle and fell down the steps outside.
Quickly picking himself up the man dashed out blindly, his eyes still stinging. The world seemed different than when he had entered the accursed house. Every object seemed to be engulfed in fire. The glare of the setting sun was magnified by this effect and every object was blown out of proportion.
Weaving to the left and right the man dodged objects that were flaming and were beyond the point of recognition. Every muscle in the man's body groaned with each motion but he could not convince himself to stop running.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw an apparition even more frightening than a world of fire. Amidst a world covered in light, a dark blur stood out. It followed him and no matter how fast the man ran he could not seem to escape it. He could only catch a glimpse of it for a split-second out of the corner of his eye but when ever he did it struck him with fear, and forced him to run the other direction.
Farther and farther into the inferno the man ran. Several times the man tried to stop but the blur appeared again and fear forced him forward. He was sure that if not for adrenaline he would have keeled over and passed out right there.
Eventually the fires began to lessen and the man began to recognize his surroundings. The blur had driven him deep into the wilderness. Sparse woods went on as far as his eyes could see. Suddenly the world fell out from under the man. Quickly rising he looked back and noticed that he had tripped over a stone in the middle of a small open patch in the woods. It was already late autumn and most of the leaves had fallen off so he had a good view of the horizon. The man noticed that the sun had just touched the ground and realized that he would need a place to weather the night. He surveyed the terrain for a good location and noticed that it was rather rocky and held many sufficient hiding spots.
It was at that moment that he noticed the stillness in the air. There was not a sound. No birds chirping, no animals preparing for the coming night, not even a faint wind blowing. It was complete silence. The silence unnerved him; he paused longing for any movement.
One cold blast of autumn air rippled through the trees, ruffling nearby leaves. The man froze wishing for the stillness again. In his fear the man was still able to see the last ray of sun drop below the horizon. A cold breath blew on the back of his neck. A deep voice whispered, "It is now the time of the Shadow." The man whirled around to face a cloud. It had the form of a human. Its' clothes were pure black as was everything else about it. Its only defining features were its piercing eyes and its broad grin. The man's heart was clutched with fear but he was not able to move even one muscle. Smiling even broader the shadow reached out and its hand passed right through the man's skin. Clutching the man's heart the Phantom saw the fear on the man's face. He gave a short laugh and then squeezed.
The man's body was found two days later. The diagnoses: heart attack.