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A Dance of Shadows
The street lamps flickered along the main road of a small town named Baycaster, which, oddly enough was nowhere near a bay. A shadow moved quietly along the brick wall of an office building. It was around 3:00 in the morning, and all was silent.
The shadow moved quickly, but from the way it moved and held itself, it was obviously sneaking. A cricket chirped once, and then fell silent. The shadow looked over its shoulder and broke into a sprint. It streaked past buildings, never tripping and lithe as a cat. There was no identifiable source of the phantom, for everyone was asleep, save perhaps, a stray dog or two. The apparition was joined by three others, who appeared as if they had dripped from the unlit side streets. The first figure ran faster, as if trying to escape. The shadows of four hulking dogs joined the chase; and, though it seemed impossible, the original shadow ran even faster. Yet she, for indeed it was a she, could not hope to outpace the dogs.
The town remained soundless even as the dogs, which were really more like large wolves, overtook our reticent little friend. She turned as if to fight, and there was a brilliant flash of light that dispelled all darkness. A girl was sitting on the pavement. She was wearing a black leather jacket and dark blue leggings. Her boots were black with a strange black metal at the toe. As for her appearance, her hair was blondish- brown and her eyes were deep, dark blue. She was built upon a very slight framework, and she wore no makeup. Shivering, she stood up, looked around, and began walking down the street.
The morning came, lighting the sky on fire, and the girl stared at it as if she had never seen a sunrise. She stood alongside a hard-packed dirt road about a mile from town where a young man was driving in an oldish vehicle. He pulled up next to the girl, who stared at the car for a moment. She looked into the face of the man. He seemed familiar, but no. his face was tanned by the sun, his eyes were too light, too… Human.
“You going into town?” he asked.
“I suppose so.” She answered curtly.
“I can give you a ride if you want,” he offered. She sighed and got in. She might as well. If he ended up being hostile, she could take him.
“So, what’s your name?” He questioned, trying to ease the tension in the air. She paused for a moment.
“Pleased to meet you, Dasha, I’m Nate.”
“Charmed.” She was, most definitely, not one to talk much. Nate let her stay silent for the rest of the trip.
“You can drop me off here.” Dasha mumbled. He stopped the car and waited for her to get out, then waved goodbye. She was glad that Nate hadn’t noticed the one feature that set her apart from humans. She would have to try to hide the fact that she had no shadow. She remembered the Salem witch trials and shuddered. The superstitious idiots had seen her kind as ‘witches’. They had burned her friends on false accusations, and those who survived had to travel in pairs: one acting the human, the other acting the shadow. She walked down the street, turned a corner, walked down another street. Friendly locals smiled and waved as she walked.
Dasha stopped in front of a small corner store. She hesitated. Do I have reason to be suspicious of these people? It was a question of time. Her first priority was to find out what year it was. She was fairly sure she was in the United Colonies. It was probably called something different now. She entered the store. A wall calendar informed her that it May fifth, 2012. Gosh, have I really been gone that long? The last time she had been amongst the humans was around 1740.
Dasha walked a long time, trying to sort everything out. She stopped occasionally, but briefly. It was on one such occasion that she happened past a store with a television in front. Some person was talking about a guy who had died. There was an image of the man in the top right corner of the screen. That’s funny she thought. The man was wearing the trademark expression of terror that befalls all humans who cross ways with a hellhound. But that’s impossible. We took the all of the hellhounds with us when we left this dimension. At least, I think we did. Unless…
Hellhounds were extremely dangerous opponents. They were one of the only ways to kill her people, the Shadow Children. The other was by fire, although that was definitely not anyone’s preferred method due to the Salem witch incident. The land she came from would be a nightmare for anyone on earth. It was very hot. There were really only two seasons: hot, and hotter. It was in perpetual darkness. The night was known as hot and the hay was known as very hot. Well, you get the point. It was very, very hot there. It was the perfect place for a hellhound to live. To humans, hellhounds were mythical creatures, Cerberus being the most well-known. They were, in fact, quite real. They were faster, stronger (and I don’t just mean relative to body mass), and more lethal than anything found on this planet, seeing as they can kill at a glance if they so desire. They have glowing red eyes and often smell like sulfur. The most telltale sign that one has been somewhere is the burnt land where they have walked.
Dasha did not feel tired that night, so instead of sleeping, she walked. Behind her was a shadow with no body. She hadn’t noticed the shadow before, and she didn’t know how long he had been following her. What she did know, however, is who he was. His name was Meeker. He was a friend of hers.
“What do you want, Meeker?” Of course, shadows cannot speak, but perhaps he could use sign language, or she could write the letters down and he could point to them.
It took about an hour, but Meeker got his point across. The Authority had sent a hellhound to find Dasha. But this was not just any of your average death-omen dogs. This was Orthula, which was apparently some kind of genetically altered super-weapon. He was a whole lot bigger, a whole lot stronger, and a whole lot more powerful. And The Authority had been dumb enough to send him, unsupervised, to hunt her down. And he had gone rogue on them. The real question here was: what had she done to anger The Authority so much? They had either been extremely bored, or Dasha had been framed. Now, it was up to Dasha to find Orthula before he destroyed the whole planet.
She left the minute she heard the bad news. There was no sense whatsoever in standing idle for even a short time. Dasha had an advantage over humans. She could walk for a very long time without getting tired. She had, after all, been trained in the militia.
Dasha had been following the news reports for days until she had found Orthula’s tracks. He was indeed a monstrous dog, judging by the footprints he left the main pad of the foot alone was the size of a dinner plate. After that, she had followed the tracks and ignored the news. Those people had driven her crazy. Her most important goal right now was to get to him before the humans did.
She had been following him for days now without food or sleep. She had to be gaining on him, though. The deer skeleton she had found in the forest a few hours ago had only confirmed her belief.
Dasha heard shouting and a helicopter flew over her head. She picked up her pace. At the edge of the forest was none other than the dog she had been chasing. Unfortunately, he was surrounded by the police force. There were also some vans that had the word S.W.A.T. on them. A law enforcement officer spotted Dasha standing nearby.
“Miss, it isn’t safe here. I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“You’ll all die if you don’t let me through.”
“Is that a threat?”
“No, it’s a warning.” She pushed past him into the midst of the circle of people.
Orthula stood before Dasha, taller than a draft horse, and with magma eyes. He leapt toward her, growling and snarling. She stood her ground. In a commanding forte voice she angrily said:
“You BAD, BAD dog, Orthula!” Orthula stopped in his tracks. He was unsure of what to do. This tiny Shadow Girl seemed so sure of itself. It was naming itself as superior to him. It was the boss.
“SIT!” Orthula’s ears folded down and whimpered, although it sounded more akin to thunder. He sat.
“Good dog,” She said more gently. To a human, the dog looked fierce and angry, like it wanted to tear the world to pieces, it took an experienced person to see the regret and pleading in his eyes. He made puppy eyes at Dasha and lay down.
“Now, don’t give me those puppy eyes, you’ve been a bad dog and you know it.” A law enforcement officer approached her.
“Ma’am, is this your mon… um… dog?” She laughed and replied,
“Well, I suppose he is now, but not originally.”
“That dog has killed a lot of people, miss. He needs to be put down.”
“how do you know it was him?”
“Well.. um… the tracks… and…”
“So you don’t really know,” She said. Since there was no real proof that Orthula had done anything, they were let go on no charges. Dasha was free to leave. She couldn’t go back to the shadow world again. Ever. Shadow Children live forever. Nor could Orthula go back. So she leapt onto his back and was never officially heard from again, although there were rumors of a giant dog with a young woman on its back, wandering through forest and countryside alike.