In murky backstreets, damp, flickering gaslight barely penetrates the fog.  A little realm is mapped out.  It’s a chilly realm built for shadows, for disembodied lives that are barely there.  They inherit that place with ease.  No one else cares to make any claim on it and nothing’s out of bounds, so long as it stays unseen.

It’s a place of gloomy opportunities and the shadows carve out a niche, as best they can.  Massed in close quarters, they come to terms with their place in the world and make sense of all the confusing treasures it offers up and snatches back.

Liz belongs there, among the rest of daylight’s immigrants; so she, too, chases each of those treasures, in turn.  A prettier shadow than some of the others, she gets the chance to whore that prettiness around as she patrols the borders, walking along the fringes of the flickering light.

“Wherever you see any glow it casts a deeper shadow.”  The thought flashes through Liz’s mind, to no purpose.

True, there’s always been a hint of brightness inside her.  Or so her mother said when she was little.  Then the young men said so, when she grew.  It means she stands out, in her fashion.  It means she doesn’t mind so much the resigned feelings that swamp the streets.

Without flinching, she haggles with rough customers.  Flinches aren’t attractive.  Flinches don’t pay the bills.  So, she says it’s an honour to be partnered with other embodiments of the darkness.  Saying it so many times, Liz can scarcely remember – so many memories, all somehow the same; even if each shadow acts differently.

It’s possible to like a few, disregard most, or be repulsed.  Others are best avoided.

Morality is too flexible to be avoided, even in places so densely filled with darkness and the urge to stay hid.  Inside these seedy alleys, morality means only this: that introducing shining objects is an unacceptable risk.  It’s a blinding-bright threat.  No one has that right.  Still, there’s always a shadow that’s grimmer than the others, who takes a shine to blood and tears; who carries bright scalpels with him and a routine of butchering.

Fleeting women are met in passing.  A collision of atoms happens.

The scalpel flashes through Liz’s belly, to no purpose.  She opens up like wet, sloshing curtains.  And where her blood spatters out onto the filthy cobblestones, it turns as bright and silvery as money.  It sparkles for generations of true crime authors, who whore her remains around the bestseller lists.


This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Tale Weaver’s Prompt#33 “Shadow People” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up are about shadows and share the atmosphere of the picture at the top of this post by Hypothetic Realist@Deviant Art.