30 Days (Eating Flies)
There once was a woman who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.
~.~.~ The Muted World ~.~.~
The room, until a moment ago, was eerily quiet. Eery, because although it was full of people walking in different directions, the only detectable noise was the sound of their robotically synchronized footsteps. Every pair of eyes held an unnatural shine, and each face a distinct brown marking on one cheek. There was not a blemish or flaw to be seen on any of their young bodies. But perhaps most strangely of all, not one of them cast a shadow.
The peace was dramatically broken when double doors at one end of the room burst open. Two men with the same unfeeling eyes dragged a woman down the hall. She struggled violently to break free, but the silent men barely furrowed their brows.
“No! You can’t do this to me! You don’t understand!” the woman wailed, thrashing around. She shook her head wildly, sobbing and gasping under a veil of unkempt hair. Her black leather boots kicked and scuffed at the pristine white tiled floor. “You monsters! huuuh,” she took in a shallow breath, “All of you! You’re the ones with the problem!”
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks the moment the doors opened. Their inhuman eyes glared in silent disgust as the woman was pushed, pulled and ultimately stuffed through a door on the other side of the room.
As the screaming faded out, the men gave the crowd a strict look, urging them on their way. Almost all remained quiet, but a few flashed sinister grins or clucked their tongues disapprovingly.
“Been happening a lot. What are things coming to?” a girl with luxurious brown curls whispered flatly to the boy beside her. The marking on her cheek was a paisley pattern of curving lines and dots, identical to his. He shared her hair color too, but had jade eyes in contrast to her blue.
Idle chatter being discouraged, it seemed doubly wasteful to discuss something so unpleasant. But the seriousness of the issue demanded recognition.
“Turners disgrace their clans. Heard they’ll be killed soon. Should be a deterrent...”
The girl grunted noncommittally as the pair continued down a narrow hall. They walked until they reached the end of a long single file line which they joined. The boy stood behind her, and like a conveyor belt, every few seconds the entire line would take a step forward. When she reached the head of the line, the girl stood in front of a white wall with a square black device fixed to one side and a large rectangular hole cut out of the middle. She touched her palm to the black square, which lit up on contact. In the middle of the hole in the wall a piece of opaque glass the size and thickness of a sheet of paper materialized and hovered in place. The girl snatched the glass and gracefully stepped aside, allowing the boy to complete the same action.
When they’d retrieved the odd items, the girl looked up at the boy, “Leaving tonight. You?”
He shook his head ‘no’, and replied indifferently, “Not hungry yet. A week or two, maybe...”
“Mm,” the girl nodded as the two parted ways.
~.~.~ The Deal ~.~.~
Spring had barely arrived, and the snow that once blanketed the city was gone away, dewy green grass in its place. The sun shone brightly, but cold air lingered and a strong gust swept by every so often.
A girl with long black hair lay flat on her back somewhere in the middle of the city cemetery. Her body was covered by the shadow of an intricate mausoleum behind her. Her legs and arms stretched out spread eagle, and her red puffy eyes glared defiantly at the clouds. She remained silent but her cracked lips were parted as if perpetually on the verge of announcing something.
One moment she saw only the drifting of a swollen grey cumulous, but the next a whip of unnatural movement in the corner of her eye. She turned her head and saw the very shadow she was laying in begin to expand and dance, as if reaching up into a three dimensional entity. The girl’s body stiffened at the sight of such a phenomenon as a human form took shape from the blackness. The man shaped mass of shadow gradually transformed into a handsome boy with green eyes. Running or screaming would have been more appropriate, but all except her pounding heart and wide eyes were stilled from shock.
“Hello,” the boy whispered. He spoke close to her ear, “Can I ask what you’re doing here?”
The girl looked pensively behind him to the road a few yards off. Anticipating she’d make a run for it, he grabbed her chin with his thumb and forefinger and looked directly into her eyes. He was satisfied when he sensed a chill of fear paralyze her completely.
“I-I was...” the girl forced herself to speak, “I-I’m probably going to... to die soon... so I was contemplating death.” She observed the strange mark on his cheek, perhaps wondering if it was a tattoo or birthmark, “Is that why you’re here?”
A subtle, practically unnoticeable look of pleasure came over the boy’s face.
“You could say that,” he answered cooly, never once blinking his glowing eyes.
She gritted her teeth in devastation, her eyes filling with fresh tears.
“So I guess there’s no helping it...” she gasped, “Are you an angel?”
He shook his head and held his palm out flat, an opaque sheet of glass appearing over it. The girl blinked in disbelief at the trick.
“I’m here to make a deal...” he explained ominously, “I’m a shadow. If you make a contract with me, I’ll become your shadow for one month. In that time I can grant any wish of yours, as many as you want.”
The girl stared at the hypnotic light of the floating glass. She let out a trembling breath, “R-Really? Anything?”
“Of course,” he nodded. The allure of the glowing glass and the aura he exuded drowned out any sense of conscience she might have clung to. “If it doesn’t break the rules or adversely effect me, I can do it. To other humans the outcomes will seem perfectly normal.”
She jerked her head to break eye contact and gaze at a headstone. The finality of that cold carved rock warned of things to come.
“Why me?” she whispered, “Are you sure?”
Bluntly, to remove any suspicion his service was charitable, he confessed the terms.
“At the end of the month, you die.”
A blast of wind whipped through. The girl bit her lip and closed her eyes tightly. She opened them slowly, whispering, “There’s always a catch.”
“I eat your body. It doesn’t hurt... but don’t ask about your soul. I don’t know what happens to it. But it’s a good deal if you’re going to die anyway, yes?”
The girl’s tense body relaxed as she resigned herself. He was right. She had nothing left to lose.
“I’ll do it.”
With an almost imperceptible smirk of satisfaction he held out the glass between them. He pressed his palm against the now floating sheet, instructing her to do the same on the other side. Right before the glass lit up mystically with ancient text, he felt different from the other times he’d done this, but disregarded it.
When the light faded away, he opened his eyes and took the sheet of glass in both hands. By merely touching it, the girl’s signature had been etched into the contract.
“Thank you, Kayleh,” he said, deciphering her name from the cursive script.
She looked at him with a sad smile and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Shadows don’t have names,” he answered abruptly. He seemed distant now that the deal was made.
Kayleh frowned and touched the mark on his cheek.
“That’s a shame. It really is.”
Without replying, the boy sunk back into the ground. Kayleh’s body felt heavier, as if supporting a little of someone else’s weight. She stood and walked out to the dirt road of the cemetery. Now in the sunlight, she could see it clearly. Instead of the outline of her own female form, her shadow took the shape of the boy. It was taller and larger than it should be, but if his words had been true, no one would notice. She moved her arms and legs and watched his move in synch. She took one last look at the headstones and thought that she had better use this month wisely. Very wisely.