Story: A Shadowlanders Tale: The Lingering Shadows Within (chapter 1)
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[Author's notes: Note: This is a side story from my Shadowlanders Series, however it is a stand alone short that does not require reading A Shadowlander’s Dream in order to understand. For those who have read the Shadowlanders stories it will open up more insight into the mysteries of the shadowlands and the worlds there after. Enjoy.
A Shadowlander's Tale: The Lingering Shadows Within
Written by Kathryn K Williams
As I lay upon the icy marble floor with this frosty mist drifting over my head I think to myself. Did the pills really opened the door to this dreadful place or my own mind. Maybe by telling you the tale of how I got where I now lay you will understand my ponderings and watch out for the warning signs that are all about us.
I trudged along the dark downtown street of the small town of London with only the light of the street lamps to guide my way. If you could call that strip of shops, downtown. It comprised of two square blocked of three story high buildings with shops ranging from tiny fast food joints and seedy bars to jewellery stores next and pawn shops. If one was visiting London they might walk right past the downtown district without even being aware that they had passed on through.
I watches as a plastic bag was picked up by the wind and tumbled along the centre of Main street. At this hour one would have thought this to be a ghost town if they did not know better. The streets of Downtown London rolled up around six o'clock at night, leaving only the bar and club folk to peruse the streets. There was barely a soul out at such a late hour and I was glad to find it that way, because I did not want to bump into anyone along my way. Even with its population of three hundred thousand the city held strong to its small town feeling and one was most likely to run into someone they were trying to avoid if they ventured in to the downtown district during the light of day. It was as if everyone knew you in some way or another and the more you wished to be left alone the more people popped up out of the wood work to greet you with a pat on the back and ask you how your dreadful family was doing or even worse, to remind you that your poor mother was missing your presence. This is why I only risk coming to venture out of my home after the sun had long disappeared behind the horizon and all the people returned to their homes.
One would wonder why I would choose to hold my place of business in such an area if I detested it so deeply. There was a small charm to these streets that only a few of us truly admired. Many of the night folk took up housing in the many beautiful apartments that had been set up above the shops. Homes that did not reflect the dark and grittiness of the streets below. Artist of all sorts set up shop in those very buildings as they toiled through the cold nights in search of some form of inspiration. One would be amazed to find such wondrous havens hovering lightly over these dismal streets. I could see the light of a fireplace flickering away in one window and wondered what it would be like to live in such a place. I was not among the creative minded, but that was not my reason for being down in this area. My business dealt with the darker side of life in this town. The part that people would rather sweep into the back alleys and forget about. Those are the very people I seek to protect from the shadows that lingered within the darkest corners of this god forsaken town. To bad very few people heed my warnings for then there would be a lot less misery on these streets.
I shivered in the cold, my breath coming out in small clouds of frosty air as I pulled my trench coat tight around my neck and glanced up at the star lit sky. They twinkles merrily in the black void above the city without a care in the world. I wondered what it would be like to have no cares or worries then shook the thought from my mind. I could never be the type to not care and that would be my curse to the very end.
The nights had begun to get rather nippy at that late an hour and I started to wish I'd brought my leather jacket to work with me, instead of this flimsy trenchcoat. The weather in this town never made any kind of sense out here. Earlier one would not have been aware that it was the middle of January with the warm breeze that swept in from the lakes. Now that wonderful lake air had turned frigged as the thermometer dropped below zero, causing a lot of people to huddle in their warm homes with the windows drawn closed and blankets pulled close around their chins. Only a rare few were willing to brave a chance of frost bite on nights like this and I was among those crazy enough to venture out. Even if it were drizzling rain or tossing snow by the buckets, nothing would stop me from visiting my favourite place in town. Anything was better then staying in my tiny apartment with only the darkness to keep me company, and company of the warmer and softer type was what I was after on that night.
I glanced up at a passing store window to see it was still filled with Christmas lights and fake snow. The New Year had long since passed and yet very few shops had got around to removing the decorations from the front windows. I peered into the darkened rooms within and shuttered. They held a bleak and dead feeling to them that made me want to be far away from them. I quickly rounded a corner and ventured down a small back alley, allowing the shadows to envelope me. Back then I enjoyed the embrace of the shadows in this alley way. For some reason it comforted me, maybe it was the fact that it lead to my second home that brightened the rather dreary mood that had filled me during the day. As I moved away from the lights of the downtown streets I could see a new light in the distance. A smile crossed my face, making my cheek hurt, but I didn't care. I was nearly at my favourite place in the world. The only place that I truly felt a home. ‘Our Place'.
Our Place is a small gay club tucked out of sight of the many homophobic citizens of our lovely little town, note the sarcasm, I would do anything to escape this hell hole and Our Place gives a lot of us just that, escape. It was a small sanctuary tucked away from the harsh reality of life. I know what you are thinking, what kind of a lame name is ‘Our Place'. Well you see, the club had changed hands many times over the years and with the exchange of owners came the new names. I remember it being called "The Apartment" when I first found it five years ago. I had turned twenty and a couple of my friends decided to take me out on the town. One of them had heard of a hidden gay bar and thought it would be fun to see what the place was like. They all knew I liked women and thought it would be a treat for me by taking me someplace where I could get hitched. Who would have thought that I would like the place enough to call it home.
Anyway, the name never really mattered, what did was the warm and welcoming feeling it managed to hold onto over the change of ownership. I was afraid after the last changes that they would alter things too much, but I was actually happy with what they have done. They kept the music soft and low, added in a couple of sofas and coffee tables, plus a small diner that served some surprisingly good burgers, it was no Harvey's but it did in a pinch. The touches made the place feel more like a home away from home then a bar. It was a pleasant change from the other gay club down the street, where the music is so loud that you can not even hear yourself think and it was so crammed packed that you needed to shove your way to the bar to get yourself a drink. Right at that time I needed a place to relax and thought that I might actually find the right girl to do the trick there. Who would have thought I could have been both right and wrong at the same time.
I came across a set of rickety wooden stair outside of an old brick building with boarded up windows. A passerby would not even think that there was a lively club filled with even more lively women beyond these weather worn walls. I sometimes wondered why they never cleaned up the exterior of the building and make it more inviting. Then I remembered what happened to my last haunt. They placed a pretty sign out front that announced that the place was a lesbian hangout and before we knew it not only were pretty faces joining but rather obnoxious and irritating men as well. Not to say I'm against men, but these guy were on a mission to straighten lesbians out and it was less then pleasant. After two months of harassments the place was shut down and we dykes were out of a home. I ended up going to the only other club that I knew of at the time. It was alright, if you were into sweaty bodies pressed up against each other and music so loud that you felt as if your ear drums were going to explode. The smoke was the worst thing of it all. I can not stand the stuff and even the addition of a outdoor patio did not help, because they expected us non-smokers to go outside if we wanted to breath. Sure, punish the ones who wished to keep their lungs.
Back to Our Place. As I was saying before, the stairs leading up to the second floor entrance would not have caught the average person's eye. The stairs actually looked rather scary and as if it would fall apart at any moment. I took hold of the railing and tested it, as I did every time I came to visit. The railing was wobbly and not very sturdy, but held tight to the stairs. I was certain it would have fallen off years ago, but somehow it had held up against even the heaviest of drunken individuals leaning over it to puke up their night's drinks. I could already see a steaming pile in some snow to my left as I climbed the stairs and shook my head. I never understood the purpose of drinking until you puke. I guess it is another form of escaping their worries, but I will never know because I tend to stay away from the drink and stick to soda pop and fruit drinks. I know, I know, what is a person like me doing going to a place like this if I don't intend to drink. Well, there is more then one way for a person to drown their worries in and this is one of the few places that I can acquire my guilty pleasures.
I stopped on the third step and stared up at the landing ahead of me. I took off my fedora and ran my hand through my mop of ragged blonde hair. Why did I keep coming back here anyway? I should have gone back home and got some sleep. I had a lot of work in the morning and getting lost in this place wasn't going to help matters. I was about to turn around when I heard the sound of a door open above me and saw a faint yellow light pour across the stairs. Someone stepped out onto the landing but did not head for the stairs, curious to know who could be up there I climbed the last of the stairs.
I came to a small square landing at the top of the stairs with a wooden railing along the edge and a makeshift awning overhead. There was a burly woman in a heavy parka standing in front of a steel door at the end of the landing. Her fur surrounded hood was pulled over her head covering her face in shadows. The moment I came into view she pulled the hood off to reveal the face of a tough looking woman with long curly black hair. Most would be intimidated when they saw this woman, I know I sure was the first time I met her, but after getting to know her they would realize that she is rather kind and loving person.
"Brenda!" The woman called out to me with a wave of her beefy arm, "I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show tonight." She stated with a warm smile.
"Hey Julia," I returned the bouncer's smile and gave her a quick hug. She returned the hug and I thought I heard my ribs crack in several places. I covered up the pain and continued to smile as if her strong embrace did not effect me. To say Julia was butch would be an understatement. She shorter then me, and I stood 5 foot 7 inches tall and 130 pounds so I want not much to look at myself, and well built beyond belief. I was sure if she wanted to she could lift me off the ground and toss me over the railing with the slightest of ease. I'd even heard rumours of her doing so to many disgruntle partons that got out of place. At the same time she had more compassion in her then I've seen in any other lady around here and I knew I could come to her if I ever had a problem and she would be more then willing to listen. A real friend, "You know me. All work and little play." I explained with a laugh.
Julia gave me a knowing look and chuckled, "Yeah, right... you always try to find a way to squeeze in a little play in every now and then." She stated with a wink.
I could feel myself flush and pulled the brim of my hat over my eyes to hid them from the woman, "Yeah... I guess I can't keep that from you." I admitted sheepishly. Everyone here knew I was a harmless flirt and they tended to tease me about the fact. Only lightly, all in fun.
"How is the Private Eye work treating you?" Julia inquired curiously as she lit a cigarette.
Now usually I would just answer with a shrug because most people were just trying to make conversation, but when it came to the people from Our Place I found myself being a little more open. They were like family to me after all and considering that my really family really didn't want anything to do with me I clung to any kind of family I could find.
"It's alright I guess. I'm just finding it hard to deal with all these suicide cases as of late." I remarked with a sigh, "I wise I could get to these kids before they end their lives, maybe I could help them in some way. I don't know." I scratched the back of my head in embarrassment of my rambling. I tend to not know what to say at times and when I do say something I never know when to stop. I try to keep things as short as possible because I don't want to spread my dreadful life onto others. I'm not your ordinary P.I. for I tend to investigate the more unusual cases. As of late I've taken it upon myself to keep track of all the missing children and suicides. It is something a lot of people would rather not chat about and so I keep my mouth shut about the facts of my job.
Julia frowned at the mention of suicide, "This town is always killing people." She stated miserably, "It's as if the town eats at your soul and it is amazing any of us survive at all, you know? I can understand why so many kids can't handle life, but I wish there was more we could do for them."
I nod in agreement. It really did feel like something was eating away at our souls. I had been certain since I was small there was something out there that I could not quite explain that was causing our youth to commit suicide. I even fought against it for a time and in the end finally won, but I was unwilling to tell that to Julia. People already considered me a bit of a loon and if I let them in on many inner most fears of the shadows the linger about the town, then they would surely want to have me locked away for good. I mean how do you explain to someone that you believe that there is something lingering around town in search of young souls to snack on? It is just not something you bring up in everyday conversation and now that I was a respected detective I could not go around talking about such things. People would never come to me with their problems ever again. It was tiresome at times, but I learned to just let out a bit here and there so that my own thoughts did not eat away at my insides. I was determined that one day I would solve this rash of suicides and strange disappearances and have a logical explanation to follow.
Unsure what else to say to Julia I glanced around the landing to see another woman leaning on the railing. She had a tight leather jacket pulled around her shoulders and long blonde hair that rolled over her back in waves that glistened in the light from above the club door. Her tight jean skirt peeked out from under the fringe of her jacket and my eyes caught a glimpse of her long legs clad in flesh coloured stockings. A pair of high heeled leather boots adorned her feet and she kicked the snow off the tip of her toe over the railing. As I approached the woman I could see that she was in her own world as she gazed up at the stars. She did not seem to notice as I moved in closer and slowly slipped a hand around her waist.
"Hey!!" She screamed out in protest and spun around to face me. Her eyes took me in and a wide smile quickly spread across her face. "Brenda!!" She wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me tight. A warm and welcoming embrace in comparison to Julia's. I returned the hug and allowed myself a chance to steal a whiff of her sweet scent to discover that she still did not cover it up with some cheap perfume. I hated it when women hide their scent behind a mask of manmade produces. A little make up I could understand, but other then that I really can not stand much more.
"Hey, there little lady." I flirted as I pulled back from the hug to glance over her features. Her cheeks were rose red from the cool air and bright green eyes sparkled in delight of my appearance, at least I hoped that was what caused them to sparkle like that, but I knew that was far from the truth. I'd looked into those eyes on more then one occasion and I tell you they were the type that I could really get lost in, but never once did she return my gaze in the same way. So the fact that they were sparkling at that moment interested me. That was when I noticed it, a multitude of tiny balls of ice clinging to her eyelashes, slight bags and an unmistakable depth of pain in her eyes. At once I realize that something was bothering my friend and this tugged at my heart, "Beth, Is everything alright?" I inquired as I gentle ran a hand through her long blonde hair and pushed it behind her ear. I'd know Beth for a few years now and she was a close friend of mine. I almost thought I could love her if she gave me the chance and seeing that sadness in her eyes pained my me greatly. She took my hand in her's and held it to her cheek, her cheek was ice cold. Even though I knew she had only stepped out a moment ago I could tell that she had been crying and it was her tears that had frozen to her skin and made them sparkle so. In turn they made her cheek a lot colder then they should have been.
"I...." Her lips trembled and her eyes darted around as if in search of some from of escape.
"Come inside with me." I suggested as I wrapped an arm around her shoulder and she did not protest as I lead her back to the door. Julia opened the door for us without a single word, "Thanks Julia." I said with a smile and a nod to the woman.
"Anytime." Julia patted me on the shoulder, "Beth, you take care too."
"Thank you Julia." Beth replied in but a whisper. This was one of the things that I loved about this place. We all understood when one of us was in pain. It was a strange bound that many of us at Our Place held and I for one was glad to have found such a tight knit community of wonderful women. We entered the warmth of the club and Julie closed the door behind us. I was glad I decided to drop by that day, but if I known where this was going to lead me I might have considered turning right around. But I couldn't have done that to Beth, not then and not ever. There was that caring curse of mine at work again. This was going to be one long night I could tell.
To be continued
Note: The world of the shadowlands, Its stories, Characters and ideas are a copyright of Kathryn K Williams.
This story is based upon my manga of the same name. If you wish visit my site and see some of the art based on this series at http://www.KatAndNekoManga.ca
Also if you spot any typos or other errors please contact me at Kathryn@KatAndNekoManga.ca
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