Friday, April 21, 2017


I opened my eyes and took a deep breath of relief. My eyes were working. I could see color and objects. I could hear a musical sound. I could feel a subtle vibration from under me. The smell that surrounded me was like a musty basement. The taste of the air was sweet and metallic. I laid there staring upwards, letting it all sink in.

The ceiling looked like a normal room. In the middle hung a chandelier, it was covered with decorative panels, painted like a fancy Victorian home. I was laying on something soft. I moved my head to see. It looked like a normal bed, in someone's bedroom. It had a huge, wooden headboard with carvings of circles and gears. Only, these carvings were moving around. I could also see two bedside tables, one on each side of the bed. Each had a lamp, and one had a pitcher and a glass of water. On the left table was a vase of arranged flowers; roses and daisies.

On the left wall, a large picture of a river in a forest sang at me with the voice of an all-female choir. It was low and whispering, like a chanting prayer. Under the voices, I could hear the river flow. Then, I realized that the river was moving, the wind blew through the trees, and birds were flying in the air. For reasons I do not know, I didn't want to think about the picture. It was happy and sad at the time. It was enough to know it was there and that was all.

On the same wall, stood an ordinary wardrobe. The door was open just a tad. I would swear on everything holy, that the sleeve of a woman's military flight suit was sticking out. Then, the sleeve was pulled inside and the door closed by itself. The wall itself was an unassuming and ordinary wood paneling, at first glance. But the closer I looked, the more the wood grain shifted like it was alive. Past the foot of the bed, on the far wall, was a dressing table. I could tell there were ladies things on it but not in any detail.

A door stood closed on the far right wall. It had markings that matched the headboard, but those were not moving. Next came the bookcase filled with books, gargoyle bookends, a paper Mache, blue, police box, a box of glowing marbles, a wormy potato in water, and other odd looking knick-knacks. Then, a set of wooden drawers. On the top of it, a long, two-handed sword with a white hilt on a display stand. There was so much to look at. So many things. I stopped looking. The last I wanted was to go into sensory overload again. I looked back up at the ceiling.

That's when I noticed a faint golden hue surrounding me, like a bubble. I reached up with my right hand to touch it. I didn't get to touch it. I noticed what was on my hand. The place where the thorn had injected me, had turned green. In the center of the wound, there was a piece of brown seed. Brown lines swam around my fingers, into my palm and wrist.

I brought my hand to my nose. I inhaled deeply. There was no indication of the smell of nuts, so it wasn't gangrene. I studied it carefully. I could see the lines growing. I sighed. There was nothing I could do about it. My attention went back to the golden bubble. I reached out to touch it again. It bounced back, like a force field. Cool.

A far off voice came through me, a whisper on wind without motion. It was a woman's voice. I only heard her saying my name. She said more, but I couldn't understand the words. Then, that was interrupted by the disembodied voice of the Shadow Man.

"It's a low level, telepathic field," he said.

"What?" I asked, looking over at the door he came in.

And there he was. I actually saw him. He was not a black-on-black silhouette. He was real and standing at the foot of the bed. But again, his body shifted, one person, many forms and faces, only his eyes remained the same. I was suddenly compelled to ignore him and speak aloud the only thing that filled my mind, numbers.

"10, 2, 37, 63, 8, 22, 59, 4, 89." I listed aloud.

"Why are you doing that?" he demanded.

 Mustering as much focus as I could, I attempted to respond. "I, 11, don't, 41, know, 32, 6, 25." The numbers came faster and faster. I could no longer do or say anything else.

The Shadow Man pulled his metal light from his coat pocket. He aimed it at the headboard and it flashed and whistled. The numbers in my head slowed and finally stopped. The montage of visual forms on his body slowed and glitched out. "What do you see now?" he asked.

"Static. It's looping static," I replied

"Well, better than a shadow, eh?" he said.

"I know it's you in shadow because of your hair," I said. "Now, you look like a static silhouette. It's weird."

He reached up and touched his hair. "Yeah, well, it's a lottery, isn't it? That's what I get for spending too much time with Telosians." He scoffed. "Right now, I  look like a toss up between Loki and Legolas. You should see the braids. It was either that or the man bun. Went with the lesser of two evils."

"Legolas? The elf from Lord of the Rings? He isn't even real," I objected.

"What? Of course, he is! You don't think that all happened in fiction, do you? Well, I admit there was some embellishment. But for the most part, that's what happens when a companion accidently gets stuck on the wrong planet. Not everything goes right. And sometimes, it takes a while to fix. In his case, it was a few years."

"Legolas, was your companion?" I asked.

"What? No! John. John was my companion. When he got home, he wrote a book. He wasn't the first to do that. Amazing man, John. Been using the name ever since."

I snorted a laugh. "Fine. If that is how you like it, then fine. Ruin a childhood, why don't you," I replied. He chuckled. "You are lying!" I accused.

"Get used to it," he shrugged. "It's better if you do..."

I interrupted. "Wait. You said, low-level telepathic field? I am on a medical bed? It looks like a normal bed. And what is reading my mind?"

"Well, yeah. Of course, it looks like a normal bed. It also acts as a medical bed. The TARDIS can monitor your life readings, recommend medical procedures, repair minor damages, First aid stuff. All the beds do it, when necessary."

"And when not necessary? Can you turn it on and off?" I asked.

"Yes, you can. But why would you..."

"Well, if you had a wife and she slept in bed with you, you could turn on the telepathic field and..."

"Okay! Stop!" he shouted.

That is when I found out that static could blush. It was so funny! I laughed at him. "Oh, you are naughty! I bet your wife was very happy! Talk about misuse of company property! Don't worry, I won't tell."

"Okay, let's get you out of that bed," he said quickly.

"Awe, wouldn't you like a go, Mr. Naughty? I'd like to try the telepathic field," I said, as I laughed harder. "Come on, join me." I patted a spot on the bed next to me.

I would like to say that I didn't mean it. But that wouldn't be completely true. I would say that 60% of me wanted to try, most of that was from plain curiosity. There was a 10% of me that responded with shock. Then, it came back with a thought that maybe static sex tingled in all the right places. And he would know exactly where the tingle should go with the instruction of telepathic field. Then, I realized how embarrassed I was at these thoughts. That was interrupted by a female voice, laughing in the back of my head. I went quite. He did not.

"Why does it always come down to that?" The Shadow man facepalmed. "I mean really."

I was still laughing at him and, secretly, me. "I'm only human." I shrugged it off.

"No, you would think so, but no. It isn't only human," he said.

"Well, you are a bit naughty, aren't you?" I said. Now, I was laughing so hard, I was snorting. I couldn't help it. How does static blush? How could I describe it? And how is it not funny? He would like me to believe that he doesn't have chemical in his brain that motivates him to think these things. He is an evolved creature from a highly intellectual race of beings who conquered space-time, time, and space. But the truth of it is, that they too were like humans in the way that they are driven to procreate, albeit a little differently. That means highly evolved brain chemicals that do the same thing. Maybe it functions like a Vulcan from Star Trek, how was I to know? But function it does, and there wasn't any use in hiding it. "Now, I know something about you. You are prudish," I said. "I'll bet you feel guilty about lying about that."

"Fine! I am a beast in the bed sheets! Is that what you want?" He yelled.

"Sure. Why not? No use in denying it, after all. Here I come, Effie! The oncoming storm. Don't be scared, I am going conquer all your time and space, it will be over in a flash!" He growled. "All right, I'm done! I swear." I laughed.

"I know why you are doing that," he said.


"This. You want to embarrass me because you are embarrassed for fainting again."

"Well, we are even now, I guess."

"Hold on," he said. His static shape came closer to the bed. "How do you know all that stuff?"

"What stuff?"

"Oncoming Storm, evolved creature, conquering space-time, all that. I didn't tell you that," he said.

I stopped laughing. He was right. "How did you know, that I knew?"

"Low-level telepathic field, I can hear surface thoughts," he said.

"Well, that is embarrassing." I thought a moment but could not come up with an answer. "I don't know," I said. "It was all just there, in my head."

"And you can see? Can you see what is around you?"

"Well, yeah. Sorry, I don't think I mentioned that. Probably should have. Maybe that's why I am avoiding leaving the bed. I don't want to be blind again."

He went quite. He looked over the headboard. The shadow man pointed his metal light at it and made it whistle. Then, he looked at his wand. "How? How! How can in? Plug and play?" He pocketed his metal light. Then, he grabbed my face with his static hands and came close. He was so close he should have been breathing up my nose. But there wasn't any breath from his face. The only thing that appeared in that was the burning blue eyes again. "What are you playing at, you sexy thing?" he whispered.

"I was only joking about the bed thing," I said. "If you want to play doctors and nurses, then you should work up to it. Dinner, dancing, ice cream, you know."

"Shut up, I'm not talking to you," he said. The eyes burned and went silent. After another moment or five, he let me go. "I hate not knowing!"

"Oh, then I guess the date is off. You are really going to hate me now," I said, averting his gaze.

"What? Tell me," he demanded.

I raised my right hand, palm out. "It's spreading and turning green. What does your bed med say about that?"


"Don't I know it!" I smiled. "Two! Two puzzles wrapped in one! Act now on this incredible offer! All for one low, low price! Only one human soul."

"No. No. Don't. Do not joke about that. Don't," he said.

"It doesn't matter," I said. "What am I compared to the big picture. A single-celled organism, on a mite, on a flea, on the back of a running dog? Nope, not even that."

"I have never met a single life that wasn't important. There is no such thing as small, Jessica."

"And death? Have you ever met a death that wasn't important?" I asked.


"You can't have one without the other. Would you protect an important death?"

"Life. Life is worth protecting," he said.

"Yes, but living is not. Life in exchange for life is not death. It's change without ending," I said. I could feel the blood drain from my face. Why was I saying this? My mouth kept moving. "You are a silly, ridiculous man. And even after all this time, you still haven't learned the most important lesson."

"What's that?" he asked, shocked.


previous                              Sensory Challenged

next                            Nothing More Human

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sensory Challenged

Banter. He loves to banter. The shadow man went on about something or another in his disembodied voice. I stood in the infinite blackness watching his black on black silhouette dance around a circle flipping invisible switches.  I think he likes the sound of his own voice. Honestly, I like the sound of his voice, but I would never tell him that. His ego gives him enough encouragement. I do not need to add to it.

"Are you paying attention?" he asked. "I asked you a question."

"Oh sorry, I thought you were bragging about being with a queen or some other important historical figure."

"Well, I was. But then I asked a question," he said defensively.

"You don't care about what I think, You will go where you want, when you want. I'm just an audience," I said.

"You know, I can drop your bad attitude off on a nearby planet," he said.

"Yes, Dad. Sorry, Dad. Whatever you say, Dad," I grumbled.

"Jess, what is the issue? It's sounding like you are testing me again. You are so combative!"

"I really am sorry," I replied. "I am angry about not being able to see anything. I took my anger out on you, sorry." I huffed. "You keep telling me about all the things you do, places you've been, and people you met. How can I do with you if I can't see? How can I be in a dangerous situation if I am blind?"

"You aren't blind,"

"Then what do you call this?" I yelled.

"Sensory challenged."

"Don't be funny," I said.

"Let's try something different. You have seen spaceport. Let's try a planet. Maybe, you just can't see the TARDIS," he said. He flipped up a lever and the metal floor I stood on gave a jerk. My ears went deaf at the explosion of sound. I was flung into an invisible metal thing. I grabbed on to it for dear life.

 As I was being flung like a rag doll in the hands of a child, there was a tolling of bells. Just one. The sound left me as quickly as it had come, and I only heard a small bit of the shadow man's response of "oops."

Then a moment came, like a GIF. I was standing at a circular console. In the center of it was spiraling lights, twirling like an Archimedes screw and glowing like Christmas lights. Each light was a ball attached to a cylinder, connected to the screw; like a spinning stalk of glowing Brussels Sprouts. As it spun around, the balls on cylinders went in and out.

The console was covered in odd bits of buttons, switches, levers, dials, and small touchscreens. My hands were gripping some kind of air filter, my fingers fit right in. But right in front of me, on the console, was a potted flower. Despite the jerking and flailing, that flower pot had not moved. Everything else looked like it had moved. But the beautiful flower, in that pot, with its gentle tendrils, had not shifted a millimeter.

My right hand let go of the air filter and reached out to touch the flower. In slow motion, I heard the shadow man yell not to touch it. I turned my head, my hand hovered near the flower. That all happened a few times, like a loop.

Then, I can see the shadow man, clearly but, still, in slow motion. His face changed quickly, so many faces, like a montage of a movie. He points a metal light at me. It makes a funny whistling sound. Time speeds back up again. The flower shoots a thorn in my hand.  I look at it. The thorn has latched on and injected something into my hand. I look down at my hand. I let go of the air filter with my left hand. I grab at my right with my left. "Uh oh," I say. Everything goes black again.

I get scared. "What the hell just happened!" I yell, really loud. Heart rate increased, everything is black again. My hand feels like it's throbbing. 'Holy shit! Shadow man! What the hell?"

"You are going to pass out again, aren't you?" he asked.

"Shut up!" I manage before I fall to the floor.

"Sensory challenged. What am I to do with you?" I heard him say as I lost consciousness.

 previous                                    The Shadow Man

next                                             Gravitation

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Shadow Man

Two of Cups closer comes, crowned by the Magician.
Sometimes Knight, Fool, and Thief, but always the Physician.
Who is the Shadow man, The World upon his heel,
Tossing Ace of Coins on edge, and stopping Fortune's Wheel.

Safe within The Priestess columns, the Queen of Cups is musing.
The Hanged-Man and the Hermit speak, keep it all confusing.
Hermes shadow stretches long, The Chariot comes a'callin
 Rise The Moon, Reverse The Devil, The Tower goes a'fallin

"Take me somewhere amazing. Anywhere, I don't care. That's what we should do," I said.

The shadow man turned away from me. I could only see his black shape. But he must have been doing something else, his hands flew in the air as he grabbed, pushed, pulled, flicked, pressed, and clicked. From my point of view, I could only see him do this to air.

From the shadow, I could see that he had long hair, I think, to his shoulder blades. Of course, I knew he had the burning, blue eyes, but I could only see them at certain times. This was not one of those times. The only other thing I could see, from the shadow, was his jacket. It was a medium length, to his thigh. When he moved, or maybe I should say dance, around...well, I don't know, I could never see whatever he was dancing around. The jacket, it would flare out. It had four flaps, one long one in the back with a slit up the middle, and two on the sides. It reminded me of an anime character.

Of course, as he moved around... whatever it was, the voice was saying things. Fast things. A disembodied, fast talking echo of things I didn't really understand. Not because of the words he used, but because so much happens all at once, it is difficult to process it all. I could not engage my brain quick enough. Maybe I tried too hard. The next thing I know is that everything had gone black.

When I opened my eyes again, he was sitting beside me, holding my hand. "What happened?" I asked.

"Sensory overload. I have never had one who had to be worked in," he said. "It's exciting because I don't know what is going to happen and I don't know why. I hate it."

"So, I am exciting and you hate it?" I asked. I didn't bother getting up. I just stared into the infinite blackness above me. "That is not encouragement."

"Jessica, it must have occurred to you at some point that your reality is bigger and far more incomprehensible than you think it is now. Otherwise, I would not be here. How is that not encouraging?"

"Yes, of course, it has. It makes me sad because I can't go see it," I said.

He let go of my hand and stood up. "Oh, get up! You are here now. I have brought you to see it. But you can't see it laying on the floor and crying about it. You lot! So pessimistic all the time."

"I'm not pessimistic. I am cynical. There is a difference," I replied and stood up.

"Ah, Cynical! Cynical is good! Question everything," he said.

"No. Everything I see is a question, not in question," I said.

His shadow head wobbled. "Oooh, look who is a smarty-pants now!" He ran away a few feet from me and pointed to nothing. "Come on then! Let me show you some questions!"

"But there isn't anything there. You are pointing to empty black space," I said.

"Really?" He said rather shocked. "What exactly are you seeing now?" He paused. Then, he held up his hands and began to pace. "Wait! Stop! Wait for it! I missed something." He paced around in a circle, his hands flew in the air. The disembodied words of the voice went faster. Then, the shadow man came at me and stood directly in front of me. It bent down and, I think, studied my face. For a moment, his blue eyes appeared from within the shade and they burned at me. "You," he said pointing at me. "You did not say that thing! You didn't say it! Why didn't you say it?"

"Say what?" I asked the Shadow man.

"Bigger on the inside! You didn't say anything! Bigger, smaller, pockets, dimensional, spacey, wow, or a moment of shock and awe. You did none of those things! None. you couldn't see it."

"See what?" I asked. "I don't see anything except you. And I can't even see that! Just a shadow man, like normal."

"What do you mean shadow man? And I am not normal!" He shouted.

I pointed at him. "Ha! You are shouting because you are uncomfortable. I make you nervous like everyone else. You are normal from my point of view. And for the record, you appear to me as you always have, as a shadow man."

"This isn't the first time we have met?"

I dropped my hand. "You forgot? You forgot? Just like everyone else! You are normal! You came back and you don't remember why! You feel guilty and can't remember why! And when you do remember, you are going to run off! Again! Until you forget and are drawn back for reasons you don't understand! So that you can remember and then run to forget again! Why won't you just leave me alone! Go away! I do not want to be with anyone, Especially you! You ghost! Stop haunting me!"

Of course, my outburst made him back off. And I wish that I could describe him as he did. But I couldn't see him. I could only see the black on black, like a shade on a moonless night.

"It's complicated," he whispered. "I can't explain."

"No, you can't. Because you don't know. And you have already said you hate that. So why are you here?" I demanded.

"Because I...because...well..."

"You don't know!" I yelled at him.

"I need time to think," he said. He turned around like I could see him. "At least, give me that. Please? At least come and see what I want to show you. It might make you feel better." His hands went up and grabbed something from thin air. Suddenly, an invisible door opened. From the rectangular opening, a fiery red-orange light burst through the dark.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's a space hub, in the Lepus constellation. I thought you would like to see it," he said.

I walked over to the door and looked out. A giant red-orange star filled most of the starry sky. Hovering in its orbit, was a huge metal ship. On the top, four spiked towers rose from the ship connected by waves of white light, like a Jacob's ladder. The rest of the port was layered in levels with hundreds of little square windows of light. The back of the port had a blue light glowing from it. Between the hub and the star, a river of orange light flowed.

"The hub gets it power from the star, converts it, then fuels up the ships that come here. See them flying towards and away from the spires? That is them, docking, in and out of the hub," he said.

"Looks like Christmas," I whispered. I felt him freeze. I ignored it. I sat down, cross-legged at the door and stared.

After some silence, he sat down next to me. "So how is it that you can see this but you cannot see me?" I shrugged a response. "Tell me, what exactly do you see?"

"A shadow man, black on black. I have only ever seen your eyes. Those are always the same, blue and burning. On rare occasion, I will see a face. But it is never the same face and always blurry, undefined, unclear. Sometimes old, sometimes young, always changing, yet the same. It is very confusing. But mostly, when I see you, you are a shadow. I see and hear you when no else can. When I am awake or asleep. Like a constant open phone line, on speaker. But the caller has forgotten that they called. It's hard to explain, harder to understand, and sounds like I am insane."

He sat down next to me. "I don't think  you are crazy."

"Well you wouldn't, would you? You're the shadow man I am talking about. Because if I am crazy, then you are too."

"Oh no, I fully admit to madness," he said chuckling. "Why fight it? Normal is boring. I don't like boring. What else do you see?"

I shook my head. "Nothing. Air. Like when you were dancing around something. Doing something with your hands. I could see you doing something, but don't know what. It's all dark."

"But you can see the space hub, right?"

"Yes. The star, the hub, the ships, the light, I can see all that." I yawned and relaxed. "You're right. This is very calming."

"Can you touch me?" he asked. "Am I real to you?"

"Of course, you are," I said. "Look." I reached out and grabbed his hand. "Earlier, I had your hand. You didn't have mine."

"So, I can't touch you?" He asked.

"Not as I could ever tell. But I don't know if it is because you don't want to or you can't."

As he reached out to touch me, a thought passed through me. I didn't want him to touch me. I was angry at him for trying. But as the thought passed me by, so did his hand. It passed right through my face as he tried to touch my cheek. As he lowered his hand, I would swear that I felt his face turn to shame. "I'm sorry. I still feel guilty."

I shrugged. "Don't we all?" I leaned on his shoulder and yawned again. "I'm tired now."

He chuckled and I fell asleep.

previous                             Compelled

next                                       Sensory Challenged


Two of Cups closer comes, crowned by the Magician.
Sometimes Knight, Fool, Thief, but always the Physician.
Who is the Shadow man, The World upon his heel,
Tossing Ace of Coins on edge, stopping Fortune's Wheel.
Safe in The Priestess columns, Queen of Cups is musing.
Hanged-Man and Hermit speak, they keep it all confusing.
Hermes shadow stretches long, The Chariot comes a'callin
Rise The Moon, Reverse The Devil, The Tower goes a'fallin
Shadow Man! What have you done? Rainbows in the sky
Inverse The Star, The mill chase cease, the Silver River dry

None of this will make sense right now. It didn't make sense to me as it happened. I had to look behind to look ahead. Yeah, so that doesn't make much sense either. Let me try that again.

A hypothetical question. If a person were walking in backwards in a circle, are they looking forward or back? Does it matter that they're walking backwards? What if they were walking forwards. Are they looking forwards or back? Or if they were walking forward, but looking behind them, are they looking to their past or their future?

Of course the answer is, "depends on the point of view of the person." It's the only answer that makes any sense. Time Travel is exactly like that.

But did you know it is a little more complicated than that? Oh yeah, it is. You see, the person who is walking the circle isn't the only one in the room. Nope. That person is a subject that is being observed by an outside source. So, the other answer is, "Depends on the observer's point of view."

So? Which one is true? Which perspective is reality? The subject's reality or the observer's reality?

That depends on your point of view, doesn't it?

 The point of all that is I don't care if anyone believes I am crazy, nuts, eccentric, or insane. Because from my perspective, I am not. I can't change another person's perspective. Nor can I change the what they might think of that perspective. Mostly, because if I do that, I am also ignoring the truth of reality. Which is that everyone's reality is valid and true.

Again, none of this will makes sense. At least, right now. And if I am not given a chance to tell my side of it and have someone hear it, all it will ever be is completely unfocused nonsense being spewed by a madwoman.

I am asking you to bear with me, as I catalog my fairy tale. All will be...okay not all, some, Some of it will be explained. Because let's face it, there are things in this world that we will never understand. Which leads me to my most favorite quote of all.

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." -Thomas Aquinas 

Let's begin...
I met an extraordinary man. Well, I say man, but I never saw his face. Well, I say face, but I mean his real face. There was none and many. His face keeps changing. I know it is the same man because of his eyes. Even when he had no face, I knew the eyes were the same. That happened yesterday tomorrow.

He showed me a greater world. He took me many places. We had adventures, some I remember, and some not so much. There were people, planets, stars, and monsters. I remember that we both wanted to run away. When I slept, he took me away. And when my eyes were open, he was still there. How is it that I can remember something that hasn't happened yet, in the past, right now? Are these my real memories?

He was with me so often, I spoke to him. Even when I thought I was awake because I knew I wasn't alone. I was never alone. His shadow was always with me, haunting my every step. A phantom breeze, footsteps, banging, flickering lights, I thought he was a ghost. I thought I was being haunted by a fantastic beast or an evil demon. But it that made no sense. He never did anything negative. The shadow man often did positive things. More than once, he had saved my life. It was never in a direct way. A well placed word or some obstacle in my way to prevent me from being in a place at a certain time.
I began to believe that he was my angel; my guiding spirit. I explored religion and philosophy to find an explanation. I was never satisfied with what I learned, nothing ever fit. I finally settled on tarot cards. I found that they worked most of the time, but not always. Sometimes when I read them, I thought I heard him laugh and whisper, "There's no such thing as a fortune telling."
As a youth, I was compelled to think it was my destiny to run away with him. I wanted that escape. But again and again, I would feel him near me or catch a glimpse of his shadow from the periphery of my eye, but he never took me away. The conflict within me was never ending. This reflected in my daily life. Others thought I was crazy. I never fit in. I never belonged.   

As I got older, he became clearer in a blurry way. Until, one night, I could see his perfect shadow. I got angry. My whole life he had been there, in and out of dream and reality but never within reach. With teasing love and taunting danger, a truth within a lie.
Locked in battle with my personal conflict, I had turned to the tarot deck for answers. It didn't help. I could help others with them. But I could never help myself. A perfect example of not being able to help myself laid before me; the two cups, magician, fool, high priestess, wheel of fortune, knight of swords,  ace of coins, chariot, hanging-man, hermit, queen of cups, devil, tower, moon, ten of cups, and the star. None of it made any sense.
Then, there he was again, out of the corner of my eye. Only this time, as clear as any shadow could possibly be. I picked up the tarot deck and threw them at him. The cards did not go through him. They hit his chest and fell to the floor. That must have startled him. He tried to back off and disappear.
I jumped in front of him. "Oh no you don't! Not this time, Shadow man! You are going to talk to me."
The shadow froze in front of me. He turned around and from the blank face, blue eyes appeared and burned. I could feel the smile begin to cross it. A disembodied voice filled my ears from unmoving lips. "First tell me why, your whole life, you have been compelled to chase a doctor?"

"Because I need one. I must be crazy. I see and hear things that nobody else can or are not real. I speak aloud to invisible things, people think I talk to myself. I hear them talking back. I clearly see what is to come but can't see what is in front of me. I am smart and an idiot at the same time. I have strong flashes of the past and memory, it happens as if I am still there, still experiencing it. I do not know how to overcome it. I don't know how to make it go away."

"Why would you want that to go away?" he asked.

"Because I am alone. Others do not understand it. It makes them feel wrong. People don't like that. So, I have no friends."

"Ah, people like you," he said.

"No, I didn't say that they didn't like me. There are some people who do like me. They think I'm weird and cool. I said I didn't have any friends. People need other people. Others to see and talk to every day, go get coffee with, watch tv with, talk on the phone. People who know, understand, accept, and keep talking to you because you are weird. Not the weird guy they occasionally speak to because they are bored. I am a passing entertainment. A momentary distraction. An appeasement to their sense of guilt."

"What? What do you mean an appeasement to their sense of guilt?"

I shook my head. "You wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

"People feel guilty for whatever reason. Somehow, I end up being a representative of that guilt. If they talk to me or spend time with me, they appease their own sense of guilt and don't come around until they feel guilty again. Or they just run away. Which is why I never see them again."

"That is overthinking it," he said.

I shook my head again. "No. I have proof. I can show you. But I need a doctor. There is something wrong with me. and I can't figure out what it is. I won't get better without the help of a doctor. And doctors don't listen and doctors lie. That is a solid fact. I have proof of that too."

"So, you are looking for a doctor that will listen?" He asked.


The shadow man grabbed my hand and kissed it. "Then, I promise. And I have proof that this is not a lie."

"What proof?" I asked.

He didn't answer. The shadow man turned away. "You are seeing it now."

"Where are you going?"

"Just wait. A little bit longer. I swear! I swear I'll be back. And when I do, it won't be from guilt, I will show you!"

Then, he was gone.

The Shadow Man

Monday, April 17, 2017

Order Alert: A Red Scope One Shot

"Sir, there is an order alert." Janice's robotic, autotune voice pierced through Red Scope's hyperfocus like a jackhammer at dawn. "Immediate action is required."

Red gave a little jump in his chair. The algorithm sequence was so close to being deciphered. "Whatever it is, it can wait, Janice. I have other business more impor..."

Janice interrupted. "Your instructions were very clear, sir. Instant notification of orders exceeding one million dollars requires immediate action."

Red Scope sighed. "Fine, Janice. What is the order?"

"One thousand type 87 modulators, Fifteen hundred compression canisters, fifteen hundred sensor devices, one hydraulic detonator, three air compressors, three thousand cactus grenades, five hundred oversized boxing gloves, and ten thousand oversized, green balloons with image."

Red sighed. "I think I have the detonator in storage. I'll have to dig out the...wait. Janice, ballons? Ten thousand green balloons?"

"Yes, sir. Ten thousand oversized, green balloons with image," repeated Janice.

Red Scope laughed. "Get Alpha on the phone, would you? I can't believe we are doing this again!"

A moment of silence passed. Then, a voice echoed through the speakers. "Hello, Janitor. What mess have we got today?"

Red sat back in his chair. "Alpha, a certain friend of ours, has managed to, yet again, escape his doctors. He has placed an order on the credit line. Seriously, I am starting to think this is on purpose. This has to be the third time in two years!"

"Is this confirmed?" asked Alpha.

"There is only one man in Gotham who orders five hundred boxing gloves and ten thousand oversized green balloons with his face on it! I think we can safely say yes to the confirmation!" laughed Red. "You would think that he would learn by now. I'll send you a copy of the order." He leaned up to the keyboard and pressed few buttons. "You can have a look for yourself."

There was a moment of silence. Then, it was broken by laughter. "All right, Janitor. Fill the order. We will take care of the rest. Same frequency as last time?"

"No, no. He will suspect. He is dumb, but not that dumb. I'll send you the correct frequency and install the BRB protocol," said Red. 

"Big red button protocol? Do you think it's necessary?" asked Alpha. 

"Yes. I am not exactly sure what he wants to do with the hydraulic detonator. A little caution goes a long way." Red Scope paused. "You know, I think this time the button will be green. I'll place it under the modulators. You'll know it when you see it."

"I will inform the correct playboy. Thank you, Janitor," said Alpha. 

"Before you go, Alpha. The order is a few million dollars. I don't need it all, where should it go this time?" asked Red.

"St. Jude is always a good place, but you may want to put some in United Way. It's better to spread it out," said Alpha. "I can cover for you if you need it."

"I can't keep sending it to the DAV. Thanks for the input, Alpha."

Janice cut the call. "Sir, will you need anything else?"

"No. I want to get back to the algorithm. But now I have actual paying work to do," Red Scope sighed and shook his head. "Do you know how long it takes for me to install the BRB's?"

"Fifteen minutes per module," said Janice.

"Yeah! And I have one thousand and one to do!"

"Someone is going to do it. It may as well be you, sir," said Janice.

"And I get no thanks for it either! How do they think that button gets there? Don't you think I feel guilty for feeding the beast? I wish I didn't have to do it at all!" shouted Red. "And it is always the same damn thing! The exposed power source to the giant doomsday machine, the button on the bottom of the laser gun, the signal frequency that the good guy "just happens" to have, the self-destruct program that is easy to hack! And the hero gets the credit every single time!"

"Well, sir, if they knew it was you, they would not purchase the parts from you anymore, would they? They would find someone else who would do the job "better." It is easy to save the world when a hero is in the public eye. It is harder to be the shadow of the puppeteer."

Red Scope relaxed. "Yes, Janice. Thanks. I needed that reminder."

"That's why I'm here, sir," said Janice. "It is one of my many functions."

"Janice, for an LCI, you sure are beautiful," said Red.

"I bet you say that to all the LCIs," said Janice.

"You know I don't," chucked Red. "Let's get to work."