“Do you think this is safe?” he asked hesitantly. She always had been of the opinion that Josh was a pussy. He even voiced his over cautious thoughts cautiously. If he hadn’t been halfway decent in the sack, she would have kicked his ass to the curb. His tender touch and attention to her needs reminded her of being with a woman. That had been the allure. But come crunch time, he had never been anything other than a warm body to watch her back. Pussy.
“Yes,” she said evenly. She had seen no good reason to further unsettle him by voicing doubts. “The Shadow said it would be here at dusk. No one has ever been killed or harmed in anyway by one of them.” That we know of, she added in her mind. Plenty of people had been harmed considerably by the humans who worked with Shadows. Josh probably knew this as well, but her words appeared to placate. Fuck him; he had been no use to her in finding the man who killed her father.
He looked around at the hillside overlooking the cemetery, settling his eyes on a tree a few meters away. “I’ll go stand by the tree and keep watch like we agreed,” he said. She nodded and looked back toward the path leading up to the hilltop. “And Clarissa, be careful.”
“I always am,” she responded quietly; mostly as a reminder to herself.
She played through her mind, a thousandth time, the story dad told on his deathbed. He believed the Shadows represented an alien culture’s means of communication. Their appearances were misinterpreted as ghosts, or worse gods. The Shadows’ would not communicate clearly with people who held such views. He maintained that all human achievement could be attributed to their intervention. Behind ever predominant leader, inventor and oligarch, there had been a Shadow. He had not been one of the chosen. He worked for a Senator, who let him in on the secret. This Senator had been unceremoniously assassinated, and in the chaos of the moment, her father had taken a device the Senator used to summon a Shadow from a desk door. Though he said he had never summoned the courage to call a Shadow, he shared the opportunity with his daughter.
“Hello Clarissa,” said a deep voice over her shoulder. She turned around quickly. She found it as before, little more than a black outline, like smoke hovering at an undetermined distance It lacked definition, and though it seemed as if it had been standing a few meters away, if she looked at the space that it inhabited a little differently, the distance between them could be ten times that distance.
“You said you preferred meeting outdoors,” she said passively. The ball is in your court. How does this work?
“I prefer to communicate in a less public space than you foolishly choose for our first encounter. Let’s start with a question for you. How did come to be in possession Senator Keaton’s property.” Though she had been fairly certain this was not a god that stood before her, she was torn. How much to reveal? She had no true gauge as to it level of omniscience.
“My father gave it to me,” the truth she decided. Was it enough? More, she decided. “He took it from the Senator’s office when he was killed.”
“So it was theft.” the being said, statement of fact.
“Not theft,” she defended. “The Senator had no need of it, and my father decided that better to fall into his hands than that of someone with no foreknowledge of what it represented.”
“I choose when and if I respond.” There was silence while that message settled in. “You father attempted to communicate on several occasions.” It hadn’t been cowardice! She felt a pride in the old man. Then awareness dawned.
“Why did you choose me?” she asked.
“You goals compliment the goals of my kind.” She had no idea what this could mean. She only desired revenge.
“Your kind?” she saw her chance to get an answer. Had humankind been guided by aliens or delusions, demons or angels?
“We have been with you since the beginning. Your triumphs have been our triumphs.” A non answer.
“What are you?” she asked more directly.
“What do you think we are?” She thought a moment. Dad had his suspicions. After her first encounter with the Shadow, she doubted these conclusions.
“I think you are all of the things we believe you to be,” she paused for any sort of affirmation. When none came, she sided deeply and continued. “You are Moses and his fucking burning bush. You are Mothman warning the people. You are the voice that whispers to the psychic. You are the idea that spontaneously leaps from the subconscious fully formed.”
“We will help you find your fathers killer,” it responded and was gone.
She sat on the ground drained. She could hear Josh approaching from behind her.
“Clarissa, are you alright?” Josh rushed to her side.
“Mmm,” lost in her own thoughts.
“I saw you turn and than fall to the ground,” he said, concern in his voice. “Don’t you think you should get up in case the Shadow arrives?”
“It was already here,” she looked into his eyes. “Didn’t you see anything? I talked to it for about five minutes.”
“I got to the tree. Almost immediately, you turned, looked behind you and fell to the ground.” He looked frightened, as the one thing that kept him anchored gave every indication that it had loosened from the rocks.
She shook her head, partly in responses, primarily to get the blood flowing to her mind. Had she encountered the shadow in some sort of time dilated state? No, that made little sense. Had the sequence of events only occurred in her head? This seemed likely. Had they been in our heads the whole time? Had the Shadows been nothing more than a part of us?
Note: After quite a few false starts, this was my submission to Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds blog in response to the flash fiction challenge, somethingpunk. The idea being to write something outside of the cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, zombiepunk genres and find a new punk. I originally got a third of the way through a story involving people on an asteroid where oxygen was a scarce resource, oxygen-punk. Whilst world-building in my head, I realized that there were other resources (i.e. food, water) that I couldn’t explain away. So I sat down and started anew– with this idea of Alien-punk, where the supply of technology to humans from an outside source was the crux. It evolved quickly from there into something totally other than that. The Shadows can be anything and everything that have crept from the outside into human affairs from the day we decided to come down from the trees and give it a go. Could be in our head… could be aliens… could be our subconscious communicating to us after eating one too many unfamiliar plants. I’m going with the label god-punk (small g).
This is what flash fiction is meant to be in my opinion; something totally unintended, that comes out far away from your starting expectation.