Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Microstory 222: Shadows

I call for backup, but if I don’t pursue the suspect, he’ll get away. He’s been firing at me nonstop for what feels like hours, but appears to have stopped to reload. This is my opportunity. As I’m shuffling through and around the machinery, trying to be both as quiet and as fast as possible, I imagine moving in slow motion. My body hovers in the air for several seconds. I pull my weapon close to my chest as if in a pitching windup, then release and twist towards my mark. The enemy jams his palm against the magazine a couple of times. He’s been spraying bullets every which way, clearly inexperience and imprecise. I have less than a second before I need to duck down, so I take my aim and fire. Once. I turn away without knowing whether the bullet landed on the target, but I think I hear some kind of squeal. My brain fills in the data so quickly, I can’t tell if I was looking away, or if I really did see blood splatter out from his side. No, I couldn’t have seen the wound. I don’t so much as know what he looks like. I only saw a shadow. I only ever see shadows. Shadowman; that would be a good name if my colleagues hadn’t started using it just to mock me for even believing he exists. The locals call him The Sorcerer, though, as he’s rumored to be able to read your mind and trick you into seeing things. From my brief glimpses of him, he actually doesn’t seem to have a face.
For a moment, I can’t remember where I am, or what I’m doing. Maybe he does have a superpower, and he’s fooling me right now. I have to fight through it. It’s been long enough; he should have fired back, but he hasn’t. He’s running. I have to go after him. I know I should be after justice, but right now, it’s more important for me to prove that he’s real. I gratuitously jump over one of the work benches, injuring my wrist a little. I’ll have to lie about that later. Yes, the Shadowman is gone, trying to get away from the one man who...focus, get to work. No more internal monologue. When I step out the back door, I notice a trail of blood on the ground. It doesn’t start from inside, but it has to be him. At the end of the trail, shivering against someone’s dog house, I find a teenage boy. As I suspiciously prepare to tend to his wound, he says that a man shot him in the alleyway. He’s wearing brighter clothes than the Shadowman was, but I still can’t be too careful. I don’t remember hearing a single shot since my last one. He squints to examine me while I’m ripping my shirt sleeve to tie around the wound, and then it clicks for him. Has he read my mind? My partner walks through the gate, somehow both casually and urgently. I immediately pull my gun back out and shoot my partner in the gut. As he’s falling to his knees, the figment of my imagination teenage boy disappears in a wave of shadows. My partner transitions in the same way, and I finally see the face of the Shadowman. He asks me how I knew it was him. I reply that I didn’t, but that I’ve been investigating my own partner for having a connection to the Shadowman case. I shot him on instinct, for only that reason. He dies.

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