SHADOWS: From the Notebook Files of Gloria Esquerra

 

       “They live in the shadows. In daylight shadows cast by the sun, in night shadows cast by the moon, in shadows thrown by artificial light, in the dancing shadows of firelight. They wait in shadows, hungry, unseen entities that fling out an appendage to snatch prey. Unceasing hunger is their motivation, infants their greatest desire. They ride the shadows of moving vehicles, in shifting cloud shadows, in any and all shadows that conceal them. Shadows are their element. Stay away from shadows. Daylight does not guarantee safety.”

 

       “Are you trying to frighten me?” I laughed at my uncle Ignacio.

 

       Ignacio took several sips of coffee before lifting his eyes to look across the table at me. His dark Peruvian eyes were alert and deadly serious. He bowed his head, and shook it. When he looked back at me, his eyes had turned tired. “No. I am an old archaeologist, my dear nephew. I live on the outskirts of Cuzco, not far from the ancient ruins. I have witnessed things. I know things. I have been told things. Do you want to hear my stories?”

 

       I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on the table. “Yes, but be warned. I am a skeptic and not easily frightened.”

 

       “It is for you to believe or not. I will just tell you what has been passed on to me. It is an old story, passed down from generation to generation.”

 

       I nodded. “Go on. I am intrigued.”

 

       Their numbers are few. It is thought that they cannot reproduce. But they migrate, existing now in every civilization across this planet for their hiding places cannot be numbered. Who can count the shadows on the earth? “Shadow creatures” they are called. Monsters from the mist that live unseen in shadows. They are ancient entities that came not long after the death of Christ. Our ancient ones spoke of them. They drew their figures on stone. One legend tells the story of these beings sneaking out of the water behind the great Inca god, Con Tigui Viracocha. Another claims that these alien monsters walked out of the mountaintop mist to investigate the land but before they could return to the mist, the sun came out, leaving them trapped forever on this world. They sought safety in earth’s shadows, waiting, hoping that when the mist returned, they could return to wherever they came from. They could not. They needed sustenance so they began taking humans. One minute a person would be there, next minute that person would be gone. Snatched and vanished.”

 

       “What do you mean?”

 

       “An eager child runs ahead of their parent. Not too far ahead. They keep a watchful eye on the child but the next second, their child is gone. There is nothing around except the shadow into which the child disappeared.”

 

       “Surely something of the child is left behind. Bones, a strand of hair, teeth. Something.”

 

       “Nothing. Not even the garments. Whatever lives in the shadow swallows its prey whole. Nothing remains.”

 

       I was thoughtful for a moment, then I asked, “How do you know it reaches out with…what? Some kind of appendage, did you say?”

 

     Ignacio nodded. “Rare sightings claim it is much like a frogs tongue that whips out to grab its food. In seconds the appendage disappears, as does the victim. Whatever this entity is, it prefers the young.”

 

       I studied my uncle’s brown weathered face. He was a wise man, a scientist not really given over to superstitions. He believed in what he had just related to me, of that I was positive. A shiver raced down my spine but I wasn’t sure I bought the idea of shadow monsters. 

 

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     Ignacio stared solemnly back at me. “You decide, my son.”