This is a cooperative fan fiction story of ShadowFanFic
New York, 1952.
Clancey Barnes had run into a dead-end. The panic that had overtaken common sense had led him down too many back streets that were unfamiliar in the night. The glances over his shoulder every few seconds had him disoriented; stumbling into trash containers and huge cardboard boxes full of unwanted packaging and rubbish had eventually injured his side. He could feel his insides swelling up and his hip begin to stiffen with the pain.
“Ah crap!” he spat.
He turned around and stared intently back along the dark alleyway. The light from the buildings around him barely made it down to ground level. A few open windows two storeys above glowed with electric warmth, but they were swallowed up by the night and Clancey could just about make out the ground and the walls that surrounded him for a few feet before the Stygian atmosphere engulfed it. High above, above the rooftops, the midnight blue sky was being covered by ominous black clouds.
“Give me a God-Damned break won't ya!” he yelled into the night. He strained to see further into the distance, but to no avail.
He began to rasp as the cold air bit into his lungs, and the sound of his own heart beat loud in his ears. Faintly in the distance he could hear a radio. He thought it sounded like that new science fiction programme Dimension X but it was difficult to tell, and he wasn't paying too much attention.
Just for a moment he considered running back the way he had come; he took a few steps before a wave of fear stopped him.
A gust of wind nearly blew him over he was so on edge. Pieces of paper and a wall of dust came out of the blackness like a demonic breath. Clancey shaded his eyes from the debris that wound around him, but it still managed to work it's way into his mouth and nose. His eyes stung from the motes of dust.
“Jeez, what d'ya want from me,” he managed to croak. His words were sucked into the night no sooner had they been uttered, “I didn't do anything to you!”
This last shout drew some attention from a tenant up above. There was what sounded like a coarse reply and then a sash window being closed roughly. He was about to shout for help again, but the words froze in his throat.
Ahead of him, something moved in the blackness.
A sound like the slithering of a snake seemed to move in front of him.
Clancey Barnes dug a trembling hand deep into his coat pocket and pulled out a fist full of dollar bills. He held them out in front of him dropping some in the process.
“Here – take it! For God's sake, if this is what you want, take it!”
He could not see anything at first. Dark tendrils of the night had wormed their way into the recesses of the alleyway making everything virtually pitch black. Then his eyes noticed movement again.
The night seemed to stand still around him as a part of the alleyway beyond his vision began to solidify into a mass of shadow. Slowly, rising from the floor a few feet in front of his feet, there began to take shape a figure wearing a long cloak and a wide-brimmed hat. There were no features on the face below the hat. He could just about make out the outline of a face because his eyes now felt like they were covered in cotton wool.
He noticed that a thick cloud of smoke had began to flow from the mysterious figure towards him. It made it's way around their feet and then started to rise up behind his back until it loomed above him like a ghostly tsunami. The eerie cloud surrounding him gripped like ice, and he could feel the greenbacks in his hand begin to stiffen.
Clancey heard the figure breathing now. It took a deep breathe and let out a sibilant hiss as it exhaled. A gloved hand, appeared from within the folds of the black cloak as if it were part of the material and extended towards him pointing an accusing finger at his chest.
When it spoke, the sound chilled him to the bone.
“Your name is Clancey Barnes, and you are a criminal of the worst kind.” It stated. “You have sealed your doom with this, your last act of violence.”
The cloud was now enveloping Clancey, it's very substance spreading over his shoulders and spilling down his jacket. “W-what do you mean?” He managed to ask, as it worked its' way into the pockets and between the buttons.
“There is no use in trying to deny your wrongdoings. I have been witness to your recent activities, and they have convinced me that you are beyond the help of the authorities. You are given over to the world of the corrupt and have taken up a life of crime amongst those most defiled in our society, Clancey Barnes.
“You've been watchin' me?”
“Listen buddy, you wanna piece o' the action? Take it! Here, take the goddam dough and stop spouting the mumbo-jumbo.” Clancey tried to moved his arm again to offer the money in his hand.
It would not move – he tried to let go but nothing happened. His arm was frozen in place. He stared at it in panic, “What have you done to me! I can't move my arm!”
“You are paralysed. You are powerless and at my mercy. For you, this is the final act in a life of murder and treachery.” Hissed the figure.
“Hell! Stop playin' me for a sucker and take the money.” Clancey was beginning to lose any sense of bravado. He could not move and had no idea how the stranger was doing it. This cloud must be some kind of poison gas, he thought.
“I do not want your ill gotten gains.”
The strange man took one silent step forwards. “The money in your hand is stained with the blood of the man you killed for it! It is marked with the evil of the men who planned the raid on the security car you robbed tonight. All of you will pay for this. I will avenge the family of the man you shot in cold blood not less than one hour hour ago, Clancey Barnes.”
As the stranger took another deep breath, Clancey could almost make out the shaded features below the hat. “You will all feel my vengeance!”
I can't move! Clancey screamed in his head. This fella is going to kill me and I can't do a thing to defend myself! “You're crazy! You can't do this. I'm connected, buddy. You wanna lay off, pronto!”
The figure moved again. His hand disappeared into his cloak, and with the same smooth motion, both hands reappeared, this time revealing a flash of crimson from within the garment. In his hands he held two revolvers.
“What're ya doin'!” Clancey gasped. “Ya can't be serious, buddy. For God's sake! I didn't mean to kill the guy, he just got in the way. Lonnie was buggin' me to stick it to 'im! I couldn't back down in front of the guys. Come on, buddy – come on!”
He was truly terrified now. The unnatural smoke, the strange figure from the dark, the feeling of being followed that led him down this forsaken alleyway. All of it swam before his mind like the smoke that was still swirling about him. He tried in vain to move his arms but they still did not respond. He had had a piece shoved in his face before, but never like this.
“Please fella, don't shoot me. I-I promise to turn myself over to the cops see? I'll do whatever you want, but please don't kill me!” He begged.
“It is too late for you Clancey Barnes,” said the stranger.
There was a double click as both hammers were cocked on the revolvers. The figure suddenly leaned to one side and then with inhuman strength leapt into the air accompanied by a whirlwind of smoke that seemed to keep him shrouded in darkness. His blurring body moved with such speed that Clancey did not have time to react. It landed on the wall to his left and then seemed to propel itself back towards him both guns aimed squarely at his chest. At the last moment the guns dissapeared and Clancey felt a hammer-like blow to his chest that he realised afterwards was a thundering kick.
The force of the kick seemed to release him from the paralysis he had been put under. He was thrown back into a wall behind him, and collapsed in a pile. When he opened his eyes again the figure of the stranger was towering over him. It was so dark now.
“Who the hell are you?” he gasped through the pain he was feeling.
The last thing Clancey Barnes remembered before a fist struck his face was the whispering sound from beneath the wide brimmed hat, “The Shadow,” it said.
Lee Chun Han crouched by the precipice of a rooftop high in the night sky above New York City. He glanced at his wristwatch and then returned to studying the box in his other hand. The box was made from chrome metal. It was adorned with two large glowing dials and a pair of long telescopic aerials that were fully extended. He turned one of the dials slowly, listening intently for any sound coming from the speaker built into the device. All he heard was the sound of static varying in level as he twisted.
“Come on,” he pleaded to the box. “Why won't it ever work when I'm using it?”
He gave the box a pathetic shake, as if it had something loose inside that would miraculously start working again. It had no effect other than making the aerials flop down like a pair of rabbit ears.
“Arrrgh.” he groaned.
Giving up with the device, he peered over the edge of the building, squinting his eyes in a vain attempt to pierce the darkness below. But all he could see was the wall of the building he was atop descending for a dozen feet or so before it dissolved into total blackness. If there was anything down there it was well and truly hidden from view.
He let out a long sigh and stood up. Turning his back on the crevice he began to walk back to the doorway he had used to reach the roof. As he did so he looked up and saw the contrasting sparkling city skyline around him. From his vantage point he could quite easily see the chunky Empire State building standing proud and tall above everything else. The beautiful Chrysler Building, although not the tallest any more, was still the most pleasing to the eye with its' glorious steel art deco stepped-fan peak. He could also make out the RCA, the Rockefeller centre and the Cities Services Building with its gothic spired crest shimmering in the moonlight.
Across the city the sound of the evening filtered its way to the upper stories of New York's high rise buildings. There was the constant low rumble of traffic accompanied by the perceptible sound of car horns. If he listened hard enough he could hear boats in the Bay letting out the warning boom of their own fog horns – a thick bank of cloud was creeping towards Manhattan Island, soon it would reach land and begin to wind a way through the landscape.
Lee began to hear something new and closer. He stopped and turned in a full circle trying to fathom out where it originated. It came again, like a cat's clawed paw tip-tapping on stone. He switched off the steel box so that he could hear better. Then he slowly approached the edge of the parapet to his right hand side. The sound ceased suddenly, and Lee faltered.
Over the wall came a shadow. It flowed like black oil, spreading along the length of the knee-high wall for about four feet. Some of it flowed over the edge, but without dripping as a liquid might. Instead it seemed to reach towards the floor. Once it had found what it wanted, two strands of blackness came together and this join worked its way back up like a zip on a jacket.
He could see now that it only gave the impression of an oil-like substance. There was no thickness, no physical entity that could be touched, it was simply a shadowy matter. A flat, colourless, mucus that moved of its own accord.
The part that had reached the floor now moved towards him, stretching its mass so that that it became narrower the closer it got. As he watched enthralled, he noticed the edges were rippling like water.
As it ceased its movement in his direction, two thin lines divided out. One on the left and one on the right just below the apex of the shape. Subliminally he became aware of a presence and the fact that the light from the city had dimmed around him. Looking up he saw the figure of a man standing on the parapet in the same spot where the moving shade had first crept into sight. It was clad in a full length cloak that wrapped around the body entirely. On its head it wore a hat with a wide brim. The figure and its shadow were one and the same, merging together in a seamless pit of non-light.
While he stared the figure swayed to each side slightly, trembling almost. Then it began to grow in stature, becoming taller and wider until it stood fully ten feet tall above him. But it did not stop there. As it reached higher still it began to lean forward. Its back bent upwards and the head curved down towards him until it was almost directly over his head. From within the utter iniquity of its cloak a pair of grotesquely deformed gloved hands grew, their long bony fingers hooked into vile talons. The brim of the hat grew until it began wilt under its own weight.
As he watched he tried to make out the face beneath the hat. But try as he might, Lee could not focus in that direction. His eyes were instinctively drawn to the hat, or the hands or the cloak that was still firmly connected to the wearer. There was a face - he could feel its eyes burning into his soul like a hellish demon, and he could feel the stink of its breath on his flesh. But the face was just an empty black void.
All at once he realised the figure was still. He had no idea how long they had stood like this together. In the web that was his mind there was a spark of memory. He thought he should do or say something, and it was that which brought him back to his senses.
“Stop whatever it is you are doing. You've had plenty of time to play today.” He said as matter of factly as he could.
The figure shivered from top to bottom. It reared up a few feet then swooped down again stopping within inches of Lee's face. As he stood there staring into a bottomless maw of blackness, Lee could feel the cloud from within begin to take hold of his mind for a second time. His arms fell to his sides, the chrome box clattered to the ground. Deep in the dark well of the figures face he saw a faint pulse of soft green light.
On his right hand, something cold was winding itself around his middle finger. It was a cold that burnt through to the bone beneath.
“It is too soon,” hissed the figure. “I haven't to truly test this form yet.”
The green light was getting stronger, its beating rhythm was taking on a hypnotic aura. The figure loomed ever large now, expanding beyond his peripheral vision till it blotted out the entire city. He felt tiny pin-pricks like ice needles stab at his face. He realised the figure was holding his face in its hands. The feeling in his hand started to rise up the length of his arm.
Fighting the urge to close his eyes, Lee gasped a breath in through his mouth, “Stop it, you're losing control.” He whispered.
“No! I am in control, I can do more!” replied the black pit, its green orbs now casting a spectral hue over Lee's face.
“You're hurting me, I'm so cold.” Lee had lost all feeling in his arm. His face felt heavy and a dull pain permeated through the back of his head and neck.
There was a sharp hiss of anger from the figure. It withdrew the stinging fingers from his head and suddenly he felt the warm blood of his body return to his cheeks. The haunting body above him receded back to the edge of the surrounding wall, its sinister bulk shrinking rapidly as the shadow on the floor sucked itself back into the folds of the cloak. His arm was drawn up, and as he watched transfixed, a black mucus-like tentacle that had been enveloping it whipped like a thrashing snake back into the chest of his associate. Rubbing his arm to try to bring some feeling back into it, he felt his awareness of the city's sights and sounds return to their normal state. The night became blue-black again. “Michael, give me the ring,” he asked taking deep lungfuls of air.
“Yes, of course! Don't worry, I'm going to.”
“Now, please. Quickly.” he demanded.
The figure was beginning to become more corporeal. The flat nothingness of it began to rise and sink as depth and perspective became apparent. Physical characteristics of materials in the cloak and hat could be seen. The cloak began to move under the influence of gravity and weight. When it parted he made out the silk red lining inside. This time, when a hand appeared and was offered to Lee, he saw it was clad in a black leather glove with a shining green stone set in a gold band on one finger. The figure removed the ring, a girasol, and held it out to him in the palm of its other hand.
“Take it then. I'm done for the night anyway.” it said to him, this time without the accompanying serpentine lilt.