Shadow Dance

Chapter One
Shadow Dance :: Chapter One

Is it memory that makes you who you are? Do you think back to yesterday, last week, fifteen years ago, and know that you're here now because you were there then?


If so, who or what does that make me?

I had no past. Not that I could remember. It had gone from my head. As far as I knew I'd begun life at that moment.
Or ended it.
It was dark. Shafts of light filtered down here and there, as though a full moon was in the sky above the thick canopy of trees. Shadows loitered everywhere.
I managed to stand, shakily. The world spun around me. I closed my eyes and concentrated on not falling over again.
Then all hell broke loose.
Okay, so I wasn't paying attention. I should have noticed movement in the trees and bushes surrounding me. But I was dizzy and scared. Feeling real weird. Wondering if I was even alive. Suddenly had to fight for the life I wasn't sure I had.
Something was right next to me. I stumbled back, surprised.
In the moment I saw it, I knew it wasn't human. It stood on two feet, sure. Had arms. Was human-shape, sort of. But its naked skin glistened like oil and seemed to move as though it was liquid. And the alligator head was a dead give-away. Needle-sharp fangs stuck out in all directions from its leathery lips, which were stretched over a long snout.
The fangs snapped in my direction.
Pure luck saved me. I was still pretty much out of it. The ground was muddy and uneven. Moving abruptly made me slip over.
Alligator jaws crunched down on the empty space where I'd been. The sound echoed in my ears.
In a bit of a panic, I tried to get a bead on the thing so I could avoid it the next time. But it was gone.
Was I dreaming? Lying on the muddy grass, I waited for my heart to settle.
Movement in the corner of my eye warned me and I rolled aside. A claw slashed down. Gatorhead again! Sharp bony nails raked across my arm and chest. Pain stabbed through me.
At least I knew I was awake.
I kept rolling. In the process I lost sight of Gatorhead. Where the hell did he get to? I knew he was around. He'd slashed me, but I was still alive.
Alive? Would this be happening if I was alive?
This time I registered a fizzing hiss a micro-second before Gatorhead came at me again. I realised the hiss had been there the other times too.
No time to think about what it meant, though.
I tumbled, jumped up. Felt the wind of Gatorhead's claws and teeth as they missed me. Spun into a roundhouse kick without thinking, aimed right at where he'd been.
Natch, he wasn't there anymore.
I knew I couldn't keep this up. He'd get me sooner or later. Get me good. I'd be mincemeat. So far I'd been lucky. I'd have to -
Another hiss.
I went into instant overdrive. The thing's teeth sawed across my shoulder, ripping my coat to shreds - and a fair amount of skin surface too. I must've been dripping blood by now.
Funny it wasn't hurting more.
Once again, there was no sign of Gatorhead.
I wasn't going to relax this time. I wasn't even going to think. I waited. Alert. A chill breeze wisped around my ears.
Locate. Strike. My fist crashed into Gatorhead's leathery stomach as he materialised.
He made a surprised whomph sound, tumbled backwards into a deeper patch of shadow and was gone. I was staring straight at him when he disappeared. He didn't turn into silver streaks or break up into pixelated dust. Nothing. He just wasn't there any more.
I kept alert.
Breeze. Chill. Hiss.
As he appeared I kicked toward the area under his massive jaw and connected a beauty. I felt the impact right up my leg and into my shoulders. Gatorhead gurgled and crashed to the ground. No disappearing this time.
His nasty red eyes locked onto mine for a moment. He said something that sounded familiar, but I couldn't make it out. It was as though I'd forgotten what the words meant.
Then he was gone.
I waited, expecting a trick, but I must've shattered his confidence along with his jaw. Minutes went by and the only movement was the wind in the leaves above me.
The whole thing seemed more and more like a dream.
After a while, I began to relax. Remembering the wounds Gatorhead had clawed into me, I glanced down to check my arm and chest. Nothing. Even my coat was in one piece.
I guessed I was still giddy. I must have imagined the rip.
I knew I couldn't stand there doing nothing. Maybe Gatorhead would come back sooner or later. If he was real.
Probably he'd bring friends.
I glanced around for some sign to tell me where to go. The world was shadowy and watchful, as though anticipating something. In one direction, there were gaps between the trees and after a moment I realised I was seeing the horizon. Looked like there were buildings there. Beyond them the sky was getting yellow-blue with dawn.
That made me feel better. Spooky stuff happened at night time. The sooner the world lightened up, the better.
I began to walk in the direction of the buildings, pushing my way through the underbrush. After a while I found a path and I stuck to that.
I was wary though, scanning the shadows for sign of further attacks.
In the few minutes it took me to reach the edge of the bush, the sky was painted with wide streaks of red and yellow, like fire burning away the blackness. The sun was half over the horizon. Whenever I looked in the direction of the light, pain flared in my eyes and I had to cover them. What was that about?
Then I stepped out of the shadows of the trees for the first time.
My body tingled. It wasn't a pleasant sensation at all. For a second I thought I was going to throw up. But the urge passed and was replaced by a lightheadness.
The sun rose further. There were houses a few hundred metres from me, all looking sleepy. Their back fences defined the edge of the parkland where I stood. A creek ran past the houses. It didn't have much water in it. Beyond the nearest houses was a suburban sprawl, with larger buildings like warehouses, and further still, a gaudy-looking shopping complex. I couldn't see any people, though I heard what sounded like a car, way off in the distance.
I headed for a gap in one of the fences. Probably led to a street. The day was much lighter now and the dewy mistiness that had been hanging in the air evaporated. My skin felt uncomfortably sensitive to the sun's weak dawn heat.
Something scurried in the long grass on my left, tearing away from me. It startled me and put me back on red alert.
It was just a stray dog, though. A small mongrel terrier I'd half scared to death. It growled at me.
Weird. Dogs usually like me.
But even as I thought it, I knew it didn't make sense. How could I know how dogs related to me? I didn't even know who I was.
Just ahead, there were two posts and an old concrete path with grass growing through the cracks. It ran between two houses and into a street. As I passed the posts, the light became brighter. It reached me through the gap between the houses. I felt really weak. My head seemed to fill with steam. I staggered, reached out to steady myself on one of the posts…
And my hand went right through it.
I lost my balance and fell. As I tumbled groundward I thought: It's true. I'm dead. I'm a ghost.



Shadow Dance
Night Beast
Ancient Light
Black Sun Rising