When the sun begins its descent to rest, shadows reach, elongate and converge, succumbing to an orange twilight that burns. Darkness grows and rises to loom as a body emerges, born of shadow and created in darkness.
From the ground, I of the empty black other-land rise, to then break free with a leap. My arms and legs splay out, high in the air, four turns to land and roll in powerful grace. My arms fold and I lay, my head dying into a fetal embrace.
I am the Shadow Dancer.
The black mirror of your soul reflects me on the walls of your mind. I know you as no other and by all those who have tormented and harmed in the past. I live in the unrequited feelings inside and by night I breathe and kick you awake. I am the ringmaster to the circus in your mind. Every day is Halloween and I am the gravedigger, the juggler of pain, laughing as I split the skulls of your demons with my shovel.
I am your defender, the protector, the enforcer to your nightmares. I spin through your mind as one by one your demons fall. They scream in loss and pain as I commence with the beheading.
I am your sanity, fighting anxiety, a dervish from hell, I arrive as judge, jury, and yes I am the executioner. None shall know peace until all others have prayed, “Dear God the Shadow Dancer has come!”
I have come to the end, staring out at the toxic wasteland of your mind. I find myself standing at the peak, a great mountain of pain and sorrow. The fallen left in my wake. I look over your mind, my world. I, the proprietor, the caretaker of this shit. Shit so old it has rotted this domain to nothing.
Slowly I make my way down the slope. Uneven slits and groves of decomposing flesh, disgust the air. At its base I pick the scab-like ground with my shovel. Blood seeps and belches from the moist open pink. The healing will take time.
Surveying the landscape of foreboding putrescence that had been all but deserted, I spy a foreign thing in the distance. It is calmly hidden among the crusty earthen peal. I don’t recognize it and I drop quickly to stalk. I set my pace through the bloody marshland and move over the steaming ranker of earth that emits a quiet squishing belch from old wounds by each step. I grip my shovel and prepare for the confrontation.
The thing half hidden in crusts and scabs appears to be small and insignificant, but I must be cautious for demons are always crafty and they have many wits.
I take my stance and announce to it. “I am the Shadow Dancer! You are trespassing on a plot of which I am custodian!” I move forward, presenting myself and swing the shovel in an effort to destroy the demon. It is small and green and reaches up from the earth with thin tentacles that shift in the wind.
My strike swings true. The shovels tip sinks deep into the depth of the beast and right into the land itself.
I am suddenly assaulted by a piercing shriek of pain unlike any that has ever resounded in this hellish place.
I am taken aback, shocked. Demons do not scream they roar. They have claws. Everything turns to shit in their vicinity, but they do not scream and certainly their insides are not rent. This new creature now seeps clear liquid from its depths like… tears.
I remove my shovel and stare down intently at the thing. It is foreign though something about it causes me… recognition. I am feeling some long forgotten déjà vu. I have an inkling of knowledge that comes from long ago.
In a sudden flash I am struck by the green. Green? GREEN! This landscape was once filled with it. I remember a great distant past, long before the first unclean appeared, before the land was rotten and waste laid, there was once green that reached tall and swayed to the horizon as the wind blew it in liquid waves, each blade bending in the winds dancing caress. It had been so long I had forgotten it.
The green is still weeping and I fall to the ground in an attempt to repair the damage I have wrought. The tears, the precious tearful water of life seeps as I try to help using my filthy hands, stained and encrusted with the guts and entrails of my recent charges.
I succeed in helping and the tears dry, but staring down at my new tenant I sense fear.
“No,” I speak as calmly as I am able, to sooth it. “You may stay. I have awaited your return for a time equal to eternity. I did not recognize you.”
I stand and pull the shovel away. There is reassurance and the green things leaves unfurl as it absorbs the lost fluid and its color becomes a vibrant green. The tears dry and I stand to watch as it continues to grow and spread across the ground.
My hands, still wet from the tears manage to rid themselves of some of the blood and grime that has caked in areas. I look down and see my hands for the first time in my memory. My hands, used to protect and in effect, kill everything for so long, I had forgotten their purpose for anything other.
I am the Shadow Dancer, the lord of all you see in your putrid essence. When you cower in bed attempting to sleep, I opened the closets of your mind and did battle with what was hidden there. When you were afraid of the darkness, I ventured into the breach to see what was lurking. I am the warrior, the death-bringer, and the gravedigger to all your demons.
What am I now?
Then I see it, a demon, rising to stalk against the new green as it grows and spreads. The demon towers behind me throwing its shadow over us both and I react.
I turn quickly with my shovel spinning and swinging for death. The bright light of the beast’s eyes blinds me and I stumble back dropping my shovel. I throw my arms to shield myself from the attack that never comes. The heat of its gaze is still on me and I lower my hands to see what evil has befallen me.
The heat comes not from a demon, but from a light shining down from the top of the demon mountain I created.
Has the mountain become alive?
Now I must stop this for they must never plague this rancid land again.
I grab my shovel and I am up and running. I reach the base of the mountain and ascend. My movement is fast and true, over the soft uneven pile of bodies lying, sticky and slippery making up the great mountain. I climb over the creatures that were this world’s pestilence. I charged forward to do battle as I reach the top and stare at… nothing?
I see the gaze beaming from a large fiery object above me. This mountain of death has gone so high it has finally breached the putrid thick mist that is all I have ever known to exist in your mind’s eye. This new area above the clouds is blue. There are no dark clouds in it and now I see where the green thing has come from. The hole opened by the mountaintop has called the light to send down the new green growth.
I turn back and stare down at the green spreading across the land and sit atop my pile of shit content. My job has reached its conclusion, which is just as well for I now realize my fatigue. All the time I have spent here only to learn I have done my job to well. Eventually I will no longer be required.
What is a warrior to do when it runs out of wars?
New fissures begin to break through the clouds across the land and I can see the new growths are starting all around. It will take time, but this landscape will not be the fetid world I have known for so long. Even now, I can feel the demonic shit pile of death beginning to melt back into the ground.
I am the Shadow Dancer. I am returning to the world of shadows. I will come again as needed. My tenure is up and though I am sad, I feel a great happiness for a new beginning is at hand and I was the catalyst in this change. My hands become transparent and the shovel drops to the ground with a clank.
Soon I too will fade. In the end, all that will remain, is a rust-ridden shovel, covered over by the growth of the green, and only carries faint memories of the Shadow Dancer.