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Shades of Black, Page 1

Quelli di ZEd

Carmelo Massimo Tidona

  Shades of Black

  Series “Nocturnal”

  episode #4

  Translation from Italian to English by

  Carmelo Massimo Tidona

  for Zed Lab

  Shades of Black

  Copyright © 2013 Zerounoundici Edizioni

  Copyright © 2013 Carmelo Massimo Tidona

  ISBN: 978-88-6578-265-1

  Cover: image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

  Work autonomously proposed by the author, not submitted to selection from the publisher

  Shades of Black

  When Sylke reached the police cordon, asked where the corpses were, and heard someone answer “Everywhere”, he looked askance at the agent, with an expression that left no doubt about its meaning. But he found himself looking at the face of someone who didn’t seem at all in a mood for joking.

  Shrugging, he moved forward in the narrow alley. If police had asked for his intervention, making fun of him should have been the last thing they had in mind, after all. Usually, he was considered the last hope, the one to call when everything else had failed or couldn’t be tried at all, if nothing else because tribunals didn’t really appreciate investigations based on the work of consultants like him.

  Around him a lot of people was busy. Almost all of them looked like cops, none looked like a dead person, at least not the kind who rests in peace under three good feet of soil.

  He was already about to protest, sure that he had gone there for nothing, and that the bodies had already been moved before his arrival, which had already happened in the past, when he realized the meaning of what he had been told.

  He hurriedly closed his mouth, trying not loo look like a complete idiot, and finally focused on what was around him.

  The alley was pretty dark, although the day was at its fullest. Dense shadows populated its corners and clefts, and conspired with his mind to hide from him the details of what he was seeing. But by now the hints were too many to be ignored, and awareness hit him like a fist in the stomach.

  Scattered among the graffiti that adorned the walls, among the trash and the dirt of the macadam, there were stains of blood and indistinct fragments that once must have been part of the body of a living being. Maybe even more than one.

  Even though his line of work often brought him in close contact with the results of the most bloody crimes, he didn’t think he had ever seen anything remotely like that in his whole career – big word – of expert, so to speak. Not only someone, or something, had shredded his victims in pieces so small that they could hardly be seen clearly, but he had gone as far as to scatter them around the whole alley, as if to challenge the police to find them all and put that macabre jigsaw together.

  «What happened here?» he asked, trying to sound less bewildered than he felt. «An explosion?»

  «No one heard anything», a familiar voice answered. «And if we knew what happened, we wouldn’t have called you».

  The argument was watertight.

  Sylke turned toward the source of the voice, meeting the eyes of Lars Seymourn, the detective head of the local Magic Control Department. He wasn’t surprised to see him there; he didn’t know many other cops who were able to admit a defeat and call an expert when needed. Actually, he only knew another one.

  «I might not be very useful this time», he answered. Reliving the last moments of the life of a deceased was his specialty – or, better, his disgrace, for sure he hadn’t chosen willingly to learn how to do that – but there had to be a body, at least. What he had available hardly qualified as a large deal of lab samples.

  «You try. If you fail, I won’t blame you».

  Seymourn sounded like someone who had run out of hopes and was ready to cling to any help, as unlikely as it was, in order to get some answers. It was never a good thing.

  «I hope you’ll remember that», he simply replied, while asking himself were to start and how. Not even he knew exactly how his powers worked. Better to say, he knew their effect, but not what triggered them exactly. What if they needed a specific part of a body to work? Maybe the head, the brain, it would make sense. He didn’t remember ever testing them on a beheaded victim.

  Lars, who had already seen him at work, hurriedly ask as many agents as possible to leave the alley, to make room for him.

  Sylke took off his black leather gloves, revealing the ash-grey skin of his hands. He approached a wall, brushing it lightly with the tips of his fingers. It wasn’t the wall he was interested in. It was what was on it.

  He couldn’t contain a fit of disgust when his skin touched the damp stain. It was but a fraction of a second, then his mind wandered elsewhere, in another time, in a place just slightly different.

  He saw with eyes that didn’t belong to him the street he had walked himself to go there, but now he was walking on it at night. Unfortunately he had no control over the vision. He was just seeing events that had already happened, unable to affect them in any way. He couldn’t look down to his body, or try to glance at his own reflection in a shop window. Usually he wouldn’t have needed to, but in that particular occasion he was really curious to know who those last moments of life belonged to.

  He was suddenly back to his own senses. The contact had never been broken before the death of the victim, not unless he had broken it willingly. On the other hand, he had never had to use his powers on a stain on a wall.

  Lars didn’t ask anything. No more than a second or less had to be passed since he had begun. Even without interruptions, he never needed more than an instant in the real world, as dilated as the time in his mind could appear to be.

  Without comments, he took a slow step forward, keeping the contact with the building, and he plummeted again in that life that wasn’t his.

  He wasn’t alone in the street, there was someone else... he was following someone... a woman.

  She was far, at first. She didn’t know she was being followed.

  He sped up. He could feel the beating of his heart (not his, it wasn’t his), quiet and regular. His steps were silent, stealthy.

  He lost contact again. He inhaled abruptly, by reflex, and the stale air full of death almost made him choke and puke.

  He warded off with a gesture Seymourn, who was getting closer, and moved forward some more, hoping for the vision to restart.

  His advance in reality mixed with the other’s in the past, in a continuous flow of images.

  Now the woman was closer. She was walking faster too, and looking behind her back with worried eyes, with quick jerks of her head. She had started running. Not fast enough.

  When he grabbed her, he could see his hands (not his hands, those were the other’s hands, not his). He looked human, or something like that. For sure he had no scales, or feathers, and the colour of his skin, between a tattoo and another, was typical of humans, so fair...

  He dragged her to the alley, pressing a hand on her mouth, threatening her. He had a knife, he couldn’t see hit but he felt the handle his fingers.

  He heard his voice (no, it wasn’t his) vomiting obscenities mixed with false promises. Everything would be all right. She only had to shut up and cooperate. Everything would be all right.

  He couldn’t read the mind he was a guest into. He didn’t need to, to know he was lying.

  The scene dissolved again. He was almost at the back end of the alley, right where she had fallen, when it formed again.

  He couldn’t see the girl anymore. He was holding her tight, but he was looking at something else. Someone coming from the street, in full light. He could clearly see hi
s features, he reminded a gentleman of the distant past. A face hard not to notice, difficult not to remember.

  «Go away! Not your business!» he shouted (no, it hadn’t been him).

  «Be quiet, I won’t hurt you». The voice was placid, mellow, endearing, like a velvet sheath covering a sharp blade. Hidden well behind there was a mocking tone. He was using his same words against him.

  He had opened his mouth (which was not his mouth),he had started talking, «Go away or I’ll ki...», and he had felt as if he had been suffocating. There was something in his throat, something he couldn’t spit out or swallow... something that wasn’t there, still it was making its way inside him with deliberate slowness.

  The other man hadn’t moved. He was looking at him (looking at him, really looking at him) and smiling, wickedly.

  He could no longer close his mouth. He tried in vain to shut his jaws, but it was like biting an iron rod. His throat was clenching around something that wasn’t there, that he felt going down along his oesophagus, an inch at a time. He felt short of breath, even though he knew it wasn’t real, he knew he was breathing. He wasn’t going to die for that.

  The girl moved away from him crawling, then she stood up and started running. He had seen it, but had he really noticed? Or was he too busy concentrating on the pain he was feeling to record anything else?

  He couldn’t know that. The pain wasn’t his. He felt hit, but he could detach from it, most of it at least, and he had done that almost immediately. He had imagined that he couldn’t have been able to stay clear-minded and focused otherwise.

  In that moment, he wished he could isolate himself from it entirely. The pressure that was mounting inside him was unbearable, and he could only imagine – of which he was thankful to all gods – the growing terror in the mind of the man.

  Now there was no part of him left that wasn’t experiencing that feeling. As if the force that was oppressing him had infiltrated into every crevice, every opening, even every vein, and was constantly about to burst out of them, still never actually doing that.

  When he got back to himself again, he didn’t try to go further. He knew that death hadn’t come yet – that sufferance would go on and on for a long time, judging on the way in which it was being administered – but he no longer had any doubt about how it would finally arrive.

  «So?» Seymourn urged him when he noticed hat he had stopped.

  He put on his gloves again, affectedly slow, breathing quietly, before turning and answering.

  «Sorry, I didn’t see anything.»


  Carmelo Massimo Tidona, employee, writer and translator in his spare time, has been reading and writing since as long as he can remember. Some of his short stories have been published in various anthologies.

  For 0111edizioni Carmelo Massimo Tidona published:

  “Trittico Oscuro”, collection of urban fantasy tales (2009, Italian).

  “Riflessi d’Ombra”, urban fantasy novel (2009, Italian)

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