The Heart of the Shadow


Guardian opened the door for her. He walked to the booth when led there, and he waited while she sat, before taking his seat across from her and smiling. Regina was taking him out to eat again. She did it often. All her money was spent entertaining us. Dinners, movies, all sorts of things were showered upon us, and for this, there was a kind of derelict disregard for the rules. She was about to break one now.

“I need to talk to Shadow,” she said. This was against the rules. There were a lot of rules during this time of my life. I was fragile, and I wanted to stay as intact as possible.

No one could touch me unless I touched them first. A simple stroke of the hand at the wrong time could throw me into a spiral. They could not ask what I talked about in therapy. They were not allowed to ask for any of the ego states to come out when another was present. That personality was out for a reason, and to ask them to go away was disrespect to that reason. Some of my friends obeyed every one of these rules as if they were commandments handed down from on high. Regina was not one of them.

Guardian nodded. There was a jerk and a kick, and he was gone. This was very strange for this disorder. The ability to leave and summon up another at will was not normal, but we would find out that a lot of things were strange about my variation of the disorder.

“Yeah?” Shadow snapped. He looked around and smirked. “Where are we?”

“Ruby Tuesday’s,” she said. “I want to talk to you.”

“You’re not afraid I will make a scene? Not afraid I will say something or do something that will get us kicked out of here?”

“Been kicked out of better. Plus, if I do get kicked out of here, you won’t get to drink your Dr. Pepper.”

He froze. “What do you know about that?” he said.

“Been watching really close. All of you have favorite things. The Child will always come out if I wave a Snickers ice cream cone under your nose. Doritos for Servant. Dr. Pepper for you.” She laughed and he growled. She looked up at the waitress and smiled. “I’ll have a margarita. He will have a Dr. Pepper.”

The girl smiled and walked away.

“So, you are clever. I’ll give you that. I can get Dr. Pepper at home. Why don’t I leave?”

“You won’t.”


“Because you crave attention,” she said. “You want to be here as much as I want you here.”

“Fuck you. How about I take this knife and put it in your fucking eye?”

“Bull shit!” she said with a laugh. “That is bullshit. I know better. I know that is an act. You are not half as evil as you want everyone to think you are. You are a punk, maybe a petty criminal, but you’re not cruel. Not as much as you want us all to believe you are.”

He stammered and she laughed. “What do you live for?” she said.

“What do you mean?” he asked. He reached into his pocket under the table and pulled his knife. He opened it silently and gripped it tight. He did not like the way this was going, did not like the way she was talking at all.

She lit a cigarette and handed it across the table to him. He drew on it slowly and she continued.

“Why were you created? What do you live for?”

“I was created to keep the Child safe,” he said.

“Bullshit,” she said. “Guardian keeps that boy safe, and everyone else for that matter. You were all created for different reasons. Servant was created to make your mother happy. Teth is your need to survive. He eats, drinks, seeks shelter and fucks. He is your base needs. He is fearless. The only thing I have found him to be afraid of is fire.”

“How do you know he is afraid of fire?” he asked.

“He is. Trust me,” she said. “So tell me right now, what do you live for? Don’t act like you don’t want to tell me. This is what you want, and I know it. You are bored playing the dark madman. You want to stretch out and do what you do. So tell me when you are ready, Shadow, what is it you were created for?”

“I’m his attitude.”

She shivered with pleasure and smiled at him. “Yes, you are,” she said. “What else, what else drives you?” She grinned and added. “How old are you?”

He chewed on the question for a while before nodding.

“I’m 16,” he said. “I’m what happened when he became a teenager.”

“Why?” she asked. “Why were you needed when he became a teenager? What were you doing?”

“I had a friend. His name was X. He was kind of crazy. He taught me things, things I never should have known. He was my only friend. I could not do without him. I needed to keep up with him, or I would be alone. I did what I had to do. I made the whole thing work. They needed me. They needed a friend for X.”

“What did you two do?” she asked. She leaned forward, and he smiled.

“We hit a laundromat once, fucked it up real good. Covered the floor with soap. We pissed in all the washers. Man, we had to drink a lot of Dr. Pepper to do them all. See, there was no night manager there, so we did what we wanted. I washed my stepdad’s work shirt in one of those washers.”

“You didn’t like him?” she asked.

“Had no reason to.”

She grinned. “What else?”

“I sliced X’s nose open once.”

“You did what?”

“He said something about Jazz that I didn’t like, and I pulled my knife and slashed at his face. Cut his nostril. It was a tiny cut, but it bled like a hose. He rode his bike two miles home, and by the time he got to his house, his face looked like it had been skinned. His mom called to find out what had happened, said that X told her he had gotten into a bike wreck, but she knew better. I told her the same story, and she was forced to drop it.”

Regina leaned forward and smiled. “Wow,” she said. “What else?”

“We set a lot of fires. We broke into a lot of houses. I used to find the bowling ball in each house and throw it through the TV screen. I took the photos out of the frames and piled them on the pillows and pissed on them. I did a lot of funny, sometimes horrible things.”

“Horrible like what?” she asked. She sat back, took a long drag of her cigarette, and tried to look nonchalant, but she was enjoying this too much.

“I won’t talk about the worst of it.”

“Why?” she asked. “I won’t tell anyone. I just want to know who I am dealing with.”

“You’re dealing with a punk and a thug,” he said.

“I see that. What horrible thing did you do?”

He looked at the table and shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But you want to watch The Count of Monte Cristo? It is at the Palace. I can take you there. I can watch it with you.”

“You’re a tricky bitch, aren’t you?” he said.

“I’m focused.”

He told her about Josh. At times during the story, he was bragging. At other times, he was confessing. He told her about every instant of it, the pool hall, the broken cue, the beating, and X’s taunting. He told her all of it, and when he was done, he lit a cigarette. They ate in almost total silence. They smoked a lot of cigarettes and they talked about a lot of other things. When the talking was done and the meal was cleared, they went to his house. He took most of his meal home. They dropped off the food.

She took him to the movie. it was a movie about revenge, about a man wronged who was consumed with a need for justice and darkness, a man powerful and insane with blood lust. It was a movie Shadow needed to see.

When it was over, he started planning his revenge on the ones who had wronged him, but that is a story for another time. For now, I will say this.

That nut had been cracked. She told everyone, every one of the small group of people that surrounded us. She told them all just what Shadow was, and told every secret he had. No one feared Shadow anymore.

She was hailed a hero.

Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn’t.


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