Have you ever had your eye caught by someone in a crowd? Maybe you spotted someone across a room or on a bus. Maybe you thought nothing of it but when you looked back they were gone. You’ve been shaded.
The dead walk among us. It is something we are not always aware of. Generally, they keep to themselves and don’t communicate with the living. Surprisingly enough, they do travel in human form. The dead should not be confused with zombies, the two are in no way associated. Zombies are in fact a fabrication and the idea of them stems from an unfortunate period when the dead were noticed by the general public. After the Black Death, the deceased population expanded exponentially and began taking liberties with their appearance. Steps were taken to force them to blend in. They are certainly now more aware of their standing in the world and have realised it is fortuitous for them to keep their existence concealed. However, for safety’s sake, a number of barriers were put in place to prevent communication, otherwise it would be a free-for-all.
Witches are one of the few entities who are aware of the dead. They can spot them a mile away and beings of a lifeless persuasion are actually quite easy to identify. This is because the dead don’t have shadows.
The living are not generally observant enough to spot this deficiency. They are usually too busy doing other things. The modern world, with all it’s hustle and bustle and people’s obsession with stress, has been kind to the dead. If more people were to take time out from their busy lives, and take the effort to look at the ground beneath them, they would be surprised.
During daylight hours the dead are especially active, particularly in the winter, predominantly due to the lack of sun. On the other hand, they are rarely out and about at dusk or dawn, this is naturally when shadows are at their longest. Now that you are aware of this, it should come as no surprise that any large city always seems to have an extraordinary amount of people in it at lunchtime. For this reason, the population in any one part of the planet doubles between the hours of noon and two o’clock in the afternoon. Have you never wonder why that is? Due to the virtual non-existence of shadows, the dead are especially fond of midday.
That is not to say the dead avoid the dark. Night-time is naturally the best time, there no need to fear the presence of shadows, they are everywhere. For the dead, darkness is like a warm blanket. The night is wonderful, it’s possible to get away with so much more and the world becomes a different place. Everything looks different and many things improve aesthetically. Some of the ugliest buildings look their best in the dark, this also goes for certain people. There is beauty in the darkness. The dead love the night, it is their favourite time to play. They have a freedom of movement which just doesn’t exist in the daytime.
You might wonder why the dead, if they are in plain sight, don’t stand out. It would be perfectly acceptable to assume that some of them would be walking around in 16th century ballgowns with 50 petticoats underneath. The dead are, after all, laid to rest in something, not that many are buried naked. If that were the case, then it would be far too obvious, nudity is generally frowned upon in public places. Ballgowns are also no longer considered fashionable daywear and if the dead paraded around in their burial attire, then the world would be filled with an inordinate number of military personnel in various forms of battle dress.
The dead are bestowed with a cloaking device. Under their disguises they are indeed wearing their funeral attire but over that is a sort of sheen, a form of camouflage, which adapts to its surroundings. For instance, say one of them were to walk into a bar, then their camouflage would automatically clothe them in jeans and a t-shirt. Another example might be the business sector at rush hour, where they would be decked out in suits and ties. Their real clothing is not the only thing which is hidden, the same goes for their physical appearance. Just as with their clothing, their faces and physicality’s are not revealed to the living. Of course, the real them are not rotting and have worms and stuff coming out of their ears, that just wouldn’t make any sense at all. Behind the facade they are frozen in time just as they are in burial garb.
It is possible to see their underlying attributes, but only in a mirror. It’s practically a vampire thing. Not that they exist. Only, where a vampire is traditionally invisible in a mirror, the dead work in opposite. Mirrors strip the deceased of all their camouflage. You see them for who they really are. If you stand in front of a mirror you are, after all, wanting to check out your appearance, whatever that may be. Mirrors never lie, they always show the real you.
Unfortunately, mirrors rely heavily on light to be effective. This adds another element to the problems the dead face in remaining hidden. Avoiding reflections or mirrors can be quite difficult. There is glass everywhere and sunlight, even when veiled behind cloud, shines the whole day through. It’s not useful to go parading around in front of windows.
All these things, the lack of shadow; the reflections; the disguise and camouflage have led to witches adopting a special name for the dead. The word dead is particularly derogatory and not acceptable in this modern age.
Witches call the dead: shades.
Shades are doomed to a world of insomnia, the whole idea of eternal rest is a fallacy, it is more like eternal unrest. Once you leave the supposed world of the living, you have to suffer an eternity of sleeplessness. The dead have very little to do, and naturally have to go somewhere. They are just like you and me and crave human companionship. For most of the day they are in hiding or trying to maintain a low profile. But, when given the opportunity, still prefer to be part of a crowd.
Witches and shades have the same relationships we all have. With some people we simply click, with others, not. Some people can help us; some can be confidantes; some can be lovers. It also works in reciprocal. Not everyone can fill the specific holes we require. It’s a question of searching and making contact with as many people as possible. Eventually you will find your match. For shades this is made all the more complicated. In general they don’t know who they can communicate with. They require a witch to spot them. The auto-camouflage stops them from reaching out to everyone.
Shades have very little to do and spend most of their time just hanging around. It’s a frustrating existence. There is no sense of achievement. Time goes by incredibly slow if you have nothing to do. One thing that helps is having someone to share that with. This is difficult if no one wants to talk to you. It’s made even more impossible if no one can see you.
Unsurprisingly, the main drive for a drifting soul is to find a new body to reside in. Then at least they can get some rest. If you never get to sleep then you need to find things to occupy your time with. A mind needs to be exercised. It needs things to mull over. It can get incredibly boring having nothing useful to do. It can drive you mad. It is at times like these that there is the danger of the dead creating the most havoc. They have very little influence on the living world but can force their hand when pushed to distraction.
Or rather they can force the hand of a witch, if they can find one.