The Legend Of Death Walking
In this excerpt of the short story ‘The Shadow We Cast Through Time,’ a mysterious entity on a far-off planet transforms human colonists into demonic creatures.
The following is a short story by Indrapramit Das titled ‘The Shadow We Cast Through Time’ from the collection New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction By People Of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl.
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction By People Of Color
[Archive reconstruction; lore record, The First Demon, as re-told by Truthteller Surya]
It is told that the first demon was born when a young human child from the first village on this world wandered out into the forest nearby to explore. This was so long ago that no human had yet died on this world, in the village within the great winged hulk of the first starship that came down from the first world. What the child wandered into was no forest, of course, because the forest is a thing of first world, and back then, no humans had planted any trees in the cold soil of here. But to the forest the child went with their lantern, because humans see what they want to see, and everyone called the shaggy dark on the horizon a forest, though no one was prepared to find out what it was until that day. As the child came closer, they saw that the trees of this forest were in fact a city of clay spires from which flowed rivers of hair that blew in the wind, hair without heads, without humans, growing out of towers that reeked like excrement and coiled with jagged black spikes. But this child knew no fear, having known only the deathly void of space outside their starship’s windows, and the distant tales of first world, so they ventured into this strange city, drunk on freedom, on finding their own world to name and gift with the blessing of human witness. They were clever, and knew that these towers had to be houses, which, for humans at least, were starships that did not move through space, and simply sat on a world to transport humans through time instead. The child wanted to find out who lived in these houses on this world. They went up to one of the towers, which they realized had a doorway into darkness. Raising the lantern to the impenetrable mouth of this doorway, the child asked the darkness, “Does someone live here?”
The darkness answered, “Yes.”
The child asked, “Who are you?”
The darkness said, “I am the shadow that you have cast from across time, from the first world to this one.”
The child asked, “What does that mean?”
The darkness said, “It means that you belong under a star far away in the night sky, too far to cast a shadow here. It means that nature abhors a vacuum, but there is no nature here.”
The child said to the darkness, “I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand. Can you explain it better?”
The darkness said to the child, “It means that you cannot be good in a world that has seen no evil. It means that I will be your shadow under the new stars. It means that I will be the gift of evil. It means that I am the kal, and I have waited long aeons for you.”
And then the child realized that they had indeed come too far into this strange new wilderness, their lantern a tiny star in this city now grown dark as space with the new sun Umi below the horizon.
“But we have left evil behind on first world,” said the child.
And the darkness laughed, because outside of the endless void, a shadow needs something to cast it. The wind grew sharp as poison, as the locks of headless hair blew on the spires, and it grew cold as the skin of a starship drifted far from a sun, and the child had no choice but to enter that doorway where the darkness lurked. Lantern and child were swallowed, never to be seen again in the village of the starship.
When at dawn what used to be the child emerged from the spire, they were not human, for their bones had turned black as distant time. The child was no child any longer, but first of demons on this world, Death Walking, because all worlds need death if humans must tread on them. From that day onwards, the humans of our world began to die, as humans must, as we did on first world, and as we have done on all the worlds.
Excerpted from the book, New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color. Copyright 2019 edited by Nisi Shawl. Reprinted by permission of Solaris, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd.