They came last spring and haven’t left and we’ve all gotten used to them, to be honest.
People came up with all sorts of different names for them. I’ve seen on the news, they did one of those cutesy little segments. In New York, they call them sky-walkers. They were calling them walking skyscrapers and then it morphed into something easier. Down south they’re calling them fingermen, except in Texas where most people call them legmen. West coasters call them night surfers. Not really sure about that one. I guess because they’re all black and maybe seem like they surf they wind?
They definitely don’t surf or anything around here, and I guess we’re not as creative. We just call them shadows. They’re really not shadows, though. It’s hard to explain. I mean that in a broader sense, not just me. Scientists still haven’t even been able to properly explain what we’re seeing, when we see them. Which is all the time now.
Voids are what they look like to me. Places where reality has been punched through and left with nothing. Except they’re not nothing. They have weight. Sometimes. We can’t figure that out, either. Sometimes they walk through town and it’s like nothing ever happened. Other times buildings and cars get crushed. Once one came through. No different than the others. Maybe a bit spindly. Every step left a hole forty feet deep. Hope that one doesn’t come back.
I wish I could tell them apart. If this were a movie, I suppose I could. There would be the one friendly one, or at least the one that takes a shine to my town. Hangs out. Becomes a local celebrity or something. Solves a crime. I don’t know, I’m babbling. But the truth is, they all mostly look the same. Spans of inky, swirling nothing reaching up dozens of stories into the sky. Wandering. Maybe some are short, some are tall. Some are wide and some are thin. But when something is so much bigger than you, it’s kind of hard to notice. Or care.
We don’t care anymore. Not really. It feels like we should. These giant voids walk around now with seemingly no agenda, sometimes destroying crops or knocking over powerlines. But we don’t. Too much is otherwise going on. They step on a town occasionally. Cry me a river. We’ve all had our towns stepped on. We don’t have the energy.
What would we do about them anyway? I don’t know. Not sure anyone does. For a while, after they first showed up, I was following them obsessively.
I was following them online. Every article. Every personal account. Every YouTube video and TikTok and hell, people were Twitch streaming them for a while. One streamer had his camera rolling as he crossed one’s path. Stood underneath, inches away from where one of its appendages would come down. The feed cut as the shadow was hovering over him. When it came back, his friends – who had stayed about a football field away – were dragging him back to the car. He was babbling about some video game he’d played extensively the previous year. A few minutes later he was fine. Then he threw up. Then he was fine again and he didn’t remember throwing up. He disappeared a few months later.
I followed all of it. All of it. And then I got tired of it. Burnt out, I guess. I think we all are. They won’t go away, and they won’t do anything besides walk around. All the damage they cause is incidental. They don’t seem malicious. They don’t seem like they’re planning anything. Are they even sentient? We still don’t know.
So we all just ignore them. Once a month or so the tornado alarm will go off, but it’s not just a tornado alarm anymore. We all go to the windows, figure out where it is. It’s not like a tornado, or a hurricane, or a forest fire. There’s no planning, no designated area to go. If you hide in the basement, it could step on the basement. If you try to run, it could happen to change paths. Mostly, you just look. If it’s close, you keep an eye. If it’s coming toward you, you wait. Wait until about a hundred yards away, close enough that you have to crane your neck to see the top where the legs or fingers or whatever they are meet.
Then you run.
Hell, they don’t move fast.
You jog lightly. Out of their path. Away from whatever those voids are. About a hundred yards, that’s all it takes. You clump together with your neighbors and watch as it saunters through your houses. At first, you all watch silently, gritting your teeth. The alarm cannot tell you if it will be a heavy shadow or not. Once, we all watched as a shadow punched holes in everything. My car and my backyard shed. The Carmine’s front living room. The Wilson’s back porch. What are you supposed to do? Get mad about it? Shoot at the shadows? You can. The bullets don’t go anywhere. We all just wandered back quietly, waiting for the insurance people to show up.
Sometimes, though, they have no weight and just wander through. Once you see the shadow isn’t doing any harm you relax. Start chatting with your neighbors. It’s sort of nice. I’ve made lots of close friends since it started. We have more barbeques, and more game nights. When we have to fix a house, we sometimes make a day out of it.
They showed up last spring and no one seems to care anymore. I feel like we should. There are new whispers of some crazy cult worshipping the shadows. One of the labs where scientists are trying to study them blew up a couple of weeks ago. Gas leak, they said, but that sounds unlikely. There’s just so much else. We both have student debt and she’s accidentally pregnant and the climate is still changing and politics is still a bunch of old white dudes screaming at each other and it’s just so hard to care about one more thing.