Electing the Shadow King


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Fred Demien is an itinerant minister and queer heretic currently pursuing her MFA and building relationships in Missouri, US  [+]

Image of Summer 2020

(Author writes with St. Louis in mind and "Operation Legend" looming.)

There is no known original name, only what it became. The city that drips with the Shadow’s pitch. It wasn’t planned—the architects didn’t plot it in their drawings; the sewer district had no recourse for its removal; the contractor did not budget it in her original bid. Only the asphalt worker knew, driving his roller, slow in the stick and heat of summer. But no one listened when he said he saw it swallow a child whole. Except that child’s mother, and another, another, as child after child disappeared. 

 
News reached the mayor too late after his election to campaign, so he ignored it. But one day the Shadow towered at the city’s gateway and opened like a mouth with thousands of cries of young girls and boys screaming out. The mayor declared it a threat, but the money was already allotted, he said. They never fully calculated the damage, but a generation of future voters—gone. Everyone else evacuated. Even mothers left, their sons and daughters all drawn down the unending gullet of the Shadow. But the mayor stays in the swallowed city, sitting at his darkened desk, writing—in what he thinks is ink—the songs he hears carried in children’s voices seeping from the walls. He sends what he can to their mothers. 

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