Palmer looked towards the source of the laughing, not that it was hard to find. There he was, perched atop a pile of empty coffee cups, looking for all the world like a perfect match for Palmer.
“Ah, if it isn’t Deadman. I’ve been expecting you. You know, look on the bright side. At least now your name will fit you.”
Palmer watched him carefully, but didn’t respond.
“Oh? Not a talker? That’s fine. I’ll do all the talking for both of us. Staying quiet was always a bit of a pain in the neck anyway. Everyone around me’s an idiot, really - from Blue to Celeste to de Soren. None of them know anything!”
“Mm.” Palmer narrowed his eyes. It was a thought he’d had before, sure, but it wasn’t something that kept him up at night.
“But as thick as they all are…” The shadow leered down at Palmer. “They’ve all got an advantage over me. At least they exist!”
Palmer took an unconscious step back. Out of everything he had been expecting, that was not one of them.
“No matter what happens, there’s always that lingering thought in the back of my mind. When nothing I ever do changes anything… how can I be sure I’m even present? Do I belong here? Where am I going, on the days when it feels like my mind’s flying untethered from my head?”
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of Palmer’s face. He became conscious of the fact that he was clenching his teeth. He didn’t know when he had started.
“Maybe I should just take my leave of this world entirely. It feels like I’m just walking through walls anyway. Nobody notices me, nobody cares what happens to me, everyone’s just passing me off - from one person to the next.” The shadow leaned forward. “How does that sound?”
“I…” It took Palmer a second to find his voice. “I don’t know what kind of joke you’re pulling. But you’re just spinning stories. You…”
The shadow grinned.
“You’re not me!”
“There it is!” The shadow spread his arms wide, splashing coffee from the cup in his hand. The fabric in his jacket tore as wings, formed from abstract geometries, grew from his back. Red lights glowed into life underneath his mask, twisting into cruel approximations of eyes and a mouth. “I am a Shadow… The true self…” he continued. “If nobody ever sees me, then I’ll just disappear FOREVER!”