Greed, crime, and apathy plaque all. Evil lurks around every corner as well as within the hearts of men. There are but few who seek to bring Justice to those who would harm others. Among them, a lone figure with the power to cloud the minds of others and the ability to meld with the darkness which sprung him. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!
Somewhere in Tibet, 1935
"Your mind…it is easily clouded."
The words rung through the criminal's mind, just as they had many times before. He was not used to an act of such invasion, something so thick and dense that his ego could not surpass it. This frail creature, this man who referred to himself as Tolku.
"Stop saying that!" the criminal demanded.
"But it is true," the short Asian man replied. "The folds of your psyche unravel at my merest whim. That will have to change or else--"
"Or else what?" The young man groveled on one knee, his torn silk shirt barely hanging on to his shoulders.
"Or else you will never be the man you should be."
"You're not making any sense! This…this whole place doesn't make sense!"
The gorgeous walls of the monastery he had stumbled into were sheathed in gold and silver, the value of which had caught his eye immediately. To this criminal's interest all things gleaming with monetary value were held the highest.
After quickly hiding himself inside the monastery, which seemed mostly deserted, the young criminal had tried to collect whatever bobbles of wealth he could. Not soon after he had begun, the large wooden door at the end of the main chamber had flung open and this Tolku person had appeared, somehow able to hold the criminal down without physical restraints.
"What is sense?" the Tolku quizzed. "At first my senses told me there was a worthless scoundrel seeking to take from this humble place. Then after delving into your mind I realized you were destined for more than thievery."
The gold and silver colors of the walls began to mix together, as if melting into a pool of riches. What the criminal didn't realize, however, was that it was all an illusion. What he saw as reality was actually a side effect of the Tolku's strange powers and intrusive senses.
"What do you know about destiny?" the criminal demanded from his humbled position on the floor. "Huh? D…damn china man.."
"Your ignorance is as painful as your mind is filled with refuse. We are in Tibet. Was your plane crash so horrible that you don't recall where you are?"
"How did you know about that?" the younger man demanded. "Who are you?"
"The real question," the Tolku responded, "is who are you?"
----------New York City, 1938
"Wait, back up," Margot said, letting her spoon drop back into her soup. "I don't understand. You were in Tibet three years ago?"
"I was," the dashing young man across from her answered curtly. "Miss Lane, you asked to hear my history after rudely barging into my home last night. Normally I would try to excuse you from my place of rest but my powers of persuasion seemingly have no effect on you."
The couple sat at a table in a small breakfast nook in the kitchen of the large mansion. The house held many treasures displayed on the walls like tapestries, portraits, and rare art, but it still held an air of hospitality as shown in the rooms like the kitchen. Much like the owner, the mansion had no trouble showing different versions of itself.
"Powers?" Margot questioned. "So you are the Shadow!"
The man she knew as Lamont Cranston shifted in his chair, obviously uncomfortable with the conversation, yet continuing it anyway. "Your intuition is astounding. You should be a reporter, Miss Lane."
"So, what exactly went on last night that you came back here all bloodied? And what was with that nightmare you were having--"
"A vision," Lamont broke in.
"Right, vision. And the connection I constantly feel between us…what is that? When we first met the other day face to face it was like my mind was bombarded with all these images."
"I'll get to all that, Miss Lane, I promise." Lamont sipped at his tea, placing the delicate cup back in its saucer. In his earlier life he had no taste for the hot liquid but since studying abroad he found its aroma more soothing than most things. He looked over Margot, realizing once more just how gorgeous she really was.
He had promised to explain everything to her, and against his better judgment, he would.
The training he was undergoing was almost too intense for him to comprehend. For hours on end he found himself staring at a blank wall trying to find whatever it was the Tolku said was hidden there. It was frustrating and ridiculous, but what choice did he have?
"Relax," the old man said from somewhere behind him. "Allow your consciousness to fill the void between you and your goal. I know of the fear and resentment in your thoughts, but you must learn to control these things. You are not complete. No man is ever complete."
The young criminal continued to concentrate as instructed, the sweat beginning to bead down the sides of his face. He would rather have leapt to his feet and struck down the Tolku but he had tried before and failed miserably. He was stuck there, forced to undergo this excruciating training.
Why did the old man insist on keeping him here? It made no sense and the only answers he ever got were obscure ones that made even less sense. A bunch of garbage about destiny and how he should be better suited for the world…
It had been a month since his plane crashed in the hills of Tibet. A month since he had stumbled upon the monastery, seeking whatever he could to find a way back to the United States, his home. If it weren't for the promises of great power he would have killed himself already, his hopes for returning home all but diminished.
"Control," the Tolku said, "is necessary lest you become the victim of yourself."
The younger man, a man named Kent Allard, broke his stare and craned his neck back to look up at his instructor. He was shocked to no longer see the much older and hobbled man standing behind him like a tyrant, but a teenager with thick, dark hair that couldn't have been old enough to drive.
Kent's eyes squinted in confusion, but the teenager simply smiled. "Do you see?" the Tolku said. With a wave of his hand, the Tolku made a small gesture that blurred his very appearance. A second later, after a cloud of distortion had overtaken the teenager, the elderly man had returned. "Your mind is weak, and because of your lack of control I am able to show you only what I wish you to see."
Anger and righteousness bubbled up inside him, helping to focus his concentration. He felt his mind expand just like the Tolku had said it would, surprising him greatly, but he held to it. He refused to let the feeling pass until he could control it. It was amazing, unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
Suddenly, a tiny speck in the center of the wall he was told to stare at appeared. It slowly enlarged, spinning and weaving into an intricate painting of the landscape. It was like a veil had been lifted from over his eyes, the painting magically appearing before him plain as day.
"Your mind is no longer easily clouded," the Tolku said after the criminal gasped. "Perhaps you are closer to realizing this yourself."
"I…I don't understand."
"This mural has been here since before you arrived, only you could not see it because of the unclean wastes holding down your mind. Finally, you have broken down your own barriers. It saddens me to see that to do so you needed to channel such inner rage…perhaps you need to relish this dark persona instead of ridding yourself of it? Perhaps."
And on it went, for many more months. Meditation, restless nights, horrible dreams, visions, endless tests that seemed like wastes of time…but after a while it began to show the promise of power he had been told of. The Tolku almost seemed to cherish the time he spent torturing the young Kent Allard, somehow determined to forcibly right the man's own wrong: his very soul.
The criminal's aggravation grew to incredible heights but he retained all the knowledge the Tolku passed out. He gained the ability to cloud men's minds, exerting an amount of mental control over them. His physical prowess also increased greatly, becoming a fine tuned instrument with which to deal out his desires. It was a long process but eventually he had become a stronger man for his troubles, forced upon him as they may be.
Then, finally, nearly a year later, the criminal had an opportunity to leave of his own accord. The Tolku had been absent from the morning ritual of taking his sanity and he realized this may be his only chance to leave. Racing out the front gate, the man tasted freedom for the first time since his plane had crashed.
He was no longer a prisoner. True, he was grateful for the abilities taught to him but his hatred of being kept against his will only strengthened his anger. He longed to get back to his home town and use his newfound skills to take whatever he wanted. With the powers forced upon him he knew that nothing would keep him from fulfilling his own greed.
As the fog of the morning rolled across the dew covered grass, the man stopped once his feet touched the cool ground. He sensed something…a pressing upon his mind that sought to freeze his entire body. The Tolku.
"You would leave?" the Tolku asked through a voice in Kent's head.
"I would!" the young man screamed in reply. His body was completely immobile, yet another way that the Tolku seemed to delight in torturing him.
An image shimmered into view, that of the elderly Tolku. "Even after your very mind has been expanded thanks to my teachings?"
"Your teachings serve only to make yourself happy!" Kent shot back. "You don't care about me or what I can do. Why the hell are you doing this to me?"
"I have told you," the Tolku answered. "Your path must change or you will be destroyed by your own demons. The darkness within you, like a shadow of your true self, is destined to overwhelm you. I have seen it."
The man's anger, already heightened from months and months of being treated like a child, exponentially grew into an inner burning. He felt the morning rays of the sun shirk away from his body, the cool fog creeping up around his feet. The darkness seemed to surround his body, especially the features of his face which began to twist and contort.
"Have you seen me opposing you?" he demanded, his voice becoming much deeper and louder. "Have you seen my fingers around your neck? I'm stronger than you think, old man. I know the real reason you've kept me here all this time, training me like you would a dog. I know. Ha. Haha. Hehehahahahaaaaa!"
The man's laughter enveloped the area, echoing off the monastery walls. The image of the Tolku suddenly sharpened before the man, freeing his movements with but a wave of his aged hand. The laughter ceased as the young criminal prepared to make good on his threat, stepping forward toward the Tolku.
"Hold," the old man commanded. "You have finally unlocked your inner beast and put it under your control. You say you now know the real reason I have kept you here, enforcing discipline into your being? It is because of this. I knew your inner darkness would attempt to overwhelm you, using the great potential locked within that husk you call a body. I see know that it cannot be changed, however your actions are still your own to command. What will you do now, young one?"
Kent was shocked. He hadn't expected that answer. All this time he had been confused on why the Tolku was subjugating him to this torture, when all the while it really was for his own good. The darkness swirling around him was proof of the Tolku's words and he felt the evil within him threatening to consume his soul. However, thanks to the discipline he had been forced to learn, that was no longer a threat.
Surprising himself, the man felt grateful.
"I…well…I don't know," he mumbled.
"In your home land you were a criminal, a common thief," the Tolku stated. "Here you have become so much more. Will you return to that life as you previously desired, using your newfound strength to placate to your inner desires? Or will you balance the world you formerly resided in?"
The man couldn't answer as he was so confused. For months upon end he had been under the impression that the Tolku was not to be trusted, that he could only rely on his own selfish desires and meager strengths. "What would you do, master?"
"There is a ship leaving in six months from the foot of this mountain," his instructor replied. "Continue your teachings here, then return to your country. Now, return to your chamber. You have much to meditate on."
Kent Allard, the former criminal aviator that had unfortunately crashed his smuggled cargo in Tibet, did as his new master commanded. Retreating back to the cold and dark monastery, he realized that his mind had been opened and a weight had been pulled off of his shoulders. That weight had now dispersed, moved and reformed to surround him, but it was now his to control nonetheless.
Six months passed.
The time finally arrived when Kent, now a master of his own destiny, would leave the Tolku. Kent packed a satchel of food and other necessities before parting ways with the monastery that had changed his life. He trekked to the base of the hill and followed the stream until it led him to the river, where a dock awaited him. A few dozen people milled about, waiting for departure.
"Are these ruffians the ones we're to transport?"
Kent looked to the main deck to the man whose voice had caught his attention. His chubby features and slicked back hair marked him of a higher class than all the others that worked tirelessly on the vessel. Ship hands, whose wardrobe was torn and dirtied from the general and harsh upkeep of the ship that their duties included, ran in all directions while the chubby man threw orders around haphazardly.
"Yes, sir," one of them answered. "We're scheduled to recruit twenty-five…workers and bring them to New York City for employment." He capped off his sentence with a smirk, which did not go unnoticed by Kent.
Kent looked over the people waiting to board the ship again. Rags and dirt were all that covered their bodies. Most of them looked starved, others near-death. That's when Kent realized where the Tolku had sent him. This ship was no regularly scheduled transport, it was a convey meant to smuggle immigrants into the United States. Being a former smuggler himself, he knew all too well what awaited these poor fools once they boarded the ship. Their hopes, dreams, and promises would never make it back to their families like they had been assured. The better life they thought awaited them in America would be filled with nothing but sweat shops and bloodied fingers.
"Well get them on board quickly," the chubby man said. "I've been away from my lovely city for too long. The sooner we leave this rat hole the better."
The ship hand nodded and mock saluted as they parted ways, walking in opposite directions. Kent, observing the situation unfold, decided that something must be done to circumvent the ruination of these poor souls. He thought of the Tolku briefly, realizing that this was another test, his final test, but a test nonetheless.
The peasants milling about were lined up by the ship's crew and Kent casually swept onboard with them, keeping his head down. Once on deck he entered the ship's hold along with the rest of the so-called workers that sought a better life for themselves. When he felt the ship pull away from the shore and float down the river out to sea, Kent Allard smiled.
He bided his time, waiting until nightfall had overcome the ship. Once the darkness that he now could call home had blanketed the deck, Kent went to seek the arrogant American man that was calling the shots, along with the fates of those huddled below deck.
He slipped into the stairwell that led above deck quietly, molding and warping the shadows of the night around him. Once he reached the open air of the sea, the moonlight shone against his nearly invisible body, casting his own shadow back against the white moldings of the vessel. He looked at it and silently swore, wishing that the Tolku had instructed him on how to hide that dark piece of his own soul.
Carefully moving about the ship, Kent reached the main quarters where the chubby owner of the vessel sat, eating his fill of roast beef and other trimmings that the stowaways below deck could only dream of.
The fat man bit into a piece of beef that was dripping with red juice and laughed. "To think my mother wanted me to be a banker!" he said. "Ha! As if a banker could pull in this kind of money and keep it for himself."
Kent allowed his consciousness to float outward, skimming the edges of the other man's mind. He felt worry, sorrow, angst, and most importantly, fear. It was that fear that Kent would build on, adding a dash of hesitation and outright alarm. He would break this man and right the wrongs he was doing. It was a sense of justice that he needed to convey upon this man, more so encouraged by the fact that Kent saw a slice of himself in this man.
Kent took in a deep breath, and when he spoke, his voice was changed and distorted, reverberating off of the sides of the walls. "Good even, Mr. Cranston," Kent said. He felt a small amount of levity fill him as he let his own demons out from under the rock he had buried them, if only for just a moment. "Money is a powerful thing, Lamont. Money is what you desire most…isn't it?"
The chubby American, Lamont Cranston, dropped his food to the table. His mouth hung open in shock. He threw a glance at the door but saw that it was still closed. "Who's there?" he asked, a tremor of fear in his voice.
"Call me your conscious, Lamont," Kent replied. "I have seen what trappings are apart of your little mind, and I am ashamed for you. You feed off of the starvation of others, taking their pride and self-worth for yourself. You have sinned greater than most, and I have come for you because of it."
Lamont stood up, knocking his chair over. "Where are you?" he demanded.
"I am all around you, part of you, near you, never leaving your side. I am the very darkness. I am hidden within your own shadow."
Lamont scoffed. "Ha! Who are you really, eh? Some crazed native? Get off my ship or I'll have my crew throw you off!"
Kent, holding to the shadow-covered walls, slipped behind his adversary and took a few steps toward him. "I doubt you would be able to overtake me."
Lamont swirled around and threw his arm out reflexively. Kent easily ducked under it and shoved his own fist into Lamont's gut, making him double over. He drove his knee into Lamont's face, flipping the chubby criminal up and over the chair that had been knocked down. Kent allowed the wisps of shadow to float around him, making him look like some kind of dark netherworld inhabitant that had stepped out of the bowels of hell itself.
"You life is forfeit," Kent said, allowing his voice to drop back to its regular tone. "You have a choice to make, Lamont Cranston."
"You don't know anything!"
"I know!" Kent bellowed. He bent down and picked Lamont up by his collar, shaking him. "The filth of this world are subject to Justice, and I am now her messenger. I'll let you live this once, so that you can lie awake at night thinking of how your life now belongs to me. I may call upon you, but for now you will live in the countryside, devoid of all your earnings, just like the innocents you sought to corrupt with your touch."
"What are you talking about?" Lamont demanded. He was twitching in Kent's grip, nervous of what the crazed intruder would do next.
"I will return in your stead, Lamont Cranston, taking your identity as my own while you rot in the depths of Tibet."
Kent dragged Lamont to the side of the room, and kicked upon a wide port window. He held Lamont up to the edge of it, preparing to throw him overboard. "You can't do this!" the chubby man whined. "You don't know who you're dealing with!"
"It is you who doesn't understand," Kent replied. "I have graced your mind and absorbed all I need to know. You remain blissfully unaware of how cold the world can be, but you will soon taste your own sick sense of arrogance."
Before Lamont could complain any further, Kent tossed him out the window and into the icy waters of the sea. He sealed the window back up, leaving behind the man once called Lamont Cranston.
Kent Allard was now in control of his inner demons, bending them just as easily as he did the shadows on the wall. He walked to a full length mirror beside the window and watched as he cast an illusion over his own facial features, mimicking his new appearance after the chubby Lamont. The crew would never know that he was an imposter, and neither would anyone back in the United States that may have any inkling of who the real Lamont Cranston was.
The new Lamont smiled, and began to laugh.
"That's incredible!" Margot exclaimed.
"I don't mind telling you, Miss Lane," Lamont began as he absentmindedly nibbled at his toast, "that I have never told anyone of this story before, not even Moe. I sense something about you, Margot. Something I'm not sure I can put my finger on."
"I sense it to." Margot Lane was too astonished to finish her breakfast. The urban myth known as the Shadow that had appeared in New York City months ago had been uncovered. She knew what no one else knew. "This…clouding men's mind thing. Does that have something to do with it?"
"Perhaps." Lamont set his toast down and crossed his fingers over each other, leaning forward over the table. "Margot, there is danger coming to this city. Something evil is lurking behind a thin veil and I believe you may be the key to it all. Since I returned to this country I have discovered that things are not always as they seem, and I would ask for your help in learning the truth."
Margot nodded slowly. "Of course, of course, Lamont. I mean Kent. But…what is it that you're sensing?"
"We'll know for sure soon enough. But for now all I can say is that you're being used, Miss Lane."
"Used?" Margot blushed slightly. "How?"
"You did not come here of your own accord. I can see…well, if I may?" Lamont reached his hand out gently toward her and raised an eyebrow, to which Margot nodded again. He placed his hand on her forehead and concentrated.
After a moment Lamont pulled his hand back and gasped. "It was as I feared. Miss Lane. We're in grave danger."
"Because the man I left for dead has returned, and he has brought chaos with him."
Wow. It's been a loooong time since I finished off an issue of this series. The reason? Well, there's quite a few to be honest, not least among them that I got married a few months ago. Throw in a hectic work schedule, writer's block, a healthy (or maybe unhealthy) dose of general apathy, and you have your answer.
But anyway, I finally finished off the fifth issue after having six pages of it sit on my computer for months on end. I'll be the first to admit that the story has gotten away from me, which is another reason why it took so long for me to rope it in. Regardless, it is finished.
Better late than never? You tell me. Send an e-mail to Be nice, be harsh, be whatever. Just be honest. I'm my own worst judge, so anything you say won't hurt me. I may cry a little, but it's all good.