Hello, Vendors and Patrons!
Are you tired of your boring, old, plain, greyish-black shadow? Has it startled you one too many times from simply being there after you’ve watched too many scary movies late at night? Fear not, lovely people, for now there is a place just for you, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
The Shadow Market
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
None of us are strangers to shopping. Whether it be malls, street vendors, small shopping centers, or in this case, markets. Almost everything we own has been obtained through some merchant or vendor, with a wide range of prices.
But this prompt isn’t about just any old market, is it? This gives an entirely different feel. Far less casual and fun, that’s for sure.
A prompt like this can be used to explore a darker side of such a thing. Perhaps you choose to wander to the more unsavory side of town where dealings are far more discreet… and far more dangerous. What have you come searching for? Is it your first time needing to come to such a place, or are you a regular? Perhaps you’re not a customer at all, but an “employee” of sorts, helping your boss obtain and carry out different deals and contracts. Maybe you’re not even leaving your own home. The internet has all sorts of dark and mysterious corners to shop around in, after all. Whether you’re after something you know you shouldn’t have, or you’ve been pushed to extreme measures to get your hands on something, the internet has everything you need, right at your fingertips and in the comfort of your own home.
Or maybe you choose a literal route with this one. You could be the lucky— or unlucky— patron that runs across a street market only ever talked about in paranoid whispers and fear-tainted voices. A market that appears only to those who need it, seeming to seep out of the shadows of dark alleyways and dingy passages. Or maybe it’s simply a place where one can buy and sell shadows. Want a shadow that can talk back? Maybe you want one that’s quiet, but can still emote along with your mood? What about a shadow that can actually change colours? Don’t mind the high prices, of course, there’s no real price for happiness, is there? Venture down to any shop and pick yourself out a new and improved shadow! Or just sell the one you have so you no longer have a shadow at all. Perfect for stealth!
So many choices! But act fast, for this deal doesn’t last forever!
Now go on, pick an idea, any idea, and show us what tales you can weave from the shadows of your imagination!
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Eduardo rifled through the dusty disorganized stacks of shop inventory. There has to be some junk someone pawned at this place he could sell. For years he’d walked by this place. Plotted for when the lease was up. Now was the time. The town’s little loophole allowed people to grab unclaimed items after a twenty-hour period. Eduardo was just a bit early.
After stacking a third tome on top of a nearby chest, the young man stopped to catch his breath. This was a lot of stuff. Could this “La Tienda de Curiosidades” really hold something that great?
Eduardo almost jumped out of his skin. The shop should be empty, especially at three in the morning.
Eduardo snapped around. Looming over him was a figure in a hooded cloak.
“What are you doing in my shop?”
The voice shook Eduardo to the bone. It was deep and dark, but soft. Eduardo tried to ignore his goosebumps.
“Sorry. I w-was interested in rare items and thought–”
“Rare items? Well, why didn’t you say so?”
Eduardo tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry. The cloaked person seemed to look around for a bit before grabbing what seemed to Eduardo to be an old jar.
“W-what is that?”
The cloaked person shoved the jar into Eduardo’s hand. “Something rare.”
Eduardo’s fear let up and some of his confidence came back. “This? Rare? You have to be joking.”
Eduardo unscrewed the lid and popped it off. Suddenly, he felt a pain in his chest. He looked down. A fishing hook protruded from his chest. Before Eduardo could comment, he felt a yanking sensation and everything went black. He heard the jar clink to the floor, a thump and a raspy laugh.
“The soul of a thief, huh? Not much on the market nowadays, but I’m sure with the body it’ll be quite the collector’s item.”
Shopping in the Dark
By Jesse Fisher
“I would have asked how you knew of this place but this seems about right.”
The lighter of the pair of wolves commented as they walked looking at the grayed out surroundings. It looked like a farmer’s market but the items looked like…nightmarish would be a term that would make sense if not for some stalls looking like they are space within a space.
“It was either this or that market in the light,” The darker of the pair replied looking at the list. “Aside from the brightness it houses beings that have literal holier than thou attitudes.”
A mass of tendrils seemed to be trying to hock some kind of meat that looked like it was still screaming in pain.
“I get that but why are you bringing me along for this trip, I’m sure your wife would love to do this with you.”
“A former goddess of Order here?” His current bladed claws thumbed to a literal shadow merchant. “These guys would try to do things to her that make the standard form look tame.”
“Then why even come here if they are that bad?”
“We work for a god of barkeeping and a goddess of dreams, how do you think we get some of the darker food in that place? Besides, there’s a blood dealer here that has some of the best stuff outside of the vampire market.”
“Well that explains the past few times I awoke with blood in my mouth.”
By now the lighter of the wolves noticed the stops and how his darker counterpart was just putting it all in a sack and paying with a different one.
“So how do they pay for all this?”
“You would not believe the amount of money we get from the finance gods when they party. We just keep it in a vault and try to spend it as quickly as we can.”
I Told You So
“Remember, if they even begin to suspect us of hunting for information, they’ll kill us.”
“Trust me, Ren, I’ve got this. I’ve been in a lot tougher situations.”
She smiled, a patronizing grin that she had gotten so good at. Emrys wished she wouldn’t look at him like that, but he knew protesting would only encourage her.
Emrys had chosen a man that appeared to be more scar than flesh, and as he drew closer, the unwavering glare made him wonder if he had made the wrong choice.
“I’m looking to hire ‘The Jackal’. How much?” Confidence. That was the trick to dealing with men like this.
“You get who you get.” The man’s voice was gruff, as though even his lungs were scarred.
“Jackal did a good job last time, and I need this done right.” Push back. Don’t let them walk all over you.
“Thing is, I don’t recognize you. So either one of my men is working for someone else behind my back…” The man set a heavy axe on the counter with a thud. “Or you’re lying to me.”
Emrys swallowed hard, his brain searching in frantic overtime for something to say. The man tightened his grip on the weapon as the silence between them thickened.
As Emrys opened his mouth to defend himself, a third voice came to his rescue. “What seems to be the problem, Umber?” Serennia. Of course. She’d never let him hear the end of this.
“Serennia, perfect timing. I think this boy here is working for the authorities. Claims he’s purchased my services before, but you know I never forget a face.”
“If my friend says he purchased from you, then he purchased from you.” Her tone was sharp. Demanding.
“Your friend? Well you should have said so!” The man scribbled something down on a scrap of paper before sliding it to Emrys. “Don’t be late.”
The two walked away down the narrow corridor as Emrys stuffed the paper into his pocket. Looking over, he could see Serennia smirking at him. He sighed.
“Don’t say it.”
Between Second and Third Souls
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
Jabil-Tai regarded the child. Was a time, petulence toward a shaman was rewarded with disregard. That was before. Time changes. Realms change. Even the sky could be wounded. Perhaps a convergence of realms.
The child sat, frowning, beneath the hard stare of an old woman in furs.
“It wasn’t my fault,” the child said again.
“You want me to believe that?” xe asked.
“It’s true! My shadow told me to stab her.”
So innocent and cruel, children. Xe was glad, not for the first time, xe was of the third soul.
“She will live and be scarred. Why shouldn’t you receive the same?”
The child stilled, all that tiny might turning from anger to fear.
“It’s not my fault, shaman.”
Tai looked through the doorway of xir tent. The old ways were not gone, not yet. Violence warranted punishment.
But the Sky was still wounded.
Perhaps a shadow was not just a shadow. Xe couldn’t sense a spirit, but another of the tripartite souls? Could the wound be a convergence? Were all the missing people simply taken elsewhere, to the realms of darkling wants or celestial goals?
“Violence must be punished. Like scouring sand on iron, so is pain to the soul.”
A wail, soft and feral.
“But then,” xe smiled, “we eat. To strengthen your body for what must come. I must go on a journey to find the truth of this shadow. If it is yours, I will return it to its proper place.”
“Where does a shadow belong but underfoot?” The child’s victim asked. Her arm was bound in furs and held in a sling.
“When is a shadow not a shadow?” Tai replied. “Be hopeful, child. Hope will help you.”
Perhaps, xe thought, I will return with more of our people.
An Unseen Deal (Penelope’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
A bump on her shoulder. “Oh, sorry miss, excuse me…”
Penelope jerked into wakefulness, blinking several times as she looked left and right.
The last thing she had remembered was going to sleep in her comfortable tavern room. She’d even made sure to lock her door, as was her habit nowadays.
Had her sleepwalking really taken her this far?
She swayed and clutched her head. Stars above, she should NOT be awake right now. What time even is-?
She looked up, and glimpsed stars. No sunlight.
She looked down, and beheld a marketplace. One familiar in nature, in terms of black markets she knew – stalls with herbs and spices, racks of strange medicines, secluded corners that smelt of stronger substances – but there were stranger things too.
Candles, with beetles buried within the wax?
Little straw figures hanging from strings, each in a uniquely twisted pose?
The bones of animals, hollows filled with amber?
Looking across this strangeness, Penelope absent-mindedly glanced down at her hands – and jerked back, almost dropping the object she had discovered within them.
It was some kind of talisman. An eight-pointed star of dark purple crystal, held within an ebony wood frame, and a thin silver chain to wear around the neck.
This wasn’t hers. Did she take this while she was-
She looked frantically around. Maybe if she could return this to the right stall – there!
Rushing up to a rickety wooden stall, laden with similar amulets and staffed by an old crone, she held out the talisman and said “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to take this, please have it back!”
The crone looked at her suspiciously. “What? You already changed yer mind?”
“I – no? I don’t know what you mean ma’am?”
She squinted at her, before something inscrutable changed in her face. “Oh. I see now. You’re not the one I know, are you?”
Penelope stared back, in utter confusion.
The crone gestured to the amulet. “Keep it. It’s yours now. By association, anyway. Take care of it!”
And she turned away to other customers, leaving Penelope with far more questions than answers.
Pay the Price
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Hidden away in the shadows of the towering ocean cliffs, with no tell to its location save a single fraying rope of bells ringing in the wind, lived the Market. It lived, breathed, and thrived without a ray of sunlight to grace its streets.
The Market housed few, but cared for many. The near-complete darkness led to hidden faces and unknown names. The anonymity was one of its most appealing qualities, alongside its wide variety of wares. Intricate metal work could be found across from a bread vendor, flower shop, or library.
The Market had many rules, all unspoken but equally honored. No one was to bring a light source of their own. No one was to stand too close to the small yellow lamps lining the streets which provided just enough light for navigation. No one was to give or ask for a name.
And no one avoided paying for their goods.
Once, years ago, a thief overheard others speak of the Market in hushed whispers. Its dim sprawl of unknowns reeked of promise to his desires, and he endeavored to find the Market and reap whatever he could steal.
When he entered the Market, he squinted amongst the people and stalls, letting the greed of his heart guide his eyes.
His prey was chosen: an elaborate golden necklace, sparking in the dim light. As was his style, he snatched it up in the blink of an eye and ran.
No one called out in distress. The thief thought, for a moment, he was unnoticed, safe.
Then the yellow lights turned to glowing black.
Shadows peeled from the towering stone walls, oozing toward the thief. A tendril of darkness ensnared his ankle, stopping him in his tracks. Another snagged his wrist. He tried to fight back, but there was nothing to fight against. He tried to scream, but the shadows wrapped around his mouth, muffling him. They wound around him, hissing hungrily.
One last cry for help rang though the Market as the shadows ate their fill.
For that was what happened if one did not pay the price.
The Price of a Shadow
by Astrid Jones
The door’s bell jangled, announcing a customer. Mr. Pahn looked up from his ledger. A boy, ten or possibly twelve, approached the counter.
“Yes?” Mr. Pahn asked.
“I would like a shadow, please.” The words came out in a rush.
Mr. Pahn pulled two stools from behind his counter. He sat on one and motioned for the boy to take the other. The child perched on the seat edge. He was trying to be brave; Mr. Pahn could see that. But he could also see the fear.
“Are you sure?” Mr. Pahn asked. “Once I begin, the process can’t be stopped. You can’t change your mind later.”
The boy sat up straight and nodded. “I’m ready.”
Mr. Pahn stood, drew the thick curtains of his store windows, and doused the lamps. In the darkness, he heard the boy take another steadying breath. Mr. Pahn lit a multicolored candle and placed is on his stool between himself and the boy.
“This shouldn’t hurt,” he told the child. “But you may feel a bit of a tingle.”
Sparks rose lazily from the candlewick and drifted to collect on Mr. Pahn’s palm. He blew them at the boy. There was a surprised squeak as they settled on skin and clothing.
The shadow appeared on the wall. It stretched as the small embers disappeared. The boy turned to look and the shadow stared back. He waved and so did the shadow.
“The ship will take you to the mainland at midnight,” Mr. Pahn said as he opened the curtains and relit the lamps. “Your shadow will guide you the rest of the way.”
“Thank you, sir,” the boy said. He placed two rag-wrapped bundles on the counter. “It’s all there. I made sure I didn’t have any holes in my trousers this time.”
Before Mr. Pahn could say anything, the boy ran out of the store. Mr. Pahn smiled. They always rushed out, as if paying him took their last bit of courage. Well, he supposed, giving up childhood dreams did take quite a bit out of a person.
You are standing at the counter.
The Market is busy tonight. Shapes pass behind you. You feel their weight, sloshing and smacking against the tiled path. They crash themselves against the other booths, roll themselves up to the candle at each open window.
You are standing at the counter.
Before you, the candle flickers. There are silhouettes pinned to the walls and they sway, dancing with it.
“Are you going to try something on or not?”
The shop keep is a vague approximation of a man. His brow is heavy. He sags at the waist and the chin, skin pooling where it should bulge. Perhaps, when he was on this side of the candle, he chose wrong.
You wonder if he regrets it.
The mounted shadows are composed of the same parts. Two arms, two legs, a head. Some spindle out in long strands. Some compact inwards. Stubby and dense, or long and boney, or long and muscular, or boney and short.
“If you keep over thinking it, you’ll be here all night.”
You pick one on the back wall. Its limbs are lithe and curving. A curtain sweeps from its head.
You drip yourself into it.
The candle’s voice is sweet. You hear the soft music it makes. The shadow’s legs pull taught, raise you onto tiptoe, turn you in a delicate arch. And maybe this is fine.
Pretty, the word comes to mind. You feel pretty.
You like the long hair swinging behind you, the chest rounding as you fill it, the attention this comes with, the drag of eyes across you, crawling over your shoulders, your stomach, your thighs, your-
You fling the shadow away. It slaps wetly back into place on the wall. The candle has gone out. You are blind. You hear it in the corner, dripping the last of you into a puddle on the floor.
“Better luck next time,” the shop keep says.
You slosh across the tiled path, crash against the next booth.
You are standing at the counter.
You wonder what the other side of the candle is like.