Dark Flesh & Dark Hearts by Guerric Haché

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SUMMARY: Entry for the October Flash Fiction Contest, theme: "Darkness." Set in the world of Zearth.

This was particularly cold autumn in London. Or perhaps it only felt that way; after all, since the Advent, summers had been hotter and winters colder. Part of it was the magic; part of it was that they had no more electricity.

But that suited one young man just fine. The name his parents had given him didn't matter anymore; he called himself a number of names, depending on his fancy, and at the moment, his name of choice was Twilight. It was pompous and overblown, but it appealed to him nevertheless. Things had been going well for Twilight ever since the Advent, for the simple reason that it had set him on a path of discovery – the discovery of magic.

And Twilight's particular magical talent... well, it was shadow. It was the death of light; and he put it to ill use quite well. He smiled; it was late in the evening, and the last shops were closing down. No matter; he went up to one where the owner was still tidying up, and walking inside. The moment he did, the light went out – all light. It was pitch black, and the owner cursed and swore something about the lights, groping his way through the dark towards the nearest lamp.

Twilight could see just fine, though; he walked over to the counter and, quiet as he could managed, lifted all the money he could find and stashed it in his pockets. On his way out, he grabbed a loaf of bread; as soon as he was outside, light returned to the shop, and its significantly less wealthy owner.

How great it was, the life of a mage. Or sorcerer. Or maybe it was wizard, now; he wasn't sure what they were calling his kind anymore. Part of the confusion was sown by those Zefazji – that band of self-righteous philosophical poet-sorcerers who waged an underground war against the Church and various other organizations. They claimed to stand for the new order of things since the birth of magic, but Twilight wanted nothing to do with them. They were all about glory and beauty and the righteous triumph of life; it was a load of rubbish to him. He just wanted to make the night his.

He tossed the half-finished loaf of bread down a gutter, where some dreg in the the tunnels of Londunder would probably think it was his lucky day. Twilight had been to the undercity before, but he didn't like it. People were too used to the darkness, there; it didn't scare them. Not like up here, where people spent half their lives in the light, and slept the night away.

What else would he do tonight? He grinned when he saw a shape scurry off the main street and down a dark alley. It walked like a young, frightened woman. There was his answer, all right. He faded to a formless shadow and melded with the darkness, following her.

She was in the wrong place and the wrong time; there was no other way to put it. To bad for her, he thought. He swept through the darkness, afloat on the void, and caught up to her. She sensed something was wrong, and paused to turn and look around, fearful. He saw her face. It was a pretty face, innocent and young; this would be fun.

As she glanced back, though, their eyes met – and his breath caught.

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