I didn’t believe my dad at first.
Okay, that’s not really nice of me, but I really didn’t. He liked to make up stories sometimes, to entertain us, and I knew, having spent the last summer living in one during an internship, that the cubes in the middle of the megaplexes can get really creepy if you spend too long there. I could put one and one together and come up with a dad who had gone just a little loopy, without loving him any less, without trusting him any less… just without believing him at all.
I didn’t really even believe him “at second;” when the news reports started coming out of the City, in part because he was quoted on the news. “Hey, Janie, isn’t that your dad?” is really not what you want to hear when you’re studying for an exam.
It wasn’t until we went into the City for the weekend that I really understood, or at least believed, and having begun the process, well, then I had to study it. I’m a college student, aren’t I? So I talked to a professor and he talked to the Dean and the Dean signed the papers and four of my buddies and I now have a grant.
It’s lovely how those things work out, isn’t it?
We started with the statues, figuring they would be easy. I mean, they were Writing, weren’t they?
And they were. Of course, the problem was, they weren’t writing in English. They weren’t writing in any language anyone we could find could recognize. So we hauled in a couple language students, and got them deciphering the super-slow-writing while the rest of us started finding something that could identify the shadows and the ghosts.
It took us a while.
It took us weeks just to determine exactly where to read their signal, and why the daylight lights were making them visible (not the “daylight” function, actually, but the fact that they were a special style of bulb. The light streaming through one of the chemicals in the fluorescent did it). Once we did that, we could follow them, and figure out their patterns. They followed humans, we theorized, out of camouflage; even in the light of those bulbs, they still looked pretty much like a flat shadow.
Running with that theory, we tried to open up communication with them. We tried all different sound frequencies, some different light patterns, even smells. We were on to textures and tastes when the intern we’d put on deciphering the statues came running into the lab.
“There’s a problem!” she screamed, just as we were about to try vanilla-scented sandpaper. “No, stop. They’re tactile. Haptic language, we’re pretty sure.”
“That’s what we’re trying,” I pointed out, as patiently as I could.
“The problem is, you don’t want to talk to them. You really don’t. We deciphered the statue’s language. They’re not statues. They’re… well. They used to be shadows. And, uh, we think that they have a three-stage evolution…”
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