Do you ever see a flicker in the corner of your eye? A movement, a flutter, a creeping darkness that peers over your shoulder? Perhaps you feel it too. A cold shiver that worms its way up your spine or a breeze that caresses your neck? Its shape is the same. Its color is the same. You may recognize it for what it is; an apparition, a haunting, a spirit of the dead.
We call them Shadows.
They’re not all menacing, these Shadows. They are dead, that much is true, but they don’t choose to linger on in your mortal plane to drain the color from your cheek. They were once full of blood and fire like you are now. And like all beings made of blood and fire, they have no real purpose, no reason to exist. And like you they don’t have a choice.
If you’re lucky you will never see or feel them. A Shadow is anchored by a physical bond and traditionally these physical bonds remain buried in cemeteries, crypts, and tombs. A Shadow will not stray far from its old bones though the darkest hours from dusk ’til dawn grant them a second breath.
If you are brave enough then grab a lit torch and visit your holy place when the moon has risen. If your light quivers or even snuffs out, ask yourself; where is the wind?
And if you’re foolish enough, stay. Look from the corner of your eye, look at the pools of shade and wait. Feel. The strongest of the Shadows can peer inside your own mind and reflect back what you see. Misty tendrils will wiggle inside your ear and bury themselves in the grey folds of your brain. You will see with their eyes, think with their thoughts, and bleed with their memories. They will rake through your own and pick out the juiciest lumps for their own consumption.
You will scream. All those who touch a Shadow react in the same way. Fear, tears, vomiting afterwards. Friendly Shadows that choose not to violate your mind with depressing imagery will affect you regardless. The effect is more prominent when the connection between the living and the dead is one of ancestry.
They can’t kill you.
But you can kill them.
There is only one way to destroy a Shadow. One way that we are certain of. Fire attracts them, it is what they crave the most – a Shadow appears larger when the flame burns brighter. To destroy a Shadow you must burn that which anchors them to this world. You must burn their bones. Ashes to ashes.
Why bother? Keep away from the dead and the dead will not disturb you. The Shadows stay close to their anchors. Except in winter when the nights grow longer and the hearth light of each home calls them in like a beacon. Then the Shadows move and visit those left behind.
Do you understand what happens to the spirit when the blood runs dry and the body disintegrates? It becomes a Shadow. This is why we cremate our dead.
Do not bury your dead. Do not keep their bones for a trophy.
Burn your dead.
Burn their bodies.
Burn their bones.