- "What you feel, the haunted look in your eyes, it doesn't come from nowhere."
"Then where does it come from?"
"In the center of your being, there's a tiny beating heart."
"What, you mean like my soul?"
"Part of it, yes, the slimmest part, but it holds specific power. It's called a Shade."
- —Martin Chatwin and Julia Wicker[src]
The Shade is the tiny beating heart of the soul and the part that allows people to process complex emotions and connect to one another. The bonds of friendship, love, intimacy, trust, and compassion all rely completely upon the Shade.
Shades allow one to feel things fully, and while this allows people to connect to one another through empathy, it is a dangerous aspect of the soul that makes people vulnerable to pain that could irrevocably damage them. A Shade that has suffered intense trauma can become such an agonizing raw nerve that one would do anything to make the pain stop - even remove the Shade itself.
A person can either lose their Shade through either willful or violent means; one has to consciously remove it, something considered extremely risky, or have it unwillingly severed. Severing one's Shade can seem like a huge release, as they are relieved of the burdens the Shade brings, bit it's also a double-edged sword. For Martin Chatwin, removing his Shade freed him from the emotional fallout from Christopher Plover's abuse, but it also led to him becoming The Beast. Without his Shade, Martin was freed from pain, but also free from conscious or moral compunction about his actions.
Upon removal, a Shade goes to the Underworld and into the Elysium providence for their eternity where they help perform subtle miracles to deserving children. For the dead to properly move on in the afterlife, they must have their Shade, though this may be arranged post-mortem.
While in the Underworld, Shades manifests as a child, though they maintain their connections to others, as Alice Quinn's Shade recognized Quentin when he and Julia arrived in Elysium.
To be added
The following is a list of characters who have had their Shades removed, willing or not:
- Martin Chatwin
- Julia Wicker (restored)
- Quentin Coldwater-23 - In the 23rd timeline, Quentin was killed by The Beast, who tore his body and shade apart. Alice Quinn-23, when she brought him back to life, was unable to restore his Shade.
- Niffins - In the process of becoming a Niffin, an individual will lose their shade.
- In Greek mythology, Shades were the spirits or ghosts of a dead person and another name for the Underworld was "the Kingdom of Shades".