Well, I promised y’all some fiction, so here you are. The first in a series of writing exercises I’ve been subjecting myself to, set in a city nearing the end of its life. Enjoy.
The Young Thief
I remember the slippery roof tiles under my feet, but not my descent of them, or having reached the roof in the first place. I was in a crouch, my hands on the verdigris encrusted drain, my head leaning into the empty space that ended in the sky above and the street below. Four stories of tenement stretched like a field of coffins before me, all but two dark in the face of tonight’s biting chill.
I rose to my feet, breathing in deeply, and let the cold slide into my lungs and my fingers, and let it crawl into my bones.
The city is a thousand thousand stars beneath me.
I jumped, and the earth’s immortal pull dragged me down towards the ground, into the dark between the glittering gaslights. I felt for a moment the surge of fear, and remembered that I had no right to be doing this.
Caught by the nearly inevitable, I called my Sin to me, and mid-air felt it clamber and slide over my skin like the fungal blooms of the forest. I felt it wrap around me like an embrace, like wet hessian, like twists of wire and blood and choices yet to be made.
Three blocks away, a man in a tenement slips inexplicably on his staircase and breaks both ankles at the end of the fall.
Closer, a young woman, feeding her pigs. She collapses against the wall, feeling like she has been beaten, gasping for air.
One block away, an old woman dies of fright in her bed.
A drop of blood fall’s from a youth’s nose, and lands half on her hand and half in the grout between cobbles.
My blood. I pull myself back to my body, and find it mercifully unbroken, feel the tendrils of my Sin sliding back into the world around me, wickering in their soundless voices that this was how things had always been, and that there was no other way that the world could be right at this moment. I cannot accept the lie, but by then I am already running.
The gaslights in this part of town were disconnected before I can remember, the roads blocked, and the dark of night hugs streets that I’ve been told were once well traveled and prosperous. I jump to grip a decrepit garden wall, pull myself to to top, and spring off, catching a gutter that should creak. A hint of Sin. In a side alley, a stray cat yowls noisily. I pull myself onto the partition, and can see the tower silhouetted against the softly illuminated night clouds. The blood balloons from my nose and over my chin.
Like a fungal bloom in the forest.
I have never been there.
Photo courtesy of Miguel Soll, aka 1nsomniac on Flickr. Creative Commons again, so you can use it yourself, and feel free to butcher my prose for your own dark purposes, as long as nobody is making money out of it. Cheers folks.