It was late as I walked up my street from the bus stop. I noticed an odd glow lighting up the sidewalk in front of Ms. Matisse’s house. Her garbage bin was at the curb for pickup in the morning, but it was on fire. The flames were undulating in colours both bright and dark at the same time. There seemed to be a faint crying of balls emanating directly off the flames themselves. I began to wonder if those tacos I ate at work were a bit off. As I got closer I noticed the plastic of the bin was not melting from the fire. Instead it was covered in a thick frost. A frost that was spreading across the ground near the bin. Freezing the asphalt, the sidewalk, and the lawn. The fact that Seattle was in the middle of a heat wave had zero effect. I was pleasantly cool too once I was within 20 feet of it. That’s when I saw the overly large, pristine blue, feathers littered around the garbage bin.
*slight edit for a friend
The stairs were dark. They lead down into more darkness without any reprieve. Down, down I walked with only my torch for company. On the dusty wall was a single thick wire, almost a cable. I followed it intently to make sure it was unmarked and unbroken. The only sounds were the scrape of my feet on the stone as I stepped down each step, and made each turn at the landings every thirteenth stair. After twenty minutes I could hear my labored breathing also. Finally the bottom. There was no break in the wire, it had just become disconnected. Gently I retied the end of thick wire to the Fallen Angel. On the surface power would be restored to the village. It looked at me with hatred as I walked away to began my long climb back up.
The frock was covered in paint. Finger paints to be specific. It sat on an easel in the corner of the entrance way. It had loops and swirls of colours. Splashes and splotches with more than a few simple smudges. It was a rule for that he had for anyone that visited him. You added to the frock, with finger paint, each and every visit. Some complained about the messiness of doing it, while others visited just so they could add more. Yet, those were the rules he had. Even the delivery people had too. What he never told anyone was that on the dark days, the depressed days, that was his lifeline. He could stare at that frock and know he was not alone. No matter how alone he felt or disconnected with life he seemed there was the frock. Every splash of paint was a reminder to him that people were in his life. He mattered to someone. He crossed paths with others and this was his proof. That frock saved his life more than he would admit even to himself.
There was clay caked to his shoes from the long walk. His homespun clothes, now threadbare, did not keep him warm on the cold nights. He endured by sleeping during the warmth of the days and walked in the cold nights. He fed off the scraps others threw away and carried nothing. His journey had no end and by moving at night few saw him. He was alone. He had pledged his life to wander, to walk, to leave behind all his evil ways. In his mind his prayers for redemption could only come from literal distance from where he used to be in life. To never again be what he was meant to always move forward without pause for fear of that past self catching up to him. So he walked.
The darkness was not complete but the few patches of light were dim. The marble floor was cold and gray beneath the layers of dust. Around the windows tatters of moldy red curtains on rusted rods hung limp. In the darker corners lay a thicker dust mixed with decaying leaves swept in on windy days. Soundlessly a wolf padded in through the lone doorway and sat near the middle of the room. It stared up at the dusty quartz alter that was the rooms only furniture. It let out a slight huffing noise then waited. After only a few heartbeats the alter began to glow with a quiet darkness.
The road here had crumbled like all the other roads, as time and vegetation slowly did their thing. What surprised me was the bridge being so intact. Other than dirt and leaves in a few places it looked just like it had before the Fall. Below it the river’s dark waters flowed past. For some reason bridges either lasted really well or collapsed quickly. I could see the remains of four other bridges from this one. This one being clear of debris suggested people took care of it or that no one had been around for a long time. I hoped for the latter. I needed to cross.
As I walked across the bridge towards the city on the other side I watched for sign of people still about. I had tried watching from the brush for over an hour but saw nothing. Not far out onto the bridge I noted that I was leaving tracks behind me and mine were the only ones there. The only bridge over this river for miles and it was not getting any use. No wonder I’d not seen anyone in weeks. The whole area was likely without people, except me now.
Once across, the road was crumbled again as were the buildings. Many falling over or down already. There were no cars that I could see. This had to be one of the few cities that got evacuated. If that had been the case than a lot of things got left behind. With refugees all heading south in those early days, northern cities tend to be good pickings. Fewer people up here scavenging for supplies. With a little luck I could stay the winter here.