Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Featured Creature: Scene at the Shores

Ron shifted in his seat and took a large bite of his cinnamon pastry.  The Quis Terra cafe was in full morning rush.  A line of customers ran from the cash register to the door and most of the seats were occupied.  He took several sips of his fresh latte.  The morning had been chilly and he enjoyed the warmth in his mouth.  He heard someone talking loudly when the door to the cafe opened.

Outside, a homeless man was confronting a large woman in dark green dress.  He had been peripherally aware of the the vagrant pacing outside when he was standing in line earlier.    Ron had overheard another customer complain and Frank, the manager, said that he had called the police.

The woman glared at the transient and moved around the him to enter the cafe.  The cars in the street beyond them blurred in a haze of movement.  With an urgent shift, the vagrant turned and disappeared past the edge of the front window, ostensibly chasing after another victim to harass.

Ron finished the last of his pastry and disposed of his napkin.  The woman in the green dress was complaining to the cashier and pointing towards the front of the store.  The cashier was nodding apologetically.

"At least something is being done," Ron thought.  He grabbed his briefcase and latte and moved to door, waving to Frank as he left.  When he exited the shoppe, Ron could see no sign of the vagrant.  He sighed with comfort and moved down the sidewalk towards the subway entrance.  As he passed the alleyway between him and the entrance, the dirty man rushed from the shadows of the alley at him.  His coffee slid out of his grip and twirled once in the air before splattering on the sidewalk.

"What the fuck!"  Ron tried to retreat from the man, but the vagrant had him by the lapels of his jacket, pulling him close.  The man stank of alcohol and filth.  His breath was an abhorrent storm.  Ron pulled his briefcase up between them and struggled to get away, but the man dragged him several feet into the alleyway. 

"They're all around us...even in the light of day.  You cannot see them.  They're watching us right now.  You can't see them 'cause you don't look.  YOU DON'T LOOK!  They're in the corners and the ceilings and the subways and underneath and overhead.  They are BETWEEN!"

The man's face was a kaleidoscope of emotions.  He looked side to side frantically.  One moment he seemed angry and the next fearful as if his life were ending.  He smiled and grimaced all at once.  Ron withdrew as much as he could and tried to look away. 

"They see!  THEY SEE!  They stand between us and the great dark!  They do not care if we live or die or fall into nothingness.  THEY DO NOT CARE.  They mark those who see!  A mark of territory - SEE!"

The homeless man moved one of his hands and pulled back the collar of his shirt wide to show Ron.  A spray of curling bands wrapped around the man's neck and shoulder, a bright red tattoo.  At the center was a raised star shaped scab with a pale white rim.  Ron felt himself close to vomiting.  He pushed at the homeless man, desperately trying to escape the man's grimy clutches.

"YOU CAN SEE!"  the homeless man yelled.  His eyes grew wide with realization.  "We are their territory!  We are their hunting grounds!  YOU CAN SEE!"

"HEY!"  Two police officers rounded the corner.  The homeless man released Ron and took off running.  The cops chased him down the alley and to the next street over.  Ron stumbled backward.

At the far end of the alley a flock of birds, disturbed by the chase, rose into the air.  Amidst the morning sunlight, their wings flashed like individual strobe lights.  Ron saw a glimmer of blue high on the wall nearest him.

For a moment the alleyway grew dark, as though the sun was setting.  Ron felt as though the ground were falling away, his feet retreating from him as well.  He thought he saw a figure reclined on the wall like a man sized lizard with a long undulating tail.  Where he expected to see a mouth on the figure was a jumble of tentacles that writhed and whipped about.  The figure blinked its bulbous eyes at him several times, then it was just gone.

Ron stared at the bricks of the wall for a long time. He wiped away the thick layer of sweat that had developed on his face.  He looked at the bricks again.  Nothing.  Clutching his briefcase tightly, he walked away.  Behind him he heard the vagrant protesting as the police officers dragged him away.

His struggle with the homeless man had given him a terrible cramp in his shoulder blade.  It was climbing up his neck to the base of his skull.  As he descended the stairs to the subway, Ron rubbed his neck to relieve the pressure.  Absently, he wished he'd bought another latte.

"Oh well," he thought and melted into the crowd.  

{Digital Images created in Adobe Photoshop}

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