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There was nothing poetic about that night’s rain.
It didn’t patter or drip; it fell in great sheets that smothered London with deathly cold. Cold that flooded the streets, killing the homeless children and adults who couldn’t escape it. Cold that ran down roofs, breaking gutters and finding holes to slither through into a bucket held by a weeping mother holding onto her baby with her other arm like it was her only salvation. Cold that seeped into my coat as I walked down Adelaide street and contemplated my life.
A life that wasn’t worth the food it cost.
I snorted, kicking a rock into an ever-increasing puddle. Lately my life had been a collection of dreary sentiments like such. But tonight, tonight was the kicker. My wife realized why I’d been “home sick” the past couple of days, and it wasn’t the weather. I’d been fired. Again.
So instead of handling the situation sensibly, there’d been a lot of screaming and yelling which had resulted in a suitcase thrown out a window, several slammed doors, and me out on the street. Also again. Of course, being thrown onto the street temporarily is much better than living on it.
Especially on a night like this one. The wind tried persistently to tear my coat off as I trudged across the cobblestones. Lightning illuminated the street, accompanied by the roar of thunder and the scream… of a man?
I stopped, sweat breaking out upon my already soaked skin. It was clearly coming from an alley down the street, and continued in a sobbing manner not unlike that of a man in pain. I walked slowly down the street, fear creeping into my mind. The shadows emanating from the streetlights wavered, flowing around the street in undulating patterns.
The screaming pulled at me as I entered the alley, the scent of rot permeating my senses. Trash rose from the stones like idols to some great god of decay, the glinting eyes of rats peering at me as I walked. They would squeak and screech, running up and down those statues of waste, their fur matted down by the rain.
Light came from a corner at the end of the alley, shadows violently writhing around. The screams rose to a higher pitch, then eventually fell down to a sobbing whisper. I stopped, looked around the corner, and was greeted by a fear that made my muscles lock together.
A short, albeit muscular man was at the end of the side alley, wearing a long coat about two sizes bigger than he was. The cane he was using to beat a more well-to-do looking man looked oddly out of place in his hands, clearly made of good quality oak with a shiny, blood-covered silver knob at the top. The man began to cease screaming, his body now just shuddering with impact after impact of the cane. The cretin beating him was turned away from me so I couldn’t see his face, but his voice was seething with rage.
“You think you can mess with ME, you filthy, arrogant child? Huh? Huh? Did you think I wouldn’t notice or something?” he shouted at the now unmoving man, almost incoherent from rage. The rain covered my glasses, and although I knew I should wipe them off, I couldn’t move my limbs for fear of being seen.
The suited man eventually fell to the ground, bleeding from several wounds all over his body. His blood made intricate, rorschach-like patterns that were destroyed and recreated as they were hit by the rain. The mugger continued beating the man violently, even though he was dead by now in all likelihood. I turn to leave, there not being much I could do now, and hear a crunch, felt a slight pain in my foot. I look down, broken glass and blood winking at me from the ground. A cold chill descends my spine, and I feel a sinking in my stomach. I look around the corner, the sounds of impact stopped, and freeze.
The man is gone.
His victim still lies on the ground, now definitely dead, and remains the only proof of his presence in the area before. Rain begins to cover the corpse with water, and the rats cluster around his corpse. I turn around, and run back down the alley. The garbage looms above me, and the rats run to the corpse in a stream of fur as I stumble dazedly onto the street and start running. My footfalls make little splashes on the ground, and I’m almost breathing in as much water as air.
The light twists with my running, and I see shadows flit behind the street lights, hundreds of dread, insidious figures chasing me as I run away from the image of the man with the cane.
I stop in the middle of the street and pitch over onto my hands and knees, coughing as I struggle to take breath. My wife was right, I really need to work out more. I look at my reflection in the puddle, my eyes haggard and my hair a bedraggled mess. I shift my vision to the corner of the reflection as a shadow pulls over me, and see a figure step up behind me. His cane hits the ground next to my head with a splash, and its silver knob reflects onto the water.