Dense clutches of trees overhanging the split flint walls with street lights stitched out like evening stars along the way and all pitted with moths. A solitary cricket chirps and stops, leaving the heavy evening air to the high-pitched Doppler shriek of bats and a lone moped’s catarrhy whine before a tarry black silence settles on the trees and the hedges and the pavements and the walls. Overhead the trees arch together, underfoot the road dips. At night, Park Lane is a tunnel punched through the darkness.
The boy waits in a gap in the foliage, leaning back against the rough wall as if it is the act of his waiting that has forged this little retreat where he can watch, yet not be seen.
His dark clothes and hair melt into the shadows, leaving only his face framed by side burns that descend to below his ears. It is a slightly too long face with a thin mouth and thin eyebrows. When he looks out, his yellow eyes pierce the night, constantly alert, moving, following scenes and creatures unseen and unbeknown to others.
He waits like ivy waits with the patience and knowledge that waiting makes for strength and solidity. He waits like a tree waits, measuring time in decades and centuries, skimming over the meaningless buzz of everyday events. He waits like stone waits, unmoved and unmoving, secure in the knowledge he was there before and will be there after.
It is nearly time.
He extends a pale hand to the lamppost opposite. The electrical circuit above flickers and wavers, a brief candle caught in a draught. His cupped hand starts to glow as a pale flame forms there, growing stronger until he is holding a burning illuminated bowl and the street light is as dark and dead-headed as a spent matchstick. For a second the light is too bright to look at and then it is gone and the road is darker still except for two spark where his eyes should be. Or perhaps it is the retinal burn of the after image playing tricks with a watcher’s eyes.
For there is a watcher here.
For all events there is a watcher.
Is it important who the watcher is? Not usually. In the same manner that for all actions there must be a reaction, for all events there needs to be a watcher. And in the absence of the watcher there is nothing.
The watcher can be an insect. Spiders, for example, make for good watchers. Small nibblers like rats and mice and voles. Birds and bats and cats. For watcher is a role, a particular place and a position in the scheme of things, in the alignment of stars and planets, of trees and rocks, of drops of dew on a leaf or a web.
Yet in this case the watcher takes the form of a person.
She was watching before he arrived, before he walked from the dark and emerged into the Lane, before he slipped into the space between the trees. She watched him arrive. She watched him become one with the calm and the night, slowly sinking into some recess, some fold, some shadowy realm between the slow heartbeats of passing time.
She watched him wait.
She watched his patience as he waited.
She watched him nourish himself with the street lamp and knew then that he was the right one.
And now she was walking on the pavement, taking care as she set down each slippered foot not to step on the cracks and gaps between the flag stones. If you step on the cracks, the bears will eat you, chant the little children, before they giggle and scatter like ripples on a pond. But she knows better than that. She has seen those who have slipped and fallen through the cracks.
As she walks she fingers the stone in her pocket. A stone worn smooth with use. It is a fine stone, pierced through the middle where she can place her finger and wear it as a ring. Or hold it up to her eye, all the better to see that which doesn’t necessarily want to be seen.
He felt her tip-toeing approach, dancing along the pavement like a child playing hopscotch. He felt her energy glowing.
He was hungry, so hungry.
The paltry power he had gobbled up from the electric lamp was fading already. He was hungry. He needed to feed.
“I nearly missed you, hiding here,” she said. A sweet, sweet lie. “It’s so dark.”
He opened his arms.
“S’funny you should say that. A long time ago, this street was called ‘Dark Lane’—” He waved a hand towards the sombre tunnel under the trees, the houses hidden behind the curtain of velveteen dark. “But the residents, the people who lived here, didn’t like the name, felt it created a bad impression, and petitioned to have it changed.”
“And I imagined that there used to be park here. Or fields. Before the houses and gardens and garages and sheds.” Yet as she spoke the idea of houses and cars, of bicycles and bricks, or potted plants and swimming pools felt ridiculous, and fell away. She could only feel fields and wild flowers, their heads bowed for the night and waiting just beyond the rugged flint walls.”
She stood just beyond the reach of his outstretched arms, her feet squarely inside the rectangle of cracks around the paving stone.
He felt her warmth, so close now.
“But if you know so much,” she said. “Why is it so dark?”
For dark it was. The dotted lamps provided no light, just serving to pin the road into place as it disappeared into the night and the shadows.
He knew, but he could not tell her. He could not tell her that the separation between their two worlds was so thin here that with a skip and a hop you could find yourself on the other side. He knew but he could not tell her, as his hunger burned now, blinding him to all else.
“Come,” he said.
Still she stood, tantalising, just out of reach.
He must eat very soon or he would not even have the strength to cross back to that dark and desolate place he called home.
He moved to take a step forwards, and in that instant he was lost. Anticipating the moment, she lowered her eyes, all the better to see his shoe land squarely on the cracked pavement. He felt more than he saw the change in her, and froze inside. But the body he inhabited had its own will and reflexes. It had taken possession of the movement, and the foot descended inexorably as time stretched and the abyss opened and swallowed him like the ocean absorbs a drop of rain.
She watched him fall into the crack where others of his kind awaited him, as well as the unknown denizens of those depths.
She looked up. She looked up at the wall opposite, its grey stones laid out in regular lines. At the garden behind, lined with fragrant bushes where the night flies gathered. At the cottage, its roof sinking with age.
She looked up at the street lamps illuminating the undersides of trees with moths and insects gathering around. At the flickering blue light spilling from the windows of houses along the street. At the headlights of a passing car picking her out, for a moment, as bright as day.
She pulled the stone from her pocket and holding it up to a squinting eye surveyed Park Lane.
All was calm.
Pocketing the stone, she unfolded her wings and flew off with the other creatures of the night, to feast until daylight came.
A quick romp around a street that I used to know.
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Last edited: Thursday, October 22nd, 2009blog comments powered by Disqus