Raindrops splattered against the cracked concrete, and a torrent swept down the gutter to the storm drain, not that it helped very much. Puddles were forming everywhere, inches deep. This was a thriving, happening, busy city, and thusly it was disgusting in a storm of any kind.
Snow was usually nice, of course. At least for a little while before the snow turns to brown slush and mixes into its own form of disgusting, so snow was really only nice for about five minutes or so.
But it wasn’t snowing. It was raining quite badly. Thunder boomed right after the lightning shot through the sky, like some sort of poorly timed audiotrack on reality. The sound effect and the animation not quite syncing up.
A man stood in a doorway with a lit cigarette in his mouth, the cigarette fighting for its proverbial life to stay lit. The man’s hat was pulled low, and drips of rain water from the leaking awning slid off of its brim. His long coat was buttoned tight, but the wind still flapped the thin fabric back and forth. He’d been standing under this awning, in the doorway for ten minutes hoping for the rain to let up, at least a bit. He’d already finished one cigarette through and was working on another from the stress.
With his empty right hand, he was tapping the tips of his fingers to his thumb, a habit he’d picked up when he tried to take up the violin. “It helps dexterity,” insisted his German teacher. His mind at the time was not particularly focused on violin, Italians, Germans, or people of any particular nationality. Or people at all. There was far worse.
As he stood waiting for the rain to lessen, a woman bumped against his side trying to enter the doorway. He jumped with a start at the contact, he hadn’t actually noticed her so preoccupied in his thoughts.
“Sorry,” said the woman. He looked at her for a few moments before thinking to say anything. She had a very similar body to Marilyn Monroe, though a very different face. Her face was more angular and pointed. Her hair was also a dark brown rather than blonde. And she wore no obvious makeup. She shook her umbrella lightly before folding it up.
“Don’t worry about it,” said the man distantly.
“Been waiting long?” she asked before she went inside.
“Not too long,” he said.
“Would you like me to call a cab for you? This rain’s not likely to let up anytime soon.”
“What? How do you know?” asked the man, turning wild eyed at the news.
The woman, quite taken aback, said, “It’s been raining like this for half an hour already. Do you live here?” she asked. The building was a small apartment building. She seemed quite perturbed by this stranger standing in the doorway.
“No. No. Just visiting a, uh, a friend. Goodbye,” he said. If the rain wasn’t going to stop, he’d brave it. The woman, bewildered, stared at him as he stepped into the downpour before continuing on with her day.
The moment the man walked out into the rain, he realized it was pouring harder than it seemed. His coat was supposedly waterproof. It seemed the label was more a of a suggestion than a reality. The hat stopped the water from soaking his hair, preferring to let it fall in sheets in front of the man’s face, nearly blinding him.
He sloshed through the streets, forcing himself through the rain. He had to get to the bridge. It connected the island of the city to the mainland, but he didn’t need to leave the city. He was more concerned with going beneath the bridge where the underbelly lay. The people and parts of the city that those with steady income just to forget.
The streets were filled with taxis, but empty with pedestrians. Occasionally someone would run through with an inside out umbrella, or a book or paper held over their heads. But mostly the man was alone. He kept looking behind him and around him, checking for something only he knew to look for.
The rain didn’t lessen. The thunder didn’t stop. The lightning didn’t dim. It all stayed the same. And he kept walking. Walking. The other side of the city. The apartment building was on the east, the bridge on the west.
He’d lied to the woman of course. He hadn’t visited a friend. He hadn’t visited a person at all, not that anyone else would know that. He left the door open for someone to find what he’d left. Likely the woman, if she lived on the second floor. She’d be screaming now, or maybe sobbing, perhaps calling the police. She’d be describing him, some strange man. “He had a brown hat and a long coat like those private detectives always wear in films. Oh and black hair and a twisted nose, like it was broken,” he imagined her saying in a high pitched voice, that sounded nothing like she actually had.
“Watch Out,” whispered a voice in his ear. He jumped and tensed up, ready for a fight with whatever had found him. But there was no one there, just the rain. He’d heard the voice, he knew what it had come from, or guessed. But there was nothing there.
He shook himself and kept walking. He had to get to the bridge. He had to get out of the streets, to a place he wouldn’t be found. They’d be looking for him. He’d won a battle tonight, but the war was far from done. So much more to go. So few to fight it.
“They’re coming,” whispered the voice again. There was nothing, no one. The streets were empty. Save the lightning and the thunder and the rain.
“I know what you are!” yelled the man into the raincast night.
Nothing. He turned back to walking. The voice didn’t come again until he was halfway to the bridge. He’d be there in twenty minutes, half an hour at worst. His feet were soggy, matching the cigarette he’d forgotten was still in his mouth.
“I bet you do,” whispered the voice again, right into his ear. Lovingly, covetously, taking so much joy in taunting the man.
He rubbed his ear and did his best to ignore it. The voices never helped. He knew what they were, and they never helped.
“They’re coming,” whispered the voice again a few minutes later, enjoying itself so very much, drawing out the words in a seductive hiss.
“Then stop them!” he finally yelled into the streets. A man running through the street wearing a rain soaked tuxedo gave him a passing glance.
“No,” hissed the voice.
He wasn’t paying attention to the man in the tuxedo until, thirty yards ahead, the man suddenly stopped and collapsed. They’re here, he thought.
He ran, hoping it wasn’t too late for the man in the tuxedo. Hoping to save someone. No, no, it was too late. The man’s head was twisted round, looking blankly up at the sky, a broad, toothy smile flashing through cracked and bloody lips.
Out of his long coat, the man pulled a sharpened iron spike. He had wrapped the handle with corded leather, giving it a better grip.
“They’re here”, whispered the voice in his ear. He cried out, tears mixing with rain, his facing screwing up with fear and anger.
“Then help me,” he begged in desperation.
The voice didn’t come again. The tuxedo wearing man pushed himself up, his head looking behind him, straight at the man in the long coat.
Thunk sounded the spike in the tuxedo man’s back. They both looked down at the spike, but it stopped neither of them.
“Goodbye,” whispered the voice in a cheap imitation of affection. But the voice did not care. The voices never cared.
“Goodbye,” agreed the man in the tuxedo, his cracked, bloody lips still smiling. He’d turned around to match his head. His hand was wrapped around the man in the long coat’s neck. The mushy, soaked cigarette fell from his mouth, his soggy feet lifted off the ground, and with strangled gasps, and a few moments of scrabbling, he slumped in the tuxedo man’s grip.
“Goodbye,” whispered the voice one more time, hissing out the word, enjoying it. Savouring it.
The tuxedo man dropped the corpse in his hand and walked away into a nearby alley where he collapsed against a dumpster.
The rain carried on. The thunder and lightning kept going, still not matching up. Nothing changed.