What do you cry for, in the deeps of the night? Huddled in the chilling warmth of a tattered blanket, as the quiet wind slips through the gaps in the walls, playing with your skin, taunting and tantalising. Where does your heart reach out, in pain, in hope, in gladness?
For me, it reaches to her.
She was my angel.
* * *
His ankle landed off, slipping slightly before giving way and dragging the rest of the leg down with it. He followed, tumbling and sliding and falling and gasping. Lay there, briefly, breathing quietly, seeping blood patiently spreading.
Off, again, running, limping, hobbling, pain this time, but still running. London's dark walls tower protectively beside him, shielding the stars, holding him deep in their embrace as they usher him tighter and closer and faster and darker, deep into the fastness of the damp alley. Cobbles slimy from the fog toss him playfully side to side, denying grip here, allowing it there, pulling him ever forwards.
Turns a corner, ever deeper into the cold stone embrace.
She follows softly, dancing through the shadows, moving between the holes in the light, dragging their cloak with her as she climbs along the ground, sliding and drifting gently. He is all around her, blood, sweat, the sharp, delectable tang of fear.
She is a connoisseur, savouring the tastes as they move across her tongue.
Quickening now, leaping, distance becomes nothing.
Red tongue flickers over white teeth, tasting.
He sighs into the night.
* * *
It moved like a creature in those days. It was an apparition, a Sending. Egypt had her locusts and the Angel of Death, London got The Fog. Sulking in the corner, slinking under the bridges, filling the gaps and stopping the leaks, London's great Fog lay on the city, keeping watch on her cowed and broken people. We lived then, behind the Goat and Shovel, in the back street. Cobbled with slime, covered with grime, coated with time, our home was never that, but always a hell, a blinding darkness of hovel and decrepit dirt. We would huddle under our boards, and our filthy rags, hiding from the light, from the people of the city. We could see them, from here, walking by, never into, the alley. Sometimes a casual glance would slide over us as we sat watching; we were as invisible as the daylight. My brother once went to the mouth of the street, and looked out there, one side to the other, earning himself a sharp kick from a brusque passerby who didn't even look down. We kept back. We knew our place.
Twice a day the innkeeper would open the door and drop his scraps into the street. Twice a day his gaze would slide across us, just as the streetwalkers. Twice a day we were invisible. But twice a day we ate.
It was one of those twice a day when she first came to us. Just like us, barely more than a patch of walking filth scraped from the sewers of London's finest, but she was greater than that somehow. Something in her eyes, the intensity of her gaze, drew us to her, and we found ourselves seating semi-circular sighing with satisfaction at her simple silence.
She was an angel. Come to show us how to be more.
She never said anything. Never had to. She never stayed with us, at night. Morning would come, daylight pushing weakly through the sullen lingering darkness, slowly sweeping the shadows aside. And from the leftover darkness she would emerge, a shape that had always never been there, but came to. She would move then, languidly, alertly - never slowly and stiffly like us, like the alley cats we were, slinking into consciousness.
The Fog never left her completely. It seemed to follow behind, and around. Never moving but always thicker where she moved, always darker. Our angel held the Fog to her heart as a lover, hiding within its darkness and standing from its strength.
She would look down the alley, at the people walking by, so fine in their silks and colours, bright despite the darkness of the light, and smile slightly. And then back to us. To show us: how to be more.
Then night would come close again, warmth leeching from the alley, cold stones sucking up the heat of the day and sending it to hell while we slowly sank back to a simple stop. She would look at us all, one last time. Drowsily, eyes half closed, she would slowly turn to stare at us each in turn. You couldn't see the tail lashing fiercely, but you knew it was there. And then she would leave us for the night.
* * *
One night, I followed.
Out into the dusky darkness, light seeping out of the world I followed her and her attendant Fog out of the alley. I never doubt for a second that she knew I was there, but she never turned, never looked back. As she moved she seemed to grow in the darkness, her self spreading out to fill the shadows in the corners of the world, the tiny shifted places where real becomes unreal, she grew and shifted with them. Always darker than before, larger, Foggier.
We walked across the whole city it seemed - over the darkness of the sluggish Thames, under the shadow of Westminster, through the nameless darkness of the shrouded undercity of homeless and desperate. I lost track of her for minutes at a time. Hours it seemed. She would walk ahead of me, into the shadows and not reappear in the light ahead, the pools of flickering gas lamps it seemed were her private nemesis. Aimlessly, those times, I would simper around, fearful of the darkness yet unable to return. And then again she would flow back from the shadows.
I realised then, that we were following a man. He didn't know it yet, but I saw him more and more. Not the crudity of a simple trailing, but a deliberate repetitious intersection of pathing as we crossed and he crossed and we crossed again I realised we were closing on him. And he realised, as well.
He would look about, searching, uneasy with his world.
He would glance at the shadows.
She would move from the light.
His step quickened. He walked, stepped, walked, ran, fell, ran, and the shadows fell around him.
* * *
She loomed over him, a splash of darkness against the night, Fog wafting lazily around her face, bright eyes, slitted pupils, staring calmly down.
"My angel", he sighed, as she lowered her head to his, as the blood began to race for the gutters.
She looked back then, into the mouth of the alley behind her, staring intently at a small shape, crouched on its paws on the dark cobbles, filthy matted fur and flicking tail, before turning back.
* * *
It took me all night to make it back to the dark alley behind the Goat and Shovel, to my family there, hidden in the folds of refuse and dirt, waiting for the first of the twice a day.
I never said anything. Never had to. The Fog never left me completely. It seemed to follow behind me, never moving but always thicker where I stood.
I knew now, how to be more.