09 October 2012

Night And The Lonely Soul (Originally Published 11 Mar 2008)

Current mood:depressed


The night was slow.  Dead slow.  The customers came and went in a funeral procession, paying their respects at the altar of alcohol and to me, their pastor of spirits and stories.  I stood there, giving out the blood and body of our patron saints in glass and cup, to those few stragglers that came for their sustenance and then, as the parishioners dwindled down to three, two, then one, I decided to shut the door to our little church.  I knew that my services were no longer needed for those poor wretches out there on the island, and those who brave the trip over the bridge from the mainland, so close but once removed from this island of lost souls. 
I counted the collection plate, a poor showing in this poor city.  I folded up the money, took my share, and dropped the rest into the safe, to keep it safe and sound for those that come in the morning to count the meager offerings.  They won't be happy come sunrise.  I made my way around the place, putting out the candles, turning off the lamps, wiping the glass, the counters.  I cleaned the accoutrements of my profession, my calling and put them in their proper places.  Donning my jacket, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the counter.  I stood tall in my reflection, the black fitted woollen coat, knee length, snugly clung to my frame, the silver buttons, thirteen of them, fixed halfway up to the black scarf that was wrapped around my neck, in counterpoint to the alabaster skin of my face.  The deep velvety red hair on my head stood up in the fashion of the day, my crimson crest bright and unnatural perfectly completed this vision I saw looking back at me.  I looked a modern day vampire, a mixture of the old, with my Edwardian-styled coat and the new, with my brightly coloured pink hair.  I shut the house lights off, set the alarms and exited the door onto the sidewalk, noticing the empty streets all around me.  The air was chilly but not too cold, I put on my finger-less gloves and began my walk along the back-end of the Convention Center, in the dark, looking at each of the doors in the hopes one of them had been propped open so I could make my way through the building and not all the way around it.  The sentries that patrol this edifice did their jobs too well and each door was shut tight against me, I would have to walk around the building and make my way down through the city to the public transportation that would take me home to my sanctuary, my abbey, my fortress. 
I passed by several new trailer homes parked in the outside lot, probably in wait for the next event scheduled to take place in the Convention Center but for now they were locked out, as was I.  I rounded the corner of the building and walked underneath the pedestrian bridge that connects the Convention Center with the Sheraton Hotel, which looked empty tonight by the lack of lights in the windows that rose far above my head.  I startled a maintenance worker changing an outdoor trashbin.  By the look on his face, I think he thought I was a vampire, stealing out of the shadows to take a late-evening meal.  Smirking to myself, I continued my way down the avenue, past the shops that shut many hours ago, all set for the morning to come, the doors to open and the wares to be sold.  Everything looked so perfect, so clean, so well ordered in each of those windows that I passed, mocking the disjointed life I have lived for so long.  A single drop of rain hit my forehead, cold and wet.  I looked up to the skies, overcast and misty, the lights from the casinos reflecting off of them and giving the entire city an otherworldly glow.  Making it like an eternal dusk, not quite daylight, not quite night.  Perfect for a vampire who walks the city at night.  I pass the new hospital wing, it's broken glass and tile artwork that lines the walkway to the new entrance looks beautiful glittering in this light and I finally make my way to the jitney stop and stand there, waiting. 
"Damn!" I think to myself, as I see a group of six young men up ahead about a block, coming in my direction.  I look down Pacific Avenue and see that there are no buses coming, not one is in sight all the way down the island.  Knowing the city the way I do, and its people, I casually turn and begin walking in the direction of my home, turning every once and again to see if a jitney is on its way.  None.  Not one.  I think to myself that maybe I'll just walk all the way to the penthouse but I decide that the main thoroughfare through which I am walking may not be the safest route home and I enter the parking garage lobby and make my way upstairs and across the pedestrian bridge into the Trump Plaza casino. I look at the sad faces of those poor wretches that are sitting there, at this lonely hour, gambling their souls away with their money.  I find my way to the escalator that leads to the boardwalk, make my escape from this haunted palace of lost dreams, and out into the world of darkness and mist. 
The boardwalk is a different animal at this time of year, at this time of night.  I see no one, hear no one as I walk along the shuttered shops and scaffolding that line the way.  And although there is no one there, I can see with otherworldly eyes the ghosts of those people, those buildings, those memories that used to be there…here…down that alley.  I mourn those memories as I mourn the dead, for no one else will.  I can smell the wood of the very boards I walk on, a smell that is lost during the day when the food stalls are open and they are cooking their specialties.  Tonight, all I can smell is the earthy scent of the wood, from boards made of trees that grew a continent away, mingled with the salt air and the light raindrops that every so often hit somewhere on my face.  It's strange to smell the wood so strongly, it's like being in a forest glen and not along the great Atlantic Ocean.  I walk and walk and walk down the well-trodden pathway finally getting away from the city proper and the casinos and into the little piece of suburbia where I live…well…the closest thing I have to suburbia here on Absecon Island.  I cut through the mists and make my way down the ramp onto my avenue, pulling my keys out of my inner jacket pocket and entering my building, my flat, my room where I sit now, writing, watching, and soon to be dreaming until tomorrow comes and with it, another day to haunt the world outside my doors.  In day and night.

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