A short story about humanity.

Rain beat relentlessly on the little clutch of tents, while it bounced off the pavements, scattering and reforming into fast expanding puddles as they fell back again. In other words, it was fucking pissing it down.

As I crossed the grey, wet, shimmering street towards that miserable huddle of tents, I felt a familiar sinking feeling. Rain is an old foe whom I’ve learned to be of in a lifetime of suffering Scottish weather. It adds a layer of misery to any setting. Combined with the strange sense of loss I feel when confronted by the persistent remains of a movement that was finally going to change the world but didn’t in that bedraggled little cluster at the centre of the square. I felt quite deflated. A struggling writer in a packed business ruled by cutthroat capitalism. I’ve been long adrift on a sea of failure and rejection, but I’ve always tried to cling to a belief in a changing of the tides. But here, shivering in the rain and staring at the ruins of hope, it all seems so bleak and pointless.

What happened to the Revolution? I wonder now. For all the protest and anger, all the tear gas and defiance, the evictions and beatings, whither the purpose that once united all those people? Bankers still pocket crazy bonuses, paid for by taxpayers and extracted from the lives of the very poorest of all, who have been ground down lower than ever. It’s like none of it even happened.

I don’t notice him because I’m staring forlornly at the tents and not paying attention.

“Watch where you’re going!” He snaps as I turn straight into him. I recoil, and stumble back a couple of steps, spluttering apologies. Dark, piercing, aggressive eyes under serious black brows, all under shortish brown hair, tending to wild. Several days growth of dark stubble on his face. Dressed head to foot in a once sharp black suit, now undone, tieless, rumpled and soaked unto ruination. He was seriously pissed off, tending to the wired end of jumpy, so I drew myself up, wary.

“I’m sorry. I should have been looking where I was going,” I say.

He opens his mouth to speak, looking furious enough that I tense, ready for him to fly off the handle at me. But then he hesitates, looking me in the eye, and then he deflates, disapearing back inside himself. He mumbles something, could be an apology, then turns and walks off.

“Hey, Mister, are you okay?” I call after him, but he either doesn’t hear or chooses not to, and keeps walking. I guess I found myself following him out of instinct. He was 2 dozen steps when I started to follow, but I didn’t hurry to catch him up. I kept my disfasterinstead, drawn by morbid curiosity. Down through the sloping streets we went, towards the city centre, and the railway station. Down towards ‘Loupers Brig’, so named for the poor souls that all too often end their lives on the tracks below it.

As I watched him come to a stop and turn to look down at the train tracks below. I feel a chill settle in my stomach. Was he about to take a leap of faithlessness? I closed the space between us quickly, spurred on even faster as I saw him scramble up into position on the old stonework of the Brig’s sides. Below, a train is approaching, gathering speed out of the station.

I had one of those moments of clarity and timelessness right then ; bullet time, I suppose you’d call it, when your senses kick into top gear and the world slows down as your heart rate goes soaring upwards so as to flood your brain with adrenaline. I stopped running and started gliding, the sounds of the world me while he tipped ever so slowly forwards to meet with the oncoming train. In the oceans of time I was suddenly granted, I reached him casually and caught him easily with one hand confidently snatching up his arm.

Less than a heartbeat later, reality was kicking back in along with the inescapable forces of gravity. My lungs felt collapsed, incapable of breath after the illusions of adrenaline evaporated. Worse still, the realisation came that this man I had snatched back from jumping to his death was heavier than me, and I was a long from sure I had the strength to counter it.

“Let me go!” He snapped at me, distraught, dangling by one arm above the long drop to the tracks.

“No!” I exclaimed, not so much determined as horrified. My feet were scrabbling on the pavement, my upper body contorting over the side as I struggle to brace as I struggle to brace myself somehow.

“I’ll end pulling you over!” He barks, finding his anger again.

“Then help me, you selfish bastard!” I half ordered, half pleaded with him.

There was a long, painful moment where he stared at me, where he stared at me, shocked and puzzled. My eyes were watering from the way my arms were stretching out of their sockets. I wished he’d stop being so melodramatic. Then he swung up his other arm and used me to haul himself up to a point where he could reach the side of the bridge himself. When he let go, I practically recoiled, desperate to roll and rub my shoulders and make sure there was no damage.

He climbed slowly back over the wall to the pavement, shaking visibly. I saw him pause to brush tears from his eyes at least once, and it seemed whatever had been holding them in check was gone now. Perhaps saving his life might not be quite enough, I realised as he turned to me and tried to speak. No words came he was too shaken with emotion. Inwardly I sighed, outwardly I smiled., and turned to flag down a passing taxi.

“I’ll take you for a coffee,” I offered and he managed to mumble thanks.

  1. Reblogged this on Crow House Kitchen and commented:

    A short story about humanity.


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