Never the Twain

Night


He woke to a spectacular sunset… a few low clouds, stretched thin and ragged by unfelt winds blowing through the atmosphere, caught the last rays of the tired orange globe as it sunk beneath the infinitely distant horizon. The light scared the lowest fragments of cloud with bloody wounds, while rippled recesses remained resolute, retaining their grey and stern demeanour. What remained of a blue sky clutched a little azure hue where it nuzzled the cloud, but further from this final source it gradually surrendered its rich life to the encroaching darkness.


He unfurled grey wings, stretched lightly furred brown body, cast about in hurried need, and leapt from the sanctuary of the small leaf where he sheltered from the heat and overwhelming light of the day. So close to the ground twilight’s slight breeze offered little resistance to his humming wings as he flitted into the crisp, chill air, trying to gain as much height as he could, all the while his little eyes flickered here and there.



He spotted her… she was settling upon her rock, drawing in those magnificent wings, so different from his own… wings splashed with colour and light, hypnotic and enticing, more alluring than any artificial illumination. He swept towards her, hoping to catch just a few more seconds of her slender splendour, her chaotic colour, her boundless beauty, but he was, as usual, just a little too slow, and with the setting of the sun, as the last of its encompassing light vanished into shadow and pitch, she slipped into the fractional crevice in the rock where he knew she slept through each night and was gone once more…


He sighed, but his wistful regret wasn’t too strong… sometimes he missed her entirely, sometimes he had a few extra seconds, especially when it was cloudy and their crossover was a little blurred, and he was convinced she spotted his longing, knew his desire, felt the burning need, but always, just moments later… she was gone.


He wondered what it was like for creatures who never saw such beauty, for lost things without something to adore, something to dream of, something to hold as close as thought, and then laughed at his own arrogance – more likely than not everything had their own vision, their own meaning… he hoped so…

Still, he couldn’t flutter around here all night; he was hungry and felt a need to spread his wings and fly for a little while, just to see what secrets this night might reveal to his curious little nature…


Yesterday, he’d spotted a lush garden filled with to the brim with flowers. With fluttering beats of his wings, relishing the cool air tickling the membranes, he headed over towards the new feeding spot. Just as promised the garden was a banquet waiting to be sampled. He dropped down to the bed and supped on rich, delicate nectar, moving from one family to another like some connoisseur.


As he fed, he wondered at the colours… he knew they didn’t look like this during the day, but they more resembled his love… dashed with colour, depth and allure, but he could only imagine for they were all but shades of grey during his lifeline. Their smell though, that belonged to him… the subtle or powerful changes in aroma, pulling him hither and thither as he greedily attempted to sample every delight, those he sometimes felt he could just drown amongst.


It wasn’t until he had consumed his fill, more than his fill, he thought with a guilty little smile, that he noticed the abrasive noise gaining in volume somewhere nearby. Refreshed and curious he took to the air once more, followed the harsh sounds, and discovered the house next door was a very different affair from the carefully tended garden he suspected he’d be feasting in for days to come.


The house belonging to the delightful garden looked well-kept and freshly painted, pretty lace curtains in the clean windows, with warm shades of orange and light pink peeking through the material, this neighbouring building looked shoddy in comparison. The garden was little more than torn and weathered, or dead, grass, the paint on the woodwork flaking, most of the windows exposed once one peered through the grime crusting the glass, and harsh… if a little attractive… light glared through into the night.


He alighted on a large splinter fractured from the frame and inquisitive eyes dove into what looked like a kitchen… A large man, fat rather than muscular, loomed over a small woman sitting at the table, and in a voice harsher than winter winds abused her, interrupting her every meek effort to calm him…


Man: Where’s my fucking dinner, you bitch?

Woman: It’s in the oven it won’t be long…

Man: I work all fucking day and get home, why the fuck can’t you have a little food ready?

Woman: There were so many people at the supermarket…

Man: What the fuck do I care! You had all day to go; what have you been doing with your lazy fat arse all day?

Woman: I was trying to repair some of your clothes…

Man: I don’t want to hear your fucking excuses; who pays for it all in the first place?

Woman: I wouldn’t mind getting a job…

Man: Yea, of course you wouldn’t – get out the slutting around with whoever took your fancy.

Woman: No, I wouldn’t, how can you say such a…

Man: I fucking know you, you bitch, if it moved, you’d shag it!


The woman began to cry – sad, shuddering sobs that seemed to enrage the man even more. He moved a step closer, but before anything happened there was a loud banging on the door. The attack against the ancient wood was so vehement he thought it might just shatter under the barrage. He flickered up into the air and followed the incensed sound toward the front of the house.


Alighting on a leaf only a few feet from the door he watched as a younger man, this one slender and handsome, grief and anguish on his pale night visage, hammered on the fragile barrier.


The door flew open and the huge, fat man stood glaring at the newcomer.


Man: What the fuck are you doing banging on my door?

Newcomer: Susan, are you there?

Man: What the fuck!

Newcomer: Susan, come now, just leave, we can go together…

Susan: Oh my God, what have you done…

Man: You fucking slut, sit the fuck back down – you mother fucker…


The last was addressed to the young man. He ignored the fat man and made a dash to get into the house. The fat man grabbed at him with huge, fat slabs of hands, one entwining into the young fellow’s shirt, another gripping his wavey hair. He yanked the hair back and stared for a moment into the frightened but still distracted eyes of this desperate man. His face contorted into pure fury… letting go of the shirt but gripping the hair all the more he brought a vast fist crashing into the young man’s face. His nose shattered, blood spattered and flew, he screamed in pain, but the fat man was far from finished. He continued to punch the fellow in the face, turning the handsome features to broken, bloody mush, then threw him to the floor and began to kick him, again and again his feet connected with fragile flesh and bone.


He could stand no more and flapped desperate wings, dragging himself into the air he fled the sounds of breaking bones and the woman screaming in grief and horror. He couldn’t see where he was going, the tears blurred his vision, but he flew – his own impotence sensed more than understood creating an overwhelming need to be… elsewhere.


By the time he had regained a little of his composure he was far away. He looked around and realised he’d flown all the way to the town park. He usually enjoyed the park, but you had to be a little careful as ‘here be owls’.


It wasn’t yet late, but the moon had risen into a sky now clear of clouds. The moon was nearly full, seductive in its glowing pale silver, and dotted across the pitch blanket of night a thousand stars called to him. He’d tried to reach them once but fallen exhausted back to the ground; all his strength hadn’t even suggested he’d closed the gap, but still he always felt that pull, that desire to touch a star…


The night was perfect for flight… the slight breeze he’d enjoyed at the beginning of the night had fallen away and now not a breath impeded his slight body as it flittered through the slight chill of an early autumn evening.


Even this late at night the park was usually sparsely populated with a few people. Here and there a jogger, perhaps a couple or a family walking in the late evening, maybe some kids with little else to do but hang out till summoned home by anxious parents.

However, tonight seemed a little more deserted than usual…


Trying to ignore the whisper of streetlights, that glow and hum singing to his needs, he continued his exploration through this new night. A little below he heard the rustle of leaves and voices he couldn’t quite make out – curiosity, more powerful tonight than the beauty of any light, had him flutter down to settle on a slender twig.


Beneath were two men, not in itself unusual, but these were wearing balaclavas, so he could make out noting but shadows within darkness where their eyes might have been…


Man: Here’s one…

Other man: Alright, looks like there’s no one else about…

Man: Wait for it… now!


Just as a jogger, a fairly large fellow wearing fashionable sporting attire and listening to music on his phone, ran past, the two men leapt out from their concealment. He almost failed to notice them at first, his concentration so intent on either his next step or perhaps the music created some empathic connection to some fond or futile memory. At last, he noted the man, dressed all in black in front and skidded to a halt. He glanced immediately behind and noticed the other fellow; this one a hulk of a man, coming up from the rear.

Wild eyes took in the dark clothes, the hooded features, and realisation struck. As both men drew large knives, glittering and frightening in the moonlight he turned and tried to bolt from the path across the well-kept lawn. The man behind him tried a clumsy grab and missed… the escaping target increased his pace, but the man in front was faster – he snatched at a flailing arm and spun the fellow around a little. The fellow let out a scream and lost his balance. The fellow behind had caught up and bumped into the falling man, while the one who had hold of him by the arm had already lost his balance in the fall.

The big man just watched as the other two tumbled into a heap on the ground… the was a cry turning in a moment to a groan, and then silence…


The other man scrambled to his feet and menaced the fellow on the floor with his knife…


Man: Give me the phone fool, your wallet, your watch…!

Other man: Get up wanker; we’ll hurt you…

Man: Hey, get up…

Other man: Fuck, John… look at your knife…


John’s gaze dropped to the blade in his hand, and for the first time he noticed the wet sensation had nothing to do with nervous sweat, but rather was slick blood covering the length and some of the handle. His hand almost spasmed and he dropped the knife as if the wretched thing had cut him…


John: Oh God…

Other man: What did you do?

John: Terry, you saw, you saw… I didn’t do nothing; I just fell on the guy!

Terry: Well, that ain’t nothing…

John: Turn him over…

Terry: I’m not fucking touching him; you turn him over!


John moved closer…


John: Hey, fella… you ok?


He gingerly touched the still figure, but there was no response… mot a movement, not a sound. The gripped the shoulder of the prone man and slowly rolled him onto his back…

A horrifying, huge gash had opened the side of his neck. Weak bubbles of blood still pumped from the vein opened in the victim’s neck, the rest soaked his clothes, drenched the ground, was smeared about the lower part of his face, but his eyes remained clean – terrified eyes, devoid of spark, fixed their finality upon John’s.

John stumbled back, tripped and like some vast crab scabbled a few more feet on his back. Terry vomited.


John: Oh man… what the fuck…


Terry wiped at him mouth and just stared…


John: What do we do, what do we do?

Terry: Let’s go man… we’ve got to go…

John: But… we can’t just leave him…

Terry: What the fuck are we going to do with him!

John: Oh man, I don’t know… maybe we can call someone…?

Terry: Fucking call who… he’s dead!

John: I don’t know… I don’t know…


John seemed paralysed; he couldn’t drag his eyes from the corpse – his eyes fixed on the dead man’s, his brain absorbing the blood, the violent gash. Terry took matters into his own hands and grabbed him by his jacket. He spun him around and gave him a shove so aggressive John nearly fell back to the grass, but it had the desired effect… John started to run, and huge Terry lumbered along behind him. Soon they were out of sight.


He cried a little as he hovered about the dead man’s face… He wondered who he was, what he’d loved, what his simple plans had been for the next day, and who would never hear his voice again… This man was beyond pain, but shock and pain were just beginning for some, and might never know end.

He fluttered for a moment in the direction of the fleeing men. He didn’t hate them… who knows what they needed to do to survive, what we all need to do to get through each day. John, would have that image engraved on the back of his eyes for the rest of his life, whatever that destiny might be, and Terry, well… he wasn’t so sure about Terry.

Carrying his sadness in his tiny heart he moved on; he didn’t think he’d ever return to this park…


He was driven towards a more populated part of the town. The call of people, of light, as dangerous as it was, and sound, was an overriding compulsion. He flew to the centre of town where people were just beginning to leave pubs and return home from companionable meals in restaurants.


He loved it here, not all the time… sometimes like earlier in the evening he enjoyed some solitude, time with his thoughts, but at other times he braved the compulsion screaming from the thousands of lights so he could feel the lifeblood of the city, watch the people laughing and chatting, walking in groups of friends, or just holding hands.


There was a club he enjoyed more than all the others. He understood it was an expensive affair, where beautiful people, in fashionable clothes, met for drinks and fun. There was an outside garden where the music was a little quieter and people came out to chat and laugh with their drinks.


He enjoyed the music, even though every beat sent a coursing vibration through his entire frame. It made him feel excited and eager to do… something. He settled in the branches of a fake tree positioned right in the middle of the garden and began to look at all the interesting people…


He spent a long time on that branch… the magical glitter of a thousand colours – drinks or every hue being reflected and diffused through glasses of different thickness and shape, men and women dressed in their finest attire – like vast imitations of his fixation. The pleasure lighting so many faces as they recognised approaching friends, as they laughed at surprising jokes, and they giggled at titbits of gossip, as they ruminated on past events and activities, and dreamed of adventures to come…


What he most enjoyed were the dance of couples as they met… Sometimes so clumsy they stepped on each others’ metaphorical feet, stumbling away as quickly as they had collided, but sometimes… just sometimes, the dance became as synchronised as any practiced art, the conversation began where the other ended, the motions became reflections of the other, and their eyes… their eyes couldn’t have been dragged from the other’s with proverbial horses.


There were those who resembled him a little more than the others though… they sat around the edges of this miniscule society, they watched silently, nursing drinks, keeping pleasant attention fixed to faces just a little too sorrowful around the eyes for anyone who understood to ever want to approach – there was too much… need… in those eyes. He understood them… but he suffered not from their lack, for though he always sat on the outskirts, while there was always an impenetrable divide separating him from all that he desired, he knew exactly what filled him with passion, and in the knowing, and the occasional treat – all-encompassing vision – he’d found enough meaning to make it through every night without regret.


He left with the very last of the revellers. He’d had enough of company for the night. He ignored screams from a dark alley; they sounded pained and desperate. He avoided an accident in the road where uniformed men handcuffed some drunk after pulling him from a shattered car; the horrified moans of loss coming from a nearby ambulance, and he easily avoided the urge to investigate tired looking women on corners trying to attract the attention of passing drivers.


Though he’d decided to avoid the first house of the evening, hunger drove him to return to the house with the garden filled to overflowing with delicious blooms. Both houses were dark and silent now, but he wondered how events had finalised next door…? He doubted they had improved.


By the time he had finished consuming enough to sustain his little body until the next evening the sky was beginning to light. He lifted, heavy and fat, from his feast and made his way to the tree shading the crack in the rock where she spent her nights. He found a leaf, curled and comfortable, and settled himself into its cool and shaded recess in preparation for the obliterating light of the day, but before he tucked his sensitive eyes into his wings he stared, filled with an entirely different kind of hunger, at the crack in the rock…


Now it was a matter of timing – whether she would emerge before the light forced him into reclusion or whether she would rise a little late and he would be forced to go a day without drinking in her beauty…


He was in luck… With a flicker of movement, she emerged into the brightening morning. He almost held his breath, waiting… With a lazy stretching motion, she extended those gorgeous wings, as the light warmed them, as blood flowed, they engorged into wings of colour, catching every ray and reflecting terrible attraction into his fragile soul. Then the sun broached the horizon and he could bear it no longer. He wrapped his wings about his head, wiggled a little further into the sanctuary of his leaf, and almost glowing with the memory of her splendour, settled himself to sleep for the day…


Day


She, of course, knew he’d been watching. Sometimes she tried to give him a little clue, catch a subtle glance at his little countenance. She unfurled those wings with just a little extra flourish when she knew he was watching. She was born to be watched, everywhere she went people took note… they pointed, tried to catch her gently in their hands, marvelled at the blessings, nature had bestowed upon her, with lingering eyes, but there was something about this tiny, dull, brown fellow… something unobtrusive, simple… comfortable.


She would have liked to have spent more time with him, but they were enslaved to their worlds, and they might never cross that threshold. While much of her day was spent in frolic and fun, just knowing he was always there was in some inexplicable way… comforting.


Still, she had things to do, places to be, so enough of this little daydream, this impossible fantasy – it was time to drink in the joys of the day…


She knew from the moment she’d emerged into the growing light of dawn it was going to be a splendid day. For the moment not a hint of cloud marred the perfect pale of the blue sky… a sky that grew all the more azure as the sun flooded the great dome with increasingly bright energy.


First things first… she was hungry, so she lifted her elegant, supple and beautiful form from the rock she’d been sunning herself on for those first few moments of the day and fluttered her way to a local school. It was a school for very small children, and decorated with many flowerbeds where she could drink and satiate her needs, but there were other needs to be gratified at this school, for the children, as they arrived with mothers and fathers, in ones and twos, would spot her and give chase.


Their hypnotised, glittering little eyes would follow her every twist and turn, their clumsy little fingers grabbing at her, desperate to capture her beauty, but she would dance away from their stumbling feet as they raced and fell after her; their antics attracting a larger and larger following. She relished in their desire, adored their adoration. She would hover for a moment, bestowing them with glimpses of her myriad colours, she’d flutter away and settle for a moment so they could absorb her full spectrum, then lift and dart away when they approached.


She never tired of the game, of the chase, but eventually a bell would sound and the teachers would gather up all these laughing children and herd them inside the building.

Today, she decided to sit on the window ledge and look into one of the brightly decorated classrooms…


A young teacher, perhaps not yet in her thirties, had the classroom to herself with a small boy. She might have been pretty but for the heavy glasses, the hair tied back with brutal efficiency, and the loose-fitting greys and browns she wore like some determined librarian. It was possible she tried to make herself appear so practical in an effort to be taken more seriously by her older counterparts, or perhaps she just had no great interest in the way she looked at work.


She leaned over a scruff of a boy – shock of white blond hair continually falling into his eyes, demanding he brush it away in a motion looking more like habit than intention, pale blue eyes flickering from the book he toiled over, to his teacher and continually to the window she stretched her wings without, grass-stained knees sporting a healing bruise or two, and shoes looking more than worse for wear – no doubt due to their inappropriate application to multiple games of football.


He was clearly running short of patience as he tried over and over to spell out the words she dictated. The pencil, held clumsily in hands more used to grasping broken branches and fighting off dragons and knights gone rogue, slipped and hurried over the page, but she never lost patience. Her gentle voice slowed his virile impatience, cooled his hungry ardour for play, and eventually, after more than many attempts, had him spelling the words correctly, and even managed to turn the spider’s death-throes handwriting into something a little more comprehensible.


Her praise lit his eyes, his face shone for a moment with his success, but it didn’t stop him darting from the room like a greyhound with the starting pistol when she finally released him…


She waited a few moments, examining the young educator’s look of fond exacerbation, as she rose, stretched a tired back, and made for her desk, and then lifted gracefully once more into the air in search of more entertainment.


The sky had clouded a little; rolling and unfurling mounds of white set against the deep blue of mid-morning. The breeze grew with the heat, but so far it wasn’t enough to perturb her mood.


She headed for the park… There were plenty of people in the park today. A small crowd of people and police officers were grouped around something lying on the floor. There was a smell, she thought perhaps blood; a smell she disliked intensely, so she kept her distance, but there was one sad looking man in a uniform staring, lost in thought, into the distance, so for a moment she braved the awful aroma and treated him to a splash of flickering colour and a blink of light as she circled his head a couple of times.


He awoke briefly from his reverie and focused on her dancing display. A slight smile encroached on those stern and serious lips, and the furrowed frown dissipated for a moment.


She continued her traversal of the park until she found a father and his son flying a kite together…


Man: That’s it, Sam, don’t pull too tight, just let the wind do the work.

Sam: Dad, look… look… I’m doing it!

Dad: Oh my, you are… you’ll be off flying jets in no time.

Sam: Oh yea… I’m going to be a pilot… oh, look out!

Dad: Gently now…

Sam: Ah, dad…

Dad: Don’t worry, let’s see if you can get it up there this time; help me unravel this string.

Sam: Alright, dad

Dad: Alright, just pick up the slack… not to tight – when I say, just walk back a little way. Ready?

Sam: Are you sure?

Dad: Of course I am – you’ll get it – Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know…

Sam: What does that mean?

Dad: All big and difficult things take time to get right, son

Sam: Ok then, I’m ready

Dad: That’s it… back a little further… not too far… yup, that’s it…

Sam: Dad, I did it, I did it…


She giggled to herself; soaring up to the fluttering kite as it struggled to stay aloft. She ducked and turned, dove and rose with it for a few moments, and then returned to the ground where she was far less likely to be snatched up by some mother bird in restless search of nourishment for her chirping offspring.


She flew close to the thick, lush grass, the long tips of her wings almost brushing the deep green leaves. Now and then she alighted on some bright bloom, drinking deep and revelling in her beauty in comparison with their simple shades.

She noticed a group of women… dressed colourfully enough to draw even her attention, and fluttered over to see if they held something interesting…


Woman in deep red: Oh my, they seemed so happy.

Woman in pale green: They always seem so happy, it’s behind closed doors where the truth comes out!


Woman in golden yellow: Oh, Clair, you’re such a cynic – they’ve been together ten years now and I’ve never seen them have a single argument.

Clair: Well, maybe I’m just jealous!

Woman in sky blue: They do seem to get on so terribly well; I wish Richard an I were half so happy spending time together, but I swear he likes his friends and the pub more than me.

Woman in deep red: Jessica, perhaps he’s gay!

Jessica: Lisa, you’re awful!

Clair: Well, it was a good party, perhaps we shouldn’t have stayed out all night though…

Lisa: Ah, I hardly get to go out at all – I’ve usually more chance of winning the lottery than getting him to stay at home and watch the kids.

Woman in golden yellow: You all complain, but I can’t even find a decent one – the ones I go out with are more in love with themselves than me – I swear if they could photocopy themselves, they’d give up dating…


Smiling at their giggles and merry banter she followed for a while, but eventually tired – they had no interest in her beauty, they were more than beautiful enough.


She crossed the park again in search of entertainment, and as she reached one of the more remote areas, she noticed a couple lying on the floor enjoying a picnic.


There were more trees here and sunlight competed with shade and gently stirred leaves to dapple the ground with wandering spotlights of luminescence. The couple sheltered beside the trunk of a massive old oak, the grass below a little lusher and succulent due to the shade offered by its great branches and thickets of leaves.


She arrived with delightful timing as the man was mumbling something with a nervous effort and proffering, with trembling fingers, her a golden ring set with a glittering diamond. She didn’t think the girl heard anything but the intense devotion and hope in the young man’s voice. She nodded immediately, tears swelling in her eyes, and all but snatched the thing from his hand in her eagerness to slide the beautiful ring onto the finger containing her heart vein.


She waited a moment as they kissed, and then, as they drew back from their passionate moment of intimacy, she landed right upon the diamond, stretching out her wings and flashed reflected colour into both their eyes. The young man’s eyes opened wide in surprise and the girl let out a throaty laugh of purest delight – so today she was a good omen…


She spent the rest of the day, much like she spent most other days, delighting herself as she listened to gossip, as she attracted fascination, as she filled herself with sustenance far more fulfilling than the nectar she imbibed to survive, until the sun began to fall and the temperature began to lower, and she knew it was time to return to her safe little home for the night.


As she fluttered back, she noted at least seven other spots where she easily shelter for the night; she held no great attachment to the comfortable little crack in the rock, but then she might not see him…


It was a little late, and far too cold for her liking – she should have been curled up in her protective, warm wings by now, but she held out just a little longer until she saw movement in the leaf where he’d sheltered through the day. She studiously avoided looking directly at where, from the corner of her eye, she could see his dull, fluffy body emerge, stretch his wings and, gratifyingly, immediately begin to cast around for her.


Certain he’d spotted her, as he’d halted his hurried search, she unfurled her wings one last time – stretching them to their full magnificent length, she tilted them a fraction to catch the fading rays of the sinking sun, and confident she’d satisfied his mesmerised attention she finally tucked them close to her body and squeezed into her little crevice for the night…

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