The alleyway

Random 5-word writing exercise.

  The alleyway is wreathed in shadow and its cobblestones littered with wrappers and other trash. It’s all tarnished by the setting sun, making the metallic colours of the chocolate wrappers glint like gold, like some sort of pieces of long lost treasure. And they are not the only lost things in the alley. Huddled under the cover of dirty rags and shadow a girl is cradling herself, hidden by a veil of her hair and city soot.

  And into this alleyway walks a stranger, a man, his steps rustling with the autumn leaves caught under his leather boots. He walks past a poster advertising Doctor Brown’s miraculous hair-loss remedy, its frayed corners flapping in the breath of a breeze; it’s ink is weather worn and air has made pockets under the skin of the poster, making it look like the well-humoured man in Doctor Brown’s ad has boils. He walks past a stray cat that hisses and retreats into a crack between a wall and a pipe drooling drops of black sewage. His suit is so dark that it seems to absorb all the light and colour from around him. He walks purposefully over to the girl in the corner, crouches beside her, and offers her a thing that looks much like a black cigarette.

  The girl stretches out her arm and her hand fumbles through the air uncertainly, aimlessly, until her fingers find the spidery stick that is being offered. She takes it to her mouth and the stranger flicks a lighter. An orange spark lights the slimy alleyway like a lone star in an endless galaxy of torn posters, dirt and desperation.

  She’s gripping the black crumbly cigarette like it’s a lifeline, sucking air through it until it crackles to life like a gramophone. On cue her mouth starts to work.

  “I wanted to see the circus, you know. I thought I’d walk down the street and see it. Once I had a bit of rest… It was raining and I still did but guess what? It wasn’t there.”

  Black smoke snakes out of her mouth and nostrils.

  “The goddamn circus wasn’t there.”

  The stranger sets down a black leather bag which casts a shadow, long and square that eclipses the sunlight powdering the dusty cobblestones. He releases its handle from the grip of his black leather gloves. They are the colour of ink that’s been forgotten in a pot and has gone all shrivelled up.

  Suddenly he grabs the sides of the girls head with his gloves and twists it to this side and that.

  “What are you – let me go, get off –“she mumbles, but the sounds her voice makes are confused, particles of her speech drift brokenly into the air around her. They stop making any sense and there isn’t any strength in her to resist, either, not after that succubus of a cigarette. The man’s bent back her head and she can only watch his shadow from the corners of her tired cornea as it reaches for something in his black square bag.

  His inverted shadow lifts a vial from it and framed by the tarnishes dusk, she can see it tipped and some liquid goes down her throat. It tastes like roasted marshmallows. Carnival popcorn. Lights dance in her eyes like trapeze artists balancing on a tightrope. Like lions jumping through burning loops.

  Her eyes roll upwards and she sees the sky. It’s pale orange with speckles of gold and strands of blacks like the fur of a tiger. She can see sparrows circle the gnarly branches of the sidewalks trees heads like the balls of a juggler going round and round and she feels like she’s up there with them, high. Swimming in the languorous air between the chimneys seething with the souls of cinders. They are all sad grey ghosts of waterfalls, pouring smoke onto the currents of warm, popcorn-scented, pumpkin coloured autumn air.

  She watches the sky as she is carried to the automobile, until she is set in the boot of it and a black shadow is drawn over her face as the door is shut and she is left in darkness.

The End

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