This short story was part of my coursework for my creative writing module. The first story was a first draft, this was the final piece.
The underpass was dark and empty, save one blip of consciousness, curled with newspaper and coat closely about him for protection. A moaning wind pushed through the enclave, causing the man to pull his coat closer, to cover his swollen face. If we were to move closer, we would discover something very unusual about this bundle of paper and material. However, in reality, most of us would avoid at all costs such a person, therefore it would seem pointless. As the moon shifted through the cloud, it caused the man to cast shadows about him; they swayed and danced, mocking him with their non-existent smiles. He then began to mumble; whispers in a guttural tongue, words drenched in anguish. His eyes were ringed with black and purple, and his blood-encrusted lip showed evidence of a brawl, possibly with the youths that got drunk beside the canal. And he knew they would come; the same time every week.
And he stayed. Despite the fact that some sort of attack upon him was inevitable, he continued to wait. As his mumbling subsided, the sinister mass would inspect the coins which lay scattered around him. Some were old, with dirt embedded in the carvings. Some were new, mostly bronze, which reflected the light of the moon. He enjoyed looking at the coins and thinking about where they had been. Whose sweaty hands had clasped the metal; what was the quality of the leather in which it previously sat; what was the worth of the coin to its preceding owner? His thoughts would wander like this for hours. Every once in a while he would scratch his unkempt grey beard which rustled against the newspapers. The moon, starting to tire, began to fade as a dark sun crept up from behind a block of dead concrete flats. Seeing the frail rays trickle outside his cave sent a shiver up his spine which caused his head to feel tight and icy. A pitter-patter of supple feet beneath lithe bodies could be heard; two young men jogging beside the canal. The old man was used to adjusting his ear to the sounds of life which crept swiftly past. As the young men drew closer, their pace began to quicken.
‘Can’t we go the other way?’
‘Oh he’s no bother, just don’t look at him.’
‘I heard he attacks the kids who come down here to play.’
‘A man who has nothing tends not to care. He’s no harm.’
The two joggers’ shoes made a slapping sound upon the wet path. It echoed as they entered the underpass and lingered long after they had left it. As the sun continued to light up his surroundings the man saw the words he had overheard perform an elaborate dance before him. It hadn’t always been this way. If only someone would look upon him as though he still retained sliver of humanity, he would be satisfied. Perhaps the ties that bound him to the spot would relinquish and the image of the child would no longer be branded behind his eyes. Perhaps he would die, and then he would be free.
He adjusted his reeking mound to reach for his bottle of greyish water. He took a gulp and then spluttered. He caught a glimpse of a young boy stood quietly by the canal-side staring into the water. He wiped the grime from his eyes and focused completely on the child.