As the dark alley echoed the sound of Alex’s shoes against the stone, she exhaled slowly, watching the visible breath form in front of her before disappearing into the night. It was so silent here, away from the centre of the city, away from her house, placed carelessly on the outskirts of a booming industrial estate. But now, here, in this small alley, Alex was under the impression that she had once and for all escaped the noise, the confusion, the hustle and bustle of the modern world. She stood for several moments, just taking it all in, waiting for something to disturb the peace. After all, in a city like this one, it was inevitable that somebody would need to use this alley to get home.
It was late. Later than Alex usually cared to venture from her home, and she had been advised against it, but she was fed up of taking orders. Alex was eighteen now, and she could do whatever she wanted. She was a grown-up.
For what seemed like the longest time, Alex revelled in the silence, awaiting some signal that she should go home. But none came. She wanted to wait and enjoy the calm of the lonely alley for herself, until she had to move on, either due to a disturbance, or if she maybe got a little too cold.
It was now that Alex finally took a look down at herself. Her clothes were minimal, and she was surprised to feel that she was not shivering. Not at all. Wearing simply a pair of jeans, cut off to become shorts, and a t-shirt, Alex knew that she had ignored her appearance and focussed on ignoring her mother as she left the house.
Her mother had lived with Alex all her life, and had been equally domineering all her life. At sixteen, Alex finally thought she would be able to shackle the chains of oppression that her mother had disguised as the umbilical cord. Alex was going to move out, get a full time job somewhere, maybe stay with some friends until she was able to get a place of her own.
But wherever Alex went, her mother followed intently. She was surprised that she wasn’t with her now, telling her to get out of the alley, she’ll be raped or killed or worse. Alex smiled at her little joke, but the cause changed as she looked around her, finally aware of a place she could hide. Nobody had come down here in what must have been ten minutes, and you’d expect that if anybody were to use it, they would have done by now. Obviously it wasn’t a very convenient alley to use, and so Alex decided that she would give it a new lease of life, and use it to escape. She couldn’t hear anything here, and that made her feel safe, better.
She listened intently to the silence once more, soaking it all in. She was beginning to feel so at one with her surroundings, that she did not even feel surprised when she heard footsteps , and saw the shadow cast by what could only be seen as a black silhouette at the end of the alley.
No doubt some drunken townie was heading her way, probably wouldn’t even notice her. Just stumbled into the alley to relieve himself, then would continue on his way home. He’d wake up in the morning, laugh over the events of the night before, and carry on with his life, just as Alex would carry on with hers. With the constant noise that was inescapable, but she would return here for peace, as would the drunk, but for totally different reasons.
Maybe the alley was not so secluded after all. Fifteen minutes, and another person was here. That calculated to around a hundred people per day passing through here. Although it was sheltered from the noise of the city, it was far from abandoned, so it seemed.
Alex took a moment to watch the man stumble towards her. Less of a drunken stumble, more of an ill stumble. He was clutching his head, and although his face was shrouded in the dark, the expression on his face was no doubt one of agony. He threw himself into the wall on the his right, and Alex was a little confused about what to make of this peculiar interruption.
The man – for that’s what he was, definitely a man – slumped down, letting a small patch of moonlight radiate onto his face, revealing his features. Normal, for the most part. A well-chiselled jawbone, some stubble, but not unkempt. Certainly well-groomed. One of those GQ men, no doubt.
But he didn’t look like he was able to show it off at the moment. His pinstripe suit was pristine, save for the moss rubbing onto it from the wall as he sunk lower and lower to the ground. Alex took a small step closer, but was unable to bring herself to enquire as to the issue which brought the stranger to his haunches, holding his head in his hands.
Alex jumped as the man let out a loud cry, almost a battle cry, but it sounded agonising, as if the shout itself was the cause of the pain he found himself in. She took a scurry back, finding herself in her original position, staring intently at the man, who was now looking at her with one eye, the other covered by his hand.
Bloodshot and watery, the eye certainly did not compliment this man’s well-dressed appearance. It was almost an anti-crescendo, to wait this long, admiring the style of this handsome stranger, and then to be disappointed at the last minute. His eyes… They really fell at the final hurdle.
But Alex found herself drawn to them… As if they shared something between them. Because in his eyes, the same look of inescapable torture was evident. Maybe not the same type – almost certainly not – but it was similar. They shared a look for several seconds, before the eye was covered up by the same hand that covered the other, the left. Now that the eye contact between them had been broken, Alex was not sure what to make of him. She couldn’t remember the feeling of singularity that the two shared. Did this mysterious man feel it too? Could he recall it? It was not important. He was in a bad way.
Alex stared at his hand, covering his eyes, and she desperately tried to see through the hand, to look into the eyes again, to see that glint of recognition, to witness the odd sensation of home.
She was so fascinated and intrigued by the feeling, so intent on reliving the last few seconds, that she did not notice the left hand, now a minor watermark on the lens of her vision, reaching slowly into the inside pocket of this lovely suit, now ruined by the moss and damp of the alley. Alex’s line of vision was only interrupted by the small glint of moonlight against the barrel of the gun that was now held firmly in the man’s right hand. But even as the hot metal tore through her, she was unable to stop staring at that hand. Just once more, she needed to see those eyes. Those similar and yet so different eyes. They shared something. She would not forget it.
Alex heard the war cry of pain, the stranger yelling out to anybody that would hear him. He took his hand away from his eyes, but now it was Alex’s eyes that were the issue. Her vision was fading, and she felt faint, dizzy, having hit the ground before she even realised she was dying. Why didn’t she save her? This alley shouldn’t have stopped her mother from getting to her.
Those eyes. The red bristles of pain and sleepless nights. Of disturbance. They felt so familiar… Something was the same.
Everything else was forgotten as the eyes filled her mind. The shape of them. Alex had only seen one, but it had been the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Not obvious beauty. Hidden beauty. Like when a hideous old woman saves a baby from being hit by a car. It’s not physical. It’s something else.
Alex felt something warm against the back of her head – a welcome change from the cold of the road. As her thoughts drifted away from the stranger, her killer, she realised it was her own blood. What a lovely way to die.
Those eyes. Those damn intriguing eyes.
Don’t think about them.