Old City – Braganza, Portugal – End of September, 1897
The rain fell gloomily upon those ancient cobblestones of eld. It seemed refreshing, almost cleansing to the road. It was as if the rain was washing away all of the dirt and grime, purifying the very surface. One would allude such a situation as that of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, redeeming a long-lost sinner home like the prodigal son. But such was a biblical comparison possible on this particular day. The solemn rain continued to fall incessantly, displaying a cryptic rhythm. The rain fell rhythmically to one of Nature's sweet and unique melodies, written and compiled by the Providence of God. Along with the melodious rainfall was the unquestionable silence that endured, a silence that was apart from the rainfall. A wry stalking silence with the chill as its torturous fingers clasping upon you with a heathen vengeance that defied even the Germanic tribes that plagued and pillaged Rome...
The sky overhead was grey, dark, and somber—that is, from the narrow band of open view of someone looking up. The featured cobblestone alley meandered slowly downwards, having been crafted by the impoverished hands of the lower classes of the hierarchical triangle of society. From the sweat of their brow, the stones were heaved and placed in position, and designed to last...and so they have. They were placed by the hardened muscles of young man, in the flower in their youth, yet unemployed to provide their own necessities of life, having been struck by the curse of economy.
This cobblestone alley was a solitary alley in the midst of a Minoan-like maze of interlinked and interlocked alleys. The maze here was just as confusing as that of the legendary one at Knossos, haunted and inhabited by the mythological Minotaur. This particular alley, like the many that were around it, was narrow, damp, dark, and mysterious. Along both sides were buildings cramped together as such would be the character, the signature fixture, of the Old City. For the curious and intuitive traveler walking down this alley, they could spread their arms, in a straight line from finger-tip to finger-tip, and be able to touch both sides. Sometimes there would be alleys in which were even narrower than this within the labyrinthine maze of the Old City. Vision was very limited as of now. But it was just enough, on the other hand, to perceive a flutter in the phantasmagorical shadows. The alley-way continued until it came to this little enclave on the outside face of a building, all covered in hypnotizing darkness.
There was the sound of drips and the chimes of the pitter-patter of the raindrops hitting the roofs, the cobblestone-ground, the windows, balconies, flower-pots, metal, and just about anything else it could find to hit. Above came the low rumble of thunder, led by Zeus in his fury. The thunder rumbled like drums being pounded as they were playing in the air. Suddenly, a flash of white light outlined the black clouds directly overheard, providing silhouettes of the avenger. It was a temporary reprieve from the seemingly endless reign of perpetual darkness.
Though it was brief, it had been long enough to signal a movement of another kind, as if the lightning had been an intangible catalyst to perpetrate some action. For, in the shadows, was what seemed to be a vague ethereal black outline within the darkness itself. For, whilst Hades did shudder a deathly curse, another steady sound emerged. There then came the measured and noticeable peace of feet hitting the puddles and the wet unmoving cobblestones. However, just by listening in, it was as if this stranger in the darkness was being cautious, covert, and discreet against all measures of revealing itself to the unsuspecting eye. There was a thrill of espionage in the fluid movements. There was no need to arrest attention. No...no need to arrest attention in such a place as this.
The rain, by this point in tangible time, was now falling harder and, as the result of this correlation, the heat of the day, having been “trapped” by being absorbed in the ground, was finally released. The heat of the day was causing wisps of steamy vapor. It was humid—so humid, in fact, that it caused moisture to appear upon the inside of windows in the form of glassy droplets, slowly trailing down the window-pane surfaces. The walls of the cramped buildings were wet, making the blackness shiny and slick. There were little motif-patterned courses of running water journeying in between the cobblestones, the corners, the sloping angles, and falling off the roof-tops. The alley-way soon became fog- and vapor-enshrouded. Any light that managed to penetrate or filter through it was just a shadow of itself, an opaque ghost in that foggy pallor. Lights appeared grainy and fuzzy, illuminating only the areas within their outer-most halos.
Feet trampled on the slippery ground. A sudden flutter of garments and a shiver, a spine-numbing cold that cut to the bare bones. The air was chilly and icy due to the downpour. And yet it was humid also, strangely enough. The two extremes mixed in with one another, concocting a brutal and caustic brew.
The running figure stopped before a doorway to retreat from the rainfall in the same attitude of mind as that of self-preservation. It was wearing a cloak that reached down to the ankles. The cloak itself had a monastic hood which was currently pulled back. Everything was wet—soaking wet—the clothes were clinging to the shivering skin with their humid state. Another shudder—another shiver...This cold chill caused goosebumps. A faint sound of labored breathing was soon evident. Another streak of glorious lightning is seen streaking across the stormy sky overhead—it is soon followed by yet another low rumble in the clouds.
The figure in the shadows held its breath with a secretive intent. After a moment's pause, it then tapped the door directly behind it. The sound of the knock was only barely perceptible above the sound of the rain. After accomplishing this, there was a delay for only a moment that felt like hours to the stranger-in-the-dark. The suspense was annihilated upon the sound of what seemed to be a door-latch as it was being worked it.
The door-latch was opened...!