by Marleigh Green

The bone-deep chill of the night air brushed across Abraham’s skin, triggering a shudder that his tattered clothes were unequipped to contain. He wrapped his arms around himself, cradling his knobby elbows, his hollow eyes called to the shadows that hovered in the crevices of the artfully worn brick buildings that loomed around him, tracking for any movement. The comfort he’d always associated with walking the streets of Poitou-Charentes eluded him, the scent of the coastal night air a bitter taste in the back of his parched throat. Abraham barely noticed the feeling of his bare heels scraping against the cobblestones beneath him as he shuffled down the sidewalk, his shoes long gone.

His only company was his ragged breaths, the beige-toned street empty of cars and other people, at least for now. The animalistic instinct that sensed he was being watched poised on the back of his neck like a scorpion, ready to strike. Abraham kept walking, shooting a furtive glance over his raised shoulder, but not daring to let his eyes linger on the deepening shadows. His head snapped forward again when he thought he spotted steely, claw-like fingers creeping around the edge of an alleyway at his back, casting shadows of their own. 

A low, manic hum left his throat. His frayed vocal cords butchered the beautiful tune of Deux Arabesques, but he doubted Debussy would mind. 

A figure shifted in the shadows ahead, drawing his gaze and sending his heart shooting into his throat. The fear gave way to hope as he took in the sight of her habit and the golden crucifix swinging from her neck as she strode towards him, alone. He lunged at her, and she instinctively threw her hands up in defense, her wide eyes bulging with terror as he seized her by her narrow shoulders, towering over her. His once-sunkissed, now chalky hands gripped the black fabric and warm flesh with every ounce of desperation that shined on his gaunt face. 

“Pardon, mademoiselle,” he begged her, “it haunts me. It wants me dead. You must help me!”

She screamed shrilly, the sound sharp in his tortured ears, and twisted her body, wrenching herself from his grip. His hands slipped from her shoulders, and the force knocked him onto the ground, ripping the breath from his lungs. Searing pain shot through his back and right elbow as he landed, and he hissed in pain, rolling onto his side and screaming breathlessly after her retreating back, “Mademoiselle!” 

Without a backward glance, the nun disappeared into the night. 

Abraham panted breathlessly and sat up, shutting his eyes, the brief hope sinking like a stone in a pond. He should have known. Every single word that left his mouth sounded like the ravings of a madman, and she probably mistook him for a vagrant, as he certainly looked like one. 

 His once-tailored clothing was tattered and loose on his bony body, unwashed hair hanging lank down his face. His stomach grumbled with hunger, and his tongue hung dryly inside of his mouth, heavier than a brick. He knew better by now than to try and eat or quench his thirst. It wouldn’t let him. 

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Author Bio

“Most of the people who try to give you advice are going to come from a place of bias. Don’t be afraid of failure. Be afraid of what will happen if you don’t try, and when you start to fear the worst case scenario, train yourself to imagine the best case scenario, too. After all, what if it works out?”