Spati By D.I. Jolly

Lightning flashed overhead as the light drizzle turned into the storm that the city had been waiting for, and Daniel ducked into a corner store hoping to not get totally drenched. It was late and he was tired but not so much of either that he couldn’t spare some time to have a beer and see if it passed before needing to go home. As he sat he looked out into the night and the rain-soaked world around him, wondering if it would pass, or if he could manage a second beer. When he spotted a man casually walking down the alley across the street from where he sat. A sight not uncommon, not even in that sort of weather, except that the man seemed different, out of place. It took him a moment of staring but Daniel realised that the man was dressed completely in robes. Dragging on the floor behind him all the way into a hood over his head. In fact, the only part of the man he could see were his hands, which looked impossibly pale hands. Long white fingers stretched out to needle-like points, which were possibly his nails. As he started the robed figure suddenly stopped, sending a pang of fear through Daniels’ heart, sparking all kinds of strange and outrageous questions. He quickly looked away, trying to push all images of the man out of his mind, but curiosity got the better of him and after a moment he shot a quick glance back down the ally, but it was empty. Daniel sighed with relief and turned to his beer.

“Fuck me!”

He jumped back as he swore. Across from him sat the man, sat quietly and patiently waiting, like he’d been there the whole time. As if on cue lightning split the sky and thunder crackled and boomed through the street so loud that it made Daniels’ heart quiver in his chest, and a thin devilish smile slipped across the man’s face.

“It’s no wonder why people used to think God was someone very angry who lived in the sky.”

A whispered terrible chuckle seemed to bubble up out of the man like noxious gas rising up from somewhere deep in a swamp and Daniel felt like he was standing on the edge of something dangerous, staring into an abyss, into the face of death.

“What are you doing here?”

“I just enjoy a good storm, don’t you? Rain so thick it can wash away even the dirt from the air. Lightning, thunder, wind. It’s weather in motion, like a dance. It’s beautiful.”

Although the man’s face was haunting to look at, he found it difficult to look away, it was hypnotising in its glowing translucence. But as he continued to speak about the storm it took on a distracted mysterious quality, like the face of a man talking about a long-lost lover. There was a memory in that look, and Daniel realised that in that moment the man was not looking at him or the world around them, but something distant, something passed and something sad.

Absently he picked up his chair but stopping himself from sitting down. Instead, he looked out at the storm, wondering what it was the man was remembering, and from when. Logic tried to tell him that the man was thin, old and fragile, but there was something about him that made Daniel cautious, afraid. The man looked at him.

“Sit down.”

The words sounded more like a command than an invitation and Daniel felt like he had to fight to not obey.

“What if I run, instead?”

The man’s smile broadened.

“Why would you do something as ridiculous and futile as that? Sit down.”

Daniel sat down, then feeling desperate to do something he was in control of he took a long sip of beer. The man watched him for a moment then turned his gaze back to the sky.

“Can you imagine what a storm like this would sound like to people who don’t know what a car is, a train, who don’t have electric lights or televisions. To whom animals are the most powerful thing they ever encountered until the sky get angry and makes an ancient and indestructible tree explode into fire and sound.”

He looked back at Daniel and held out his hand towards the beer.

“May I?”

Not sure what was happening anymore, Daniel handed over the beer and the man took a little sip.

“It’s beautiful really, in its own way, the total innocence of the past.”

“You say that like you were there.”

Another disturbing chuckle bubbled up out of the man.

“I do, don’t I.”

The table fell silent, except for the occasional crack and rumble of thunder, as they stared at each other. The man looker ever calm while Daniel felt his anxiety building, desperate to get away but unable to make his body move, until it finally peaked and he all but yelled.

“What the fuck do you want?”

The old man’s face grew serious and the deep disturbing lines seemed to grow deeper, his pale face shining in the darkness and as his eyes drifted out of focus as all but whispered.

“Company.”

Daniel’s eyes widened and a sense of defiance flared up inside him.

“So sign up for Tinder, and leave me out of it!”

His voice was loud and the man from inside the store stepped out saying.

“Hey, stop all that yelling it’s late and…’

But as his eyes fell on the old man he stopped, dropped his head and said.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t see you there. Have a good night.”

Before quickly hurried back inside, leaving Daniel alone again with the old man. Something small inside him broke then and tears welled up in his eyes.

“What do you want with me man? I just didn’t want to get wet on my way home? Can’t I please just go home?”

The man’s smile returned and he spread his hands palm up,

“No one is stopping you.”

Suddenly sceptical Daniel shifted in his chair.

“But you said it would be futile to run?”

“Well, maybe I just meant that if you walked or ran, you’d still get wet.”

Daniel held his breath for a moment and focused on the man until another crack of thunder broke the spell and he took off at a full sprint towards his door. Feeling the whip of desperation driving him to run faster than he’d ever run before, too terrified to look back, sure that he’d see the man’s face just behind him. Running into his door and bouncing off it, he grabbed the handle with one hand and dove the other into his pocket for his keys, then frantically jammed them into the lock to open it. Only when the door slammed behind him did he feel like he could finally take another breath, and that the tears could safely roll down his cheeks. He dropped down onto the floor back against the door breathing heavily, feeling the whole encounter start to slip out of his mind, like dreams that are so real until the moment you wake up and then suddenly vanish. A waking nightmare that he was all too happy to let fade. Once again lightning flashed and thunder echoed through the hallway and a thin quiet voice said.

“It’s no wonder people used to think Gods lived in the sky.”

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