Monday, October 19, 2009

Story Time!

"Jenna?" The voice floats out of the alley where a man had been loitering all day. I shiver; his voice feels wrong somehow. Not like sick or crazy, but as if a creature of another species, say Panther onca, suddenly opened its mouth and talked. If a cat deigned to speak human-speak, the sound would be in this sort of voice. Not the average little house cat, no, this feels like the voice of a panther or a creature of that ilk; large and dark, stealthy and fluid. He’s been standing, watching, in the alley all day. He hasn't done anything odd, just watched. Which, you know, is kinda creepy in its own right.
"Jenna? Is it really you?" Now, with the moon rising and the less reputable night crowd arriving, he came closer.
I've been singing in this spot for three years and never heard my actual name spoken. To my small band, I am Sapphira, the gem of our group. Practically every day I stand out here performing for small crowds of parents taking their kids home and couples starting off the evening. Five years in New Dainenmire and this was still the only job I had. Legal job anyway. Though Weldon, my boss, is supposed to be helping me with that.
The man from the alley comes closer, peering excitedly at my face. This is just another one of the crazies, I think, the ones who tend to think all the women in the city look like his dead wife. Pure luck that he called me Jenna. But, when I finally see his eyes, he doesn't look crazy. He looks perfectly sane, albeit sick. His skin seems shockingly pale yet the color in his cheeks is high, with a faint, greenish tinge to it. A raspy, other-worldly voice issues from his emaciated-frame. Despite every physical revulsion presented in his appearance, I lean toward him. Those eyes…
"Jenna, I knew I would find you. Thank the Fates you’re here." He comes forward and reaches for my hand, a hopeful look filling his features. I pull back slightly. The band left an hour ago, I felt like staying and singing a cappella. I can take care of myself, even in this city. I didn't think that I would run into a crazy person who knew my name.
"Listen," I hear myself say as I finger my small pocket knife, "I don’t know who you are or who you think you’re talking to, but I'm not that Jenna, okay? Now, why don't you just go home and leave me alone." I try to use a voice that indicates I think he is merely mistaken, not crazy. Still, I have the knife ready, just in case.
"No! No, you’re the Jenna I need. I …I can tell. Why won't you help? You must!" He sounds desperate and now looks like he's about to have a heart attack. He is over reaching his strength and beginning to sway. I find myself reaching to steady him, though I still think he is insane. He's mumbling something and I lean in close to hear what he is saying. And then I see his beautiful green eyes again and I know everything will be ok… he blinks—I blink—and I stumble back away from him, avoiding his gaze.
"Jenna," he mutters, "finally found you, but .... Need to find a place to sleep…must talk with Jenna…tell her...." I realize he is feverish and probably delirious.
"Okay, sir, we're going to get you to the hospital," I say in my falsely calm voice, avoiding the eyes this time. "You're obviously very sick and we are going to get some help." He snaps back to lucidness.
"No," he insists, "not to a hospital. I need…I need somewhere dark and quiet, away from the sun." He slumps again and I gently lay him down. I can't cart him all the way to the hospital, but it's late and the gangs and hookers have already begun to come out. I need to get him somewhere until tomorrow morning. My apartment. The thought arrows in with conviction. But why not? I ask myself. It's not like he's in any condition to hurt me. My apartment is more of a closet; the bedroom is the only room with a window.
Yet I still feel uneasy about this man. As he shifts in his delirium, I see something that shakes me to the core. A crumpled piece of paper flutters from his fingers— I smooth it out and stifle a gasp. He carries a sketch of a pendant Grandma Jen gave me; one that I never wear and have never even taken out of its box. How does he know….? He opens his eyes again and I don’t move fast enough to avoid them.
“Jenny… little Jenny…” he croons, reaching to smooth back my hair. “Don’t leave me.”
My mouth hangs open slightly and everything falls out of focus—he becomes clearer to me. The clean cut shirt and fine-woven pants along with the thick leather boots show that he's not the poor, homeless guy I originally thought. He's dressed more like a celebrity, with a celebrity's eccentric accessories. A black cloak covers him and lets him blend in with the dark wood of the boardwalk while an ancient-looking signet ring gleams on his finger. In a haze, I reach for his arm, a soft feeling that all will be well filling my veins. Slowly, I pull him up with strength not my own. Almost in a dream, I begin to think through the route back to my apartment. He stands and manages to take most of his weight, though he is still leaning heavily on me. We ponderously stumble into the darkness.

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