Moonlight On The City
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
The night is cool and sweet, the night is
like a soothing hand on a fevered brow. I push myself painfully out of the nook
in which I have spent the day, really nothing more than a niche between two
walls. It is so narrow that I canít turn round in it, but thatís all to the
good. Nothing can surprise me from the back here. It is a good hiding place,
and I shall use it again if I can.
I eat quickly, putting the empty wrappers
and cans back in my rucksack for later disposal. It would never do to leave
them around for them to find. I get the food from the warehouses in the
suburbs, because those were spared the waves of looting that did for the shops.
All the food is canned, naturally, but there is a lot of it. Afterwards I push
the heavy rucksack back into cover where it joins my sleeping bag and other
equipment I will not be taking with me tonight. Everything should be safe here
for me when I come back. I smile tightly Ė at least I can guarantee that
nothing will be stolen.
A heavy yellow moon hangs pregnant over the
eastern skyline and over the great sprawl of the city. The buildings and the
streets are all blacked out, naturally. Once, at this hour, they would have
been ablaze with lights, so many lights that one would hardly have been able to
see the moon. But that was then.
The overturned truck still partially blocks
the intersection past the fallen traffic light. It had been on fire during the
day, and although the fire has gone out I can still feel the heat coming off
the metal and se the huge black burned circle on the road around it. I skirt
that circle carefully. The road surface will still be soft, and I donít want to
leave footprints. They can be smart sometimes.
I jog-trot for almost an hour, moving
quickly but smoothly, sticking to the shadows. Even a month ago I would have
expected stray dogs and cats, survivors of the Troubles, around me; but now
there is nothing. The streets lie before me, littered with wreckage, and
blocked by rubble, but silent. Even the corpses are gone.
Down past the shattered windows of what had
once been a line of premier clothing stores, I turn left. Until now I have been
relatively safe. Seldom indeed do they come this way any more. But ahead
lies the bridge, and beyond the river they are always around. More than
once I have seen them wander the streets there in broad daylight, looking
strangely and deceptively helpless in the glare of the sun.
I wait in the shadows and watch the bridge.
I watch for the slightest hint of movement, any indication that one of them
might be lying in wait in the shadows, ill perhaps, or even dying, but still
dangerous. Oh yes. They are dangerous until they are dead. Sometimes theyíre
dangerous even after theyíre dead.
I wouldnít normally be going across to the
other side, especially on a night like this, with the moon near full and
lighting everything up like day. Under most circumstances, I would think my
actions suicidally stupid. After all, I can find everything I need on my side
of the river, where itís Ė comparatively Ė safe. On the other side thereís only
danger. I have not stayed alive so long by courting danger. But tonight I must
go, because Iíve had a message on the radio Iíve been using to try and contact
others. There is someone over there, someone who needs my help to get away.
How long have I waited for this? Testing
the airwaves, seeking for a response over the radio, any response; Iíve
dragged that huge heavy ham radio set everywhere I go, and Iíve taken mad risks
to secure batteries and spare parts for it, many times. Yes, in the early days
I found a lot of people on the air, even if far, far away, on the other side of
the country or even of the planet. But as time went on, more and more of those
voices fell silent. For months now, I have been, even on the airwaves, alone.
And now Ė and now, to meet another person, a living, breathing human person,
after these months alone; what more could one ask for? Anything is worth
risking for the chance.
The moon is now high over the horizon, no
longer yellow but a clear milky white, and the road over the bridge is naked
and exposed. There is no way I can cross it without being seen. But the
underside of the bridge is sunk deep in shadow, and the river is not much of a
river, nowhere more than shoulder-deep Ė perhaps less, at this time of year
when it hasnít rained for months. I shall have to take a chance.†††
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