Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ambrosia - From Chapter 2

The cafe opened late. It was busy and had a high turnover of anonymous clientele. More importantly they made everything on premises, which required large quantities of ambrosia. The manager was sympathetic, if not one of them. For these reasons, Nick was crouched in the dark and the damp behind this particular cafe. These reasons, and that they had been without a reliable supply of ambrosia for several months. That in itself meant they were short handed.

This was not the kind of task he would normally undertake himself, but Winney was pestering him with paperwork and he was bored. It was a good excuse to get out a bit. Winney objected to the risk, but that was the point. It wasn’t worth playing if you could never lose.

The door opened, he was enveloped by the orange glow from inside, the intimate smells of baking and coffee, the warm white noise of a dozen conversations. The manager stepped out and scanned the shadows with an unmistakably furtive look, finally resting his eyes on the half hidden Nick. With an air of exaggerated conspiracy, he placed two large flour sacks beside the bins. Nick leaned forward so that their eyes met. He enjoyed the role and thrilled at the apprehension in his co-conspirator’s eyes.

As the door closed, the darkness of the alley rolled back over him. He crouched still for moment, revelling in the cliché. Like a spy in a Saturday flick, he searched the darkness around him with his ears, and tried to feel it with his skin. Just as he leaned forward to grab the ambrosia, he felt, or maybe heard, something.

In one movement he grabbed a bag under each arm and sprang forward into a run. Like a kid on a dare, he felt the excitement building inside. He heard them running behind him. He pounded through the dark alleys, always turning away from the well lit main street.

One of the bags slipped from his arm and caught his foot. He kicked it forward and it exploded in front of him in a cloud of powder. He breathed a deep lung full as he ran through it. He hadn’t tasted ambrosia in a long time, it wasn’t something he needed. Although it wasn't designed for him, it still had some effect. With the other bag clutched to his chest, he twisted through the alleyways and laughed out loud. He had to fight the deep feeling of calm overcoming him, and keep running. Now there was no sound behind him. His ambrosia dusted pursuers had become content not to catch him.

He headed to the main street, the infectious sound of people, and the light. The remaining bag of ambrosia was under his shirt, pinned clumsily to his side with one arm. This was his turf, he felt safe here, even though the Angels would start looking for him again soon, even though the crowd was filled with familiar faces who might point him out at any minute. But, like him, they were satiated. They had their fill of ambrosia and lethe water, and now they were content and couldn’t remember. Who would point him out? He could only loosely hold on to his caution while he soaked himself in the life of the street.

He slowed to relish the mood. Every time he walked this street it was different, but his feeling for it hadn’t changed in hundreds of years. The danger only added to his enjoyment. He had walked it, so long ago, as master of the street, when it had been new and he had known the answers to the questions. That felt strong at the time, but now he knew it was hollow. Only this was real. This feeling of being subsumed.

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