Snow on a Crow's Wing

by Chris C Wright

1

The full moon blinks between the heavy, dark clouds. It's pure white night eye is watching the pair of veined, straining hands claw over the top bricks of a high wall. The fingers pull a pair of rain sodden denim arms up, onto the top of the wall. Streams of rain race down the face searching out the smoothest route to the muddy puddle finish line. The body pauses to adjust it's finger's grip. Moon blinks, shining on wet, jet black hair. Face looks up. Moon is too quick, even for this one. Moon closes its storm cloud lid before it's seen, sending the face back into the darkness. A stabbing shard of lightning destroys the night for a frozen moment. Desolate moor. Nothing but rain, mud and trouble.

The body is gone, over the wall and into the moor. Silent. Accelerating like the Predator on the plains. Weak from lack of nourishment but the hunger burns inside creating it's own energy. Faster. After a short while he has cleared a mile or more to a small hill. A pause to look back at the place that confined him and protected him. His dark waiting room. His perception machine. The moon blinks again. This time moon and face connect. Face is beautiful. Noble. Fearless. It is Animal. Borne of the same ancient ideas as Earth and it's Moon. Far off in the distance, from inside the walls, chaos opens. Alarms, lights, shouts. Moon and face hold their stare. The moon, The traitor, his captor's unwilling watchman winks its apology as it fades to the safety of the waiting cloud.

Again into darkness and gone.

As the moon cowers behind a distant hill at his back he is still running at the same hungry speed. Heading straight toward Moon's guiltless partner, Sun.

The weather has eased off to a dull grey drone. Something catches his eye off to the north. Instinct tells him its food. He changes direction without losing speed or his footing on the soggy bog ground and takes chase. The pony senses him and, with immediate comprehension of its roll in this game, bolts. Jigging round rocks and jumping over winding streams. The pony eventually, inevitably stumbles. Bones crack. The soggy ground leaps up to gag the pony's confused and petrified screams. Neck snaps, enveloped by the eternal moment; balanced on the scythes edge of rapture. Violent in its silence, the landscape warps. Nature's shame pulses from the corpse. The soul dissolves. Rain is plopping in the stream close by, mixing with the hot blood. The runner is pale and drawn from fatigue but even after the physical exertion of the chase his chest rises and falls with steady ease. As he stands over the pony's steaming shell his lust retreats a little. Then he's down on the body and into the flesh. Nature's relentless laws win again.

Sun has broken free of the horizon as he finishes his needed meal. Standing, his white T-shirt bibbed with blood, He moves to the nearby stream and crouches down to wash the munkton from his face and hands. He crosses the stream and is away, at a slow jog, toward a small wood and sleep.

Upon reaching the trees he moves into the thickest part of it and begins to prepare a nest of bracken. He lifts a large piece of the wet, brown forest floor and flips it over, leaving a dry mattress for him to rest on. He lies down on his nest and pulls the remaining bracken over him. Hidden from the World. As he slips into sleep his body relaxes.

Sun is soft in the afternoon sky above the park. From the scattered trees the birds sing, blunting the sharp shrieking of children playing around an oval expanse of water. People are all around enjoying the buxom embrace of an English summer in full flow. A beautiful woman wearing a white dress, seemingly made from the wisps of clouds above her, is walking toward a dark man in a deck chair. Him. She's carrying gently melting ice-creams. As she gets closer to the man he raises a hand to his brow in salute to the Sun. She leans down to pass his ice-cream and barks at him. He looks confused. She barks again. This is just a dream. Wake up. The world shakes as the woman barks at him louder. The world shakes and fades to grey sky bordered by tree tops.

The runner wakes, shaking his head. The barking has followed him from his dream. He is awake in an instant and away. Out the other side of his brief sanctuary to the east. He had slept through the day and now Double Agent Moon is looking down on him as Sun sinks away to aid his flight. Full night is in again as He crouches on a hilltop, like a war beaten soldier, on flat feet; face directed skyward with eyes closed as if channelling some ethereal force from above. His arms held out in front of him resting on his knees. Moon betrays Him once more. His massive wings faintly glittering in the all seeing beam. His control of their masking weakened by his meditation.

A distant sound breaks his meditation. His eyes open, his pupils dilate, sucking in all the light they can. Wide awake now. Without standing or moving any other part of his body, except his eyes and head, he scans the horizon. Far in the distance behind him are streams of torch light bobbing with their carriers stride. Again he's gone. Owl silent.

2

Busy motorway service station. The air thick with inane chatter. all the accents of England in one numb church of the banal. He is standing by the automatic doors of the entrance, wearing the denim jacket and jeans buttoned to his neck. With the look of a man who has lived on the moor for two night s and a day. A young family walk past him and out through the automatic doors. He stares at the young daughter, examining the face closely. The child smiles, He smiles back. Once they are through he walks past the automatic doors, the doors indifferent to his presence, toward the toilets. Noticing a small camera follow him across the floor. He closes his eyes without breaking stride as a young man runs from a nearby shop, to the sound of an alarm. The camera turns to the incident. He slips into the toilets unnoticed.

In the toilets he stands in front of the urinal. There is only one other man in the room, who washes his hands and leaves. He walks over to the sinks and washes his hands and face. The grime covers the sink bowl in a red/brown stain. He looks up and catches his image in the mirror. Weary and sure jawed. The end has begun. He moves into one of the cubicles, locks the door, and sits down. Slowly, undoing the mud caked laces of his heavy black work boots and with grateful satisfaction he pulls them off. His feet stink. No socks. He wiggles and stretches his toes. The sweet sensation of a minor comfort. Reaching down into the bottom of the left boot he pulls out the leather sole, casually tossing it over his shoulder against the wall and down onto the cistern. He then reaches back into the boot and carefully removes a small and very worn piece of paper. A painting of a baby on a small white crocheted blanket bordered by radiant green grass. At first look it could be mistaken for a photograph. On closer inspection the strange fluid brush strokes are evident. The child's face glows with an essence of something untouchable. Pure. Its eyes glow with compassion and love. The pupils, endless black as if they have seen all the evil that Evil can do.

He seems lost in the picture. This is his fix, injected through the eye direct to the brain. His filthy pained feet on the floor forgotten, resting on the piss puddled floor. The picture was why he escaped. He didn't want to escape. It was safe in there. They fed him, locked him in that room every night, protecting him from the real horrors. At lights out he would listen to the moor's wailing drone through the night until sunrise, when the guard would come and order him out into the common room; where he would spend his day watching the others. Some of them understood. Some of them were like him. Not of his mark, but of his kind. They were in there because they had been disobedient, obvious in their actions. Some of them were in there because they had just lost their way or their faith in the whole thing. He was in there because of all these things and more. He had been picked out from the others very early and watched closely.

He was only trying to help.

He puts the picture back in his boot, gives his feet a final breathing wiggle and puts them back in their boots. He needs to disappear. Lose his scent. First he needs to change his appearance. Lose the hunters, Worry about the others later. They won't bother with him yet. Not until he gets closer...

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