Harlem's Ruby

by Tess Hollitt

She hurried through the the rainy fluorescent lit streets. The rain drummed down on her red hooded raincoat like some ancient beat from an island ballad. She made her way down the damp stairwell and dropped off her hood. The hour was late and the night owls were few. The F train to uptown was approaching. A chill came over her and she trembled. A small drop of water fell from her black eyelash to her maroon lips and she tasted it.

The rumble of the tracks meant her ride was here. She boarded the sub car and sat down. She felt tired and ached for a hot bubble bath and laughed to herself that the mere thought of it's warmth warmed her. She drifted in her mind to the loneliness she had felt the past few months. The crowd became a blur. There at the other end of the car, he stood.

A tall handsome figure, he dressed very eccentric . The whites of his eyes were bloodshot and he held a cane though he appeared young. His stare was hypnotic. She glanced his way and was curious about him. He was on this train before. She remembered his presence and he made her feel safe. She didn't know why but, she missed the feeling and welcomed it if only by a stranger.

Her stop was was only minutes away. She stood up and grasped the handrail. Her sleeve slid down her arm and exposed her mocha skin. Her silver bracelet slid as well and exposed her wrist. Thump Thump Thump. He raised his eyes and his glare pierced through the crowd and froze them. Silence. the only sound was the Thump Thump Thump. He focused. Her radial pulse captured his soul. He could see it pumping through her small wrist. It beckoned him. It teased him. It captured him.

The doors slid open and she was gone. Her scent lingered in the night air. He closed his eyes and let her being sink in to his soul. The train left the station and he stood on the platform alone.

She made her way home . A tiny apartment above an antique bookstore. Her space was quaint and neat. Ruffled curtains danced in the night breeze. The smell of fresh baked bread from across the street escaped the bakery and caught a ride on the breeze and flowed through her rooms. Her tiredness overcame her as she kicked off her sandals and fell fast asleep on her sofa.

He was already there in the shadows. As he watched her, every breath, every pump of her pulse made him more alive. He crept closer and knelt down by her. He pressed his nose to her lips and caught her breath into his. Would he take her life for his own?

The dawn had begun to break and the morning light flickered in through the dewy windows. He evaporated. As she opened her weary eyes, she focused on a strange feeling, as if someone had been near. Maybe it was her awaking. She knew she would come to her senses with a cup of joe.

She hurried out the door after her morning routine and headed to the sanctuary at St. Mary's to light a candle where she asked for safe keeping and guidance. The peace it brought to her calmed her soul and made her feel safe in the world that held so many hostage to its uncertainty and emptiness.

He stood there, across the street. Motionless and hidden in the shadows, he waited to catch a glimpse of her. She exited the cathedral and thunder crackled above. As she opened her umbrella, she spotted him and her heart skipped a beat and then he was gone. She made her way to work. He made his way to his dark world. She was a nurse and helped save lives. He was a hunter and took lives. Two different worlds one of hope and light and the other of hopelessness and darkness. They both stood on the precipice of each others world and nothing, absolutely nothing, would ever the the same again.

As she made her way home through the park she noticed him standing against a willow tree that she loved to sit under. She approached him and tapped him on the shoulder. She whispered bravely, "We must stop meeting like this." He melted. He replied, "We must never stop meeting like this." She held out her hand and introduced herself. "My name is Ruby." He grasped her hand to his lips and gently kissed it and softly said, " A pleasure to meet you. My name is." The sound of sirens drowned out his response. They sat down under the whispering willow. "Shall we grant each other a better exchange?", he kindly stated.

He began to tell his story and hesitated. He started again but, first raised his glove covered hands to her eyes. He quietly said,"Close your eyes to this world and let me open them to mine." As she opened her eyes, the world around her was in a fog. Everything was suspended in animation. The flock of geese on the wind rippled pond were still. The young men playing football looked like statues from a museum. The leaves falling from the trees were hung in the air colorfully adorning the landscape like confetti on New Year's Eve. This is when he started his tale.

He started, "My life was planned from the moment my grandfather swore an allegiance to his followers. He couldn't stand the violence and the darkness anymore. He was worn to the bone with the heaviness of the world and couldn't help what he was anymore than I can. Our souls had become intolerant of the cruelty of our afflictions on the innocents of this earth. To live, we must sacrifice another. The choice of that other changed with my grandfather. " He became silent. She tried to move her mouth but, nothing came out. They sat quietly. The surroundings started to come back to life. The day resumed like nothing had interrupted it. As he rose, he turned to her and declared, "I must leave you now Ruby. But, know with each sunrise we are in this world together and with each sunset, I am kissing you goodnight." Then he was gone. She began to weep. A gently wind brushed her cheek and she heard the words ever so slight, "Oh by the way, my name is Harlem."

As she lay in bed, under the full moon, her heart was full too. The world might think Harlem a monster. She thought of him as the warmest being she ever knew. As she lay drifting into sleep, the sound of rumbling became louder and louder. As she clasped her hands to her ears, the sound became unbearable. She sat up and realized she was on the F train. The car came to a halt and the rumbling fell silent. The doors opened and she was afraid to move. As a faint chanting sound drifted towards her, she felt a warm secure feeling and ventured out towards the noise. She could make out people in the moonlight. They were dressed in vintage wear and their shadows danced around a campfire under the moon. She heard the words. "The time has come my fellowship. The world grows more monster like and colder by the day. The gentle souls who the world needs now more than ever shall be free from our ways. We will feed on the murderers, the corrupted and the takers. They will feel the wrath of our hungry souls and become like us. They in return will do the same to the hurtful beings not worthy of this world. The warm souls shall be safe. The balance will be in favor of the good and not the evil. " confessed Harlem's grandfather.

Ruby opened her eyes and realized she must have been dreaming. A profound sadness overcame her. She cried from empathy for the tortured souls who became so hateful that their fate was unending hunger . A hunger that could only be calmed by the blood that was stained with evil just like theirs. Was this a dream? Was this real? Ruby needed answers. As she made her way down the busy streets, she noticed the world around her more clearly. The smell of hot pretzels steamed from the street cars and mingled with conversations that cluttered the busy street. The marquee lights blinked and the sirens of the rescue units joined together. As she passed a soup kitchen and saw generous people tossing coins in a homeless mans hat, she began to feel a sense of hope. The world has a most peculiar way of taking care of itself. And for the rest of the hurt, Harlem and his world would take care of it. They were forever one. Harlem had found his Ruby and Ruby had found her dark shadow, that had become her light and hope had found the both of them.

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