He was walking across the empty streets in a late night of December. The fog covered the horizon under its cold rug, but even the bitter cold was no match for his adamant notion. He walked and he walked, he kept strolling on the foggy streets in a relentless motion.
Alfred was no stranger to this land. In the warm days of summer and in the blissful days of spring, he walked on the streets as a young child. This place was more neat and lively back then. Birds flew in gentle flocks in the clear blue sky and the ground was full of shimmering butterflies. The melody of the earth was evergreen in his heart. “Chantry food corner” was right around the block, and beside it “The Bookworm’s Den”. With an exciting book in one hand and a sandwich in the other, he used to sit on the park bench all day long and let time fly. Often the fluffy little cat named Curly would crawl up on the bench and sit beside him, demanding his attention and some share of the bread through its devoted meows & glazy green eyes. Sometimes the beautiful little neighborhood girl will come by the park to greet Alfred with her enchanting smile. The familiar face delighted Alfred more than anything else, and the two children, Alfred and Joanna sat on the bench and talked about every awes and wonders of the world while curly snoozed peacefully by their side.
But it was all in a distant land of his imaginations now. A fast supercar honked past him, dazzling all his senses in this sheer cold. Alfred’s father used to take him to long drives when he was little. He was always full of surprises, the old man. They would often go for a random ride to the countryside, where the road and the green met with each other in a serene harmony. “Look around, Alfred” –his father used to say, “This is where you can find your soul.” Alfred looked around with his curious young eyes. He could see a flock of herons sitting beside the deep blue lake. A kingfisher dived over the water and flew away with a prey on its beak. Sunlight tried to sneak through the deep green leaves of the tall, dancing trees and a soothing breeze was blowing. Alfred wasn’t so certain exactly where to look for his soul, but the heavenly atmosphere surely ignited a surreal illusion inside his imaginative mind.
A street dog barked on the roadside, shattering his thoughts. The flickering lampposts were burning the streets through their pale orange hue. Alfred could see a dark figure coming from the opposite direction, though he could not figure out what it was. He heard the hoot of an owl. In his village home, in the night he used to listen to the owls calling. Sometimes the foxes will howl and his little brother would get scared. But Alfred was never scared, he enjoyed the owls and the foxes as much as he enjoyed the lilting stars of the night sky and the beetle-tingling seduction of the night. In-between all that fantasy and all the surreal song of the dark & silent night, he didn’t even realize when he fell asleep, with his fearful little brother firmly grabbing his shoulder for shelter.
The figures were slowly closing in. There were three of them, Alfred counted. All wearing hoods and walking slowly in this silent cold night, making no noise of their footsteps. As they walked past Alfred, he realized that they were three workers walking back to their resting place after a tiring day. The men were sweaty and gasping for their breathes even in this freezing temperature. But just like Alfred, they paid no attention to the cold and kept walking like three eerie dark figures.
“Pass the ball, Alfred!” –Jonathan shouted. “What’s taking you so long!?” Alfred & his brother, Jonathan used to play football in the playground with the neighborhood kids when they were at their teenage. Jonathan was three years younger to Alfred but by the time he was sixteen he was as energetic as a bull. He was the captain of his school football team and won the inter-school tournament thrice. Alfred, as always, was drowned in the world of his imaginations. But the bond between the two brothers was forever strong. He would cheer for Jonathan in every game he played, and Jon would surprise Alfred with books from his favorite authors as soon as they were published. They only had each other, after all, since their mother passed away and left them to their father before Jon even reached his teenage years.
Alfred could feel the presence of a small alive object following him. For a moment he thought it was curly, but that was not possible. It has been ages since he last met that little kitten. The small café was replaced with a multistoried restaurant, and there was a tall shopping mall on the place of Alfred’s favorite book store. Joanna left the country after college, in pursuit of a better life. Alfred was happy for her, they used to talk over phone for a few months since she left country and they traded post cards. But then both of them got busy with their lives. Alfred began his career as a journalist and Joanna was a social activist in the Netherlands. “One day we’ll meet again”, Alfred hoped. “We would have so much to tell each-other then.”
A gentle meow grabbed his attention again. It was a poor skinny cat asking him for some food, coughing and shivering in this cold. The infirmity of the poor thing melted Alfred’s heart, but he couldn’t think of anything to do. No hotel or store was open this late at night, and Alfred was pretty starved up himself. Thus he covered the poor creature under his blanket where it rested with its eyes closed, and then he continued to his destination.
He was on the cross-road near the clinic, trying to figure out a way to feed the poor kitten, when he saw the speedster from earlier erratically rushing forward on the night streets. A little slum child was playing on the road, few meters ahead of its path. A sudden rush of adrenaline pumped through his veins. Putting the poor kitten down on the sidewalk, he sprinted to the spot as fast as it was possible. But it was too late by then, the fresh blood from the innocent child’s flesh melted the cold concrete, and no sound came through its vocal cord. Alfred just sat there, all his physical entity frozen and all his dreams lost. The speedster was turning around, its headlights now turned off and unhurriedly creeping towards them like a ferocious demon. The kitten crawled out of the blanket and slowly came near Alfred in search of his company. The three creatures sat close to each other in the middle of the three-way junction in a late December night, patiently awaiting their obliteration.