The ugliest shade of pink he’d ever seen forced its way past his eyelids. He had to stop sleeping in alleys. The graffiti always had an attitude.
"Hello?" the pink said.
He reluctantly opened his eyes, and closed themimmediately. Definitely fresh. He tried opening his eyes again. She was right next to him on the wall, a plush pink cat with purplish shading and eyes. Her tail twitched along the y-axis. Cute design, sort of old fashioned cartoon.
"Why are you on the pavement?" she asked. He sat up with a groan. "I was sleeping. I can’t be the only guy to ever sleep in this alley," he grumbled. "You're the only one I've seen." He stood. At least it hadn’t rained. "Yeah, well, you're new." "I guess so?" She scurried up thewall to stay eye-level with him. "No one has ever talked to me before." "Probably not. Nice to meet you, I’ll see you around." He checked that he still had his tags, pulled his coat closed and started walking, wincing at the glare of the street lamps and signs. A mural down the block shone in blues and greens, an explosion of geometric shapes. He looked away; the abstract ones always made him queasy, something about the way they moved. He went to the crosswalk and waited, ignoring the curious glances and firm refusals to look of the other people waiting. Not really any different than before. He wondered if you ever got used to it. The light changed, and he hurried along with the rest. The lights downtown were too bright, fluorescent glare splashed with neon of every color. Too many people, too many sounds. As he moved further away to the edges, down streets people who knew better didn’t go, he looked for the familiar shapes and colors he knew he could trust. A young woman haloed in ultraviolet tuned her guitar under a cafe's blinking open sign, the red clashing. People sometimes did that. He didn't know why. Asking never went well. He felt a little guilty about the cat. She was fresh, wasn’t her fault he was a grumpy old man that couldn’t trust anyone the first time they talked. Still, you never got the feel of them until after the first rain. Then the glare rinsed away a little, some of the real emotion came out. How a person deals with hardship says a lot about them. Same thing with neon shapes on the walls. A skull with sunglasses on a splash of vibrant green clattered its teeth as he passed. He stopped immediately. Skull didn’t ever say anything, but they got along just fine all the same, and the clattering was a warning. There was a deal going on behindthe bar. Either a bunch of idiots about to get busted, or the real deal willing to beat up a crazy old man if he gets too close. Either way, not worth the trouble. He whispered a "thanks" to Skull, and went across the street, hugging close to the shadows,minding his own business. Three blocks from here was the park. He could sleep there without being disturbed. Usually. Some folks preferred under the 35th Street bridge, but he couldn’t. The tags sprayed all over had a bad feel to them. Faintly glowing names emanating machismo and boredom, some fear and anger at the world mixed in. They didn’t have real life, not like the pictures, just vague emotion, and none of it pleasant to sleep in. Not all tags were like that, but the ones under that bridge were. So he tended to avoid it. The park, on the other hand. The park had an angel. He didn’t know when she’d been painted, she was just always there. Faded and rough thick strokes created an image in contrasts, light on dark, a second-rate Basquiat in playground spray paint. Her outline glowed the palest blue, white tinged with cyan against the steel wall of the shed by the basketball court. A streak of no-vacancy red pierced her chest. Her glow was calm, quiet, in the face of pain. He sat down beside her and fished out a granola bar from his pocket he'd been saving. "Is that all?" He sighed, "Not hungry." "You mean that you don't want to talk to people." "Talking to you." She glowed a little brighter. Just the cyan-white. The red never changed. Not with her. He pointed toward the empty playground. "He's new." A swirl of purples and orange covered the slide as a friendly snake undulated around its surface. "Very," the angel confirmed. "Won't be there long, though. People don't like it when something doesn't fit." "Why doesn't he fit?" "Snake." "Isn't there a game called snakes and ladders?"
"Chutes and ladders." "No, I'm certain it's snakes." "How would you know? You're a piece of art on a wall." She shrugged a little, wings shifting. "Anyway," he continued, "they won't let him stay because they didn't ask for him to be here. He wasn't their idea, and it isn't what they want. He stands out. Seems weird." He sat in the silence. "You haven't eaten." "Don't think I'm going to." He sighed. "Tired." She shone brighter. He could almost feel the feathers of her wings. "Sleep. I'll watch over you." He closed his eyes and breathed deep. The kids who came to shoot some hoops the next morning hardly noticed the wounded angel on the shed, holding a grizzled old man in a long coat.
It was a small camp, one of many, in the middle of nowhere. You cannot imagine the horror of those places. The degradation, the terror inflicted upon people day after day. I watched because I was curious. I watched, because I could not stop. These men who claimed superiority thought the lottery of their ancestry gave them the right to mutilate and kill their fellows. I make no claim to righteousness or decency; I am a monster, comfortable in my skin. Yet as I watched the camp the same way I might watch a house ablaze, the inevitability of mortality arresting my thoughts for a moment of amazement and macabre curiosity, I was continuously astounded by the depravity within. One evening, a woman saw a little girl crying for her mother and freely took the mother’s place in line for the gas chamber. The mother held her daughter close, crying, not only because she had been saved but in grief that a perfect stranger was going to die. They were emaciated, they would likely die soon regardless, and yet a stranger sacrificed herself so that they might be together one more night. They prayed as the woman was marched into the chamber. How anyone could have faith in such hell I will never understand, but they did. Perhaps faith had prompted her to save them, perhaps mere compassion, it doesn’t matter. I watched, and I hurt. I was moved, after over a century of terror and disregard for anyone’s existence but my own. I hadn’t shed a tear in one hundred years. I didn’t know I still could. The tears dried, and the familiar warmth of furious hate blossomed in my breast. I gorged myself that night. Screams echoed in a symphony punctuated by useless attempts at defense. When I could drink no more, blood poured over the ground, a warm rain of red. The next night I woke to discover the Allies had arrived, liberating the camp. The soldiers were shocked by my handiwork, yet the camp shocked them more. One officer even refused to enter one of the buildings, he was so disgusted and certain he would be sick. The soldiers looked at the piles of naked dead bodies, the starving and brutalized prisoners, and gave little thought to what could slaughter so many Nazis in one night. The monsters had been slain. That was all that mattered.
Scared of the Dark
She feels it waiting, just out of sight in the darkness. Her throat tightens, she forces away the urge to cry, it isn’t worth the risk. She lays there terrified and silent, watching the shadows, telling herself over and over in her mind that there is nothing to be scared of in the dark and she knows she is lying.
One day her family moves and everything changes, and the darkness does not follow. No more waking up in the middle of the night, years of shrugging away fear of the dark follow because she is not a child anymore. Years become decades, and nothing is waiting for her in the dark.
An instinct she hasn’t felt since she was a child tells her to be perfectly still. Don’t look to see if it’s there because if she looks then she might see it, and if she sees it then...
this is dumb, just had a nightmare, stop acting like a child
Something is on her legs. She shuts her eyes tight but forces them to relax. The child she used to be knows that eyes tight are a giveaway, eyes that are just closed are what it should look like. It moves up the bed slowly, inching closer and closer to her face and she is petrified, a child scared of the dark--
She jumps and the cat runs from the room in an offended huff. She laughs, relieved, feeling silly for being scared. She snuggles into her pillow, tossing and turning to find a better position, rolling over with her eyes open.