Shaken awake, eyes open
onto a dirty ceiling, blearily
try to focus on the person
waking me (that is, Sherlock)
who is whispering urgently,
eyes aglow with the chase,
"We have to move now, John!
"The game is on!"

Apparently Mycroft
has called Sherlock on his
cell phone, the only line
(that I know of) this side
of the quote wall unquote
that still takes calls.
Still in a haze, gear up:
jumper, hoodie, gun, gas mask,
first aid kit, knife, other knife,
beef jerky, dried fruit, and we're off,
Sherlock silent, and I
await instruction, nerves tingling,
brain slowly waking
to the chill predawn air,
and the smell of dust
and a coming rain.

Papers no longer swirl
through the streets, plastic
bags huddle in flattened bunches
in dark corners, and buildings,
faded with grime, gape as we pass,
doors taken off hinges,
windows broken, contents stolen.
Trees sway uncertainly
in the dim light, some
breaking through the pavement,
no longer trimmed back
by city employees.

No curtains or flags wave,
all taken down for cover,
a blanket against the cold,
a roof to keep off the oily rain.

Cyphers haunt the streets,
ghosts of human beings
transformed to shadow-people,
focused on surviving,
bones sharp with hunger,
voices rusty with disuse,
eyes looking but not seeing.

These are the outcasts of
New London;
these are the remains of
Old London.
I see them and my blood
chills, for I was almost
one of them too.
I glance at Sherlock
walking ahead of me, and
wonder again what it was he saw
in me that made him hold
out a hand and introduce himself.

I was an outcast of
New London;
he a remnant of
Old London, his brother
an Old London government man.

His brother had
(and has) ties to the
rest of the world,
though of course contact
is now limited to
one single-engine airplane,
one operator on a lonely radio,
and one boat captain.

But these three, in their turn,
have contacts elsewhere,
and through them Sherlock's brother
and his contacts and his fellow
Old London remnants attempt
to pick up the pieces and
restore order.

The Queen, I believe,
is dead.

America, I gather,
is silent.

Israel, I understand,
has survived another Holocaust.

Russia, China,
Iraq, Iran,
Canada, India,
Brazil, Japan -
who knows?

To the east, the clouds
begin to lighten, and,
through a break, the glow
touches a match to them:
they flame, lending to
the grays of the world
a highlight of crimson.

The sunrise, piercing and
red as laser light, brushes
the shoulder of Sherlock's
ragged coat and leans against
dirty, broken streetlamps,
lending a graceful line of
brilliant red to the arch
of their slender arms,
glinting along the sharp
edges of dangling glass.

Sherlock rarely, if ever, tells
me where we are going, or what
we will be doing, but I am
quite used to that now.
Sometimes he tells me,
but most of the time
he doesn't, and I
am content to
follow him
he will

I dare to
for fear he
will send me
away, back to
the streets, the
terror, the endless
search for sustenance,
warmth, a back against
my own, never mind any-
thing beyond me, or beyond

As we walk the streets,
I keep an eye out for anyone
approaching, an ear open
for running footsteps,
a scuffle, or
a gunshot.

But the morning is still.
There are a thousand little sounds,
but they only add to the stillness.

I follow Sherlock,
alert for sound,
almost aching for sound,
for I cannot bear the stillness.
It rings in my ears
and tightens around my chest
making it hard to breathe.

The wind whistles around
broken corners, and through
empty tree branches and
empty windows, brushing past us
soft and deeply cold.
It shuffles through the plastic
bags, rustling them faintly,
and moves on.

Muffled complaints moan out of broken
doors and windows, some from
the remains of the populace,
some from the remains of the buildings.

The shadow-people drift about
like ghosts of a former world,
and the rising sun colours the world
in distant red,
and harsh black,
and silent gray,
and dry brown,
and faint yellow,
and faded blue,
and dead green.

My mind's eye remembers
the bright red of roofs,
the clean white of walls,
the deep green of grass,
and the sky above a glorious,
subtle and fresh and deep
like the clearest lake,
an azure, a blue, a cerulean,
never the same shade twice
- or so I would swear -
some mornings a clear ice blue,
some afternoons a deep clean blue,
and some evenings a breathless indigo blue.

The sky here is a tired,

I try not to remember,
but my mind's eye
will not stay shut.

Sherlock begins to talk
as we walk
through the streets,
thinking things through,
not needing answers,
just needing to air the questions,
take them apart,
fiddle with the pieces,
and put them together again
in different configurations:
that is, into statements.

He said once he needs to hear the question
out loud
before he can hear the answer.
I wonder sometimes if he brings me along
not only because I have a gun
but also because Sherlock does not
want to end up like the other cyphers,
other wanderers of a world half empty,
who meander from one place to another
and mumble to themselves
- confrontations, curses, comfort, a running commentary -
through having no one else to talk to
that they trust will say nothing.

Even if I dared repeat what he tells me in confidence,
who would I tell it to?
New London cast me out.
New London has no place for Queen's men.

Sherlock will talk to me
and I will listen to him.
What more do I need?

We have reached
a building,
perhaps an old gymnasium,
its pale green paint peeling
to show the concrete underneath,
with broken windows high up
and metal doors still on their hinges,
too heavy to carry off.

Doubtless inside will be
the remains of humanity,
cyphers eking out an existence
under an intact roof.

We could be here to question someone.
We could be here to inform someone.
We could be here to recruit someone.
We could be here to kill someone.
I don't know.
Sherlock doesn't tell me.
I don't ask.

The weight of my gun
is comforting
in my hand.
It is like
an extension of
my arm.

Sherlock consults
his phone, and then
decisively puts it
back in his pocket.
He approaches the door,
his eyes glittering.

Sherlock's left hand swings back
to keep me away from the door
until he knows if I'm needed
at this point,
but if he does need me, I'm ready
whenever he is.

My heart rate rises,
and adrenaline shoots
through my bloodstream
as Sherlock's right hand
closes firmly
around the doorknob
and turns it.

This was inspired by a piece of artwork I found on deviantART. There's a link on my profile to the picture.

There might possibly be more poems coming - I wrote a story in prose (also based on the picture) that I'm thinking about rewriting in free-verse poetry.