Exhale

Robert Frobisher & Rufus Sixsmith
Cloud Atlas (2012)


Broken leaves crunch beneath his feet as he steps through the cobbled street. It's late October and already it seems as if winter is desperate to arrive. He wrinkles his nose against the fresh breath of cool air that pricks his face.

He had to smile at the raise of the man's shoulders as he jammed his delicate fingers into the safety of his overcoat pockets. He wondered where the silly man's gloves were as he pressed closer to the cold brick wall, ducking into the shadows of the building.

He pauses, glancing towards the building on his right. He sees the white curtains settle in the barred window and figures it must've been an inquisitive tenant. It was silly to think otherwise. He takes the moment to take in his surroundings, eyeing the street signs set into the pavement of the sidewalk ahead. He berates himself for having forgotten his gloves as another gust of wind filters through the fabric of his coat pockets and grazes his skin.

He held back a chuckle as the nearly silent curse drifted towards him. His fond smile seemed incapable of fading. As the thin man stepped forward, he took a cautious step away from the building onto the beat-up cobblestones. It was an undertaking quickly taken back as the other man pivoted once more. He drew back to his hiding space in one swift move, raising a hand to his dark curls in a startled impulse. A moment passed before he ventured a glance around the corner. He found the curve of his lips deepening at the familiar tilt of the worn hat perched atop the man's head. Something in his chest gave a twinge then as he gazed at the other's profile, noticing the sweet curve of his brow and his nose sharply set against the light blue skies.

He feels something is off. Turning completely, he scans the street behind him.

He knew that he only had to take a step to be seen.

A frown forms upon his lips as he narrows his gaze, scrutinizing the faces of the few walking past.

He was just a shout away.

A feeling of unsettlement sets in his body as the frosty air sends shivers running up his spine. There is no one there – no one of any consequence, at least – but something tells him he must be wrong. He knows he must be wrong.

He stepped back.

Reluctantly turning away, he begins to walk again. His eyes are set determinedly in front of him in search of something more concrete. The wind blows even harder now and he feels his hat loosen from his head. A firm hand to the brim keeps it from flying away as he picks up his pace. He ignores his aching skin, pushing ahead.