I wrote something. It hasn't been three months yet and this isn't even the first thing I've written. I don't know whether to apologise or not. But it's so hard to not write! Plots basically just start writing themselves and characters never shut up. Ever. So I caved. I'm sorry. And yes, Prussia is basically my imaginary friend now. I just love him so much.
But anyway, I suppose this could be classified as a songfic. Kind of. It's based around You Found Me by The Fray, which you've probably heard already but if you haven't then you should go and listen to it because it's awesome. You can interpret this as religious or just emotional, whatever floats your boat. And I meant it when I warned you about Prussia's mouth.
Oh and also disclaimer.
When viewed from a distance, it would be easy to say that roads are just one long slab of grey. One single, smooth entity stretching endlessly onwards into a concrete filigree that encircles most of the civilised world. I can attest that this is not the case. A thousand tiny individual pieces of sharp grit dug into my cheek like needles as I opened my eyes, grimacing with pain. My skull felt like it had been fixed roughly together with roofing nails, each part of my body forced painfully into place like puzzle pieces that don't quite fit. I groaned and rolled over, and for the first time I saw the man on the pavement.
He was watching me with eyes blank and half-interested, the oddest shade of red I'd ever seen on another person, wrapped in a trenchcoat with his arms folded around himself and a cigarette between his teeth. He leant against the dirty wall behind him as though he'd forgotten how to stand up straight. But there was something different about him, something I couldn't explain. He seemed... big, somehow, taller than his six feet or so. Pale, synthetic light from a broken window just above his head reflected off his white hair like a halo.
"So," I sighed, not bothering to lift my head off the concrete. "Am I dead, then?"
The man blinked. "What?"
"Am I dead?"
"Of course you aren't dead, don't be stupid." Smoke drifted out of his mouth with each word, catching the light as it floated away and dissipated into the frozen air. "Get up off the floor, you look pathetic."
I did as he said before I even decided to, pushing myself off the ground with a wince as each of my bruises reasserted their presence. I was halfway to my feet before the questions began to occur to me. First and foremost, why should I do what he said? What did I owe him? My muscles caught like broken clockwork and I bent my knees again, sitting myself down on the curb. "Suit yourself," he shrugged. What was he doing talking to me? If I wasn't dead then why was he here?
But the only thing I managed to croak out as the dampness of the pavement soaked through my jeans was, "Where've you been, then? Can I ask?"
He stared at me for a long moment with those eyes of his, the ones that marked him as so much more than human. I wondered if I was condemning myself to hell for not falling to my knees in awe, but honestly, any awe I felt was eclipsed by a rumbling, burning, rising hatred. I held his gaze with blasphemous contempt as he inhaled the last of his cigarette, the tip glowing orange in the darkness, and flicked it away to smoulder amongst the broken glass before grinding it into the concrete with his heel. He reached into his pocket for another and swore under his breath. "You got a pack on you?"
I shook my head.
He sighed deeply and folded his arms again, the angle of his shoulders sinking ever lower. "Then ask anything."
"Where were you?" That was the question, the overwhelming, all-encompassing question that had been haunting me for so damned long. But there were others, too; they queued up on my tongue and it was too late for me, for my self control, and before I knew it I was firing them out at him like bullets from a gun. "Where were you when I needed you? When we all needed you? I don't know if you've noticed, but this whole country's gone to shit! Is this some kind of sick divine justice for the war? Because I had nothing to do with it! I was only a teenager! I don't deserve this!"
The man was straightening up. He was angry now. A fire was blazing behind his eyes so brightly it nearly blinded me, and for a moment I was worried I might have gone too far. But he deserved it. These thoughts had been festering away inside me for so long, it felt good to finally hurl them at the person they were directed at. "Hey-"
"No!" I shouted. "No, I'm sorry, you don't get to make excuses for this! Do you know why I'm here? I tried to walk in front of a car. Why? Because you never answered me! I have no money, no family, nothing! The only thing that mattered in my life is on the other side of that fucking wall and I can never see her again! I spent so many nights curled up on my bathroom floor, crying my eyes out, screaming for you to do something, and you never did! You never gave a shit about me! You've ruined everything! You've-"
"Shut up!" And I did, without question; he was towering over me, fury radiating from every facet of his being. "I'm doing my best here, okay? You have no idea what it's like to be me! The world is a verdammt mess and yeah, it's my fault! Don't you dare think I don't know that this is all because of me! But don't you think that if I could somehow change it, there was a single thing I could do to make it better, that I would've got off my arse and fucking done it by now? But newsflash, arschloch, I'm just as trapped here as you are!"
I stared at him, my mouth opening and closing soundlessly. What he said didn't make any sense. It was the last thing I expected to hear; it was ridiculous; I wanted to scream at him until he clicked his fingers and made everything fine again, but for the first time in years I found myself believing him. He couldn't do anything. Somewhere along the line he'd screwed up royally and now he was just as trapped in this terrible reality as I was.
And if he was helpless, what hope was there for the rest of us?
Something was rising in my throat, thick and dark, clawing at my aesophogus and blocking out the air still sharp with the rough edges of pre-morning. I opened my mouth, gulping like a fish; the remnants of my last breath seemed to gather, swelling just beneath my tonsils, before exploding out in a sob that wracked my entire body. My shoulders collapsed, my head hit my knees and I wrapped my arms around my calves, pressing my eyes into the filthy denim as more deep, coarse sobs rolled over each other, falling to the pavement like acid rain.
"Oi," he said, "what are you doing?"
I didn't answer. My tongue was useless. My entire being was useless. I couldn't fathom why he hadn't just let that car kill me like it was supposed to, got it all over with.
"Are you crying?" I heard footsteps on concrete and then the toe of his shoe was nudging me in the ribs. "What are you, some kind of pathetic little girl? Grow a fucking spine!"
A moment, then, "What's wrong with you? Are you even listening to me?" The sound of a sigh, then the rustling of fabric as he sat himself down on the curb next to me. "Come on, man. Stop it."
I tried. I tried, I really did, but I was already too far gone. I lifted my head off my knees and was only half-surprised to feel the sting of moisture cooling on my cheeks. "Why?"
"Because crying is for morons," he said matter-of-factly. "It's stupid. I've lost things too, you know, but you don't see me weeping in the gutter."
I blinked, sniffed and wiped my eyes on the sleeve of my coat. "But how...? Can't you... can't you decide that stuff?"
He snorted a laugh, cold, hoarse and humourless. "Me? Like hell. You want to hear a secret?" I nodded weakly, and he said, "No-one can decide that sort of stuff. We're all just victims, you know?"
"Victims of what?"
"People. Bad luck. Evil bastards that just want to watch us burn." He shrugs. "Ourselves."
"See, there you go again. 'I didn't do it', 'I don't deserve this', 'I had nothing to do with it'. Don't you get it? No-one cares if it's your fault or not. That's the best part." He leant in until I could smell the smoke and alcohol lingering on his breath, a smile stretching Cheshire-wide and only half-manic across his face. "This is East Berlin. Saints and sinners, priests and murderers, no-one back in Moscow gives a shit! Equal society, remember? Doesn't that make you feel better?" I stared at him, slightly unnerved by that smile and those eyes. He blinked once, twice, then his face fell back to normal and he sighed. "Me neither."
We sat in silence for a few moments after that, watching the sky transition slowly from black to inky purple over the stark grey buildings silhouetted by a mixture of moon and sunlight reflected off the industrial smog of the inner city. Hopelessness seeped through the atmosphere like the mist just beginning to form over the road, curling at the edges of my coat and sending little shivers through my bones. I ran my fingers through my hair and pushed my fringe off my forehead. "We're both just miserable fuck-ups, aren't we?"
He nodded. His eyes were pointed towards the concrete but they had that misted-up, glazed-over look that told me that they weren't really watching anything on the outside at all. "Some of us more than others."
"Don't you ever just want to end it all and start over again? Like the flood, except this time there's no Noah. Just a clean slate. Wouldn't it be good to just... to just cease to exist? And then to start all over again, and make sure you get it right?"
His eyes refocused, staring at me again with uncomfortable intensity before dropping back down to the pavement. "Be careful what you pray for."
I was starting to get frustrated now. We'd been here for long enough for the sunlight to just begin to colour the sky, its light still mainly hidden by the stark, cowering skyline, and I was yet to have any kind of divine revelation. If anything, he'd just made it worse; there was no great plan for us after all. No overarching purpose of which all this was just a part, a tiny cog in a holy machine that would deliver us all into the light. All that existed was me, the cold that fogged my breath like smoke, and the cramping slowly beginning to pinch at my legs. "So what am I supposed to pray for?" I asked him. "Because I've prayed for years and years and years and nothing ever happens. I never get an answer. Nothing changes. Not ever."
He raised a pale eyebrow at me. "Well what did you expect, to wake up one day and find that someone had flicked a switch just because you asked them to?"
"I... I don't know, I just..."
"That's not how it works. This is life. No-one's gonna make it easy for you." He sighed again and leant back, his palms flat against the concrete. "Listen kid, I've been around a while and maybe I've learnt some things. Such as, no-one's gonna do shit for you if you just sit around feeling sorry for yourself. So your life goes down the drain, so stuff outside your control screws up everything you've ever loved, so what? You're alive. Let me tell you, there is nothing more fucking amazing than being alive. I swear it never gets old. There's some pretty amazing shit going down up there, but whether you get there tomorrow or sixty years from now, you're gonna get there. You might as well secure your baggage, keep your elbows in the vehicle and enjoy the ride."
"It's not a ride," I said. "If I wasn't freezing to death here I'd say I was in Hell already."
"Oh, stop whining. It'll all come good eventually and if it doesn't, then hey, at least you never gave up hope. You can say that much for yourself. All you've got to do is just keep living, keep pushing forwards and trust that somewhere out there angels are watching over you."
"Angels. Are they really watching me?"
He shrugged. "The fuck makes you think I know? Besides, you wouldn't believe me if I told you anyway. You've just got to have faith."
I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hand, the leftover pavement grit digging into my cheeks. "I don't know if I have faith."
"Look." He pointed; I followed his finger to see the sun just beginning to peek over the skyline in front of us. "The sun's coming up. Like I said, I've been around a while, and you know what's happened every single day of my life so far? That. So there's one thing you can have faith in."
I nodded slowly, watching feeble rays of light begin to reflect off the mist surrounding us. "Should I have faith in you?"
He shrugged again. "If you like. I'm not making any promises, mind you, but I'll do my best."
In, out. In, out. If the sun was one thing I could have faith in, air was another. The comforting solidity of the concrete. The rustling, semi-waterproof fabric of my coat. I wrapped my arms around myself and sucked in air like it was the only thing keeping me conscious. "So what should I do, then?"
He thought for a while, fingers twitching against the pavement, moisture from the fog beginning to condense on ruffled strands of his hair. "Well, first off you should probably get up. Your arse must be fucking soaked. Then... I don't know, whatever the hell you want. Go home. Have a shower as well, that's my suggestion. You smell like exhaust fumes and gutter filth."
"What do you want me to do, organise you a verdammt pension plan? Just keep going! Keep giving your problems the finger because damn it, there's always – always – something you can be grateful for. That girl you were crying about? You just have to trust that you'll see her again. That the world will come right eventually. Be there when it does. Swear to me right now that you'll never give up hope on a miracle."
My throat was beginning to close up again but I nodded and croaked an, "I swear." I wasn't going to cry. He'd only start mocking me again.
"Good." He pushed himself to his feet, stuck his fists back into his coat pockets and pulled a face when, once again, he found them empty. "Fuck this. I'm going home."
I watched him leave, walking off down the street with his shoulders hunched against the cold. He didn't look quite so intimidating from behind. His hair still stuck up strangely at the back of his skull from where he'd been leaning against the wall and the back of his coat was stained with damp and dirt. But there was still something about him that would plant him firmly in my memory for the rest of my life, defining this moment as the sort of experience that drives people to either philosophy degrees or crippling alcoholism, and as he turned into an alley and disappeared forever, I was sure that it was divinity. It was gritty urban dirty-pavement nicotine-stained broken-glass divinity with flickering, fluorescent halos and wings of feathered early-morning smog. A divinity that swears at you and calls you a pathetic sissy until you see the light. A divinity that would make a priest faint and give a nun a heart attack, but perhaps that was the kind of divinity that suited this place best.
It was that divinity that nudged me to my feet, wincing as aching bruises stretched, and sent me trudging across the road, checking this time for cars, towards home.
Please leave a review! Love you all, have a nice day. ^_^