I burst out of the Gangplank door, and take a loud lungfull of the lovely night air. The evening fog has come in, thick as mustard and about the same colour. I look up, enquiring at the clock. A mess of hands, doubled, nay trebled, am unable to divine the hour. It’s… late. High time for home and some soft piece of furniture.
The door makes a squeak and closes behind me. I turn around to see who is there but just hear the patter of little feet and a small disturbance in the alley. I strain my eyes to see in the dim lamplight. A cat screeches and jumps out from behind a barrel, quite agitated with a bottle-brush tail. Ah that’s it. Just a kitty. Here kitty kitty…. I step down to pat the frightened animal.
Without warning the door I had just left bursts open, revealing a veritable brick wall of a man. The cat scurries away. Far from being fearsome, he’s sporting a wide grin and singing loudly. He dismounts and proceeds to serenade me in the street. I giggle in delight, swaying on the spot.
Knowing the number, having learned it a few hours ago, I chime in and accompany him. Loudly in the choruses and mumbling nonsense for the verses we sing at the top of our lungs. Me, a high harmony to his throaty bellow. I do believe we hit all the notes, even invented a few new ones. He grasps my hands and we dance in the streets laughing and singing.
“With a a l’il bit… with a l’il bit…”
This gent is quite light on his feet considering his heavy hobnailed boots. His ridiculous floppy leather hat – which I believe has some function at the ports – flaps about comically as he moves. Our dance is one grotesque drunken tango-waltz or some-such. We thrust our arms in the air for the final refrain:
“With a l’il bit of bloomin’ luuuuuuuuuck!”
Our song ended, we laugh with delight.
“Oh thank you Miss! A perfect way to end an evnin’! Well, cheery-bye, I’m off home to me missus and prolly a firm tongue-lashin’. You keep well safe now!” He ambles off down the road, whistling the same tune and kicking an errant bottle down the road.
“Good night!” I call after. Though certainly not my type, I admit a bit of disappointment at the mention of a ‘Missus’. I’m being foolish I know, though I’m finding its fun to be, on occasion.
No matter, to home! I try to get my bearings and work up the resolve for the journey. I notice for the first time that I can’t quite stand still. Doing the dreaded shuffle – an inadvertent pitch forward, two steps back in compensation, a leg sideways to prevent my listing. Oh dear, this will be an adventure.
With an intake of breath I proceed to march off – in the absolute wrong direction. My walking seems to work all right, sort of a controlled fall forwards. As long as I can keep my inertia up, I’ll get home right quick without kissing the cobbles I reckon.
Soon I am presented with a knotty problem. Stairs? What are they doing here? I wonder if the workmen are as fast as people say, and these steps were installed in the last few hours since I’ve been this way. No matter. Onwards!
I continue my falling march, falling up the stairs, falling through through the archway into a narrow passage. Oh dear, now this is quite wrong. I should be seeing shops, the ports. Where in blazes am I? Turning about, I catch a heel in a missing cobble and collapse into the brick wall. A horrid crunch signals my impact and tinkling sounds herald the falling of broken glass out from inside my skirts.
Pain blossoms in my hip. Though I am quite relieved to note the crunch was not my bones, it was the glass tubes of my concealed Aetherpistol.
“Damn!” I stand up, releasing my caught foot, and sending more fragments of glass to the pavement. I shake my skirts to get the rest out and retrieve the instrument to examine it more carefully. Then I hear it.
My ears detects two, no three sets of shoes on the pavement, walking towards me. I back away out of the archway. Through the fog I see two dark shapes appear – slowly approaching. An enormous fright runs through my body and I turn to run, holstering the useless weapon.
I stagger down the steps, limping slightly from my poor bruised hip when I see the third shape – appearing in front of me. Trapped! Frozen for a moment on the steps, the shape coalesces as more detail is revealed. I see the hint of a bowler and a cane! Emboldened by alcohol, I make ready for a scuffle – quite sure I can kick and bite and scratch enough to make good my escape.
My apprehension builds as the figure approaches, my spine is like a compressed spring, ready to pounce, when I spy a smaller shape come up from behind him on tip-toes, and deftly nick his cane.
“I say! Halt! Thief!” the mysterious man turns and exclaims, looking around after source, now vanished in the gloom. I don’t wait. Taking advantage of the distraction, I jump off the side of the steps and into a little hollow in the close buildings.
I scramble against the wall, hoping to hide myself in the shadows. The other two figures appear from the arch and approach the cane-less man. Everyone now seems confused by the fog, the disappearing cane, and disappearing me.
“What’s this then?” I hear one say, and the rest of the conversation a set of grumbled replies. I don’t care. I push my back farther and farther into the wall, hoping to somehow go through it, hoping they don’t notice where I’ve gone, when I feel it give. Apparently, I can!
I push gently, trying not to make noise, and manage to make an opening just big enough to squeeze through. I pull myself through headfirst, sure that whatever is in here is preferable to being sandwiched out there. I get through and push the opening back gently with a boot. In a fearful rush, I scramble along the stone floor in the darkness – and soon find there is no ground beneath me.
Now I tumble, uncontrollably down.