I am in the habit of observation; people-watching, if you will. This old woman intrigues me more than usual, however. She sits, harmlessly enough, in the corner of a Waterstones coffee shop. It might be the poise of her head, a certain gleam in the eye; but there is a definite look there that tells the observer that here is a lady who has not yet succumbed to doddering senility and carpet slippers just yet. Her hair is short, thin and a pale gray, like the downy breast of a collared dove; but it has been carefully coiffed and curried, combed and coiled into perfectly shaped curls, that were so in fashion in the 1940s; the sort of hair you see on pictures of screen sirens from the period. Her ears are adorned with delicate pearl drop earrings, and her glasses hang on a thin chain of sliver round her neck. Despite obvious signs of age, she still has an elegant bearing. Her head rests proudly on a slender neck, which, although now heavy with wattles like that of a turkey, must in her youth have been slim and swan-like. Time has dimmed her eye, but there still seems to be a twinkle; a sparkle of life or a flash of spirit, something that announces to the world that she isn’t done for yet. Her lips have obviously thinned with age, and now they are painted a soft pinkish shade, enhancing a perfect cupids bow; in her youth, she must have been a beauty, the sort that makes men’s heads turn in the street. It makes me wonder; what must her life have been like? There must be so many untold lives, untold stories, that we shall never know.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
The hot midday sun cast dappled patterns of light and shadow on the forest floor as a small brook babbled away, sunlight glinting off its rippling surface. A moorhen strutted along the bank, stabbing occasionally at the ground in search of food, uttering its soft plaintive cries to the surrounding woodland. The leaves of an overhanging willow tree trailed in the water, and a fat brown trout swam lazily through the weeds, coming to the surface to snap idly at passing mayflies.
The tranquility was broken by the sound of running feet. The moorhen took off in a clatter of wings as a ragged man came crashing through the trees and splashed through the stream, trying to rid himself of the ropes that bound his wrists cruelly together. Casting a terrified glance over his shoulder, he ran onwards, staggering slightly with fatigue. Crimson as he was with the effort of running, the sound of his pursuers behind him drained the colour from his face. Sobbing with fear and gasping for breath, dodging round trees and bushes, he blundered desperately on.
Finally reaching the edge of the forest, he paused for a moment, listening intently. A slow smile of relief suffused his face as he could hear no sound of the hunters. He had escaped! Glancing swiftly around to take his bearings, he took off across the grassland.
All of a sudden his stride was broken. He gazed in horror at the point of the arrow which appeared to have grown out of his chest and a trickle of blood escaped from the corner of his mouth. His knees buckled, and without a sound he fell. He didn't hear the heavy footsteps approach him, or the mirthless laugh as the arrow was forcibly wrenched from his body and thrust back into its quiver, still dripping. His body, unceremoniously dragged, was abandoned at the fringes of the wood, leaving his sightless eyes to stare up through the lacework of branches, hands still bound as if in prayer. As the sounds of the assassins receded into the distance, the outskirts of the forest became peaceful again, with only a spatter of cooling blood on the lush grass to show that death had visited the woodlands.