Written for WDG.
Saint entered the dusty room cautiously, as a man does who has seen horrible things revealed through swung doors. A mattress with rumpled sheets was crammed into the far corner, and a simple wood chair and desk filled the opposite end of the room. Altogether an unremarkable architecture and furnishing.
The floor boards groaned with Saint’s every step. Perhaps they’d not been stepped on in decades. It’d been that long since he’d been here.
He glanced at the yellowed papers he’d pinned to the walls, the dictates, the stately inversions, the inner workings of a burgeoning nation. The notions held in the words were old, idealistic. And dead.
She should be here any minute, he thought. Ten days into the riots, when the viciousness proved insatiable, they had agreed to meet here—the beginning of all things for them. So long ago, this was where they had written their brilliance and led the people. Apparently, any revolutionary can lead the people. He laughed at the circuitousness of it all.
He sat on the bed, a plume of motes geysering around him. They exposed themselves in the thinning sunlight through the single window above him. Between his fingers, he rubbed the moth-eaten sheets, felt the age and memories. He leaned back against the wall. His eyelids drooped. So much running, when would it end?
A floor board creaked. He jerked from his reverie. It was pitch black, the sun gone. He had slept. It was silent again, but his mind was roaring. He willed his eyes to pierce the darkness. He wanted so badly to call out and for her to call back, the singsong of her voice flying to him, but he had done that before and it had cost lives. The agony!
Five minutes felt an hour. Another five a year. His eyes adjusted and he could discern no other persons or new shadows in the room. He quickly went to the desk, his hands scrambling over the surface for the candle and then his pockets for a match. Rare an emotion more powerful than light banishing darkness.
With the candle he revealed the room, identical as his entrance, yet he knew it had been exposed to another presence. It was the odor. The intruder had smelled of earth, ripped grass, the sweat of a horse. But this virus had been a shadow, leaving no marks on the floor, the only breaks in the dusty patterns his own. He sighed, turned and sat in the chair.
There on the desk was a new paper, outstanding in its garish white.
It was written in the old cipher she and he had used in their childhood romance.
It was signed in blood.
It read: We have Rose. Come to the Fifth Parallel.
Saint’s hands trembled as he pulled the paper before his eyes. Backlit by the candle, a ghostly outline of cramped yet graceful text was pulled into existence in the lower left corner.
Fooled them, she said.
Saint laughed. Laughed so hard he cried.