It's cold, but it's alright. I've got a new coat. It's not new-new, but it's new to me. The people from the good place that helps came to see me and brought me in to get clothes and then I came back here. They always ask me to stay and I did once, so I could get well, but I don't stay now. I stayed in other places before too that were meant to help, but they didn't. They had poison growing up the inside walls and the people were sad and some of them were angry. All of them were scared.
One of the places I stayed, some of the doors didn't work. You couldn't have any things because people would take them. It didn't matter though, because we all got there with nothing in our hands, nothing in our pockets. That was the way of it. That was when I was sick. I fell into it and I can still feel how it held onto me. It let me keep my words, but it washed away time. I don't remember a lot about when things happened, but I remember the places. In the place where the doors didn't work, we were all some kind of sick. I went there to not be sick anymore and I tried, but it wasn't the time yet.
I woke up one night and I was coughing because the cold came in and got in my chest and nothing could chase it out. Someone else who was sick was in my room, but he didn't know that's where he was. He thought he was fighting still and I saw him, really saw him, and I knew him. Not his name or where he was from, but who he'd been, because I'd been that person too. I knew we were the same underneath it all, so I tried to talk to him, to get him to stay still, to see where he was.
It didn't work though. He was too far away in his head and he thought I was fighting too. I wasn't, but then I had to be, with him. I remember the knife in his hand and how it felt when it went in my arm, but it didn't go in deep and I took it off him and threw it away, out of the hole where the window was broken and the cold got in. I kept telling him it was going to be alright, he was going to be alright, but he didn't hear me. He was too sick. He was lost. Not lost in the room, but lost in all the places he'd been. I knew what that kind of lost was like. I'd seen it before. I'd been it before.
He got his hands round my neck and in the wrong light his face was my father's and his voice and his anger. I don't know what I did, but then he was lying on the floor where there should've been carpet but there wasn't. He still had his breath and I couldn't be there anymore, in that place. So I left. I walked out into the street and it was raining and I washed my hands in the water at the side of the road. It was cold like the nights in the desert. People don't think the desert gets cold, but it does. The desert gets all sorts of things people don't think about.
I walked some more and I kept walking and it was still dark. Then the light came into the sky and I could see the blood on my feet because I hadn't put shoes on. And I saw the bench. My bench. I saw it and I sat down in the rain and watched the morning start.
He stopped in front of me then, the one who called me brother. No-one had called me that since I came home. Then he sat next to me on the bench like the rain didn't bother him, and he smiled. He looked at my feet and I didn't want him to see, but it was alright.
He asked me my name and when I told him he said, "Francis, an instrument of peace," and I said no, I wasn't anything of peace. I told him I'd fought away in the sand and I told him about the bleeding and the secrets. I told him about my father and the sickness and the place with the doors that didn't work. I don't know why I told him all that, but I couldn't stop. It just all came out and he sat and listened, calm and quiet, smiling the whole time. Not like he was laughing at me, just like he was alright with everything I was saying. Like maybe he expected it.
The birds came then, the grey ones, and he said, "They're messengers, brother. They know when someone's ready to listen." We sat for a bit, then he stood up and reached out his hand to me. He said he'd take me somewhere to get warm and dry, to get shoes, to get well. He said they'd be kind and they wouldn't make me stay if I didn't want to. So I got up too and I followed him and he brought me to the good place that helps. Then he went away, before they opened the door. He didn't say anything. He was just there and then he wasn't. I didn't see him again, but that's how I know about that place.
And he was right. They didn't make me stay. They asked me to, but they didn't make me. I stayed because I wanted to. Sometimes they still come and see if I need anything and sometimes I go with them for a bit. But then I come back here, always back here.
Except now. I'm here on my bench with the grey birds and I'm wearing my new coat and I don't know why, but I know it's time to go. There's always a time you can't stay past and it's better to go because you want to than because someone's making you.
The other birds come, the black ones, and it's time to wander, time to think and remember.
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Winter FollowsGeneral Fiction
One month, one city, five lives colliding with the forces of fate. A thrill-seeking tech genius with an appetite for dangerous extremes. A retired contract killer fighting to escape his past and himself. An underworld driver tempted deeper into a li...