It was almost sunset on an anonymous and calm summer afternoon. The crowds were at their mightiest as the church bells tolled all around him. He bustled through against the flow of tourists and locals, saints and sinners alike. He couldn’t miss the sunset, he had to make it one last time— once again. The cobblestone streets that lined the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ were lyrical with the footsteps of thousands of families and devoted alike.
All were ready to begin the evening mass. Parents were shepherding children by the scruff of their necks as they wandered aimlessly with their heads firmly encased in a digital glow of disobedience. Older couples and groups were huddled together in synchronised disappointment at the sights they were witnessing. As they scurried from the cafes and restaurants likely reminiscing on days-gone-by. There wasn’t too much issue with cutting against the crowd for the boy, the stench of Rakija and cigarettes usually helps facilitate a parting of the dread sea.
Descending one set of stairs to ascend another, narrow alleys with blood orange roofs you could touch without stretching. The architecture of the city was not designed for ease. The boy tripped a few times over the roots crackling through the walkway as he kept his eye to the sky—all he had to do was head west until he saw it.
And saw it he did.
His spot on the edge of the horizon. The breeze was mercifully calm and blew with a kind softness. The boy had been here too many times before, he’d lost count in the years since. This was his last.
He wiped the sweat off his brow as he sat on the uneven rocky surface and took a breath. One of the more famous churches next to him had a crowd waltzing through the gardens behind him—he paid them no mind. The sun was barely above the mountains across the lake, shadows began to stretch in front of him without purpose or prejudice. He’d always enjoyed sitting on the edge of it all. There was a certain kind of comfort that stemmed from being at a definitive, knowing all roads end eventually.
His eyes were focussed on the singular yacht making its way through the un-rippled waters that lay before him. Likely some anonymous sailor on his way home with dinner for his family. His ship, dancing dangerously with the shadows that enveloped his journey. The boy kept his sights ahead, his hand gripping tighter on the jagged slab beneath him.
The shadow reached him as he pressed a fresh cigarette between his lips. He glanced to his left to find her beside him. A futile smile across his face as he chuckled and faced forward again, the cigarette impotently hanging from the corner of his mouth. The shadow, a symphonic silhouette.
The ephemeral voice echoed, not quite able to be placed to a singular voice;
‘Need a Light?’ Somehow it was still sarcastic.
‘No, I think it can wait.’ His was, an unfocused reply from an out-of-focus mind.
‘Oh. Fret not buddy. I know what you’re waiting for.’
He fumbled for the lighter he had lost on the race to the edge of the city, no choice but to impotently sit there with an unloaded cigarette, and no witty comeback toward the shadowy red herring.
‘You know why he was so in love with Daisy?’ She joked quite sincerely.
‘Because, well, he loved her.’
The shadow let out a mighty bellow that once again fell only into their arena;
‘HA…Please. He loved her the way you love that cigarette in your hand. For a time it made him smile, it was all he ever wanted. Until. One day, it’s finished. Not for any rhyme or Machiavellian reason—but simply because it was over.’ She couldn’t help but snort, ‘Don’t fret over a smoke, look forward to the next one.’
‘Wow, that’s deep..’
‘Oh shut the fuck up you Gatsby wannabe. If all you want is for a little green light to save you then, well, not even a mental episode can help you there.’
‘It was a hell of a ride wasn’t it.’ He finally admitted.
‘Yeah, it certainly was.’
He laughed for the first time in a long time. They stayed there for a time, listening to the world go on without them. No words were needed.
He contemplated the cigarette in his hand. The shadows were beginning to shroud over and his attention was finally away from the shadow beside him. He looked behind him to see a much emptier garden in the foreground and behind was all manner of beautiful sights. The monks were lighting the lanterns across the entire city. Little constellations forming in the rocky mountain town as the tourists began their evening of frivolity and liquor.
As he turned back, a green flash befell him. The astronomical anomaly of the light simply bending a little too far in the atmosphere before it disappears to another timezone. Her form was fading into the shadows of the trees. He stayed in a stone stare at the horizon until the rays were without. The yacht had finally passed the horizon. By the time he heard the first bells toll the dark had already begun its tenure. The shadow was gone.
As the man stood he noticed a flicker of smoke permeating from the tip of his cigarette, with one deep breath he saw the fire start to burn. With a heroic inhale he stood at the edge, looking at the small ripples still ricocheting against the coastlines from the yacht that was beyond sight.
The bells were tolling once more, and once again the crowds were beginning to fill the cobbled streets. They were not avoiding him so horridly after receiving a few blessings. He said his fare-thee-wells to the edge of the world and began waltzing through the crowd. Defiantly blending into a brand new day.