The rain was beating down on the streets of London bringing the whole metropolis down to a level of equality, soggy trench coats and drowned haircuts. Eyes cast down as the weight of the rain bore down on the necks and shoulders of the citizens. All that was being witnessed on this bleak Tuesday morning was the stomping of boots through exploding puddles. The rain was merciless, harems of people who were unable to take the relentless beating huddled in shop doorways. Others were clutching cheap newspapers over their heads as they marched through the torrent, only to have the ink dribble over their fingers leaving them stained and mottled. Those fortunate enough to have umbrellas, where still at the mercy of the weather as the wind was tearing through their feeble frames and flipping them inside out. Bins became littered with bent prongs and torn cloth, casting grave like shadows across the wet path, the weather was taking no prisoners today.
Solom was faceless amongst the crowd, he became just another stooped figure and pair of boots. Sleep clung to his eyes. Another rough night, the only shelter he could find was a dingy bar filled with vagabonds and thieves, only last year he would have spat in the face of anyone holding this company, now it has become the only crowd where he can reside. He has come to know this bar well, the peeling paintwork and the mould in the corners are the companions Solom now keeps, oh how he has fallen. The bar is cheap and provides vague warmth, the roof alone is prize enough, that’s why Solom returns. He has no interest in the crowd, Solom never speaks a word yet is known, and known to be left alone. The swift exchange at the bar is his only interaction, where he is served warm beer in a chipped dirty glass for a small handful of change. No words are passed. The liquid slops over the brim. Solom wipes his soaked hand on the back of his trousers, the trousers are forming a stain and a slight crust from this ritual, at least the unforeseen rain will clear the grime. The great redeemer.
Fatigue and delirium where the shadows of Solom’s life, oh how he took the luxury of sleep for granted. A restful night and a hot meal used to be a given. So long has it been since he has felt the comfort of a soft bed and thick blanket. His sleep is always restless, the memory of a quilted blanket nearly forgotten, replaced by his itchy and rough coat. Solom was sick of sleepless nights, living on hunks of bread and meagre soup, all taken under the wing of a hazy state. Breath and Hygiene are at a loss; an addict he has become lost in the sea of intoxication forever falling. Yet still his eyes maintain their sharpness, it is not hope that can be seen in these eyes, or fear. These are eyes that have seen too much of this world, much more than your average mans, least forget these are Solom’s eyes.
The Stooped shoulders of Solom camouflaged him amongst the masses all struggling to get to their menial jobs on time. A shoulder catches Solom’s nearly sending him spiralling into the gurgling gutter, Solom finds himself sucked into an old life, as he instinctively fishes in his pocket, fingering the cold metal of his blade, the freshly oiled mechanism is a comforting feel under his thumb. The cold metal in his palm draws a tranquillity, all the years of service this blade has provided. Solom knew the relationship well. The faceless shoulder had disappeared amongst the crowd, along with Solom’s anger. He let the blade fall to the depths of his pocket. Life is no longer the same. Monotony and survival is all that is left.
Solom’s stomach lurched for the worst, bile was rising up in his gut. Ducking down the side road, he doubled over as he watched last night’s consumption skidding past his shoes. He wretched twice more, and wiped the spittle out of his unshaven stubble. The burn down his throat brought back the anger. Solom reached a steadying hand to the chipped brickwork of the corner store, to stop himself falling. The delirium was setting back in.
Steady now, it will pass. It always does. But shit does it feel like it won’t.
Eyes fixed on the fading streetlights in the distance, Solom was beginning to come around. The faceless crowd paying no head to him, a drunk in the gutter was a common site these days. A truck whistled past as Solom was hunched in the grey street, the tires cut through the murky overspill of the drain driving a tide of filth up the shins of Solom’s legs. Solom spat out the last of the bile and glared down the street at the truck, knowing too well not to retaliate. He drew his jacket tighter and straightened his crumpled hat, his only armour against the storm. The weather was drawing the last of the colour out of the already ashen and filth ridden streets. London had gone to shit.
Solom fished inside his jacket pocket with cracked and yellowing fingers hunting for his little book of matches. ‘The Foxes Whiskers’. Sighing heavily, he ran his fingers over the barely visible emblem of a time long passed. 2 years it’s been, but Solom feels like he’s past as many centuries. The hardship and rough nights have taken its toll. His cracked fingers are back in his pocket fumbling for his packet of smokes. He slowly brushes his fingers over the loose change mentally calculating the cost of last night and the price of what now is swimming around his shoes. He pokes a half smoked dog end between his split lips and cracks a match, the small explosion brings a glimmer of colour to the street. Solom brings the flame to his face, cupping it with his hand as protection from the driving weather. As the flame ignites the twisted cigarette a glimpse of the man Solom once was is exposed, the flickering flame draws attention to the rigid jaw and the sharp features. A glimmer of life is exposed before it is dropped and extinguished on the wet floor with a hiss.
Today’s the day. Solom knows where he needs to go. He needs to get to Maria, its time, his two years is up. Two years is a long time with rough nights and little food, but it was good to get away from the stench of death. Not that he was too far from it, death is everywhere nowadays. The New Order and their ruthless regimes have been getting worse, with the resistance slipping, they are gunning straight for the top. No one to stop them. Ghost and his band of bastards. Solom ran his finger over his shattered knuckle bone smiling as he recalled the shattering teeth of the curfew officer last night. God it felt good.
Solom forced his way back onto the street, pushing past the torrent of people all heading towards the centre. He cut of east and starts passing familiar landmarks all of which have become like the rest of the city grey and filth ridden. The odd N.O. can be seen emblazed across long forgotten notice boards, previously selling some dairy product or vehicle, the emblem disfiguring the nullity of a previous life, a life of materialism. Yacolt stands meaningless to most, but a martyr for Solom. Advertisement was the symbol of the 21st Century, a century and a time that needs resurrecting. The New Order have been rising to power slowly, taking over the city like a cancer. Ghost the psychotic general leading the force. This cancer like most, was caught too late. London has become well and truly lost to Ghost’s jurisdiction. Faith can only be put towards the industrial power of the north.
Solom arrived at the faded red door with the curled fist knocker. He hesitated. Eyes glanced down the street, where the neon sign of the off-licence flickers on. Temptation has its hold upon him, he forces the feeling down, knowing its time. He knocked. Solom begins to sweat as he can hear the cracking of warped floorboards under the weight of the resident. The door creaks open and buckles under the latch. The smell of stale smoke and fresh roses pour through the crack, overpowering Solom’s senses sending him to distant memories. Both stale and fresh, much like the smell.
“ello, who’s there?!” A gruff voice barks past the chain lock.
Solom tilts back his hat revealing a greasy matt of hair and an inflamed scar running from scalp to eyebrow. A totally disfigured nose sat between two heavily coloured eyes and a smashed cheekbone. Solom’s lips begin to crack as a he forced a smile, the movement forced the gash across his cheek to weep slightly.
“Solom…It can’t be…”
The door pulls shut and Solom can hear the chain scratch against the metal catch. The door swings open and Solom steps into the cloud of musk. Gentle music can be heard coming through the drawing room at the top of the stairs.
“Solom.. Your looking ermmm….”
Solom shot him a glare. “Ay, It’s just good to see you back” stuttered the doorman. “Two years already ay. Been shit without you ice.” Solom took off his jacket without speaking, rolling the doorman’s words over in his head. His shirt was clinging to his chest and a small pool of water was collecting between his feet. Totally ignoring the doorman’s words Solom turns to him.
“Peachy day init Fred, be a sweetheart and get me some fresh clothes.” Solom handed Fred his wet jacket and removed his hat. “Oh and turn the hot water on would you, I could murder a bath.” Fred’s mouth was going like a swing door. “Yes Sir, straight away Solom Sir.”
Solom reached for the worn banister, the fading mahogany felt cold under his palm and he started up the stairs, the sound of the record player becoming clearer. Reinhardt is has to be, no one can play like Reinhardt. Music was rare, let alone good music. Ghost has banned all music, ensuring all that got listened to is his drivel of a radio station with its constant stream of pro New Order propaganda. Solom was in no hurry up the stairs allowing the gentle rhythm to wash over him. stepping into the room, his senses became overpowered. The roses on the corner cabinet were producing a sweet smell, a smell that has haunted Solom, become the sweet smell of death. The fine glass vase was gleaming under the brightly lit room. The vase has never been empty, even after all the years Solom has been coming to Maria. How she can still get roses is beyond Solom, but he will not give her the satisfaction of asking. The roses were a clear attempt to cleanse and purify the room, but no amount of roses can purify this room, nothing can mask the stench of killers. The vibrant coloured wall paper must have been shipped in somehow, nothing of this quality was in production anymore, another one of Ghost’s cuts. The risks for importing any goods were extremely high, why risk it for wallpaper, Maria’s vanity would kill her for sure.
Maria herself was perched on a high backed chair behind an elegant oak desk, garnished with leather trim. She stands to meet her old friend placing her cigarette in the ashtray between a long manicured finger and thumb. She steps around the desk revealing her olive tanned legs and leather heels. A sharp black skirt falls just above the knee. Solom feels a twinge of arousal but is short lived before he is overcome by shame remembering their last words. Maria half offers a hand, but quickly retracts as she sees the filth engrained in his fingers, stained with the blood of last night’s curfew officer. She flicks her eyes across the weather beaten wreck that has just arrived through her door. Solom allows a smirk to cross his face as he watches the shock cross Maria’s face, once again putting strain on the gash across his cheek.
“staying out of trouble I see” Maria smiled, not many people are blessed to see this smile. “I see suspension gave you time to reflect and clear your head”. Now it was Solom’s turn to smile. “Of course, refreshed and raring to go.” Solom winked, his cheek now bleeding profusely, every word splitting the wound wider and wider. “You prick Solom, two years and enough money to set yourself straight and you just piss it up the wall.” “Don’t forget your still under oath, it was you that stepped away from the cause. You knew that’s what brought your suspension on.” Maria was taking no shit today. “Stay out of trouble is what we said, and it’s clear that is not what you’ve been doing.” She sighed and retrieved her cigarette, “What am I saying, I know it can’t be helped.” She takes a long draw of smoke. “It just saddens me to see you in this state”. Solom bowed his head, gently nodding, he knows she really does care for him, not many do but Maria really does.
There was a knocking at the drawing room door, Fred peered into the room. “Solom Sir…I have your bath running and clean clothes all ready next door for you.” Solom nodded. “You may go now Fred, that is all.” Solom turned back to Maria and straight into a flat palm across the cheek. Slightly taken aback, Solom glares at Maria. “You know he had no choice, stop being so hard on him. If he hadn’t told me you would be dead, there is no doubting that. Don’t forget that Solom.”