View Full Version : The Man in the Gray Coat

December 6th, 2010, 02:11 PM
The city was its usual dark and gloomy self, its streets mostly empty with only one or two ragged men walking about. The market was closed at this time of the night and only a few lighted windows could be seen in the shanties behind it. Ridge was a dying town- one of the many that dotted the country of Ovipor.

Neither the mew of a cat nor the harsh bark of a dog disturbed the nights silence. A steady wind blew through the windows of the shanties, bringing with it the cold, damp, rancid smell of the sewers.

Magiv pulled down the piece of rag that acted as a curtain for the one window in his little shanty, and secured it against a hook just below the little opening. The rag blew inwards like a bulbous sack, but it stopped most of the wind.

A little methane stove burned in the center of the little room, and surrounding it sat three people: a woman, and two little girls. The woman was young, yet her hair was already streaked with gray. Barely noticeable wrinkles marked her face, and what looked like a scar ran down from the side of her left temple to her chin. She was dressed in a long seamless piece of cloth wrapped around her body several times and secured at her waist, tucked into its own folds. Her lifeless eyes held little hope in them. The two little girls were both dressed in long petticoats, once white but now almost black with soot and mud. Their faces were streaked with dirt and they held on to each other, shivering despite their proximity to the fire.

Magiv joined them, settling down between the little girls and the young woman. They huddled closer on each side of him, and one of the girls climbed on to his lap. The woman fished out a thin, patched-up blanket from inside one of the jars that lined the room and threw it over the four of them. She settled down again and turned a knob on the stove. The flame dimmed considerably and turned blue as the little family of four turned in for the night.

A harsh knock on the shantys tin door followed by a rough voice calling out his name, made Magiv jump. His family stirred around him and the little girl on his lap almost fell off. Catching her, he handed her to her mother. They were all awake by this time and cowering against the back wall. The loud knocking continued.

Magiv picked up the only weapon he had at hand, an old iron water pipe, and prepared to face whoever or whatever was on the other side of the door. Thieves and bandits were common in a place like Ridge- even those that knew you by name. Such were the hopelessness of the times that a friend today could be tear your gut out tomorrow, and sell your wife and children to the Freakers. Another knock and call, and Magiv recognized the voice.

But it couldnt be- not after all these years.

Open this blasted door, Magiv, or I swear Ill bring it down.

Another volley of knocks followed and Magiv quickly scrambled to open the door. He was a hundred percent sure now about the man knocking on his door and he hurriedly twisted several locks that kept it secured.

The door flew open and banged against the wall with a loud metallic noise. A gust of bitter wind threatened to blow out the flame of the methane lamp which the young mother had turned up again. The night was cloudy, but the moon shone through a gap in the dark canopy of vapors, and in its light Magiv saw the last man he ever expected to see alive again.

The man in the doorway smiled and took off his hat, running his fingers through his silver hair. His face was covered with a rough beard and two long whiskers that ran down to his chin. There was a gray bandanna tied around his neck. A shirt of dyed leather and pants of the same material covered his body, the pants held in place by a curious bronze belt in the shave of an eagle sitting on a mans head. Over his clothes he wore a long gray coat.

It has been a long time, Magiv. Wont you invite me in? asked the man calmly, his polite demeanor is sharp contrast with the threats he had been giving out earlier. He walked in before Magiv had time to reply and closed the door, bolting it firmly, before sitting down by the fire and warming his hands against it.

The room had fallen very still, Magiv still frozen in the doorway while his wife and two daughters huddled against the far wall staring at the new arrival as if he were some strange and frightening beast.

Are you going to stand there the whole damn night? said the man. His voice broke through the silence like a whip-crack and Magiv visible shivered.

Marius, was all he was able to say as he slowly willed his body to move and took a seat beside his family, opposite to Marius. They immediately huddled towards him and he put an arm around them, holding them close to his side.

I see you are doing well, Letitia. Those are some fine girls said Marius addressing the young woman. Letitia merely glared and pulled her daughters closer to herself.

What are you doing here, Marius? I thought you weredead, said Magiv, his voice breaking on the last word.

Do you really think Im one to die so easily? asked Marius chuckling.

It doesnt matter what I think said Magiv, his voice hard as stone, We saw you being crushed by those rocks- we saw you die.

Wrong. You thought you saw me die. Just goes to show you shouldnt always trust what you see. Whats the matter, Magiv? Arent you glad to see your brother alive?

Magivs eyes tightened as he answered, Times have changed. The world isnt what it used to be, anymore.

Ill say! I must have passed at least a dozen places on my way here that were in much better shape last time Id seen them. I cant believe what theyve done to the park. All those bodies-

What do you want, Marius?

The man in the gray coat scowled at being interrupted. He looked hard at Magiv and sighed. His face became smooth as he said, We need you to come back.

Magiv was nonplused. He looked at his brother with a confused expression, and then his face hardened; his voice was cold as ice as he answered, You are with them. It wasnt a question.

We need you back, Magiv. Rubek is in chaos. It wont be long before it ends up like this place. Youre the only one who-

Enough! said Magiv, slamming his fist into the ground between them. When he moved it away, a sizable dent could be seen in the rock floor.

Impressive, said Marius, eyeing the tiny crater.

Leave, Marius. Just leave.

Alright, said Marius standing up, Ill leave.

He went to the door and unbolted it.

But remember, Magiv. You can only run for so long before it catches up with you.

He opened the door, letting the wind rip into the room once more, and with a whip of his coat, he was gone.

Magiv locked the door behind him and turned to look into his wifes eyes. In them he saw his own doubts and fears and his heart sank within him.

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