Author’s note: An old flash piece, written years ago based on a real life incident. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I figured I’m never gonna be entirely happy with anything I write, so what the heck.
It was a dark and stormy night, the kind a certain dog with a Walter Mitty complex would write novels about. The old building stood defiantly against the rain, daring Nature to lay asunder what Man had constructed with such care. And, it must be admitted, with such ineptitude, for it seemed like Nature would win this particular round with ease.
A door opened, then closed, as a Girl stepped out into the deserted corridor. Medium height, shoulder length hair, mischievous eyes, and a smile that one would describe as impish. She was smiling now, probably at the recollection of something that had just happened behind the door she came out of. The rain did not seem to bother her as much as it did the building – she had her ways of dealing with that, as other people do.
The Men sat at the entrance of the building opposite this one, smoking. They saw the Girl in the distance, but paid her no heed. The rain did not bother them either – after all, they had shelter, tobacco, a bottle of whisky, and other enemies to think about. Like the ubiquitous Creatures, which was what they were discussing at that time. Like war veterans chronicling their battles and cataloguing their many scars, they spoke of bitter, yet strangely fond memories of fighting the Creatures in various places. Victories, defeats, all tinged in shades of rosy pink, for these survivors were in a good mood and everything seemed okay in retrospect. Liquor has that effect on Men, sometimes…
The Girl’s scream ripped through the veil of darkness and rain and shattered against the eardrums of the Men sitting in the distance. To the untrained ear, this would have been just another scream, maybe of fear, of frustration, or even of a Woman hailing a passing bus in these parts. But these were trained ears, and to them, this was a battle cry. A Creature was here.
Where there were five quiet Men smoking peacefully, there now stood five armed Warriors, every muscle tensed for action, eyes suffused with a strange kind of light that one not experienced in battle cannot recognize or understand. As one, they strode purposefully towards the other building, senses so keen on the task at hand that even the rain with all its might seemed like a pitifully weak attempt at distraction.
When they reached the Girl, who was now cowering with fright in a corner, their suspicions were confirmed. A Creature was there, moving back and forth, casting its perpetually arrogant glance over the new arrivals. Or so it seemed to the Men, for, experienced as they were, they did not know the Creature’s ways, or what went on inside its seemingly devious mind.
And indeed, if they did know, they would have been surprised, for the Creature’s glance was not one of arrogance, but of amusement. Here it was, going about minding its own business and taking shelter from the damned rain, when one of these… Things (it did not know what to call them) walks right up to it and, for no apparent reason, screams out to a bunch of other Things. And now they’re all gathered here around it now, like they’ve never seen one of its kind before. What were they…
It never had the time to follow its train of thought, for something heavy smashed into its head, ending its life instantly. Some battles between the Creatures and the Men have been long and arduous, but this wasn’t one of them.
The Men stood there, looking down at their vanquished enemy. One more episode to discuss during their nightly vigils. The Girl, who had by now regained her composure, looked at the Men and whispered, eyes shining with tears of relief and gratitude, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
The Men fiddled uncomfortably, embarrassed by this show of emotion, as battle-hardened souls usually are when they’ve just played knights in shining armor to damsels in distress. After having faced everything that life with all its dark sense of humor could possibly throw at them, they regarded Women as the final frontier.
“Don’t mention it, Ma’am” they muttered in their native tongue, and went back to their post. The Girl stood there for a moment, wondering at how bravery and suavity seemed so averse to sharing the same person, picked up the things she had dropped in her fright a while ago, and went on her way.
And the dead cockroach lay on the ground, to be eaten by the ants.
The rain fell slow, down on all the roofs of our sanity…
— Pink Floyd, Poles Apart