I met him on the steps of the old church, watching the sky for some sign, some hope for a better tomorrow that didn’t reek of stagnant sludge, didn’t shove grit down the lungs of the innocent.
He looked with bleary eyes, wiping the tears with the back of his grimy hand, flexing his weathered arms beneath his tattered grey sleeves. I could see the limp muscles fold in upon themselves. Hear them weeping from hunger, starved, used to the limit, like everything else in this place.
I was a stranger in these lands. I watched the old man’s resolve stiffen as he noticed it too.
“What do you want, young man?”
“Came to laugh at us? Take us away? We don’t need your help. God will provide.”
His strong words didn’t match the fear seeping through his milk chocolate eyes. Loud, hacking coughs knocked him down. Down to the ground as tumbleweeds bounced by, the nearby stones smoothed by erratic winds.
He declined my arm. Shook his head, his clothing, his reality. “My community is waiting.”
I watched him stride through the rotted doors, to the darkened interior where waited the rodents and the bats.
Copyright © 2015 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Flash!Friday: