Remember Remember

The face peering out from the oversized hood in the depths of a winter midnight was an autobiography etched in flesh. Its walnut brown skin stretched over an aquiline nose but hung loosely below chiselled cheekbones. Every day of its innumerable years was written there in the lines and furrows; a journal of battles lost and won, fought against foes too many to recall, not all of whom were human.  He breathed deeply. He detected the scents of wet earth, decaying leaves, a variety of excreta, a silver whisp of woodsmoke, and something else. Something that didn’t belong, something sharp and sulphurous.  His eyes flicked left and right then peered into the darkness more intently.  Slowly, silently, he turned and peered into the darkness again.  Nothing.  Wait, a flicker of movement just off to the right.  Nothing.  He closed his hazel eyes and breathed deeply again: the scent was gone, no trace or memory of it was left behind, removed from this place and time entirely.  Max stretched out a gnarled arm before him, attempting to catch enough moonlight to see his watch without giving himself away with glinting glass.  He could just about read the screen, 11pm 4th November 1605. 

Withdrawing his arm back into the folds of his cloak Max combed his memory for the significance of the date. 1603, Queen Elizabeth had died and the new King James had been crowned.  Was that it? Something Royal? Max listened to the night air: drunken men bidding their long farewells, shouted admonitions for peace and quiet, dogs adding their goodnight to the chorus, and very faintly in the distance he could hear moving water, a huge river was his guess.

Silently, Max darted from one doorway to the next until he reached the corner of the street, the river was louder now.  Staying in the shadows he peered left then right for a second then shrank back into the wall.  There were no signposts and the buildings were unfamiliar.  He edged into the street, keeping to the shadows. As the houses ended and the street opened onto a square, Max tripped and stumbled over what looked like a bundle of rags. “Oi, pity’s sake, watchout” came the voice, thick with drink and outrage.  Max shrank back as the man uncurled himself.  “Sorry Sir, mistake, stranger here, forgive me” mumbled Max. The man rubbed his chin and squinted at Max from under shaggy eyebrows “Stranger are ye? Strangers left and right this night, have none of ye”.  “Lots of strangers here did you say? Where is this place then?” ventured Max. The man sucked his teeth and whispered “Westminster, begone wraith” and stumbled off into the darkness.

Max’s scalp prickled and the familiar wave of cold washed over him.  4th of November 1605, Westminster.  The Gunpowder Plot.  What in the world was he here for this time?

Katherine Horejsi
Aug 18 2021

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