He sets the bags down, feeling the weight of each one slide off his shoulders, the relief flooding through his back as each hold-all hits the tarmac, one quickly following the other.
He looks up at the horizon, seeing the dark silhouettes of buildings picked out by the light of the setting sun. The sky is a deep purple bruise struck through with reds and oranges, a garble of colour that blows through the cobbled streets like a howling wind. This town has never looked so beautiful. He scans the tower blocks knifing into the skyline, the crooked terraces with their shanty roofs, the church spires, the football ground, the pylons looming overhead like a formation of colossus statues.
Now is the time to leave.
“And never come back," he breathes. "Never.”
He had come here looking for something, something intrinsic, something deep, some near primal pull that had drawn him to this place. He knew where he came from now, knew what he was supposed to be, who had come before. In that knowledge, he had expected to find comfort, to find a warm largesse, a bright centre to bury himself in.
But he had discovered nothing of the sort. He had happened upon a hardness here, a dark, all-consuming core that was as unwelcoming as the naysayers had promised it would be.
He should have listened to them in the first place.
The taxi pulls up, stopping just short of the pavement. The driver exits, eager to offer him a helping hand with the luggage. The damp, dull sound of the bags hitting the boot floor is drowned out by the cars chudding past, each one a life running through an endless cycle of disappointments and regrets.
Jumping into the passenger seat, he looks back at the town one last time, casting his eye over that shadow lurking amongst the blasted valley. The sun has almost set, its dying rays seeping through the craggy peaks of faraway hilltops, dripping onto the roofs below. He sees a wild and stagnant allure there, a stone-laden wilderness shot through with nothing but peace and solitude. Nothing but calm.
But he knows that it's only skin deep. Beneath the surface, something lurks. Something better left undisturbed.
“Where to pal?” the cabbie speaks to the road, eyes fixed on the tarmac ahead, the streets lit by a semi-circle of dirty yellow light cast by a forlorn street lamp.
He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, “Just anywhere but here, please."
© DominicAndrew 2021-07-14