They were singing today, a wailing really. Up and down their voices went, here and there they progressed. The words, incomprehensible, if there were any really. "Turn the bloody noise down," I muttered beneath my breath, knowing that no one would hear. "Can't you shut em up?" This was directed at the man behind the bar, who was looking in the other direction.
"I'm sorry sir, they're free to do what they wish. I apologise for any inconvenience sir." He smiled, full of sympathy.
"Why is everyone so damn nice these days," he breathed, intending it for his glass. Barely anyone could remember the days that weren't so long ago. Where words rolled off the tip of the tongue with spikes instead of roses.
"Why don't you just listen a moment sir," the barman was back. "It really is beautiful."
I waited till he had turned away before murmuring into my cup again. "Ain't nothing used to be beautiful." But it was a lie, and I knew it. Beauty used to be there, always, none just bothered to see it now. And those that did… I slumped against my glass.
"Rough day?" I turned, a new voice. Bleary eyed I looked upon the man now sitting next to me, immaculate in his tailored person.
"Rough life," I replied, hoping my easy answer would get him away.
"You really should see someone about that."
I left him there with his thin mind. If you have one thing wrong, can't tie a shoelace, not sure whether to have your hair up or down, people will be suggesting to you to go see someone. Early signs of a psychopath if not treated early. Gotta treat that psychopathy.
Outside the air was warm, the night not yet drawn in, the streets though dark. The wailing was still going on, the group now visible to my eyes. Eight of them, covered in white and smiles. They voices in perfect harmony, one stepped forward, the others continuing.
"Brother, join us in song. Repent brother, repent to the Saviour."
I fought the urge to push him away, instead turning with a hiss of the heel. I would be committed if I touched one in anger. And none had ever come out of that big white building with the words printed ominously over its one gate; Eternity. I could see it even now, rising amongst the other ordered plans. Its size made you wonder how many people went in there, made me wonder.
I walked briskly through the streets, past more people in white garb, reaching out with 'repent' on their lips. I would not repent to the Saviour. The Saviour, who had saved us from ourselves, from the destruction we had caused. Dictated to follow, they did. It was a choice though, we couldn't be forced. Most people abided nonetheless. It made me wonder, why people still wandered the streets, dressed in their significance of white clothing, singing praise to this man who had saved us. But I would not repent. He had only made the world worse in my eyes, taking away the beauty that could be felt without force. Like the sun, that known dared to look at lest their eyes burn out. But I still watched it rise.
"Sir?" A boy sat in an alley, hidden from light, from sight.
"Yeah?" I grunted, leaning closer.
He remained silent, not saying more, not even looking at me, as if already regretting his first word.
I moved in beside him, crouching down. "What boy?"
Silence. He was dressed hurriedly, but not raggedly, clothes showing someone of a decent home. "Are you lost boy?"
Silence. Twelve I decided, maybe younger. Brown hair, maybe lighter because of the dark.
"Where's your home boy?"
And he spoke this time. "I don't have a home." Barely a whisper.
"What you mean you ain't got a home, how you been living?"
"They've been feeding me."
And I realised what he was. He was a runaway. Escaping Eternity. "How'd you get out?"
He had fled to silence again.
I heard a shuffle against the street and looked to see a group of people, characterised with the white cloth covering their head. They weren't singing though.
"Do you need a hand sir?" One was coming forward.
I stood, covering the boy with my body, feeling him shrink further to the shadows. "Just a little slip, that's all, we're all fine here, aren't we son?" The last word slipped easily from my lips, nonchalantly.
They peered behind me. I pulled my arm out and around his shoulder, pulling him into my chest. "He's a bit shy."
"Would you like some assistance sir?"
"No thanks, we're all good." I pursed my lips together, as if waiting for them to leave expectantly. They did, with a glance back over the shoulder.
He had wriggled free.
"What's your name boy?"
I expected silence, but he answered, quietly. "I'm number 132."
About to ask what he talked off, he continued, slowly. "They took away my name, gave me a number instead. I don't remember my name."
"Bastards," I cursed.
"What?" He seem confused, curious.
"What does that mean?"
I shook my head at his indifference. "It's a word you use when someone's done something you disagree with."
"I wish I knew it before then."
I couldn't help but laugh, throwing my head back in a low chuckle, at the seriousness that came across his face. "Well boy you might come to use it a lot soon." I patted his shoulder, feeling him shift away. And it was that, his scared movements, his nervous face, that made up my mind.
"Right, c'mon, we better be going if you want to stay with me tonight."
He didn't say a word as I made to drag him from the alley, and he followed me willingly and I manoeuvred the streets with ease. I was soon stepping into another dark alley, from the front looking to hold no purpose, but on moving in further, a small door appearing on the left side. Same colour as the walls. I produced a small key, slipping it easily into the hole, letting the door creak open on silent hinges. I pulled the boy in behind me. It was dark as we stumbled up the stairs, my hand firmly around his. Another door at the top, one that could easily announce a tumble back down if attention wasn't. Light spilled through the room as quickly pressed the switch by the inside.
I could sense his eyes quickly taking in the room with no windows, the old battered sofa, the peeling brown walls, and the three doors that led elsewhere.
"Home sweet home eh boy?"
"We're gonna have to do something about that time you know, I ain't calling you by a number all the time."
He nodded again.
"So, what'll it be, what am I gonna call you?"
He looked down, eyes no longer roaming.
"C'mon, ain't it every kids dream to pick their own name. It can be anything, anything you want."
He was still looking down.
"There must be something; what kid did you envy in school because of their name?"
He looked up, suddenly. "I never went to school."
Sometimes it's easy to put two and two together, sometimes you just don't want to believe it, and so you don't. "How long you been in there?"
"I don't know. No would tell me."
And this time I knew bastards was not strong to utter for these people. And this time I knew bastards was not strong to utter for these people. I didn't mean for him to hear me, but it seemed that he did.B>
"Mother uses that word a lot." He looked away, quickly, and I knew he wasn't meant to say that.
"Who's your mother then?" But I didn't expect an answer, and my expectation were met. "You still need a name," I said after it was determined he wouldn't say any more.
"What was it you called me before, when the people came?"
I thought back. "I don't think I called you anything."
"You said we're fine, and then something else. What was it?"
His memory must've been better than mine, but then I realised what it was. "Son?"
He smiled, the first one I had seen. "Son. Can I be Son?"
"Son ain't a name. Its word, for every boy, it's your relation to your parents, you're their son."
His smile disappeared. "Okay."
But there was more than that to me not wanting him to hold that name. I looked at him, at his sad face, and the one thing he wanted. "You can be Son though."
The smile came back. "Really?"
"Yep, from now on your name's Son."
"Son." He rolled it off his tongue, savouring the word, the thing he now had to call his own.