The moment he felt the bright rays of sun on his face, that icy afternoon, he knew it was his time to die again.
As Nevada left the drinking hole 'The Cerveza', the tiny pub he had spent much of the afternoon in, he clutched a small blue plastic bag close to his chest. Oblivious to the cold around him, dressed in a thread bare but clean old pin-striped suit, he absently felt the rounded outline of the carrier.
Nevada's staggered steps and hunched over gait, opened a clear path ahead of him, as he walked down the crowded London pavement. His short bursts of muttered speech, intoned with an irrational anger that creased his face, created a wide bubble of personal space as passers-by steered clear of him.
Nevada smiled gratefully to himself. This was one thing he truly liked about London. No matter who you were or what you did, people didn't stare, look or make eye contact. It made it easier for him to reach out and feel when someone's eyes actually were looking at him. Especially one particular pair of eyes. A pair of eyes whose stare he could clearly feel, burning into his back, the moment he'd left the pub.
Fear wrapped fire-brand fingers around his heart and he clutched at his chest. A shot of incoherent panic travelled through him as he suddenly burst into speed and sprinted away.
David refused to open his eyes as he listened to the unwelcome passenger clamber into the back of his out-of-commission taxi cab.
"I'm not in service. I'm on a break." He threw his words behind him, his voice abrupt, clearly carrying through the plastic glass partition of the cab. "Try the cab up front." Eyes still closed, he nodded, indicting the row of taxis parked outside.
After a few long moments of silence and with a long-suffering sigh, David cracked a single eye to squint into the rear-view mirror of his cab.
There, to his surprise, sat a girl looking barely older than thirteen. Her cherubic face, unsettling and emotionless, blankly returned his gaze as she sat with her arms tightly crossed.
Glancing out the windows of his cab he checked to see if she was with anyone, but the passing crowds in the street ignored the cabs occupants. "Hey there." David's voice grew light as he addressed her, "Are you lost?".
"You see that small restaurant across the street, The Cerveza? " The girl, ignoring his question, uncrossed her arms just long enough to turn and jab a pointed finger at the small pub across the road. "In about five minutes a man is going to come out of that restaurant and I want you to follow him."
Her demanding tone made David blanch for a second, before his irritation with this unwanted passenger kicked in. "Where are your parents, little girl?"
She stiffened at his disparaging tone, quickly turning to pin him with a glower. "Abril." She bit out, her mouth ground through the words as she chewed on her ire. "My name is Abril. Not 'Little Girl'."
"Look," David began, before being interrupted by his taxi cabs radio squawking back to life. A disembodied voice filled up the small space of the vehicle. "Driver 253 are you back in service? Over."
Shaking his head, David swiveled away from Abril, "Well, Abril," he picked up the radio from its hook, "You just cost me the last 5 minutes of my break." David then spoke into the radio, "Driver 253. In service. Driver 253. Over"
"Roger that Driver 253. Are you in the middle of a pick-up?" Glancing behind him David addressed Abril, failing to keep annoyance from his voice. "Do you have the money to pay?"
Abril reached into the side pocket of the small leather back pack she carried and took out a roll of cash. From what David could see, it looked like a bundle of £20 pound notes, bound tightly together by an elastic band.
He laughed in astonishment, keeping an eye on the bundle of money, as he spoke into the radio to dispatch. "Driver 253, in the middle of a pick-up, ETA unknown. Over."
As he started up his cab, the engine thrumming back to life, David peered at Abril through the rear view mirror. "Does your mum know you're wandering round with cash like that?
Abril ignored his question as she eyed 'The Cerveza', calmly gesturing at a man who'd just left the drinking hole. "Him. I want you to follow him."
David swiveled towards The Cerveza, squinting at the pubs entrance as he took in the man's rumpled appearance. "That bloke with the blue bag?"
"Yes," Abril's voice filled with wry amusement, "that bloke." She emphasised the title David had given him, yet never once took her eyes off the man. "Although I doubt he would see himself as such."
"You know that guy?" David rarely showed much curiosity in the passengers of his cab, preferring to get them from A to B with minimal fuss. Yet something about this particular fare, besides the young age and cash-rich status of the girl behind him, seemed strange.
"I know of him." Abril began before she sat up alert. "He's running away. Follow him!" she leaned forward in her seat, her voice urgent, as her eyes stayed glued to the movements of the man outside. "He's getting away. Go!"
David was mute as he nodded, surprised at her swift change of mood. Revving the cab into action, he swerved into flowing traffic, hot on the trail of the man with the blue bag.
Nevada could feel the eyes of his pursuer scorching his back as his steps grew laboured, shooting pains lacing through his body. The pins and needles dotting the muscles of his legs made him felt as though he was dragging his feet through wet sand. He recognised the feeling, it meant she was nearby.
Moving as fast as he could through the crowded street his eyes darted back and forth searching for a way off the main road. Spotting a side road he blindly escaped into it, his breath laboured as beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.
Casting a quick glance behind him, he checked to see if anyone was following. His heartbeat spiked as he saw a silhouette of a young woman appear at the end of the short alleyway. Making a last gasp dash into a turn on his right, he hobbled to halt as he faced nothing but a brick wall and a dead-end.
As he reached the wall Nevada spun around, his body crumbling in exhaustion. He collapsed graceless to the floor, gripping the blue plastic bag tightly, as the noise of main road traffic muffled the sounds of his quiet weeping.
"Stop here." At Abril's command David eased on the breaks to his cab, pulling over to the side of the road as he watched the man they were following dash into an alleyway.
"This wasn't too far love." David eyed Abril in the rear view mirror as she reached to open the cab door. "There is a £10 minimum charge."
Abril lifted the roll of cash she'd shown him earlier and waved it in front of her. "I'm leaving it here on the back seat. There is £1000 in there." Nonchalant, she dashed the money to the side of her. "You can take it all." Hopping out of the cab she slammed the door before he could reply, stopping short at the open window of the front passenger seat. "Thank you," she said before running off down the alleyway, hot on the trail of the man with the bag.
David's face was a picture of astonishment as he stepped out of his cab and around to the back seat, picking up the roll of twenties Abril had left. Clutching the cash, he returned to his driver's seat before he began counting the money, his head shaking all the while in disbelief.
Pulling out the large string-drawn change bag from the underneath his seat, he stuffed the £20 notes inside before casting a long curious look towards the alleyway.
"Driver 253? We have a pick up. Where are you Driver 253? Over." David startled at the voice squawking through the cab radio. Chuckling to himself at his reaction, he ignored the radio as he released the break on his cab and pulled out into traffic.
Nevada kept his head bowed to his chest, and his eyes shut as he listened to the steady clear 'click click click' of shoes as Abril approached.
"Nevada." Abril's voice was light, almost singing to him, as he felt the increasing thrum of pain wrack his body. "We do this every year. And yet you fail to understand that the result will always be the same."
As she drew closer his body now struggled to breathe. He loosened his grip on the plastic bag, raising his head to expand his chest as much as he could, as he fought to let air into his lungs. "I understand," Nevada wheezed, opening his eyes to glare into her unsympathetic ones. "I die painfully".
Her sage nod seemed old and in-apposite for her young frame. "After winter must come spring." She pointed a casual finger at his bag, although Nevada still jumped at Abril's otherwise benign gesture. "I see you have the orb of seasons." She played disinterested but her eyes betrayed her as they greedily took in the bag. "It is time to pass it on," she pinned him with a dour look, "as we have done since the dawn of creation."
Nevada had no more strength to fight with as she crouched down in front of him. Careful, Abril took the bag and unwrapped it to show a small round glass ball about the size of a man's fist. They both stared at it, hypnotized as inside the glass swirled a blue-green mist.
She wrapped the glass ball back up into the plastic bag, and then tucked it into her back pack, before casting a sorrowful eye at Nevada. "You must not fight your passing," she tilted her head curious as she watched him die, "it will only cause you more pain." Gently she reached out to touch his cheek, "I will see you next year, Old Man."
Nevada's last thoughts were of snow-tipped evergreens and the warmth of the sun upon his face.
Authors Note: I created this short story by combining two different story prompts.
The first story prompt is : You're a taxi driver in a one-light town. You've arrived at the county library to pick up your passenger, a girl no older than thirteen. She says, "You see that Mexican restaurant across the street? In about five minutes, a man is going to come out of that restaurant, and I want you to follow him."
The second prompt is : 'Write a conversation between winter and spring'.
When I tried to imagine a conversation between winter and spring, I thought of it as a contentious one. Winter has to always step aside so that spring can arrive. So to give it all a surreal twist, I wrote this story describing Spring as a girl determined to hunt down Winter every year. In Spanish; Nevada means Snow Clad, Abril means April or Spring, and Cerveza means Beer, (I don't know any Spanish at all, so with regard to this story google was my friend, so those interpretations might be incorrect).
Usually, I never switch viewpoints in a story (I feel it makes the plot too confusing), so this is very much an experimental type of story telling for me.